speen's space

making a portrait of one of my favorite musicians out of text

April 26, 2021 · art, poster, music

For the final assignment in my Foundations of Design class, I had to make a portrait of someone I looked up to using only text. The text was supposed to be a quote from my person of choice. I decided I would make the portrait of Stefan Burnett, aka MC Ride of Death Grips.

selecting an image

To start, I had to select a good image of Ride to make into my portrait. Because of the nature of the process I was using to make the portrait, I wanted to choose one that had a decent range of values. I decided to go with this image, because it has really good lighting, which would lead to a better end product.

A picture of MC Ride, he is holding a microphone, and is lit by a purple light.

cropping and removing color

I started by cropping and removing all the color from the image, which I pretty easily did in photoshop. One thing of note that I manually did was add the microphone cable, I thought it was an important part of the composition so I manually painted it in. Since I was going to automatically vectorize this in the next step, it didn’t have to be perfect.

The same picture as the last, but the background has been removed and it has been made black and white.

making the clipping groups

I then brought the image into Adobe Illustrator, where I used the image trace tool to vectorize the image into 5 different colors of shape. I then selected each group of shapes by their fill color, and grouped them together into clipping groups.

The same image as the last, but it has now been reduced to shapes that range between 1 of 5 values in greyscale.

putting text into the clipping groups

Then, all I had to do is put the text into the clipping groups. In order to give the illusion of value, I increased the density of the text where I needed darker values, and decreased it where I wanted lighter values. There where several ways I achieved this, but the most notable was using a variable weight font. Variable weight fonts allow you to specify the weight of the weight of the font with a slider, so I had a large range of weights to choose from.

A rendition of the previous image, but each shape has been replaced with haphazardly placed text at different densities to provide the illusion of value.

thoughts on the assignment

I was happy with this assignment. By stripping myself of actual value, it made me realize how important value is to the overall composition of a piece. I think that because of this assignment, my future projects will be much more value-aware.