Creative Project #1: The Face Update

ben face cartoonised

This is my digital self-portrait from October last year. While I was happy with the style, I think that for my creative project, and due to the extra experience I have gained in artistry, a reworking of the face is in order. Rather than try to modify the original, I will instead completely remake it from scratch, using the proper proportions of the human face as a model and putting a lot of time into roughing it – building the framework so the final result will resemble my idea as closely as possible. So here we go!


We should work from an up to date source. Here’s a selfie, taken on the 11th of May. No tracing this time – that’s cheap. It’s more than within my ability to get the proportions down correctly without simply tracing the shape directly from the image. We are working with Flash which is extremely flexible and useful for minor tweaks that we will no doubt be doing all throughout the creation process. I drew this with the picture on my iPad right next to the computer screen, not in the Flash file itself.

1.1 face head diagram

We start at the very basics – a tall oval with a cross through it to denote the basic shape of the head and the direction it is facing (straight ahead). It looks nothing like me, but we’ll soon change that. This is the foundations, and we will gradually shape it as we add the details.

2.2 face head shape hair rough

Obviously my head is shaped differently than this oval. Let’s sketch out a basic shape that resembles the picture, and while I’m at it, also sketch out the hair as well. That will probably be the most complex part of this piece, so let’s have a go at it early on and try to be as “on-model” as we can so that we can be more accurate with the hair shape later on.

3.2 face head and face in proportionproportions_of_a_head_2(Arty Factory, 2015)

I am paying close attention to the proportions of the face, using both the model above and the photograph to make sure everything is in order. Working to a model is great, especially when you can internalise it, but I am not at that stage yet, so keeping reference material close to hand is very useful.

4.2 face facial features sans beard

So here are the eyes, nose and mouth. I am not concerned with drawing the lips, and will instead focus on a well-shaped mouth (which usually takes more than a few attempts). My cartoon style is more focused on simplicity than realism, so we just need to strike the balance between these things or the results will be uncanny – when the aesthetics look creepy and wrong. There’s a time and a place for that style, but it’s definitely not here.

Note that I am using lighter and darker shades of grey to distinguish the shapes on each layer without using loud, obnoxious colours. Appreciate the subtlety of the working process. Don’t self-induce eye strain.

5.5 face all layers

I thought of redrawing the hair a second time, just for more accuracy and an easier time in the final “clean-up”.  It’s important that it looks right, and not overly simple or messy.

6.face rough complete

And there is our “rough”! Why have I suddenly got the Merry Melodies theme playing in my head? That must be a good sign! Now, this is far from done. In fact, we’re actually going to use NONE of this for the final version! All this is just a foundation to “paint” a clean and pretty finished version on top. So let’s save what we’ve done and fade it into the background so it’s still visible, but won’t get in the way of the “painting” process.

This rough consists of 21 layers in all.

7.7 face clean outlines

We begin the “clean-up” by redoing the linework with clean, black lines. Here’s what the completed “clean-up” linework looks on its own. One must take extra special care at this point, in order to retain the shape of the rough that we’ve spent all this time drawing. If I was feeling confident enough, I would use only one layer for the “clean-up”, but colouring and adjustments are more difficult to do in the long run if all the different parts are fused together, so let’s stick with what we did for the rough and use one layer per shape. We can change what we had in the rough for the “clean-up”, for example, I tweaked the head shape for more symmetry, resized the beard and repositioned the facial hair and eyes slightly, and redrew the hair to be spikier than in the rough.

8.8 face flat colour

Now for the fun part – colouring! Here’s a flat colour variation of my piece! Looks great, but the face needs a little more definition. Hold on, I need to do some quick research on facial lighting…

9.face final colour edit complete

And here is our final version! Now the face has a lot more definition. I also tweaked the skin tone and hair colour to look a little brighter and more “natural”. So now, we have the centrepiece for our creative project!

split-lighting-pattern1 (Hildebrandt, n.d.)

We are using a photography technique called “split lighting” that I tried my best to imitate for the piece.

jazza4(Brooks, 2014, retrieved from YouTube)

The facial shading also draws inspiration from Brooks’ “cartoon face” lighting style.

Next up, the cast of characters who will accompany my face in this digital mural!


Arty Factory (2015). Proportions of the Head and Face. Retrieved from:

Brooks, J. (2014). How to Draw a Cartoon Face. Retrieved from:

Hildebrandt, D. (n.d.). 6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know. Retrieved from:


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