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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.
When Illustrator was first introduced way back in 1987, it revolutionized art creation. However, Illustrators' primary drawing tool, the Pen tool, was far from intuitive. In fact, the joke around Adobe at the time was that John Warnock, the creator of Illustrator, was the only person in the world who really knew how to use the Pen tool. Illustrator even came bundled with a VHS videotape featuring John Warnock showing how to use the tool. But here's the crazy thing: we don't even draw with the Pen tool at all. Instead of drawing actual paths, we plot anchor points and adjust control handles to determine shapes.
Illustrator then connects the points for us and creates the paths. It's almost like pulling strings to make a marionette weave a tent. In essence the Pen tool is more of technical drafting tool than it is a creative drawing tool, and that could be why some folks who feel comfortable sketching their ideas on paper have difficulty when first working with the Pen tool. But there's a whole lot more to drawing in Illustrator besides the Pen tool. Over the years Adobe has added new drawing tools and functions, all geared towards helping you draw more quickly, more precisely, and ultimately more efficiently.
The Pencil and Paintbrush tools, along with some supporting tools like the Smooth tool and the Path Eraser tool, made it possible to draw paths instead of points. Support was added for pressure sensitive tablet such as Wacom devices, enabling designers to draw in a more natural fashion with a pen instead of struggling with a computer mouse, and in addition to the traditional Rectangle and Ellipse tools, more primitive shape tools like line, arc, polygon, star and spiral were added. However, designers were still required to focus on anchor points and control handles, often adding and removing anchor points manually or spending hours of valuable time cutting paths with the Scissor tool and joining them with the Average and the Join commands.
So perhaps the biggest change in drawing came when Adobe introduced the set of functions called Pathfinder. A whole new paradigm that combined art and math by drawing basic overlapping shapes and performing mathematical functions like add, subtract and divide,, you're able to create more complex shapes faster than ever. Better still the resulting shapes that you created were more precise and easier to edit and in short, Illustrator's focus started to shift from drawing artwork to building artwork.
Now in Illustrator CS2, Adobe introduced something called Live Paint, a feature that changed the rules for how vector graphics work. Live Paint offered a set of features that allow designers to focus on the visual artwork itself rather than on the underlying anchor points or control handles. In Illustrator CS4, Adobe added the Blob Brush and the true vector Eraser tool, making it easier for artists with pressure sensitive tablets to draw more fluid and expressive artwork. In Illustrator CS5, Adobe added the Shape Builder tool. This built on the concepts that were established with both Pathfinder and Live Paint and in addition, Adobe extended the power of creative expression with support for variable width strokes.
Certainly, the Pen tool in Illustrator wields considerable power and if you can master it, then you could make Illustrator bend to your every will. But the Pen tool isn't the end-all and that's what this course is all about. Putting all of Illustrator's drawing tools and powerful features at your disposal and understanding how to think about your artwork before you create it will ultimately help you create artwork cleanly, precisely, and efficiently, freeing up more time for creativity and exploration.
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