Drawing Vector Graphics
Illustration by John Hersey

Exploring digital tools


Drawing Vector Graphics

with Von Glitschka

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Video: Exploring digital tools

The final result from our analog drawing will be a refined sketch that will serve as a road map for building our Vector art. So the execution of illustrative design requires the use of a Vector drawing program. These fundamentals apply to any vector drawing program in general, whether that's CorelDRAW or even an open source application like Inkscape, but for this course we're going to specifically focus on Adobe Illustrator since it's the industry-standard.
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  1. 2m 31s
    1. Welcome
      1m 26s
    2. Exercise files
      1m 5s
  2. 18m 36s
    1. What is illustrative design?
    2. A systematic creative process
      1m 26s
    3. Exploring analog tools
      2m 39s
    4. Exploring digital tools
      13m 37s
  3. 18m 31s
    1. Creative preparation
      1m 13s
    2. The creative brief
      2m 25s
    3. Creative thinking methods
      1m 2s
    4. Word associations
      1m 55s
    5. Mind mapping
      1m 55s
    6. Before. During. After.
      1m 26s
    7. I think, therefore I design
      2m 46s
    8. Selecting the appropriate style
      2m 57s
    9. Using reference material
      2m 52s
  4. 8m 50s
    1. Solid creative foundation
    2. Anyone can draw
      2m 17s
    3. Thumbnail sketching
      2m 34s
    4. Refining your drawn ideas
      3m 6s
  5. 44m 40s
    1. Workflow enhancements
    2. Keyboard shortcuts and recording actions
      2m 25s
    3. Keyboard shortcuts and recording actions: Demo
      13m 15s
    4. Using custom scripts
      6m 44s
    5. Graphic styles and custom color palettes
      8m 19s
    6. Using layers
      7m 15s
    7. Toggling Smart Guides on and off
      5m 45s
  6. 38m 59s
    1. Building your vector shapes
      1m 0s
    2. A roadmap for vector building
      4m 40s
    3. The clockwork method
      7m 4s
    4. Prime point placement
      3m 40s
    5. The point-by-point method
      8m 22s
    6. The shape-building method
      6m 46s
    7. Symmetry is your friend
      6m 1s
    8. Art directing yourself
      1m 26s
  7. 19m 54s
    1. Presenting your designs
      1m 4s
    2. Presentation formats
      5m 50s
    3. Revealing your designs
      1m 36s
    4. Writing a design rationale
      1m 56s
    5. Responding to client revisions
      3m 46s
    6. Renewable creative energy
      5m 42s
  8. 49s
    1. Next steps

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Watch the Online Video Course Drawing Vector Graphics
2h 32m Intermediate Dec 21, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Join illustrative designer Von Glitschka as he deconstructs the creative process to teach you how to develop and create precise vector graphics. The course begins with an overview of his methodology for design and drawing—analog methods that are vital to digital workflows. Next, discover how to prepare yourself and your client for the project by defining the scope and expectations early on. With the creative brief ready and ideation explored, Von jumps into sketching, refining, and creating vector graphics through simple build methods. He continues to art direct the work and conducts digital and physical presentations of the final designs. The last chapter includes some workflow enhancements designed to save you time and conserve your creative energy for future projects.

Topics include:
  • What is illustrative design?
  • Establishing a creative brief
  • Defining client expectations
  • Exploring creative thinking exercises
  • Art directing your drawing
  • Selecting an appropriate style for each project
  • Drawing and thumbnail sketching
  • Discerning anchor point placement
  • Building vector drawings with shapes
  • Presenting your illustrations
Von Glitschka

Exploring digital tools

The final result from our analog drawing will be a refined sketch that will serve as a road map for building our Vector art. So the execution of illustrative design requires the use of a Vector drawing program. These fundamentals apply to any vector drawing program in general, whether that's CorelDRAW or even an open source application like Inkscape, but for this course we're going to specifically focus on Adobe Illustrator since it's the industry-standard.

