Creating Portrait Poster with Tibetan Letters Using Illustrator

By Sonam Choedon, DLINQ Intern

When this project was first given to me, I don’t know what kind of poster I wanted. After researching, I knew I wanted to do a portrait poster with letters. I picked a portrait of a very known figure. I imported the portrait in Illustrator but I don’t know how to make it into vector illustration. Then, I watched youtube and learned about the process. I start practicing but my vector comes so edgy while in the video the curves are smooth. So, I went back to youtube to learn about the pen tool that is used to do tracing images. After that I was able to make the lines much smoother. When creating the letters, my initial plan was to use a brush but it didn’t end up producing the fine lines I was expecting so I changed my method. I typed the letters in a document and screenshotted them. Then, import the images to Illustrator and trace it with the pen tool. What I like about Illustrator or other editing software (Photoshop) is that I can work with layers. Layers give you power to work on detail without affecting neighbor details. Also, knowing the shortcut keys and eyedropper tool made my life easier. 

For my personal inquiry, I chose to explore Illustrator mostly focusing on the Pen Tool and Curvature Tool because I used that tool the most in my poster. Along the way, I explore some of the most basic tools and shortcut keys.

We’ll be covering the following things

  • How to create letters that are not available in Illustrator? For example, Arabic, Tibetan etc. (will use Pen tool, curvature tool and customizing brushes)
  • How to color your art? (will use Fill and Stroke)
  • How to creatively move text/image back or front? (will use layers and arrange features)
  • How to easily copy color from other things to your art? (will use eyedropper tool)

Bonus: learn these shortcuts to save time

  • V: Selection tool
  • I: Eyedropper tool
  • P: Pen tool
  • Command + z: undo
  • Command + shift + z: redo
  • T: text
  • Help (top left) : if you don’t know where to look for the tool

Image tracing

  • Things you must need
    • high resolution image
    • Illustrator software

Problem: When I traced the image with a pen tool, it filled the color where I traced it so that I couldn’t see the outline of the image.

Solution: Fill and Stroke

There are two squares. Set the fill color to no color (white square with red diagonal line). Set stroke color to black. What it does is that it will trace your image with black pen and won’t fill in the color. After tracing you can fill in color by swapping the color or use eyedropper tool)

Problem: I can’t make smooth curves.

Solution: I learned how to use Pen Tool by watching youtube videos and practicing several times.

Problem: I am so focused on the details that it is taking a very long time.

Solution: have the basic shape down first. Don’t worry about lines going over because when you do layers, it hides behind other layers so you won’t see the flaw.

Create letters

2 methods

  • Tracing
  • New brushes

Problem: I wanted to create Tibetan letters. My plan was to create a new brush. But it didn’t go well. Each line in Tibetans letters has a different thickness so I wasn’t able to make the same effect with the
customized brush.

Solution: Since Illustrator doesn’t support Tibetan fonts, I typed the Tibetan letter in a document and then took a screenshot. Then, I uploaded the image to the illustrator. After that I used my Pen Tool skill to trace it. It came out as I wanted.


Creating new brushes

  • Things you must know
    • What kind of letter you want to create (think about what you use when you write that letter)

      • For example: this Chinese character is done by brush
      • This alphabet is done by sharp, straight edge pen
    • Illustrator software
    • Video Tutorial

Import Outside Image

  1. Google the picture you want
  2. Copy the image URL (include image attribution) on this background remove website
  3. Download the image in your computer
  4. Choose File > Place, and select the text file you want to place.

Layers 101

Eye icon: makes selected layer visible and disappear

Lock icon: locks/unlocks the layer(s) making it unable/able to edit

Layer: allows you to work on individual parts of an image while not affecting other parts.

Sublayer: allows you to organize layers in categories.

Creation Process Progression

Image Attributions
2021-12-20T11:01:20-05:00December 20th, 2021|

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