How To Make Celebrity Face Decals

Some celebrity faces are hard for toy makers and customizers to portray accurately. For example, try to find a good Harrison Ford likeness among the dozens of Han Solo and Indiana Jones figures out there. For every good one there are at least ten bad ones! Whenever I come across a celebrity face that is difficult to nail in the Minimate style, I use the following “trace and stretch” method.
(Click any images below to view larger versions)

For this project I am going to be making Orlando Bloom as Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, and I will be using Adobe Illustrator (free 30 day trial available here). However, you could use these same techniques with other software packages as well.

I start with a clear, front facing shot of the actor (as seen at the top of this post). I place it in Illustrator, and I zoom into the left eye to start.

Using the pen tool with a clear stroke and a black fill, I trace around the outer part of his eye, as seen above. I try to make this as exact as possible, and if the fill ever overlaps something and obscures my view, I reverse the colors temporarily.

Now I want that black shape out of my way so I can see the next part of Will’s eye, so I move it all the way to the back  (CTRL + SHIFT + [ on the PC) in the stack. Next I choose white as my fill color and I trace the white area inside of his eye.

I move the white area all the way to the back again, but then I move it forward one time (CTRL + ] ), so it is in front of the black area (even though I can’t see it since it is behind the photo). Next I choose a black fill color and I create an opaque circle the size of the pupil.

Since the pupil is too large to be seen completely, I erase the top part of the pupil with the eraser tool.

I copy this shape and paste it, changing the color to brown. I resize it so it is slightly smaller than the first pupil shape. I do this again with black again, as shown above.

I move these shapes to the back as a group, and then move them forward twice so they are in front of the black and white shapes that I made before. For the final part of the eye, I create a white reflection to match the one in the photo. I keep moving items to the back so they don’t get in my way when I am trying to match the photo.

Next, I use the eyedropper tool to match Will’s eyebrow color. I use the pen tool with this brown color as the fill color, and I carefully draw the shape of his eyebrow.

I repeat this process with the left side of Will’s mustache and stubble. We only need to do the left side, because we will be reflecting everything to the right later.

Here is how the image looks after adding more of his face details (I moved the photo to the back of the stack). The trick is to choose which features will define the actor’s face without adding every mark and wrinkle. If you add everything, the actor starts to look very old.

Now I get rid of the reference photo and paste in a blank minimate face background. I highlight Will’s face and get him ready to move into place. He will still need several adjustments in order to fit the minimate style.

As you can see, despite looking like the actor, the proportions are wrong for a minimate. The eye needs to be much larger, and the face needs to be wider.

This image shows the face after I enlarged the eye and stretched the design horizontally. Now it still resembles the actor, but it also is starting to look more like a minimate.

After reflecting the design horizontally and moving the eye reflection to the same spot in both eyes, the face decal is complete!

This same technique will work for almost any character’s face. Just remember to shift everything to the minimate style after you have finished drawing the important parts. I will post the full Will Turner design here once I am finished with the custom.

Good luck with your customs, and let me know if you have any questions regarding this technique! Our next update will feature a new kind of inkjet sticker paper that you can use to print decals like this one. 🙂

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5 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    That looks really good and seems to be a pretty clever way. I’m looking forward to see that custom of yours. (And I do expect to see more than just Will Turner, right?)

    And I’m looking forward to those inkjet stickers!

  2. Luke314pi says:

    Thanks Bob! You can definitely expect to see more. 😉

  3. Jason says:

    That is a very clever way of doing that! I’m definitely going to have to give this a go sometime.

  4. Hellpop says:

    That’s a pretty damn good technique right there! I’ll have to try that. I don’t usually make customs of real people, but you’ve definitely given us the best method to do so.

  5. TM2 Dinobot says:

    Swanky. I’ve tried this but I have to say it never comes out this good.