January 29th, 2009 by Francis

Karyn pointed out the initials of our little family’s firstnames spell out “KFC”. Yikes. We’re no fans of processed, bleached “chicken”, but it did occur to me that it might be fun to produce a spoof KFC logo in Illustrator, in between burping Cillian, and trying to deal with some real chores.


Making vector versions of photos is nothing new – it’s a popular alternative to photorealistic graphics in print and on the web. It isn’t particularly difficult, either, you just have to spend the time on it!

First of all, I needed to start off with a real KFC logo. A search on Google brought up loads of them, and I just needed to pick something. I decided to try and combine to versions of the logo. There’s an older one, with these segmented redbits (probably supposed to indicate “fast” food… ), and a newer one, which is basically just a big, vectorized portrait of the Colonel.

So I took the old version, and got rid of the Colonel’s face from it. I extended the largest red block, where I wanted to put my new faces.

The newer Colonel portrait is made up of four colours: red for the background, dark blue for the dark tones, pale beige for the mid tones, and white for highlights / everything else. Using the brilliant ColorZilla add-on for Firefox, I was able to sample both the blue and the beige, and add them to my colour swatch in Illustrator. Off we go!

I found a decent portrait shot of each of us, and opened them in Photoshop.The most straightforward way that I have found to vectorize a photo is to simplify it first. I use the Posterize function in Photoshop, and set it to 2 or 3 tones. Copy and paste this into a new document in Illustrator (or Save it and Place it, I suppose), and you have your start.

Basically, I created three layers, and in each of these, there were numerous sublayers. There is a “Dark tones” layer, a “Mid tones” layer, and then a “Outline” layer. This is a very simple, styilised vectorisation, remember. This is jsut an exercising in tracing, so all that time you sepnt at primary school with grease-proof paper will pay off!

Using the Pen tool, I drew around each face in dark blue to get the outline. For some sections, I would go back, and use the Smooth tool (hold down click on the Pencil tool… ) to, well, smooth out the curves.

Then, in the same blue, I spent a while darwing around all the dark areas of the face (eye hollows, nostrils, shadow, etc). You have to use your judgement for what to draw around. I found it easiest to set the Stroke to dark blue, and no Fill, to do this. Once I was satisfied that I had all the dark areas, I selected the layer (and there for all the sub-layers), and flipped the Stroke / Fill.

I did pretty much the same in the Mid tone layer, using the beige colour.

When I had done this for all three faces (it’s not quick!), I copied and pasted them into the document with the original red blocks amd the “KFC” text.

A bit of re-sizing and arrangement, and filling in the “empty” areas of each face in white using the Live Paint Bucket tool, and that’s it.

Sorry… this isn’t supposed to be an Illustrator tutorial as such – there are lots of good ones out there. I just thought I would explain how I did this image, since I wasted hours today with it!  :)

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