Quirks in the order of operations in Illustrator’s Appearance panel.

Last night I discovered a really strange little quirk in Illustrator’s Appearance panel. Effects applied to a stroke can behave differently depending on if they were applied to the stroke by creating it with the stroke selected in the Appearance panel, or by adding it to the overall path itself, then dragging it onto the stroke. I have, I think, been vaguely aware of this subtlety for a while but I finally sat down and did some experiments to nail it down.

Sometimes the roughen effect is applied to the underlying path before the stroke is drawn. Sometimes it’s applied to all of the paths you’d get if you expanded the stroke after the stroke is stretched along the underlying path, resulting in a much messier and erratic look. And you can’t tell just by looking at the Appearance panel; there is no visible difference between a path where the effect was directly added to the stroke (and thus applied before the stroke is drawn) and one where it was added to the base path, then dragged into the stroke (and thus applied after the stroke is drawn).

This persists across a save, too. There’s something Illustrator’s setting in there that it’s not exposing.


I also tried fooling with Astute’s new “Architect” plugin, which is designed to create sketchy lines that look like an architectural rendering, but is also useful for just generally creating some extra chaos. I’ve been running up against this “sometimes it runs on the underlying path, sometimes it runs on the art stretched along the path” while playing with it. I think the set based on the art brush makes it really clear which ones are operating on the path before the stroke is applied, and which ones are operating after – I’d had an intuition that it happens at a slightly different place in the rendering order than most of AI’s native effects, and this confirms it.

There are very few native effects that create a lot of extra paths this way; one of the few that does behaves differently. Honestly I’m not sure what I expected out of the extrude/bevel effect but I feel surprised that having it at the very top of the Appearance stack makes the path completely vanish.

I should probably try it on the Scribble effect – one of the other few stock effects that can turn one path into multiple paths under the hood, instead of just altering a single existing path – but I feel like I’d need to make a slightly different test case and that’s enough for before breakfast.

Anyway. That’s your dive into deep Illustrator obscurities for today.

branding revisions

Back in 2012 when I made my current website, I did a little drawing of the god-mode version of my fursona that’s hiding at the bottom if you scroll allllll the way down until the background peels away to reveal her.

Earlier this year I re-did the first thing you see when you open the site. And today I found myself looking at that old drawing of November-4 and feeling like I could do it a lot better. To be honest I was never entirely satisfied with it, it always felt a little off. But there were some technical reasons why it was hard to re-work (it’s all drawn in an opacity mask). Now I have some new tricks for doing transparency, and a few new tools to use as well.

I think I like this one a lot better. We’ll see if I still like it in about another ten years.

The Sign Of Osiris Slain

Virgo, Isis, Mighty Mother.
Scorpio, Apophis, Destroyer.
Sol, Osiris, Slain & Risen.
Isis, Apophis, Osiris: I. A. O.

Happy Easter, eh?

Illustrator, about 1.5h.

Five Candles, Six Stars

secrets, darkness, midnight rite

calling Cassiel via Mercury on the sousaphone

sombre nighttime lurking orchestral, mighty and dark and all alone


I found this lurking in an old sketchbook file from 2018 and cleaned it up today. I don’t think this was anything like the way 2018 me would have finished it but I’m pretty happy with the end result.

High-res on Patreon, prints on Redbubble, if you have a spot on your wall that you think would be best-served by covering it up with a snake lady invoking the angel of Jupiter.

frizzly hair

“What tools are good for drawing kinky hair in Illustrator?”

Here’s an Appearance stack that I whipped up in like ten minutes that’s a good start.

kinky hair demo.ai – open up the Appearance and Graphic Styles palettes to explore just what I did here, click on some effect names and play with the settings, find something better than I did in ten minutes.

It could use a lot of refinement and maybe I’ll do that sometime soon. But this is a decent start IMHO. One major refinement could be to make an art or scatter brush with some squiggles, and add that as a stroke on the “kinky hair” style.

The Exterior View

“It’s all in your head; you just have no idea how big your head is.” – Lon Milo Duquette

In certain magical operations that I have been doing regularly, it is useful to visualize yourself as bigger than the entire universe. So I did a drawing of Soror Fututum Stella to help me solidify this feeling.


Twin is a sentient black hole. (She) would prefer not to eat you, but if (she) suddenly starts feeling very downhill from you, it is a good idea to be on your best behavior.

In (her) retirement (she) has developed a bit of a drinking habit.

(Today I read some discussion of MUDs and found myself thinking about the SF furry RP MUCK Puzzlebox, where Twin manifested a little after the turn of the century. Later on I ended up living with Puzzlebox’s head wizards, and am pretty much married to one of them at this point. My life would have been very different without being bent around Twin’s presence. So I decided to draw (her) and this is what came out.)

(Also fwiw, Twin generally shapes (her) event horizon into a form that is functionally neuter, but socially femme. Hence the parenthetical pronouns.)

Illustrator, about 1h.

Optional Secret Ending

This week’s Twitter meme: Post an image of yourself as a final boss without downloading any more pics.

Drawing one on the same computer you post it from counts as “not downloading”, right?

I hope you like dodging bullets and have a really tiny hitbox. You’re gonna need one.

Illustrator, 1.5h. No sketch. Just shapes.

The Path of Beauty and Spendour

The Path of Beauty and Spendour

night sky star shine

evening slow and long

incense out, swirl and ponder

see what shapes become

So lately I’ve been doodling this jackal lady with stars in her hair and her fur, and snakes in her heart and soul. She might be me. She might not be me. I haven’t decided.

Tonight I idly looked at Deviantart and pondered their current contest/advertising campaign, where one is asked to draw an “Art-vatar”: “an artistic alter ego that uses unconventional tools for their masterpiece”. And for once, the whim took me to actually do this. Two hours of fiddling around in Illustrator later, this came out.

She is currently known as Soror Fututum Stella, and all the other drawings of her so far are pretty smutty.


There is a Windows laptop that sits on my SO’s desk. It really serves one purpose: to be a time clock for their day job. Work sent it, and it is what they have to use to connect to the time clock to record their hours.

Mostly it just sits there idle, with the default startup screen: the time, and a Scenic Photo of the Day.

Yesterday I passed by and realized, wait, that’s a familiar place. I looked closer. It was City Park in New Orleans; a dramatic photo of the sun rising or setting over a footbridge that I’ve crossed many times. I know exactly where to stand to get that view. I’ve seen it many times when I cross another nearby footbridge if I’m taking the shortest walking route from my home to the coffee shop in the park.

And somehow that felt really weird. It’s always some gorgeous, far-away place on that screen. Never one I know. But, oh yeah. I’m from a gorgeous, mythical place that has songs written about longing to be there. I’m from a strange, exotic tourist destination.

  1. And I feel really really lucky that when I gave up trying to get by in one Big City after another – Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle – I could come back home to this lazy little town, full of beauty and strangeness.