I threw together this quick composite screenshot due to a post on the Illustrator subreddit where someone questioned a statement that “most designers don’t use layers”. I am neither “most designers” nor am I “a designer” but layers are super useful.
I just got a note from the Adobe beta program about a new build of Illustrator 24.x, so I guess maybe it’s finally time to move from 22.x (CC2018) to 23.x (CC2019).
Herein are my notes about the new features.
I spent a while today and Monday doing something I’d been putting off for a good while: resizing the styles for the Mixolyne mechs. See, I’d drawn them super-huge originally, and a lot of the graphic styles I’d built out of those drawings performed poorly when I tried to use them at the right size. I’d been resizing them on an ad-hoc basis every time I pulled the styles into a new page, but last Monday I pulled up the first of several rough pages where Kirt and Noa will be spending a lot of time running around in their mechs, emoting at each other through body language, and I just really did not feel like rescaling these styles for every page individually like I’d done for the first few pages.
A few weird Illustrator hangs later, I’ve generated a feature request for folders in the Graphic Style palette, decided to do an ugly organizational kudge in the meantime of blank styles serving as separators to help me find stuff in the giant sprawling pile of styles I’ve ended up with, and created sets of styles for these mechs in both their shiny, healthy versions and the “dehydrated” versions they started the story in.
This took me a few hours but it should help a lot when I start actually drawing these pages; by doing this I’ve piled up a bunch of cool effects and taught Illustrator how to do them for me, and now I can just mindlessly re-use all of them at high speed.
Another one of those “I answered this on /r/AdobeIllustrator and thought it would make a good technique post” things.
How to make a cute little string-art effect.
1. Draw some lines
2. Use the Blend tool to click on the end of the first line furthest away from the next one
3. Repeat until you run out of lines
4. object>blend>blend options to bring up the number of steps
5. to fix that one line you clicked wrong on, select it and do object>path>reverse path direction.
If you wanted it to really look like the nail-and-string-on-a-board kits I remember doing in the seventies, you could maybe add a highlight and a shadow by putting extra strokes on the whole blend:
Adding nails is left as an exercise for the reader.
Suggestions: dotted lines, custom arrowhead, custom art brush with a nail at one end and the “stretch between guides” scaling option in its settings, a custom art brush that’s *just* a nail plus some blank space and the “stretch between guides” scaling option applied to the whole blend as a new path atop the appearance stack shown here – maybe with a low level of effect>distort & transform>roughen applied to mimic the look of nails hammered in unevenly?
I just spent two hours making this happen in Illustrator.
It’s the safe version of this. If you click on this image, or on any of the other ones in this post, you’ll see a higher-res copy. I am not sure I recommend doing this.
I can now use these flat-color Graphic Styles to draw a whole bunch of assorted shapes in something akin to three-point perspective. Which would involve following this grid that I built in Illustrator before building the previous two images.
And hell, let me try a quick test drawing. Just some basic shapes following these perspective guidelines.
Alt-drag twelve swatches around and…
Yep. This is gonna work. I’ve got a lot of drawing to do, and this won’t work for every single part of the image – but I should be able to lay down a lot of it pretty quickly like this. I’ll end up with tons of hatching that precisely lines up with the perspective I’ve drawn the shapes in. I had to do some funky stuff to set all of this up and part of me thinks I should write it up, but I also spent two hours in front of the computer and think I need to run around some.
Illustrator has a three-point perspective ruler mode. I’m really not sure I’m going to bother with it; I feel like the time I’d spend figuring out how it works is going to be really close to the amount of time I’d spend just doing it the “hard” way. I learnt how to do hardcore perspective years ago, and I’ve forgotten most of it, but I think I remember enough to fake this. Should be fun!
Here’s a little stylization trick.
The tilted rectangle on the lower right lacks this extra magic.
The fill is offset by enough to hide the ugly white edges; the stroke is the same width as that offset, and is offset by half its width. Making the stroke 0% opaque and turning on ‘Knockout Group’ makes it work as a built-in opacity mask for this shape – an ugly, but very useful hack. You could also just have some really thick outlines instead, or build a lot of clipping masks; both of those feel like Work to me and I’m generally allergic to that.
The rasterize effect is set to add 0 points around the path, which varies from my usual Document Raster Effect settings of adding about 35 points to give me room for most blurs I’m likely to use. You can also change the resolution, the tilted rectangle’s at a lower resolution than the rest of the shapes.
I might have to try doing some art with this look.
Illustrator Tip #856t292: Copying complicated stuff between documents.
A lot of the time, when you try to copy from one document and paste into another, Illustrator will decide to expand complex appearance stacks and bitmap effects into something completely uneditable. You can get around this by opening each document in a separate window and dragging the objects from one document to the other.
Thankfully, this will respect Paste Remembers Layers if you’re copying really complicated stuff spread out over multiple layers.
It will not copy over any Graphic Styles you may have used. I’m not sure if that is preferable to AI’s tendency to create duplicates of Graphic Styles when cutting and pasting stuff around
So there you are, working away in Illustrator, making something that you want it to repeat a whole bunch of times for you. You drag it to the Brushes panel and you get something like this.
