In an effort to start doing some of my own design work for my pin company, Pingrove Press, I finally took another crack at learning Adobe Illustrator and how to work with the dreaded pen tool. The pen tool has perplexed me ever since I first encountered it in a cracked version of Photoshop CS2 that I used in middle school to learn what little I know about photo editing and graphic design.

Luckily I didn't have to learn from scratch during my most recent attempt. About two months ago, an incredibly talented tattoo artist and friend of mine, David Cotè, hosted a live-stream on Instagram that walked through how he turns his hand-drawn sketches into clean tattoo stencils using Adobe Illustrator.

Although I didn't have Illustrator installed at the time and wasn't really prepared to try to learn it yet, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch it since it wasn't clear if the stream would be recorded or if he would stream more tutorials in the future. I ended up taking notes by hand so that I could eventually revisit it.

I fell asleep in the middle of his live-stream (I wasn't feeling well at the time) but I was able to take enough notes to have a strong starting point. David used the following sketch as the example in his stream (reposted with his permission of course):

A hand-drawn sketch by tattoo artist David Cotè.

Over the course of several hours spread across a few evenings, I was finally able to reach a point that I was satisfied with my work. Here is my completed vector-rendition of David's sketch:

A finished vector of David's sketch done by me in Adobe Illustrator.

Although there are several parts of it I couldn't get exactly how I wanted, overall I'm very happy and proud of what I created. I don't want to be too hard on myself since this was my first time really diving into Illustrator.

I'm really hoping that David hosts more tutorials in the future because I found it so much easier to stay motivated since I had such awesome source material to work with.

This is the finished tattoo that David created from his sketch/stencil:

Although this tattoo was unfortunately not done on me, I do have a number of tattoos from David already, and I hope to get more from him in the future. If you're interested in following him, here are a few places you can find his work:

Thanks for reading. I hope you found this post enjoyable and inspiring. - Brodan