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In this installment of the Illustrator Insider Training series, Mordy Golding shows how to draw vector artwork quickly, precisely, and efficiently—without having to think about technical concepts like anchor points or control handles. The course highlights intuitive drawing techniques using the Pathfinder functions, Live Paint groups, Shape Builder tool, and variable-width strokes. It also describes the sketching workflow and features in Illustrator that use pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, allowing designers to focus more on their creativity.
Up until this point we have been using our tablet, but remember that the tablet is a pressure-sensitive tablet. Meaning if we press harder we can actually vary the width of the strokes that we were putting down. Now, we have already discussed in the previous chapter that Illustrator has a feature called a Width tool. And I can actually vary the width of a stroke along its path. But that's something that I apply to a stroke and I do it after I have already created the path. However, if I am in a paradigm right now where I am actually trying to sketch or draw something on the screen, I may want to be able to translate those thick and thins using the amounts of pressure that I applied to the pen as a draw.
Now, I can't do that with the Pencil tool. However, there is a tool inside of Illustrator called the Paintbrush tool, which allows me to use a brush inside of Illustrator called a Calligraphic Brush. This particular brush, the Calligraphic Brush, can have pressure settings applied to it. Let's see how we can do that to actually add pressure as we draw inside of Illustrator. I am going to start by first defining a new brush in this document. So I am going to come over here to my Brushes panel and if you don't see it here inside of your existing user interface, just go up to the Window menu and you'll always find all the panels listed here. Here are Brushes right here.
So I am going choose right now to create a new brush. I don't have any artwork selected. I am just going to click on this button of here to create a new brush, and I want to create a new Calligraphic Brush. I will click OK and that brings up the Calligraphic Brush Options dialog. So right now, I can give this brush a name. Let me call this one pressure brush, for lack of a better name right now for this. If you have several of these brushes and you might want to have different names, so you can easily differentiate between them. But I am going to come down over here towards says Diameter and I am going to set my Diameter to 3 points.
I am going to hit the Tab key to accept that value and you can see that right now the setting here for the Diameter is Fixed. That means that as I draw a path, the Diameter of my brush or the tip of my brush is always going to be 3 points. However, I could change it from Fixed to be based on Pressure. And I could set it to have a Variation, meaning that based on the amount of pressure vary it by certain amount. So if I now choose let's say 2 points for Variation, again hit Tab to accept that value, take a look over here in this preview area.
This is the shape of my brush, so it's circular. It's round right now. By the way you can adjust it by making this value different, and that would make it let say a flatter brush. A real calligraphy brush, for example, has a flat nib so you can actually adjust the Roundness of the tip of the pen itself and of course you can also adjust the Angle. The Angle makes no sense when I'm keeping my Roundness set to 100%, but if you look to the right of that I have some preview settings here. This is what my brush tip is going to look like. At a Diameter setting that I've chosen over here which is 3 points.
However, because I have specified a Variation of 2, it can get a small as 1 point in Diameter. And it can get as large as 5 points in Diameter. So now that I have those settings here I am going to click OK. That brush right now is selected so I will go to my Tools panel and choose the Paintbrush tool. Now, just to show you when I click and I drag very, very lightly I get a thin line, but if I start adding more pressure you can see that my line gets thicker. So I started out with a thin line and then I started adding some thickness by just pressing harder with my pen. When you press Command+A and Delete to just get rid of that, or Control+A, and let's zoom in on this say again, this hind leg right over here, to try to draw this path.
Now I am going to start by drawing very lightly on the top, but then kind of adding weight as they get towards the bottom. The only problem with laying down paths in this way when using the Paintbrush tool is that I have no real way to modify this thickness once I've actually laid down the path. I can still use the Option key or the Alt key on my keyboard to access my Smooth tool. So I can go and I can smooth the actual path itself. However, once my pressure has been calculated and added to the actual document itself, I have no easy way to modify that.
So I am going to hit the Command key right now to select this and then hit Delete because I want to draw a new path now and maybe I'll try again, kind of lighter and then to kind of dark here so it starts out light and then gets heavier. So you see how you can start to vary the width of things as you are drawing. This is great for sketching, but maybe not that great when you are trying to get very precise paths laid down. Because it may be hard to control the pen as you are working with it. Notice by the way that if you double- click on the Paintbrush tool, you get the same options that you had with the Pencil tool.
And for some reason, Illustrator's default setting is not to keep your path selected. But you still can edit selected paths. So just want to show you if I go ahead now and I Command+click or Control+click to select the path, I can just kind of draw over it to modify the path as well. And in doing so I can also modify the pressure. If I press harder now for example, I can start to get a different look as I kind of add this to my path. And again, now that the path is selected I can hold down the Option key and I can start to smooth out that path as well.
So the Calligraphic Brush is a great way for me to lay down paths that already have thick and thins in different pressure-sensitive settings applied to them. But like I said, it's a little bit more difficult to control than going in for example using Width Profiles. To be honest, if you're using a version like Illustrator CS4 and you don't have access to width profiles that were added in CS5, then this is a great way to add thickness to your artwork. However, in many ways, the width profiles are far more powerful than laying down paths this way using the Calligraphic Brush.
Still, for loose sketches or just getting ideas inside of Illustrator, this is a great tool to do so.
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