There's a certain magic to capturing the likeness of a person, whether famous or lesser known. A portrait illustrator looks for distinguishing features that will make a portrait of a person instantly recognizable.
Creating a realistic or abstracted portrait as an illustration in Photoshop or Illustrator can only be achieved by a skilled artist who understands the power of line and shading to create form.
While the rendering style an artist chooses matters, what's most important is conveying the personality of the subject through an expression, a gesture, physical characteristic, or mannerism that's familiar.
How the portrait illustrator creates a compelling portrait of a celebrity or world figure is through careful observation of those qualities that define a person. Emphasizing a feature or trait for which the person is best known, for example, Jay Leno's big chin and trademark hair, or Woody Allen's bewildered look through horn-rimmed glasses, the portrait illustrator draws out those characteristics that make a person who they are.
Bringing a portrait or character sketch to life requires more than a facile hand. An understanding of how color, lighting, highlights and shadows, and angle of view impact a subject is what the portrait and character illustrator brings to his subject.
Refining important details such as flesh tone and hair texture calls upon the portrait illustrator to be more than a casual artist. Skilled in digital rendering of the face, the portrait illustrator has the freedom of a painter in line and brushstroke yet relies upon the precision only a masterful computer artist can comprehend.