Making low poly art

Low poly is an art style where the subject is made with a low polygon count, usually triangles. It looks cool and is fun to do, and this tutorial shows you how to get good, clean polygons.

Recording Actions

Before we start with the actual photo, we’re going to record two actions. They’re simple to record, and once recorded, will be accessible from any other file.

Draw two lines in your document, to use for recording actions.

Action 1: Align anchor points (Vertical Align Center, Horizontal Align Center)

First action done!

Action 2: Select next object

Select next object below technically has a built-in keyboard shortcut, but F3 is easier and faster.

Delete the line segments, or start a new document.

Making the picture

Now that those two actions are recorded, it’s time to make the actual picture!

1 . Pick your reference photo. Drag it into Layer 1 in Illustrator, then lock that layer. Create a new layer. All your drawing will happen on Layer 2.

2 . Using the line segment tool, draw your triangles. Don’t worry about anything lining up, and don’t worry about making closed shapes. Pick a color that’s easily visible against your background image. Here, I’ve started with the head. You can see how messy the lines are, especially when I turn off the background image!

3 . Finish outlining the entire object this way. Some more in-progress pictures here:

  1. Once you finish drawing all your triangles, it’s time to make it all line up. Select each cluster of anchor points with the Direct Selection tool (keyboard shortcut: A) and use the “Align anchor points” action you recorded earlier to line them up. Having this assigned to F2 means that I can use the mouse to select anchor points with one hand while hitting F2 with the other, and it goes very quickly.

To easily check if you got all the anchor points, turn off the background image, then select everything. The anchor points that aren’t lined up become easily visible.

5 . Once you have everything lined up, but you still only have line segments, no closed shapes. To fix this, select everything, then use the “Divide” function from the Pathfinder window. This will create all the triangles for you. Ungroup the resulting shapes.

6 . Expand your drawing layer (Layer 2). Select the top shape listed there. Open the eyedropper tool (keyboard shortcut: I) and select a color from the reference photo.

7 .  Use the “select next” keyboard shortcut to go to the next shape, and select a color for that one. Keep working your way through them. Stop once you run out of shapes.

All colored in!

Now I can add my solid blue background.

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