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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.
So we know there is a tool inside of Illustrator called the Pen tool and the Pen tool allows us to plot anchor points. Remember there are two kinds of anchor points, corner anchor points and smooth anchor points, and then by positioning these anchor points we can create these paths to generate artwork inside of Illustrator. But as we had discussed in the previous movie, we really don't want to focus on anchor points at all. It's extremely technical and it doesn't allow us to focus on the artwork that we're trying to create. We really care more about the paths than we do about the anchor points, so let's focus purely on the art that we want to create, by focusing on the paths themselves.
In other words, let's draw visually instead of trying to understand about how to position these arbitrary anchor points that seem to exist only in some fantasy land, but not necessarily have anything to do with the artwork when printed out. Let's take a look at this piece of artwork right here. It's a lovely zebra here whose name is Mister Zee, and he looks great, but this entire piece of artwork was created without any use of the Pen tool. So what happens to be, if we look at the history of Illustrator itself, there were some functions that were added called Pathfinder.
Pathfinder was basically this concept where I could take a basic shape and then take another basic shape and then somehow overlap those shapes and use some kind of mathematical function like add or subtract for example, and the result of that mathematical function would give you a more complex path. For the most part, inside of Illustrator the Pen tool is the only tool that forces us to think about anchor points, but there are so many other drawing tools inside of Illustrator. So I want to give you a basic example. If I wanted to draw a crescent shape, I could take my Pen tool and try to draw it or I can kind of think a little bit differently.
I can take let's say my Ellipse tool inside of Illustrator, which is right here, and I can draw a circle. I'm holding down a few modifier keys to draw out from the center. I'm holding down the Option key and the Shift key. Option allows me to draw it from the center. Shift allows me constrain it to be a perfect circle. If you were on Windows, by the way, that would be Alt and Shift as you are dragging. Then what I can do is switch to my regular selection tool here and Option+Drag or Alt+Drag to actually create a copy, and now I have two overlapping circles. And if I take both of these circles, I can open up a panel called a Pathfinder panel and choose this option here called Subtract or Minus Front.
Now what I have done is I've taken two circles, but I've overlapped and I've subtracted them from each other, and my result is the crescent shape that I'm looking for. So we have a nice little moon there in the sky. Now if I were to use the Pen tool, I would have to think about where do the anchor points need to go in order for me to generate such a path? I would also, if I'm not as experienced with the Pen tool, not get the most perfect nice clean smooth paths. But what I've done here is I've taken to perfect circles, so the paths are beautiful and clean and smooth, and I've simply taken two of them and subtracted them from each other to get at the more complex shape that I was trying to create.
This concept is something called building artwork. In other words, combining basic shapes to create more complex ones. This is opposed to drawing artwork inside of Illustrator. Let's go ahead and delete the moon here for a second. And I take a look here at Mister Zee and I look at all the constructs and I look at what actually is going on inside of this graphic. I can start to anticipate how I might draw some of this artwork by envisioning in my mind very, very basic shapes like circles or straight lines, things like that, and by combining those, maybe get at more complex shapes which make up the actual zebra that I'm trying to draw.
The secret to building artwork is analyzing your artwork before you actually draw it. I'm actually going to close the Pathfinder panel here, hide my artwork layer, so now I just see the sketch that I'm dealing with here. And we'll talk a little bit later in the next chapter about how to bring sketches into Illustrator and setup your documents so you can trace them a little bit more easily. But I'm going to create now a new layer here inside of my document, Layer 3. Let's start by taking maybe a shape over here, just a regular plain Ellipse tool, and let's focus on this tuft of hair over here on the mane on the top of Mister Zee's head. I'm going to zoom in over here, so I can see this a little bit better.
Yeah, we've got a lots of points going in different directions here, but if I can visualize, hey, you know something, these curves are kind of portion of maybe ovals or circles. If I can draw a very basic oval shape, maybe I could end up actually using very simple shapes to draw what might appear to be a much more complex shape. I'm actually going to hold on my Option key again, because I want to draw it from the center, and I am going to click and drag and I am going to drawn an oval shape about this big, and you can see right now that it kind of matches that shape just from the area over here to over here.
Of course, this whole oval continues here, but let's now focus on that, I just know there's a part of that oval that might be very useful to me. I'm actually going to take my Fill color, which is currently set to white which is Illustrator's default setting, I'm going to change it to None because I don't want to actually see a fill, I just want to see the path itself, and again, we're going to focus more on how to optimize Illustrator for drawing in this way. So now I'm going to actually switch to one of the tool called the Rotate tool. The keyboard shortcut for the Rotate tool is the R key. I am going to click once right about over here.
Now what I've done is I have actually defined a new origin point for where that rotate is going to take place. And now I can kind of grab this circle here from the bottom and notice now it's rotating from that spot, and if I hold down my Option key or my Alt key, you'll notice that I'm now dragging a copy of his artwork and I've kind of matched this part of the curve over here. I still have the Rotate tool right now selected. If I click over here and then click on this part of the here and drag it out this way, again, with the Option key down, and then I go ahead and I click here to make a new origin point, Option+Drag this way, kind of repeat the same process here. All I'm doing is I'm taking an oval, a very basic primitive shape, but I'm making copies of it and I'm rotating in a way that will hopefully mimic the shape of what I'm actually trying to do.
So I'm actually going to continue to do this, just simply clicking once here to change the origin point, Option+Drag to create a shape over here, and now I have some paths that need to go in the other direction. I can actually take this over right here and just Option+Drag, make a copy of it, let's say right above over here, and then again set my origin point with the Rotate tool, I'll press the R key on my keyboard to get my Rotate tool. Click here to set my origin point here and I'll click and drag right now to rotate this, so it matches the curve that I'm looking for on this side.
Now I'm happy with the origin point is right now, so I'm just going to click and drag to rotate it back, but again, holding down the Option key or the Alt key to create a copy. Now it looks like I have just created a mess of shapes here, right? However, there is a tool inside of Illustrator that was introduced now in CS5 called the Shape Builder tool. It allows you to apply Pathfinder functions, but in a visual way. So if I take for example now my selections tool, and I select all these shapes that I have just created, and I take my Shape Builder tool, which is right here, the keyboard short is Shift+M, and I now simply click and drag inside of these shapes here.
Notice how it's combining these shapes together and even though they originally started out as a whole bunch of ovals, I'm now turning them to one combined shape. Illustrator also allows me to use the Option key or the Alt key to subtract areas. So now I'm simply removing parts that I don't want and again we're going to go into detail later on inside of the title as we learn about how to use the Shape Builder tool. But you can see that in a few quick strokes, I've taken simple oval shapes and then I've combined them to turn them into a final more complex looking shape.
As an added benefit, all the paths that I'm working with right now are clean and smooth. Notice out perfectly curved they are, because they were all originally parts of just an oval shape, which was very basic and very clean. All it takes is a little bit of creativity, the ability to actually look at your artwork and try to figure out or kind of break down your more complex artwork into more simple shapes that will ultimately lead you to your goal.
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