One of the most iconic and celebrated women in the Middle East is Oum Kulthoum. A diva of her time, she was an iconic Egyptian singer, songwriter, and film actress from the 1920s through the 70s, known also as the “Voice of Egypt”. She was also given the honorary title of “Kawab-Al-Sharq” in Arabic, which means “Star of the East”. Her vocal ability and music was unique in style and influenced generations of Arab/Middle Easterners.
In this tutorial we will go through the process of creating a pop art style portrait of the influential Arab diva, using basic Adobe Illustrator tools and other tools like the Blob Brush and Live Paint. Also learn some quick tips and tricks, and how to capture a kitschy, lighthearted illustration style.
1. How to Set Up the Artboard
Open Adobe Illustrator up and create a New Document (File > New or Control-N) using the following settings:
Preset Details: Oum_Kulthoum_PopArt
- Number of Artboards: 1
- Width: 950px
- Height: 1150 px
- Units: Pixels
- Color Mode: CMYK
We are now ready to design our pop art illustration.
2. How to Illustrate the Portrait Image
Move over quickly to Adobe Photoshop so we can sketch a line-work image of Oum Kulthoum.
Use any search engine to find a portrait image of Oum Kulthoum. Preferably a photo in her customary bejewelled gown and signature dark glasses, so she’s recognisable.
Then use a simple thick black marker Brush Tool (B) to trace over the outlines of the portrait image on top of the photo layer, before deleting the photo layer.
File > Save Image, Format as JPEG.
Move back to Adobe Illustrator.
Use the Place shortcut (Command-Shift-P), and fit the sketch onto the base of the Artboard.
Open the Layers panel (Window > Layers). Double-click “Layer 1″ to open the Layer Options dialog box. Select Lock and Dim Images to: 20%, and OK.
Press Create New Layer, from the Layers panel, and name the new layer “Linework“.
Select the Blob Brush Tool (Shift–B). We need to modify the width of the brush in order to draw in our line artwork. This works best if you are working with a pen tablet.
Double-click the Blob Brush Tool icon. This reveals the Blob Brush Tool Options. Change the Size from the default Fixed to Pressure from the dropdown menu, and increase the Variation slider to 5 pt. This way, you set a small brush size when sketching lightly with your pen to the tablet and a larger brush size with a heavier touch.
Set Angle to Stylus Wheel, and OK.
With the Blob Brush Tool (Shift–B) selected, trace over the lines of the sketch.
With the line artwork shape selected, use the Live Paint Bucket (K). This turns the selected object into a Live Paint Group.
So, when you move the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K) over the shape, the gaps that are ready to be painted become highlighted in red.
Fill out the gap in the sunglasses with black.
Next, using a white stroke and the Blob Brush Tool (Shift–B), add in the white reflections on Oum Kulthoum’s sunglasses.
Trash the “Sketch” layer from the Layers panel and File > Save (Command-S).
3. How to Color and Create a Pop Style Effect
Let’s create our background and color our pop artwork.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M), and click once on the artboard to open the Rectangle dialog box. Set the Width and Height the same as the artboard we created:
- Width: 950 px
- Height: 1150 px
Give the rectangle the blue color
Open the Align panel: Window > Align. Choose Align to Artboard from the Align Options dialog box, and then select the Horizontal & Vertical Align Center icons.
Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[).
With the blue rectangle selected, Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F), to create the same rectangle on top of the original.
We need to delete the bottom right anchor point of the rectangle, to create a diagonal split screen effect. Press the Minus – key, to select the Delete Anchor Point Tool, and click on the bottom right anchor point.
Afterwards, you need to create Color Halftone: Effect > Pixelate (Photoshop Effects) > Color Halftone… for the new triangular shape.
This opens the Color Halftone Options. Set the settings:
- Max. Radius: 80 Pixels
- Channel 1: 70
- Chanel 2: 70
We need to duplicate a part of the black line work. Select the outer line-work shape. Holding down the Shift–Alt keys to constrain the proportions and duplicate, Drag the shape slightly to the right.
Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[). Give the duplicated shape a color Fill
#ffb41d. Then Lock (Command-2) the selection or Object > Lock > Selection.
Open the Window > Swatches panel.
Create the following color swatches, using the New Swatch icon in the panel:
- Yellow Orange
- Neon Green
- Light Green
- Light Blue
- Dark Blue
- Dark Purple
- Light Purple
- Hot Pink
Use the Selection Tool (V) to select all the black line work.
Open the Window > Pathfinder panel, and from the drop-down menu, choose Make Compound Shape.
Next, click the Expand button to merge everything into one shape.
