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Creating complex shapes

From: Animated Character Design with Illustrator

Video: Creating complex shapes

Okay. So, what we're going to do now is use the techniques we've learned to create a hand out of primitive shapes. Now, if you want to follow along, we're in hands.ai, which you can find in the Creating Complex Shapes folder. So, as I said, what we're going to do is create a hand. So, the first thing we need to do is create a new layer for the hand. So, Alt click on the Stop Watch and type in right-hand, and click OK. Now, you can either call it right-hand or lower arm. We're actually only going to have upper arms and lower arms. So, to be really correct, I should really rename that right lower arm, but either is fine.

Creating complex shapes

Okay. So, what we're going to do now is use the techniques we've learned to create a hand out of primitive shapes. Now, if you want to follow along, we're in hands.ai, which you can find in the Creating Complex Shapes folder. So, as I said, what we're going to do is create a hand. So, the first thing we need to do is create a new layer for the hand. So, Alt click on the Stop Watch and type in right-hand, and click OK. Now, you can either call it right-hand or lower arm. We're actually only going to have upper arms and lower arms. So, to be really correct, I should really rename that right lower arm, but either is fine.

So, just rename that as you prefer. So, what we're going to do, as I said, is create a hand from primitive shapes. And hands are notoriously difficult to create. So, I'm going to use Cmd+on the keyboard, or Ctrl+on PC to zoom in. And as I said, hands are notoriously difficult to create. So, what we're going to do is start by building it by primitive shapes, and then we can use various tools in Illustrator to combine those shapes and create our finished art work. So, we'll start the process by choosing the Rounded Rectangle tool, which is particularly good for doing fingers.

So, if I click and drag here, then I can create my first finger. And I'm going to then select the Selection tool. Now, the keyboard shortcut for that is V. You're going to want to jump between tool here, so there's a couple of keyboard shortcuts you're going to want to use. V for the Selection tool, and then we have S for the Scale tool, and R for the Rotation tool. And we may also go to Free Transform every now and then, which is E. But for now, what we're going to use is the Selection tool. And we're going to just adjust the hand slightly, make it slightly smaller, slightly fatter.

Now, if you hold down a Modifier key after you start scaling, you can change the way the Free Transform tool works. If I hold down Cmd > Alt > Shift, and that's Ctrl > Alt > Shift on the PC. With the Selection tool selected, you'll see it just constrains the scale and allows you to scale from this center. If I do that with Free Transform selected, so again, I click and drag on the corner. And as I click and drag, I hold down Cmd and Alt, and you'll notice that I can skew the shape now.

And if I hold down Shift as well, I can do a perspective shift on the shape. So, that allows me just to change the shapes so it's slightly fatter at the end than it is at the top, okay? So again, to change perspective, you start dragging the corner handle and then you hold down Cmd > Alt > Shift or Ctrl > Alt > Shift on the PC. And that allows you to change the perspective. So now that I've done that, I want to rotate it. But if I rotate it with the Transform tool, it rotates around the center.

So, I'm going to hit R to select the Rotate tool. And with the Rotate tool, I can choose a rotation point to the top, and just rotate it 'til it is where I want it to be. Now, as you're drawing like this, it's good just to remove the film so that you can see the drawing behind for reference. So ,I'm quite happy with that finger. What I'm going to do now is go back to the Selection tool, which is V, and then I'm going to hold down the Alt key, and that will allow me to take a copy of it and move it to here. So, I'm creating a copy by holding the Alt key and dragging. Now, you'll notice if I have the Free Transform tool selected, that same keyboard shortcut doesn't work.

So, this is why you need to keep switching between tools. Free Transform allows you to create the perspective effect, but the Selection tool allows you to hold down Alt and click and drag. So, I'm going to switch to Rotation tool by hitting R, click up here again to change my anchor point, and then move it to here. Now, I'm going to switch to the Scale tool because the Scale tool allows me to keep the registration point there and just pull the points to scale them, okay? And I can decide whether I want it scaling horizontally or vertically and get it exactly where I want. Now, I'm going to go back to the selection tool hitting V. I'll just scale it a little bit on that axis and then I'll hold down the Alt key and click and drag to make a copy.

Now this time, I'm going to keep that tool selected because what I want to do is I want to make it shorter here and shorter here. So, I'm going to start scaling and hold down the Alt key so that I scale from the center. And that's going to reduce it at the top and the bottom. Hit R on the keyboard to change my rotation point and just move it 'til it lines up with the one before. Okay, so the next one. Hit V to select the Selection tool, hold down the Alt key, drag it along. And this one, we generally want to make a big smaller. So, just with the Direct Selection tool selected, I'm just going to scale it and hold down Shift as I'm scaling just to constrain it.

Now, it needs rotating a bit. And at this time, rotating around the center works for me, so I'm just going to rotate it a little bit and use the arrow keys on the keyboard to nudge it into place. So, there I have my four fingers. I also need to create a thumbs, so I'm going to select this one, hold down the Alt key, and drag it to around about here. And then, I'll switch to the Rotation tool by hitting R, make the (UNKNOWN) point here at the top of the thumb, and rotate the thumb around to get to the point where I want it to be. Now, the thumb is really in two sections.

So, what I'm going to do is select the Selection tool, scale it down, make it look a bit smaller. But then, scale it on this axis, only just to bring it up to where I imagine the knuckle of the thumb to be. And then, I'm going to duplicate it by holding down the Alt key and dragging a copy. Okay, and what we're going to do is just Reverse Scale that but clicking and dragging and holding down the Alt key so that the fat bit is at the top and the thin bit is at the bottom. And then, we switch back to Rotation tool and just rotate that into place. And if I switch off the Template layer, you'll see we have the beginnings of the hand.

Now, it's going to take a little bit more work to get it exactly looking like a hand, and you'll see list to that in another movie. But let me just nudge that into place. And then, what I'm going to do is just switch on this layer that I've also added of the left lower arm. And what I'm going to do is just hold down the Space Bar temporarily to switch over to this side, and we'll turn on that layer. And here, you can see another hand that I've created using similar techniques. Now, I haven't added any perspective to this.

So as an exercise, you may want to just select these fingers and see how you can improve them by adding a little bit of perspective. And let me just show you and remind you how to do that. So, select a shape, go to the Free Transform tool, and then start dragging the corner. And only when you start dragging, hold down Cmd and Alt and Shift, and that's going to allow you to adjust the perspective of each of the fingers so that they look more correct in terms of their perspective. Okay, and if you do that with all the fingers, you can adjust them and make them look more as if they have a correct perspective.

Just going to scale that a little bit as well. Okay, you'll see just by doing that, it just adds that little bit of depth to the drawing and makes it look a little bit more realistic. So that's how you can use primitive shapes to start building your body parts. And then, what we can do is start creating a more drawn look around those body parts once we have the structure in place.

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Animated Character Design with Illustrator

29 video lessons · 3372 viewers

Angie Taylor
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