Welcome to Vexel Art week with Project Educate! I am TheLastHuzzah, your host for the week. Today I am introducing you to Vexel Art, and digging nice and deep to aid the understanding of this fantastic media. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have, so if anything confuses you or you’d like clarification, please don’t hesitate to comment!
Vexel Art takes a great deal of time, patience and skill, contrary to public opinion. This misunderstanding has arisen because, sadly, it is often (incorrectly) said that vexel art is simply tracing a posterized photograph. While I do agree that this is a way that many people start off in the media, and a small number of people continue in it, vexelling is a form of drawing, in the same way as any other media. The vexel artist may sketch out an idea, and then work using the pen tool to digitally ‘ink’ their sketch, and then begin on the colouring, working up each layer of shading until they have the look they want – same as many other methods of drawing, yes?
So why such stigma? I believe this mostly comes from misinformation, which is giving vexel artists everywhere a bad name! And THAT is what this Project Educate week is for! So, are you ready to really learn about vexel art and how it is created? Let’s get to it!
What is Vexel Art?
Vexel is a digital-based media where blocks of solid colour or gradients are used to create a full image. I always found that the easiest way to describe this technique was comparing it to the traditional cut paper methods – you layer each piece until it creates the look you are going for. The more layers you add, the more intricate detailing you can produce.
Basically put, vexel is a medium. It is not a style, it is not another word for ‘trace’, nor is it a term for a vector with raster elements.
Why use Vexel instead of Vector? What’s the advantage?
This is a question that most vexel artists will get asked at least once! While I cannot answer for everyone, let me tell you my own thoughts on this.
I think people don't see the advantages of vexel over vector, purely because they are comparing them - they may look similar, but they're two totally different media. That's like asking the advantages of using oil paints over acrylic.
An artist will choose their media for a variety of reasons, some of which I have indicated below in hopes to aid understanding of the subject.
You may choose vexel as you like vector but don’t have the correct tools.
For example, you see a fantastic oil painting that inspires you to paint something in a similar style, but only have acrylic paints, you can create your own work in the same sort of style, but it would be a different media. The same goes here – let’s say you have seen a beautiful piece of vector artwork and you’d love to have a go at doing something of a similar style, but you only have a raster-based program, you obviously cannot try creating vector artwork as you don’t have the tools, so you create your artwork in vexel instead.
You may choose vexel due to what you can do with it within the program you have.
For example, I and many other vexel artists enjoy the use of the ‘stroke path’ method for making hair, which can only be done in raster media such as vexel, as this technique is create using the brush tool to ‘stroke’ along the path created, rather than being made of shapes. This method is also often used for creating lineart, both in vexel art as well as other digital drawing subcategories.
You may choose vexel over vector simply because you do not need it to be scalable.
For example, what other media is infinitely scalable like vector? None of them, but nobody ever seems to question why all digital drawing and painting work isn’t done with vectors, even though the program Adobe Illustrator has the tools to allow the artist to create watercolour-esque images, should they wish to.
So, with that said... why should vexel be any different?
I think it’s simply because it is so closely associated with vector that people begin to question its advantages, trying to compare media that need not be comparable - but if people could try to detach it from vector a little more in their own minds, they will start to see what a beautiful and versatile media vexel really is!
And that, my friends, is why I love it
Vexel Art is most often made with a pen tool, or whatever the equivalent in your particular program. The pen tool plots points on the page and can make perfectly straight lines as well as beautiful smooth curves, which is why it is the most popular vexel art tool. I have included some tutorials below which use the pen tool, and I’m sure they will explain its uses much better than I can with my words!
The other accepted tool to use is the lasso, or selection, tool. This can also create straight lines, and can create curves depending on your program.
Whichever tool you use to create the artwork, the basic method is the same – you create the shape you need, and then you fill it with the colour or gradient you need!
Styles & Techniques
As with any art form, there are loads of different styles within the blanket term of ‘Vexel Art’. From reading this article, you should know by now that vexel art itself is not a style, but is a media, and therefore each artist will have their own style that is not only a part of them, but has also been influenced by various other styles found around throughout various media. Below are some various styles of vexel art, based on people
The Definition of Vexel
What IS Vexel Art, Anyway?
Vector, Vexel or Mixed Media?
The Difference between Vector and Vexel
Getting into Vector and Vexel Artwork
Stock: Tips & Hints for New Vexel/Vector Artists
Vexed over Vexel