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Thread: Vector Illustration Tutorial - Part 1

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    Witch Hunter GallComp may be famous one day GallComp may be famous one day GallComp's Avatar
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    Vector Illustration Tutorial - Part 1

    This is the first stage of the tutorial, contains the theory behind vector illustrations, a useful thing to know I you are serious about getting yourself into vectoring. The next chapters will show the entire vectoring process as well as some cool mini-tuts that will expand the approach of this tutorial.

    Hope You guys like it…


    The objective of this tutorial will be to help the reader to understand the basic concepts of Vector Illustrations as well as basic techniques utilized in the creation of both simple and complex images. Most of the information presented is the reflection of the way I work and the techniques that had proven successful to me; this may work for me, but you may find other ways that work better for you and give you the desired results.

    This tutorial will assume that the reader has a basic knowledge of an illustration program (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, or Inkscape) and a raster manipulation program (Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Deep Paint, or Paint.NET). I will be using both Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for the creation of the images in this tutorial, as those are my main tools.

    Vector Image made entirely in Adobe Illustrator

    Illustration Basics

    An illustration is composed of one or more vector objects; each of those objects has one or more paths which are composed of line segments delimited by anchor points at each end, and directed by optional control handles. Control handles are only modifiers that do not print.

    Complete Illustration

    Vector Objects that make the image

    Paths of the Image

    Line segments and Anchor Points

    The most fundamental elements of any illustration are the anchor points as they are the basis for all our objects, they will mark the start and end of a line segment and with the combination of control handles the direction that our line will follow. The name of the resulting curve between two anchor points is called a Bezier curve (After the French mathematician, Pierre Bezier).

    Bezier Curve with anchor points and control Handles

    There are two types of anchor points, those having control handles and those without them. Anchor points without control handles will draw a straight line from the source point, and anchor points with control handles will draw a perfectly curved line shaped depending on the direction an distance stated by the control handles. It may sound confusing but in practice is an easy concept.

    (A) Curve with two control handles - (B) Curve with one control handle - (C) Curve with no control handles

    Paths are one or more Bezier curves joined together by its control points. There are two basic types of paths, open paths and closed paths. Closed paths are those who have all its control points joinedt another control point resulting in a shape without start or finish. Open paths are those who have two control points not joined, thus giving us a start and end control points.

    Two types of paths

    Vector objects are the result of one of several paths that will be used and combined to draw an element of our illustration. Each vector element will have their own properties and purpose to construct the drawing, like color, fill, stroke type, opacity, thickness, etc. Placing vector elements on top of each other will give us the desired illustration.

    These are the same object with different attributers, made of 5 curves

    Pen Tool Basics

    The Pen tool is one of the most useful tools in Adobe Illustrator, but it can as well be one of the most frustrating to master for any beginner, it will be our main tool in the creation of the paths that will eventually construct our image.

    The Pen Tool can be used to create straight paths just by clicking point to point, or by constraining the direction of the control handles by pressing the shift key. Also can create curves by utilizing a click-and-drag process, which means clicking in the place where our anchor point will reside and without releasing the mouse button, drag the pointer to now place the control handle in the direction and distance desired.

    The Pen tool was used to create one straight line and one curved line
    by dragging the control handles up from the anchor’s point position

    In Adobe illustrator the Pen tool has four variations (See Fig 1). The main Pen tool A is the one that will be used most of the time. The “Add” Pen tool B will be used to add new anchor points to a path. The “Delete” Pen tool C will be used to remove existing anchor points from a path. And the “Convert Anchor Point” pen tool D can be used to modify the direction of control handles.

    Fig 1: Pen tool variations

    Note: There are keyboard shortcuts to quickly select any of the Pen tool’s variations – Press (P) for the main Pen Tool, (+) for the add anchor, (-) for the delete anchor, and (shift – C) for the convert anchor.

    The fill/stroke features of our paths can be managed in the lower part of the “Tool s” pallet (See Fig 2). The stroke is the actual line that the Pen tool creates with the path, and the fill is the background color that will fill the area inside the shape of our path. In Fig 2 we have a black stroke over a white fill, if we desire not to have either a fill or stroke in our path, just select the feature to change and then click the box with the red line below the fill/stroke area. A red line across any of the two features means no color.

    Clicking on top of either the fill or stroke boxes will bring that feature as active, meaning that any color change will be made for that feature only, like clicking on the fill box and then selecting the small box with the red line across to make our path with no fill.

    Fill/stroke section of the Tools pallet.

    The stroke’s weight or thickness of our path is controlled by the “Stroke” pallet shown in Fig 3, this will let us select how thick will be the line resulting from our path. Also we can control the way our stroke will be drawn, and the type of corners that will appear in our shape.

    Illustrator’s Stroke Pallet

    Drawing Paths an Lines

    Creating straight lines using the Pen tool is as easy as clicking from point A to Point B (Fig 4). To force to a horizontal, vertical, or 45° diagonal direction, we should hold the shift key while clicking point B, also notice that the active anchor point is solid (B) while the inactive anchor point is empty (A).

    To create the curved line seen in Fig 5 you will need to click-and-drag point A upward while pressing the shift key to constrain the movement vertically and by that creation a control handle. Next click point B and drag the control handle to the left, also holding the shift key to force the movement to a horizontal plane.

    In Fig 6, we are distorting the previous path by selecting the “Convert anchor” Pen tool and clicking one of the control handles and dragging it to the right, and the shape of our path will be modified accordingly to the new position of our handle. This tool is very sensitive, if we are not exactly over the control handle when using it, a warning window will appear letting s know that we aren’t in the right position.

    Will Continue...
    Last edited by GallComp; Sep 20, 2007 at 03:39 PM.

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