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How We Designed It: Russell Westbrook's Head

Russell Westbrook Mockup Bleu Garten

If you live in Oklahoma City, you might have seen our Geofilters around the city for the Oklahoma City Thunder VS Golden State Warriors game. Kevin Durant rolled back into town, and we wanted to make sure that Russ was shown support from the city he loves.

We've been getting some questions lately about how we make design the illustrations for our Filters (like the ones of Chance the Rapper, D.R.A.M., Russ, etc) - so we decided to briefly cover what went into designing Russell Westbrook. 

Since the whole process of designing a custom illustration like this in Adobe Illustrator usually takes multiple hours, we decided to boil the process down quite a bit, and show you how our team designed Russell Westbrook's head. 

(Not a single design is automated - we don't get to hit a button and have a perfect illustration within seconds. Instead, we use the Pen & Brush tool and hand draw each and every detail on the face.)


1. Building a Foundation/Base

 Our Lead Designer, Christian, is one of the best Illustrators in the state - so for every design, he draws out the foundation that we use as the base/foundation for the design. In this case, he drew out Russell Westbrook's face with all the details, and outlined the regions that needed to be shadows (the most important component of a digital illustration like this).

Our Lead Designer, Christian, is one of the best Illustrators in the state - so for every design, he draws out the foundation that we use as the base/foundation for the design. In this case, he drew out Russell Westbrook's face with all the details, and outlined the regions that needed to be shadows (the most important component of a digital illustration like this).


2. Face

 Pen Tool - we traced out a rough outline of Russ' face from the sketch that's above.

Pen Tool - we traced out a rough outline of Russ' face from the sketch that's above.


3. Hair & Fade

 Brush Tool - using this tool, we free-handed his hair - but more importantly, Russ' normal hair cut is usually a fade haircut, where most of his hair is on top, and the hair is cut on the sides and back of his head close to skin level.  To accurately represent this, we added the scalp on the sides, and used his face color as the color of the scalp. Then, we used a Stipple Brush (with a lighter opacity) to give his hair the rough fade on the sides - which helped show that he had a fade, but the sides of his head weren't completely bald.

Brush Tool - using this tool, we free-handed his hair - but more importantly, Russ' normal hair cut is usually a fade haircut, where most of his hair is on top, and the hair is cut on the sides and back of his head close to skin level.

To accurately represent this, we added the scalp on the sides, and used his face color as the color of the scalp. Then, we used a Stipple Brush (with a lighter opacity) to give his hair the rough fade on the sides - which helped show that he had a fade, but the sides of his head weren't completely bald.


4. Lower Beard

 Brush Tool - we tried to give his lower chin a beard that wasn't too prominent (his beard is pretty thin). If your subject has a thin beard, think about overextending it past the chin  slightly  to create more of a shadowy effect in the final composition.

Brush Tool - we tried to give his lower chin a beard that wasn't too prominent (his beard is pretty thin). If your subject has a thin beard, think about overextending it past the chin slightly to create more of a shadowy effect in the final composition.


5. Mustache

 Brush tool - If you're under time constraints, it might be easier to make one side, then use the Reflect Tool to flip it over the other side. Symmetry is usually a highly-desired feature when it comes to illustrating, but I believe that some features of a subject look more accurate if they are free-handed, rather than perfectly symmetrical, so I free-handed both sides of the mustache.

Brush tool - If you're under time constraints, it might be easier to make one side, then use the Reflect Tool to flip it over the other side. Symmetry is usually a highly-desired feature when it comes to illustrating, but I believe that some features of a subject look more accurate if they are free-handed, rather than perfectly symmetrical, so I free-handed both sides of the mustache.


6. Nostrils

 Pen Tool - but you could easily use the Brush Tool to do the nostrils as well.

Pen Tool - but you could easily use the Brush Tool to do the nostrils as well.


7. [Basic] Outline of Nose

 Pen Tool - this outline will become a little more defined a few steps later.

Pen Tool - this outline will become a little more defined a few steps later.


8. Lips with Basic Shadow

 Pen Tool - based off of the sketch that's at the top, we drew a path for both the upper and lower lip, and then placed a black path behind the lips to make it look like his mouth was open slightly, but not enough to see his teeth.   To further define the lips, we created a shadow for the lower lip (which was just a normal path that was taken down to about 20% opacity.) Soon, you'll see what a difference shadowing makes when it comes to illustrating.

