Design insights & tutorials.

Illustrate a Malevolent Skull in 8 Steps

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malevolent skull

Introduction

I know that skulls have been slowly fading out of pop culture and seem to be passé, but I still love drawing them and coming up with new ideas and refreshing the design of that “same old skull thing”.

Keeping in mind that I am a horrible artist, and not a good designer. This tutorial is made for all the people like me.

Things you will learn:
In the tutorial I will go over how to create a cool looking malevolent skull that can be used for bands, t-shirts, or just vector art of your choosing.

Things you will need:

  • Illustrator or other vector editing program
  • I use a pen tablet, but it is not needed for this tutorial.
  • You will also need a pact with satins minions (this is only needed if you wish to make your illustrations truly evil and malevolent).

Getting Started:

1. First off, sketch out a skull and the idea that you want. You can scribble it out with a pen and scan it in or use Illustrator or Photoshop to draw out some basic ideas. Drawing skulls are pretty easy. Draw a oval and work from there. Eyes are situated half way down your oval. The nose is half the distance between the eyes and chin. The mouth is half the distance between nose and chin. Creating cheekbones that are sticking out will add the malevolent feel. If you don’t feel comfortable drawing one on your own you can always just base it off a picture.

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Move into Illustrator

2. Move into Illustrator.
Document set up is really up to you. I like to make my drawing very large; this helps in illustrator when drawing with brushes. Drag a guide from the ruler and place it in the center of your drawing (command R). This is because we are only drawing one side of the artwork. Lock that layer and create a new one. The new layer is where you will start drawing.

3. Start tracing with the pen tool
Tap the letter (P) to use pen tool. Start at the guide in the center at the top of the drawing. Right click where you want to start, hold right click down to adjust the curve of the line at second point. Work your way down clicking and dragging to get the appropriate curvature of the line. Outline the entire skull and end at the bottom on the center guide.

I always start with the outside of the drawing and outline everything that I like. I embellished on some things, remember to have fun and experiment.

4. Build the interior Anatomy
I start with one side and work out all the dark spots. This will help with the high level of contrast we are looking for. Click on the top point that you started with and work from there. Try to mimic what you did down the skull till you hit the eye socket. Remember this is high contrast, so dark areas tend to blend with each other.

While making the outline remember to go into the dark areas that you think will mesh together such as the eye socket, cheek, and mouth. It should be one continuous drawing. Make sure when you click on the last point your pointer changes to show the closed path indicator. End where you ended the first time and this should complete your vector skull.

Take your time when you do this and make sure that you draw all the connecting dark spots. The more detail here will pay off in the end. You can get very detailed here but I want to just cover the basics. I usually switch a lot from preview mode to outline mode (command Y) so I can see what the design looks like without any distractions.

Keep in mind everything so far should be connected. This gives a high contrast feel to the drawing and enhances evil factor.

Remember that the majority of the drawing should be connected through the dark areas.

Once you have the outline done, you just need a few details like the nose and skull crack.

This just gives you a better idea of what I mean by connecting all the dark spots. Red areas are connect by “shadow” all the black areas are drawn after and cannot be connected, but still are dark.

5. Tidy up
Select everything (command A) and use the Add to shape area tool in the Pathfinder to join everything. Then copy in front (command C) then (command F) then tap the letter (O) to activate the reflect tool. Reflect will allow you to rotate the object and have a perfect mirror of what you have already done (do this while holding shift down to make it precise). Align the second half of your skull. Use Add to shape area tool in the Pathfinder again to join everything together and make it one object.

Now that we have a cool skull to work with, lets add some detail to it.

TUTORIAL SKULL

Adding Some Detail

6. Adding contour lines. I like to make contour lines that follow the basic shapes I have already drawn. As shown here, it is really easy to just use the pen tool to play with shapes. Take your pen tool and click on a point near the cheek. Then another point down near the chin. Use your judgment on how many curves you want or the thickness of this line.

Add detail this way to create lines and curves with the pen tool to accent the face. Copy and paste it then re size it to create a shadowed effect.

Use this method in areas that you think would have shadows. Usually close to the dark areas around the eye socket nose and deep cheekbones.

Completed detail work without the dark original lines that we made.

I simply went around and added lines where I thought it would look good. Remember to experiment, if you don’t think it looks good delete it and try again.

7. Add highlights
After you are done adding the dark highlights you can use the same method in the dark areas with white.

8. Finishing up
After you are done adding the smaller detailed work all you will need to do from here is copy and mirror then align again, just as you did on the first half of the face.

I’ve added some halftones and radials from the Go Media Arsenal to polish the piece to completion.

If you like the way it came out and would like to add some color all you will need to do is use live paint.

That’s it, just remember to be creative and experiment with it.
malevolent skull
Thanks for reading!

Nick Beaulieu
Graphic Designer
Design by Disorder

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Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • http://www.davidpcrawford.com David

    SKULLS!!

  • http://www.davidpcrawford.com David

    SKULLS!!

  • Ryan O. Hicks

    I like.

  • Pingback: Illustrate a Malevolent Skull in 8 Steps | Create Your Own T Shirt Blog

  • http://blog.haraldschipper.nl Harald

    Great tut and awesome painting, gonna try this one after my current project. Big thumbs up for this magazine!

  • http://blog.haraldschipper.nl Harald

    Great tut and awesome painting, gonna try this one after my current project. Big thumbs up for this magazine!

  • MoAmyot

    As far as I really like your tutorials, I believe skulls are used waaaaaay too much.

  • MoAmyot

    As far as I really like your tutorials, I believe skulls are used waaaaaay too much.