With the line artwork shape selected, use the Live Paint Bucket (K), and fill out the gaps with color swatches of your choice.
Next, with the shape still selected, Object > Live Paint > Expand, so we can disconnect the shapes from the object as a whole.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and select the two yellow shapes of Oum Kulthoum’s face.
Then Color Halftone: Effect > Pixelate (Photoshop Effects) > Color Halftone… and set to the following:
- Max. Radius: 50 Pixels
- Channel 1: 160
- Chanel 2: 160
Unlock the locked shapes, Object > Unlock All (Command-Alt-2). Then, Select All (Command-A) and Group (Command-G) all the objects together.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle slightly smaller than the artboard size:
- Width: 910 px
- Height: 1114 px
After that, we need to mask our illustration. Use the Selection Tool (V), and select the group plus the new rectangle, Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command-7).
Let’s turn on the Smart Guides to line our objects easily. Smart Guides (Command-U or View > Smart Guides).
Use the Selection Tool (V) to select the masked group. Hold down Shift–Alt keys and Drag the group to duplicate it to the right of the original illustration.
Make a 3×2 grid as below.
Select the third frame.
Take the Free Transform Tool (E), hold down Shift to constrain the proportions, and scale the image to the base of the bottom frame, using the Smart Guides.
Let’s Edit Artboard dimensions. File > Document Setup (Command-Alt-P) and Edit Artboards. Expand the artboard around the frames.
Let’s give all the artwork different colors. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), select each shape, and apply different color swatches to each. File > Save (Command-S).
4. How to Add Text and a Pattern Design
Let’s add a 3D pattern to our larger frame.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and select the halftone shape in the larger frame, and Delete. Then use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a 150 px Width & Height square, with the yellow orange shade
Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.. and set to the following:
- Position: Isometric Top
- Extrude Depth: 170 pt
- Bevel: None
- Surface: No Shading
Object > Expand Appearance.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the left cube cap and give it a Fill Hex color of
#ff5c0b and then the right cube cap
Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Drag and drop the extruded rectangle into the Swatches panel to create our New Pattern swatch, and Delete our original shape from the frame.
In the Layers panel, expand the larger frame’s group sublayers. You will see the blue “Rectangle” sublayer at the bottom of the selection. Select it, and drag it down to the Create New Layer icon to duplicate it.
On the top blue “Rectangle” sublayer, click on the Click to Target icon to select the shape. And Fill it with the new 3D swatch we created, in the Swatches panel.
With the Rectangle shape still selected, choose the Free Transform Tool (E) and drag the top anchor down to the tip of any of the pattern rows.
The pattern will scale the shape with it, so to correct it, you need to tap the 3D swatch again to Fill it to the edited size.
Now let’s add some text!
Open the Character panel: Window > Type > Character (Command-T).
Choose the Type Tool from the Tools menu, select a black Fill, and type in the text “OUM KULTHOUM”.
I chose the font Geared Slab and set the Font Size to 318 pt.
Take the Selection Tool (V) and select the “OUM KULTHOUM” text. Then Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F). Give the new type path the yellow swatch Fill of
Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), and use the left arrow key to move it a few spaces to the left.
Again take the Type Tool from the Tools menu, to type in the text “STAR OF THE EAST” in black, below “OUM KULTHOUM”.
I used the font Gilmore Sans Extra Bold, at 118 pt Font Size.
Use the Selection Tool (V) and the Smart Guides to align it to the right of “OUM KULTHOUM”.
Now let’s add some Arabic text on the four frames to the left.
Using the Type Tool, let’s type in أم كلثوم (Oum Kulthoum written in Arabic), using the Type Tanseek Extra Bold, in black Fill.
Take the Free Transform Tool (E), and manually rotate it slightly.
For the final bits, let’s add colored shadows to the text.
Take the Selection Tool (V), and select the “أم كلثوم” text. Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F).
Give the type the yellow swatch Fill of
Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), and use the up arrow key to move it a few spaces to the top.
Finally, with the yellow “أم كلثوم” text still selected, Copy (Command-C) and Paste in Front (Command-F), and give the text a green swatch Fill of
Use the down arrow key to move it a few spaces to the bottom, and tap the left arrow key to place it slightly to the left. File > Save (Command-S).
You Are a Star!!
Great job! Using a few simple tools and quick shortcuts, you can create many
other pop illustrations. You can apply the artwork to web banners, posters, textiles, or any merchandise. Once you are inspired, there are no limits.
Remember to keep the style kitschy and lighthearted. Using vibrant hues, punchy prints and a whole lot of quirky styles and textures is the key to this funky look.