• Photo and polygonal portrait of Gareth Sleightholme

    Vector Polygonal Portrait Tutorial


How to make a photograph into polygonal art

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to transform a standard photograph into a polygonal image to get a crisp, clean vectored version thats great for a profile pic or artistic stylization. Here I will explain how to transform any image into polygons that resemble the original photograph through simple triangulation and colour selecting.



Ok, so to get started with this tutorial you're going to need a photograph of someone or something, for the purpose of this tutorial I'll be using this photograph of Gareth Sleightholme.

  • Photograph of Gareth Sleightholme by Paul Starkey

Now... open Adobe Illustraitor and go to File > New and make a new document. Give it a Name and set the Width and Height to match your image size (this is not a vital stage because we are working with vectors, but it is good practice.) then hit the OK button.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 1

Next we need to bring in our photograph, so go to File > Place and navigate to your image, select it and hit the Place button. This will put your image onto the canvas we just created.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 2


(if your image is larger than the canvas, hold down SHIFT + ALT and drag one of the corners inwards to reduce the overall image size).

Now that we have placed our photograph we need to lock it down so that we don't accidentally move this image while we work. To do this open the layers pallet by pressing the layers button Illustrator layers icon (or go to Window > Layers) and with our photograph layer selected (it should be the only layer you have) press the little layer menu button Illustrator layers dropdown menu in the top right corner of the layers window, scroll down and select template.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 3


(to change the level of the template layers opacity, just double click the layer and adjust the "Dim Image To:" value. I set mine to 100% for this tutorial).

Illustrator Dim Image To

Ok so now that we have our template all set up we are ready for the fun part... "POLYGONATION", ok that's probably not a word, but it should be . Anyway, for this stage we are going to use the Pen Tool Illustrator Pen Tool. Select your Pen Tool, Set the Fill to White and the Storke to a bright colour that will stand out, you may also wish to increase the Stroke Weight.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 4

Now we are going to use the Pen Tool to make a series of 4 clicks to make a triangle. I know what your thinking... "4 clicks... thats a Square" not in this case it's not, because we need the 4th click to close the shape. By this I mean that you will click once on the image to make a start point. Move to another location and click to make the second point and then repeat again for the third point. Then you will need to click back on your first point to close the shape, otherwise it will only have 2 edges.

But first we need a New Layer to work on. Press the New Layer button Illustrator New Layer Button in the layers panel to create a new layer above our template layer.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 5

Now you can begin making those triangles, simply begin the 4 click process with the Pen Tool to make your first triangle, then move over and create another triangle that is attached to at least one of the anchor points of your first triangle. WOW thats a lot of triangles in a sentence... from here on in I'll refer to them as tris.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 6

When you start approaching areas of the image that would require more detail (I.E. the eyes, nose, mouth and ears) you will need to start making your tris smaller and smaller the closer you get. But remember, you always have to snap to those anchors on the other tris. Don't put a tris point on the edge of another tri, it has to snap to the corners for this to work correctly.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 7

Just continue this process over the image but try and follow the natural contours of the face (or the element you are working with), this is what will ultimately make the end result resemble your original image and be recognizable for what or who it is.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 8

Ok so... after a long and laborious process of making tris you should have something that resembles the below image. A photograph completely covered in tris!

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 9

Now with your tris layer selected, you need to select all the tris, CTRL+A (CMD+A on Mac) and remove the fill colour from all them tris!

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 10

Now, deselect all. From here we are going to utilise two shortcut keys for speed. These are the select tool (V) and the Eye Dropper Tool (I). Ok so... all you need to do here is one by one select a tri, then switch to the Eye Dropper Tool and colour pick the center of that tri. Then do another, then another, and another and another and another... you get the point!

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 11

Well done to you for making it this far. It is a long and dull process. After hours or triangulation, selecting tris and colour picking all your hard work has paid off and you should end up with something similar to the below image. To finish off I added a gradient background using two colours from Gareth's Shirt.

  • Polygonal Gareth tutorial image 12

Happy polygoning