Perhaps your first instinct is to start searching for what elements can’t be used in a brush, and then object>expand all of those parts into things that can be used in a brush. But, you know, that starts to feel like work or something, and if you’re at all familiar with the way I use Illustrator I’m all about skipping those parts.
So instead of doing all that work, how about making Illustrator do it for us? Ever since 17.0/CC, Illustrator lets us put bitmaps in brushes. And there’s nothing saying we can’t generate those bitmaps directly in AI.
So: select all the stuff you want to turn into a brush, then do object>group, then do effect>rasterize. And now you can drag this into the Brush palette.
Looking at it up close you can see a tiny bit of pixelization going on. If that bugs you, then select your original group and visit the Appearance palette to change the settings on that rasterize effect, then alt-drag it on top of the brush in the Brush palette.
You will want to save a copy of your original art somewhere in your drawing. I usually put it on a layer named something like “construction” that I keep hidden most of the time. If you try to access the original art by dragging the brush thumbnail onto the canvas, you’ll just get an uneditable image.
Now and then I go through the Adobe Illustrator subreddit and answer some questions nobody else has had a good answer to. Usually this means I am procrastinating.
One person wanted to know how to draw a thing and kinda do puppetry with it.
I usually do stuff like this this way:
- Draw your limb.
- Select it and drag it into the brush panel. Make an art brush.
- Choose “scale proportionately” under the brush scale options.
- Draw some lines with this art brush. Maybe hit the “options” button in the brush pane and turn on “flip across” if needed.
If one part ends up way off-center as a brush, try this:
- drag the brush to an empty part of the artboard (do not drag it over a shape, if you do AI will try to apply it to that shape, even if it’s on a locked layer)
- notice the big invisible rectangle around your shape? Drag it out (using shift to constrain the drag) until its center is pretty much on the center of your shape.
- select all the stuff that makes up the copy of the brush you just dragged out, including the invisible rectangle, and alt-drag it over the brush in the brush palette. (Mostly I don’t draw limbs with this to be honest – I use this for a lot of repeated details in my comics like tattoos or logos on clothing.)
With everything selected, you can see that the arms and legs on those two dudes at the bottom are just simple lines, quickly drawn with the pencil tool. I grabbed the point at right elbow of the running dude and moved it around until the elbow roughly aligned; originally the big elbow bump was very definitely not on the joint.
(Also this way of drawing elbows is totally based off of the way Fred Hembeck draws knees. Because it made me laugh, and whenever I do images to explain or work out something asked on a forum, I always try to make them funny.)
You could easily do full-color art for your puppet parts; I didn’t feel like bothering. Also there is the new Puppet Warp to fool with; this way is a lot easier if you’re gonna do a lot of re-use. I don’t use it for puppet parts, but I do use it for repeated stuff in my comics – logos on clothing, tattoos, whatever.
And then here is some abuse of pattern fills.
“use pattern fills full of whatever” was one of two and a half ways I gave someone who wanted to duplicate an image that was made of two colors: white, and a big bunch of smeary painterly color swirls.
- Draw your thing in B&W
- On a new layer, make a bunch of multicolor stuff that more than covers it. Probably just draw some semi-transparent shapes with gaussian blurs applied. Or whatever.
- Select all that stuff from step 2 and drag it into the Swatches palette to make a pattern fill.
- Turn off that layer.
- Select all your black stuff (select>Same will help here). Apply your new pattern swatch.
- With everything still selected, hold down the `/~ key while using the Selection, Direct Selection, Scale, or Rotate tools. This will affect only the fill pattern’s location. (The Free Transform tool will not do this. Use the older, separate tools.)
(The half a way was to use a global swatch to draw your stuff, then alt-drag the pattern swatch OVER the original swatch. And the other way involved putting your B&W art in a layer’s transparency mask, then drawing a bunch of colorful stuff on the layer. I’m sure I go into that in more detail somewhere in the Illustrator posts on here.)
I didn’t save the source of the puppetry piece but here’s the fill pattern’s source.
Sometimes, when you want to copy a complex appearance between two documents, Illustrator will decide it wants to expand the effect instead. This is rarely a thing I want – one easy-to-edit path can become many complicated paths.
Here’s a way to work around it.
- Open the document with the path whose style you want to clone into the new document.
- Select that path and create a new Graphic Style from it.
- Save the document.
- Open the document you want to bring the troublesome style into.
- Hit the ‘library’ button at the lower left of the Graphic Styles palette; choose “Other Library…” at the bottom, then use the file requestor this invokes to select the file from step 1.
- Double-click the style to bring it into your document’s Graphic Styles. Or just select it and draw a shape, that works too.
- Keep on drawin’.
You can use this trick to clone brushes, palette swatches, and symbols from other files. Maybe for some other stuff, too; Illustrator has a ton of palettes and I might be forgetting something! For multi-file projects it can be very useful to have one central file where you store all of these kinds of things.
You can also make your libraries show up in the ‘User Defined’ submenu by putting them in a certain place in the filesystem – check the manual for that, it’s a different place for each class of palette on OSX and Windows. The “Libraries” palette is, I think, supposed to make this easier and to sync between computers, but I’ve never played with it.