It doesn't matter if you're using an old version or the most recent version of Illustrator since the same methodology will work for all of them. In a nutshell Vector artwork is made up of anchor points and paths that form what are called Bezier curves. When it comes to creating and editing these Bezier curves, Illustrator contains all the tools you'll need to build your Vector design. So obviously, how well you control the Bezier curves in Illustrator will ultimately determine the craftsmanship and quality of your final design.

There are 11 core tools needed to create precision vector graphics in Illustrator. Let's take a look at how these work. The first tool we'll look at is the Pen tool. Simply put, precision vector building wouldn't be possible without the Pen tool, you'll use it to lay down all your anchor points one by one, forming a path that makes the vector shape you need. Before we jump into the Pen tool we need to use the Zoom tool, and that's so we can see what we're going to work on here.

In this case it's a skull design I drew out and we've placed the refined sketch into Illustrator and it's going to serve as a road map to build our vectors on, and first we're going to zoom in again, because we're going to focus on this one isolated shape within our skull design. Using the Pen tool now, we'll just lay down our anchor points one at a time in order to form the Bezier curve we need that creates the shape of the Vector art we're putting together.

In this case, it's the left-hand side of the skull art. A lot of the methods I'm going to go over in this course, they tend to overlap and reinforce one another so you're actually seeing some of the methods I'll define later in this course, such as how do you know where to place your anchor points. So that's how the Pen tool works. It's a simple click-by-click method to build your Vector shape.

Now this shape isn't refined, we'll go into that in more detail in another movie but that's how the Pen tool works. The next tool is the Add Anchor Point tool. It allows you to add an additional anchor point to any path you've created. So we're going to select the Add Anchor Point tool here and based off of this shape we've already created now, if you wanted to add another anchor point to this existing path you just simply go anywhere on the path and click and it adds the anchor point.

And that's how the Add Anchor Point tool works. The Delete Anchor Point tool will remove any anchor point from any path you've created without breaking the path. So if we click the Delete Anchor Point tool here we go back to that anchor point we just added, simply click on it, and it removes the anchor point without breaking the path. Now this same functionality is also available in Illustrator, so you would select that anchor point and instead using the Delete Anchor Point tool, that same exact functionality is contained up above in the tool menu here and you can click this button also to remove it.

So it's the same functionality, actually the same tool, it's just in two locations in Adobe Illustrator. The Convert Anchor Point tool converts smooth points to corner points. It can also be used to reveal, isolate, manipulate and/or retract handlebars independently to adjust the Bezier curve. So if we select the Convert Anchor Point tool here and go to any anchor point, click and pull, it will reveal the handlebars and then you're able to adjust those handlebars and move them in order to form the shape you need.

So with the Convert Anchor Point tool you can select any smooth anchor point such as this one, click on it, and it will convert it to a corner anchor point. Now to turn it back into a smooth anchor point you just click it again and pull out the handlebars to reveal it. We'll now use the Selection tool to scale objects larger or smaller; that also allows you to click or drag to select shapes as individual objects; and you can also use it to manipulate handlebars to adjust the Bezier curve.

So for this design we're going to specifically use it. We have to zoom out now so we can see the eyes on this specific skull. Now using the Selection tool here we're going to grab the circular shape that we've created for the eye and right now it's, as you can see it's too small, we want it a little bigger. So with that Selection tool we select that shape and it gives us these, this bounding box, and you can grab anywhere on this bounding box and scale it up in order to increase the size.

You can also scale it down if you wanted it to be smaller, but in this case we're going to keep it large because we're matching our underlying drawing. You can also drag and select, so drag any area to select it. So let's do that again, we're going to drag this area to select this shape, then we can move it over and it allows us to scale it to the size we need. The Direct Selection tool lets you to directly click or drag to select a specific segment or a path or individual anchor points.

It can also reveal, isolate, and manipulate handlebars to adjust a Bezier curve. So if we select the Direct Select tool here and we go back to our initial shape we created here, you can drag-select the specific anchor point and then manipulate the Bezier curve to match your drawing. You can also do that with multiple anchor points. Let's say you wanted to shift this a little up, so you could select all those anchor points in order to manipulate your art that way.

