Sometimes you just get up and it is incredibly obvious that the right way to spend the day is to draw a luxuriously gravid snake lady lounging in front of a sunset. Or maybe it’s just me? Today was one of those days. Anyway, the snake’s name is Veriti.
Illustrator, 4h. Source file on Patreon.
While working on this I also bitched about a long-standing Illustrator bug that annoyed me while I was doing some background stuff, kludged up a script to work around it, and finally made a file for some tree-leaf brushes instead of either constantly remaking the same brush or swiping it from another file.
Illustrator has this annoying behavior where it only generates a spline for a blend if one or more of the paths being blended are closed. My working method is such that I almost never generate closed paths, so this is super annoying.
There is a simple workaround, but it is annoying to do: swear, undo the blend, close the first path, make the blend, open the first path. You would think the swearing is optional but in practice I find it to be mandatory.
Today I got annoyed enough at this behavior to write a script to do it for me.
blend with spline.jsx
Throw this in your Illustrator scripts directory, and assign a hotkey to it via whatever method you choose – I used Alfred to bind command-alt-shift-b to a ‘launch apps/files’ action, which is the key I used to have assigned to object>blend>make. Now blends Just Work for me.
(And maybe go upvote the relevant uservoice issue if this annoys you too, I’d really rather have this choice something switchable in Illustrator without this kludgy workaround.)
Yesterday, my SO showed me this sketch from something like fifteen to twenty years ago.
It’s a mind-controlling insect from an obscure corner of Marvel’s comics massaging the brain of an anonymous raccoon. It has survived three purges of their “accounting” directory at this point and they’re still horny for it. Maybe, they asked, I could finish it?
I took it into Illustrator and spent two hours doing just that, using the automatic shading methods I’ve been fooling with lately. It’s really weird how they fuck with my brain, I will knock something out and it looks so finished that I don’t want to do anything more to it, but it’s also nowhere near finished. I need to figure out how to get around this and firmly convince my brain that something that looks the way this technique does is Not Finished so that it’s easy to dive in and add some more shading by hand where it’s really needed, like I did in this one. Overall though I would say that “I can draw something in a few minutes that looks so superficially polished that it breaks how my brain thinks about what to do next” is a pretty good problem to have!
The Illustrator source is over on Patreon, if you’re curious as to how I got this done in two hours. It uses a bunch of Astute’s effect plugins.
For years, I’ve been using something called Quicksilver as one of the ways I control my Mac. It lets me pop up a little control window to do various things. But last week my bike got stolen, which meant I ended up upgrading to the latest version of the OS so I could share the location of its AirTag with the cops. It didn’t get found, sadly; the airtag’s been sitting a block away from what I am told is a notorious chop shop under the I-10.
Not too many things broke in this upgrade, but Quicksilver did – its windows are now showing up at the top left of the screen, instead of the center; a lot of searches are just not working any more, and half the hotkeys it provides are broken. Which is important when a couple of them are calling scripts that do things in Illustrator as part of my regular workflow.
I was putting off dealing with this, but today I looked at Quicksilver’s ‘about’ got this. And that just doesn’t feel promising for having it get upgraded, y’know?
So I just spent an hour or two figuring out how to get Alfred to do the things I had Quicksilver doing.
I am gonna miss Quicksilver’s “noun,verb” two-panel interface. I’ve been using it for about two decades and I don’t have to think about it any more.
Eventually I will get used to Alfred’s “one search bar” mode. Eventually. I’ve got my shortcuts for Illustrator wired up again, as well as the ones to bring iTunes up and to skip to the next album, and I’ve configured it with the same colors I had for Quicksilver, so I’m mostly good.
I dunno. I’ve been using Quicksilver for two decades now. Feels weird to be switching.
Sometimes you just gotta make your SO get on their knees and take a photograph of you waving a toy ray gun at them, so you can draw a promotional image for the SPACE VIXEN CHANNEL.
And then you end up having to spend an hour finally getting around to drawing a Fraser spiral because you need some Op art effects and the usual rayed ones just don’t feel like the right choice.