  • http://colorburned.com Colorburned

    Really cool! Looks Terminatoresque

  • http://colorburned.com Colorburned

    Really cool! Looks Terminatoresque

  • Habin Lee

    Wow… it’s awesome. Do you using Adobe Illustrater with Tablet?

  • Ryan O. Hicks

    I like.

  • adrian

    This tutorial seems rushed.

  • adrian

    This tutorial seems rushed.

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  • JohnM.

    Great Tutorial!

    I check the website daily for new tutorials…

  • JohnM.

    Great Tutorial!

    I check the website daily for new tutorials…

  • Habin Lee

    Wow… it’s awesome. Do you using Adobe Illustrater with Tablet?

  • http://www.ritchielinao.com Ritchie

    WOW! Nicely done.. hehehe ^_^… I like the skull. WOOT!

  • http://www.ritchielinao.com Ritchie

    WOW! Nicely done.. hehehe ^_^… I like the skull. WOOT!

  • brian

    SEARCH AND DESTROYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

  • brian

    SEARCH AND DESTROYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

  • http://www.timothybsmith.com Tim Smtih

    Great Post!!! The Skull looks awesome!!

  • http://www.timothybsmith.com Tim Smtih

    Great Post!!! The Skull looks awesome!!

  • http://forthelose.org Wordpress Themes

    Wow. Great tutorial. I’ve had a pen tablet myself for over a year now, besides a little bit of animation here and there rarely, I’ve been neglecting it. Might try something like this.

  • http://forthelose.org Wordpress Themes

    Wow. Great tutorial. I’ve had a pen tablet myself for over a year now, besides a little bit of animation here and there rarely, I’ve been neglecting it. Might try something like this.

  • http://smashill.com smashill

    Skullz will never be gone, there will always be pirates, skulls and flower designs :) I guess those flower designs will not be found too often at gomedia thought :D

  • http://smashill.com smashill

    Skullz will never be gone, there will always be pirates, skulls and flower designs :) I guess those flower designs will not be found too often at gomedia thought :D

  • http://smashill.com smashill

    Just as I see my comment here, you should disable the border for the smilies in your css code, looks a bit awkward and out of place :)

  • http://smashill.com smashill

    Just as I see my comment here, you should disable the border for the smilies in your css code, looks a bit awkward and out of place :)

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  • Simon H.

    Nice job ! I’ll try it out really soon…

  • Simon H.

    Nice job ! I’ll try it out really soon…

  • Amad Iqbal

    great tutorial!!! i will try really soon…

  • Amad Iqbal

    great tutorial!!! i will try really soon…

  • http://www.studiosdz.com dizeta

    Very usefull…thks!

  • http://www.studiosdz.com dizeta

    Very usefull…thks!

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  • http://www.avangelistphotography.com Avangelist

    Satin’s Minions? nobody else got a problem with that no?

    Satan.

    Although minions made out of satin sounds a lot better.

  • http://www.avangelistphotography.com Avangelist

    Satin’s Minions? nobody else got a problem with that no?

    Satan.

    Although minions made out of satin sounds a lot better.

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  • PhilD

    The skulls thing is pretty cool
    - but I'm more interested in how
    you got the background burst effect
    with that cloud/smoke with rays kinda thing

  • PhilD

    Just to answer my own question
    - I just read Step 8. Finishing up

    thanks

  • http://www.productionprints.com Large Format Printing

    I guess, the key is being able to draw out a sketch like that first… Cool techniques!

  • egypturnash

    You can make Illustrator automatically mirror the whole thing as you draw it and skip step 5.

    1: Draw a big box – no fill, no stroke – centered on the centerline of your skull sketch.
    2: Draw a few other quick shapes just so you can see the magic happen.
    3: Target the layer in the layers palette (click on the little circle to the right of the layer's name).
    4: Effect->Distort and Transform->Transform. 1 copy, turn on reflect X, leave everything else as-is.

    Voila: everything drawn in that layer is automatically reflected. As you draw new shapes, they too will be reflected!

    5: Select that box you drew in step 1 and lock it so it doesn't get moved by accident.

    Also, most of your little feathery lines are just begging to be done as an art brush. Draw one straight line with some weight variance to it, drag that to the brush palette and select 'art brush'. If you draw it in pure black (C0M0Y0K100 or R0G0B0) and choose 'tints' as the colorization method then the brush will be whatever color you choose as a stroke when you use it; very handy for scratchboard-type stuff.

  • jjd

    nice tip egypt

  • nas

    mate thanks a lot Total beginner with with adobe softw. and your simple tutorial on skull helped me out alot – much better way to learn whilst doing somethin on the job as they say and the result was outstanding! shame i cant show it off so easily :)

  • nas

    mate thanks a lot Total beginner with with adobe softw. and your simple tutorial on skull helped me out alot – much better way to learn whilst doing somethin on the job as they say and the result was outstanding! shame i cant show it off so easily :)

  • http://bestcharlottepainters.com/ Charlotte Painting

    Great tutorial I really love your blog.

  • iami0

    cool stuff!!!
    thx so much!!!

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  • (Anie)

    this is so good tutorial i like it….

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • Matt

    Thanks for this nice work!
    dizi izle

  • John

    Great post!
    dizi izle

  • Windows License Key

    nice skull

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    really nice…………….

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    That’s a great design. thank you so much.

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    NIce tut, but what happened to the Harley tut? I had it open to look at but now it’s gone.

  • misyon5ice

    Thank you for Illustrate a Malevolent Skull in 8 Steps.

  • http://www.syntechbd.com Outsource to Bangladesh

    Good job! Useful tutorial. Thanks for sharing.

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    Very nice explained!  I wish had this kind of artistic ability.