It just gives you a more precise way to select your anchor points and your Vector art in order to manipulate the handlebars and form the shape you need. So this would be the primary way you would go through your art, select the anchor points and finesse your shape until it matches your underlying drawing. Before I jump to another file and demonstrate the five remaining tools I want to completely show you how the process for this specific art played out.

So to do that we need to zoom out so you can see the full design. You can see the existing art I created here. I'm going to turn that layer off for right now, and this is how the final base Vector art came out for this design. These are all the shapes in place and then once colored and black-and-white that's how the final design played out. So like a good cooking show, I have my artwork pre-bake just so I can show you exactly how it came out when it was all done.

We're now going to switch files to demonstrate the five remaining tools left to demonstrate for you. We're going to use a blank canvas here and the first of the five remaining tools is going to be the Ellipse tool. The Ellipse tool allows you to create complete circular or elliptical shapes. So let me show you how that works. You use it, in this case we're going to create a circular shape like that. That's pretty much how this specific tool works, you can also select it and distort it if you wanted a oval shape, but for this specific demonstration we're going to retain a circular shape and it's going to make sense in the next tool we go over.

The next tool is the Rectangle tool. The Rectangle tool will create complete shapes with 90 degree angles. So now with our circular shape in place we're going to now create a rectangle shape, and that's how that works. Just like the circular shape, you can distort it in order to create any type of shape rectangle you want. You can also use the Rectangular tool, if you hold the Shift key down, to make a perfect square.

In this case we want the rectangle, so we don't care about the square. These are the only two shapes we need at this point, and we can now move to the next tool. The next tool we're going to go over, and before we do the next tool, we do want to have these two shapes selected just for this demonstration. And the next tool is the Rotation tool. With the Rotation tool selected you can now rotate your art.

In this case the circular shape and the rectangular shape, and we're going to rotate it specifically at 45 degree angle. And to get those locked in degrees you hold the Shift key down and it locks it in to set degrees 90, 45, and so forth. You can customize those within Illustrator's Preferences, but for this demonstration we're going to stick with 45 degrees. Once you have that we'll move it over just a little bit, right about there.

And this brings us to the next tool. The next tool is the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder enables you to create using shape-building techniques using the tools Unite, Minus Front, Intersect, and Exclude modes. It works like a cookie-cutter, and all these tools are located on the Pathfinder Palette you can see here. And the first one we're going to use is the Unite feature. So with our shape selected still, we're going to simply click this button, and it turns it into one unified shape.

It unites the shapes hence its name. We're going to back to the Rectangle tool that I've already demonstrated, and this is what I call a throwaway shape, we're just creating this in order to get the final shape we need. In this case I drew a rectangle shape on top of this combined circle and rectangle shape, and now using the Pathfinder again we're going to use another mode called Minus Front. Think of this as a cookie-cutter. You click this button and it lops off the underneath shape that it overlaps.

So it works like a cookie-cutter, and you can see the end hape we end up having here. We're going to zoom in a little bit on this so you can see it a little better. So this is the final shape and for this specific design we're going to color it red. Now the next tool I'm going to demonstrate is called the Reflect tool. What the Reflect tool does is it takes any shape and it allows you to reflect it, to flip it over and to reflect that shape.

Now if we just used it without copying our shape first this is what would happen. It would just flip over and we'd lose it on this side. So before we use that tool we'll want to go to Edit>Copy, then pull down again under Edit to Paste in Front. What essentially this has done, it's created a clone of that shape directly on top of the other shape. Now with that shape selected we can go to the Reflect tool, click wherever you want the orientation to be.

In this case we want it to be directly in the center so we're going to hover right over this anchor point, click and then you can reflect that shape. And in this case, we've created a heart. Now we'll merge these two shapes together using the Unite feature in the Pathfinder to create our heart graphic.

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