Drawing Vector Graphics: Linear Line Illustration
Illustration by John Hersey

Brushes for linear line illustrations


Drawing Vector Graphics: Linear Line Illustration

with Von Glitschka

Video: Brushes for linear line illustrations

When you create your linear line designs, it's

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Watch the Online Video Course Drawing Vector Graphics: Linear Line Illustration
2h 3m Intermediate Jul 10, 2014

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Linear line illustration (LLI), or continuous line drawing, is an adaptable and fun style to work in, resulting in clean, clear designs that are suitable for print or animation. In this course Von takes you through the process of creating a linear line illustration using Adobe Illustrator. While showing how to build an LLI digitally, he explains the aesthetic rules, the tricks to getting more depth out of it, and tips for adding color, motion, and a sense of life to your drawings. Members will also be offered a challenge to get their feet wet.

Topics include:
  • Drawing freestyle and photo-based LLIs
  • Building simple and more complex illustrations
  • Shape building
  • Vector welding
  • Introducing color, symmetry, and motion in linear drawings
Von Glitschka

Brushes for linear line illustrations

When you create your linear line designs, it's all about forming a stroke that creates one continuous line that wraps around itself and intertwines with itself to form whatever the theme is that you're creating. Now that's great. There's a lot of different usages that I'll be showing you later in this course that show how to use this style in a diverse range of ways but, at times, if you leave it as a stroke, it's too clean and too perfect and sometimes, you might want to get more organic with it.

More hand drawn, hand crafted, if you will, and much like you took a piece of chalk or a crayon and you drew the same style of drawing, being one continuous line but it has a more distressed quality to it. So one way you can do this is by using pattern brushes in Adobe Illustrator. So to create my base art, in this case this, you can see it right here at the top, I created this using a grease pencil and a grease pencil is just a black greasy type of lead.

Car dealerships usually use larger ones to write on windshields but it's a great way to just do really crude line work and that's why I have them. When that kind of aesthetic is needed, I'll draw it out, scan it in and in this case, I drew out just a straight segment line and scanned it in and then used Auto Trace in Illustrator to create a piece of vector artwork. Now, I'm going to turn this into a pattern brush and the way you do that, you just select your art, drag it over to the Brushes palette that's open here and drop it.

This window will come up, you'll want to select Pattern Brush and OK and now once this display comes up, go ahead and give it a unique name. I like giving it unique names, so I can remember it later. So we're going to call this Inky Brush because it's almost like the ink is kind of spilling out and pooling up and making nice little splotches along a linear path. Now, this is what we're after, this straight edge shape is what we want for our path but within Adobe Illustrator CC on up, Illustrator has added a feature that I'm not a big fan of.

I'm never a big fan of letting an algorithm create any content for me. I want to handle all the art creation. In this case, they have an auto generation of the corner art feature that tries to create your art for you and that's a no-no because it just doesn't look good at all. So I usually turn that off and that's what you'll want to do, otherwise this isn't going to look too hot when you apply it to your linear line path. And the next thing you want to make sure you change is the colorization, down here in the bottom right-hand corner of the window and the method is defaulted to None.

You want to change that to Tints and this will allow you to make it any color you want, rather than black, which is the source art you're using. Once you've done this, you'll now click, OK and if you look in your Brushes palette, you can see we have Inky Brush. So if you select any vector based path and you select your Inky Brush and you apply it, this is the effect you get. So you get this nice organic quality to the art and that's kind of what we're after. So we're going to go to a finished piece of linear line art and this artwork looks fine, as is, but I think it can look even better using an organic quality to the lines.

So we're going to select our linear line artwork. Go to our Inky Brush and we're going to apply it and this is the effect you get. This doesn't look bad but one thing you'll notice, is the areas that aren't showing up because the artwork doesn't have corner art. Now, Adobe tried to auto create that for us but if I would have turned that on, it would have looked horrible. But I want to show you one way you can edit a path like this and control the thick and thins in how your artwork will flow in a linear fashion and that happens by using the Scissors tool.

So we're going to go the Tool palette and click on that. We're going to drag it over on top of our artwork and I like to start on one area and go all the way to the end through the path. So we'll start here and we're going to cut it right here and you can see how it immediately affects the art and fills in that area and that's all we're going to do. We're going to go throughout the art and just make aesthetic calls. Meaning we're going to look at it and visually decide where to slice it, in order to make that organic path and shape look really well and so far, I like the way it looks when we do this.

So we're going to continue to go through here and I like how this is looking. I think it gets a little fat here, so we're going to try slicing it here and yeah, I really like how it goes thin, thick, thin, thick and then down on the tip of her hair, we'll go and cut it there and I think those thick and thins are looking nice. We'll cut it here. We'll continue, cut it here and here and we'll just do this throughout all the artwork. Now this just comes down to your personal artistic license, in terms of your own taste, what you think looks good and what doesn't.

And yes, even though this is a linear one continuous line illustration, we're kind of slicing that line but we're really not moving the path, so it's still acting as one continuous path, even though we're using the Scissors tool to kind of break it apart and form the artwork in a slightly different way to give it a organic flyer. That's fine. There are no distinct rules. You're not going to have the art police arrest you because you're violating the linear laws.

It's up to you, it's up to what you think looks good. So once you've gone through the entire piece of art and I think one last one, yeah, that looks good, so you can see how, by doing that, we've now been able to turn a linear piece of artwork that if we go to key line view, it's still practically, just a vector path but it has the nice Pattern brush applied to it and so what you end up with is a nice piece of art that you can then color and I applied a nice subtle drop shadow to, so this is a great way to push it more artistic in that type of aesthetic.

Now, another way you can use a Dry Brush affect, this is another Brush I created and I've already dragged it over to the palette and it's called the Painterly Brush. So, if I select these paths here, we'll go ahead and do that now. Deselect the Brush and we're going to apply this Painterly Brush to it. You can see how that comes out, as well, and the thickness of your stroke, right now, if we go to the Strokes palette, it's a 1 point. So, this brush affect is really thin.

So to make that beefier and decide what you want it to be visually, you just increase the strokes. So we're going to increase this by one and you see how the overall painterly effect increase. So based on how severe you want the thickness to be, you control that through the weight of your stroke, that is your linear path. because if you go to the Keyline view it's still a stroke and right now, it's a 2 point stroke as showing here in the Strokes palette. So you can control how thick that brush applies by basing it on how thick your stroke is.

Now, we've gone ahead and we've selected various parts of the stroke and we've colorized them and one nice thing you can do when you you use this approach to coloring your linear line, is you can then go to the Transparency palette and set everything to multiply, so we're just using a nice blend mode to let all the colors kind of overlap and have transparency. And this looks really nice when you zoom in and you see how the colors interact with each other and you get that effect of the artwork kind of being painted, in this case, a Dry Brush paint effect.

Now, when it comes to linear line artwork, you can do all kinds of approaches. Now, I recently worked on identity for a company in Texas and a secondary brand graphic that I created for him is this one below. So the base artwork started off as just a simple linear line stroke and then I created a Rope Pattern Brush as you can see over here, the straight and both ends. So if you select the stroke and you apply that and that's how I created this artwork.

So it's really diverse in terms of what you can end up with, if you play around, with Pattern Brushes, in the Linear Line style and if you want to know more about how to use Pattern Brushes within context of your illustrative designs, make sure to check out my Drawing Vector Graphics: Patterns course.

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