Pen Tool - based off of the sketch that's at the top, we drew a path for both the upper and lower lip, and then placed a black path behind the lips to make it look like his mouth was open slightly, but not enough to see his teeth. 

To further define the lips, we created a shadow for the lower lip (which was just a normal path that was taken down to about 20% opacity.) Soon, you'll see what a difference shadowing makes when it comes to illustrating.


9. Eyes

 Pen, Ellipse, and Brush Tool - We first used the Pen Tool to create the outline of the eyes. Then, we designed the pupils using the Ellipse tool and placed them within the center of the eye. Next, we added the reflection the eyes using the Brush Tool with a white fill. Finally, to make it look more realistic, we went in with the Brush Tool (black fill) again and defined the black more, so each detail looked more natural. (We know this looks weird at this stage. Stick with us!)

Pen, Ellipse, and Brush Tool - We first used the Pen Tool to create the outline of the eyes. Then, we designed the pupils using the Ellipse tool and placed them within the center of the eye. Next, we added the reflection the eyes using the Brush Tool with a white fill. Finally, to make it look more realistic, we went in with the Brush Tool (black fill) again and defined the black more, so each detail looked more natural. (We know this looks weird at this stage. Stick with us!)


10. Eyebrows

 Brush Tool - when it came to his eyebrows, they were pretty symmetrical, so I made one side, and then reflected it to the other.

Brush Tool - when it came to his eyebrows, they were pretty symmetrical, so I made one side, and then reflected it to the other.


11. Ears

 Pen Tool - after we created the general outline of the ears, we drew a few paths (Black Fill at a 10% - 20% opacity) inside of each ear, which helped define the ear more and add more detail.

Pen Tool - after we created the general outline of the ears, we drew a few paths (Black Fill at a 10% - 20% opacity) inside of each ear, which helped define the ear more and add more detail.


12. Detail

 Pen & Brush Tool - we know that this was a big addition in one step, but bear with us - this is the most important step of any illustration. If you look at the zoomed in picture below, you'll see that we added detail on almost every part of the face - the outer part of the face, the nose, underneath and beside the eyes, above the eyebrows, between the mustache, and many more spots. This is by far the most tedious part of the process - but it can make a major difference.

Pen & Brush Tool - we know that this was a big addition in one step, but bear with us - this is the most important step of any illustration. If you look at the zoomed in picture below, you'll see that we added detail on almost every part of the face - the outer part of the face, the nose, underneath and beside the eyes, above the eyebrows, between the mustache, and many more spots. This is by far the most tedious part of the process - but it can make a major difference.

 Our Lead Artist, Christian, drew all these details by hand, and then we translated them digitally, but the fact of the matter is this: there is  no    hard and fast rule to determining how much detail you need or where you need it. You'll almost always need shadowing for the nose to help define it more clearly, but everywhere else is completely personal preference. If your illustration looks accurate (or how you want it) without too many details - great! Sometimes you won't need a lot of details. Christian and I both believed that Russ would look more accurate if he had more detail on his face, but there will be times where the detailing is pretty minimal and look great.

Our Lead Artist, Christian, drew all these details by hand, and then we translated them digitally, but the fact of the matter is this: there is no hard and fast rule to determining how much detail you need or where you need it. You'll almost always need shadowing for the nose to help define it more clearly, but everywhere else is completely personal preference. If your illustration looks accurate (or how you want it) without too many details - great! Sometimes you won't need a lot of details. Christian and I both believed that Russ would look more accurate if he had more detail on his face, but there will be times where the detailing is pretty minimal and look great.


13. Neck

 Pen Tool - the edges of the neck were more refined towards the end of the design.

Pen Tool - the edges of the neck were more refined towards the end of the design.


And that's an overview of how we designed Russell Westbrook's head, used in our Snapchat Geofilters that were live all over the city this past weekend!

Although we didn't cover the full process of making a custom Illustration/Geofilter, it's definitely something that we want to cover in the near future. If you're interested in learning how to do that, or have any questions whatsoever, leave 'em in the comments or direct message me on Twitter - I'd be happy to help!

Do good today.

Matt Varughese (InstagramTwitter)
Founder + Business Director, Websterpeace (InstagramTwitter)