The SPACE VIXEN CHANNEL is not found on your TV set. It is found by getting high as fuck and pointing your pineal gland in the right direction. There is a lot of adult programming on it. (NSFW)
Source files for both this image and the separate file I built the Fraser spiral in are available on Patreon.
I needed this, and I couldn’t find it within five minutes of searching, so I went to Wikipedia’s list of LGBT pride flags and snagged all the SVGs and turned them into a bunch of Illustrator brushes. All of these files seem to be Creative Commons so this is, too.
Grab this and put it with the rest of your brush files: pride flags.ai – go forth, and draw the queerest fucking things you can think of! I sure needed it for some super-queer art.
Here’s another of those “someone asked an interesting question on the Illustrator subreddit” posts. They wanted to know how to automatically fill a shape with a pattern brush that looked like embroidery stitches.
This is one of those things that seems like it should be super simple to set up as a live effect in Illustrator but turns out to be impossible. But a little abuse of some third-party plugins makes it doable! Astute’s WidthScribe lets you make a bunch of lines with the Width Stamp effect, and then you can use the Appearance palette to apply whatever kind of stroke you’d like to those lines – here I’m using a custom brush, but you could do whatever your image needs.
First, draw some shapes, and apply the Width Stamp effect.
Then, go to the Appearance palette and add a new stroke to the whole Width Stamp group. Not to the individual paths inside it.
You can generate more complex “stitch” patterns by changing the width stamp’s settings.
embroidery stamp.ai – 152k, requires the Astute suite.
If you keep your local cats happy enough, perhaps this is what will happen after you die. No promises. Cats are fickle.
I’ve been doing a lot of experiments in automatic shading lately and I think this is my favorite one yet. I can get Illustrator to do a lot of half-assed shading for me now.
That’s what it looks like straight out of the stylus. I went back in and drew much more dimensional shading over it, and ended up with what you see at the top of this post with surprisingly little effort. Then I spent a couple of hours obsessing over sparkly effects and whatnot, because, hey, I was stoned and having a good time. Maybe I’ll revisit this look soon and reuse a lot of these styles, I really like the way it feels like my memories of the covers of Epyx’s early C64 games. Luminous festivals of glowing trails that probably took a lot longer to make with camera effects and transparencies than this did.
Here’s the effects stack for Bast’s body. The top fill is a vertical gradient in a highlight color, scaled to 130% with an extra copy made, followed by a Minus Back effect that takes the two shapes that Transform generates and does a Boolean operation that results in a big swath of color at the upper right of the shape. The second fill is similar, except for the Transform effect being anchored at the lower left of the shape. The stroke at the bottom also has a Transform effect to move it down and left a little, creating an extra bit of contrast between the overlapping shapes. It was a last-minute addition that worked out pretty well.
There’s similar styles for Anubis, the gold, their clothing (with pattern fills for the rayed effects!), the heart, feather, and the scales.
If you want to see the source, it’s available on my Patreon, along with a high-res copy of the image.
If you want this on a poster or a sticker or something, it’s over here on Redbubble.
I saw a post on /r/adobeillustrator asking how to make something like this. It’s pretty easy.
- Draw a shape in dark grey.
- Opacity: 20% screen.
- Effect>pixelate>mezzotint. I used “grainy dots” for the setting.
- Duplicate the shape. Move some points around so it’s smaller, leave some points unchanged, or very close to the original locations.
- Make it a much lighter grey. Maybe change the opacity level to something like 70%. Keep it on Screen mode though.
- Select both shapes. Object>blend>make.
- window>transparency, double-click its title bar until it opens all the way, uncheck “knockout group”. Setting the checkbox to – is fine too.
- Play with blend settings until it looks smooth.
- effect>document raster effect settings may be useful here, I usually keep the effect resolution at 150dpi but in this case 300 seemed to work better. You could also help avoid the tendency for the repeated mezzotint shapes to develop repeating patterns by adding effect>rasterize to both shapes in the blend before the mezzotint effect, and having different DPIs on the two shapes; I did this in the file attached here.
Please pardon the shitty point placement, there really should be at least one more point in the curves but I was doing this on the trackpad and just wanted to finish it. :)
grainy mist blend.ai