Final Project

Chromatic Portraits

DUE WEEK 15 | 12.16.09

Problem: Create a portrait of yourself, based on a photograph, using a color inventory derived from a found (and inspired) color reference.

Limits: Use layered CLOSED PATHS to create highlights, midtones and shadows and develop a unified composition with a specific focal point. Your color inventory should be transferred to the document palette and applied either proportionally or non-proportionally.

Skills: Demonstrate skilled use of vector tools, menus and palettes (color, shape, transformation, pen). Learn to create a professionally organized client project using layers, naming conventions, color palette. Learn to prepare a file for print and web.


Research /  Inspiration

  1. Create a folder called: Final Project. Place all files related to this project in this folder in an organized way.
  2. Find several references (painting, photograph, advertisement, product packaging or wrapping) and choose one that you admire and that reflects either a mood, feeling, season, or experience.
  3. Create an color inventory using the inventory file provided (see process below)

Experimentation / Iteration

Color Inventory

  1. Bring your color reference into photoshop (scan or photograph if it’s a physical object).
  2. Create a color palette from your color reference:
    1. Image > Mode > Index (Exact 256)
    2. Image > Mode > Color Table > SAVE Palette
    3. Swatches Palette (pulldown menu) > Replace Swatches > load saved palette
    4. Swatches Palette (pulldown menu) > Save Exchange Palette > save as file type .ase
  3. Open the inventory file
    1. Replace your image with the demo version.
    2. Swatches Palette (pulldown menu) > Open Swatch Library > Other Library > load saved palette .ase
    3. Color Guide Palette (lower left corner) > Limit to Swatch Library : your palette
    4. From your Swatch Library or from the image itself using the eyedropper, choose three colors (not including black and white). Choose midtone hues. You will be using different tints and shades of these three colors in your composition. Experiment with interesting color combinations.
    5. Select your three color objects on the artboard using the Selection Tool.
    6. Color Guide Palette > Edit / Apply Colors (lower right corner) > Get Colors Selected Art > New Color Group > OK
    7. Color Guide Palette (upper pulldown menu) > Show Tints and Shades
    8. Deselect your three color objects on the artboard.
    9. Color Guide Palette (select all tints and shades swatches) > Save Colors as Swatches ((upper pulldown menu)
    10. Save file.

Development of Skill and Craft

Final Project Prep:

  1. Take your picture!
  2. Optimize your image in photoshop by reducing the number of levels in the continuous tone, first by adjusting the levels, converting to Black & White, and then by using either Adjustments > Posterize, or Filter > Cutout or a combination of the two. Try to keep as much detail as possible, while isolating the shapes that define the form > midtones, highlights, and shadows.
  3. Those more advanced students may wish to work directly from the photograph, though creatively simplifying the composition.
  4. Place your photograph on a tracing layer and take some time to decide how you will realize the composition. A good first step is to create layers for each major area and then use your pen tool to block out the main areas of base color in each major area.

Final Project Work TIPS:

  1. In Outline mode begin tracing the mid-tones, shadows and highlights that define the structure of your face. Avoid drawing lots of little shapes at first, instead create broad solid shapes. You will toggle between OUTLINE and PREVIEW mode in order to achieve accurate curves.
  2. Remember to save and label your color swatches. You can use the Eyedropper + Shift to select values from your bitmap image. We will be creating our own color palettes later in the project.
  3. One good technique is defining all of your midtones and saving those swatches to the swatches palette. Then use HSB and add white or black to develop the highlights and shadows.
  4. When you have defined the broad areas, go in and start to develop the more detailed areas.
  5. Create closed paths using the pen tool and basic shapes. Use pathfinder and other commands to transform your objects as needed.
  6. Save your file grayscale portrait:

Application of Color Inventory

  1. Once you have defined the form and structure of your portrait in grayscale, use your color inventory palette to apply color to your image.
  2. Load color inventory palette.
    1. Swatches Palette (pulldown menu) > Open Swatch Library > load (as a Swatches Library)
  3. Recolor vector objects using tints and shades defined by hues chosen in inventory palette exercise above.
  4. Save file as:

Save for Web

Expression of Form, Emotions, Concepts, and Voice

  • Your illustration, while limited to by the constraints of the project, should express your unique voice or graphic style using basic design principles.
  • Show a connection between the original research and the final illustration

Thoughtful Assessment (Critique)

  • Bring all assignment parts to class.
  • Be prepared to present, discuss and analyze your finished work in terms of concept, craft, and what you learned.
  • State the following: your name, what you are presenting (title and design problem), which parts are successful and why, which parts are unsuccessful and why.

Work Hour Tally

  • In the info section of your file, define the hours committed for each portion of the assignment, including dates and times.


  • Your  illustration folder is due in the DropBox on the date due.
  • Place all your files, including your photograph, any additional research, etc. in a folder named: firstinitiallastname_final
  • Name your print file:
  • Name your print file:
  • Name your web file: firstinitiallastname_final_color.gif
  • Name your color inventory: