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- Creating complex art from basic shapes with the Shape Builder tool
- Transforming flat artwork using perspective grids and vanishing points
- Creating variable-width strokes
- Controlling dashed line length, corners, and gaps
- Creating original brushes using the Brushes panel
- Adding arrowheads to strokes
- Creating web-ready graphics, text, and slices
- Integrating with Flash Catalyst
Skill Level Intermediate
With the new Perspective Grid feature inside of Illustrator CS5, it's incredibly easy to create artwork that is actually in Perspective. Let's see how that works. I'm going to start here in this document by working with a sketch that I first scanned into Photoshop and then placed and now embedded into this document here. In fact, if I go to my Layers panel, I can actually double-click on layer 1, and set this layer to be a Template layer. That actually is going to do two things. It's going to lock that particular image on that layer, and it's also going to dim that image back to 50% Opacity.
This means it will kind of act as a guide as I start working on top of it. So, I'll click OK, and the first thing I'm going to want to do here is actually add a second layer, so I can draw a new artwork on an additional layer, since the one right now that I was working with is locked. So, I'm going to go my layers panel here and create layer 2. And I'll just close my Layers panel for now. Now, I'm starting off here with a sketch that I first created with pencil and then scanned into Photoshop. You can also, by the way, work at a photograph, if you want to map a Perspective to a photo, or alternatively, if you're just working with an illustration, you can just start with a Perspective Grid from scratch.
In this specific example, I want to take my Perspective Grid inside of Illustrator and map it so that it matches the Perspective inside of this image. I'll begin by going over to the toolbar and clicking on the Perspective Grid tool. This turns the grid on inside of my document, and now I can move it and adjust it to match the actual artwork itself. Here's a tip. When you're working with Perspective artwork inside of Illustrator, very often the vanishing points can be very far in the distance. So, I find that often when I'm trying to match a Perspective Grid to some artwork or a photograph, I zoom out a lot so that I can really see the entire artboard, and I can position my grid as needed.
I'll start by adjusting my ground line, so that it matches up exactly where the bottom of my building is going to be, and I'll try to center it also right where my left and right panes meet. Next, I'll adjust the height line of my grid, so that it kind of comes down right about where the building ends here. I'll move my horizon line down just a bit, and then I'll click on the vanishing point and drag that outwards. I'll kind of go pretty far over here, so that I can actually match the Perspective that appears inside of the artwork. In this example, since this was a sketch that was done by hand, there is no guarantee that the Perspective is correct in the drawing.
So, I'm not trying to match it perfectly, but I want to use it as a general guide for what I'm doing. I'm pretty happy with the way the Perspective looks here on the left pane. So, at this point, my grid is set up, and I'm ready to start drawing right in Perspective with my grid. I'll press Command+0, or Ctrl+0 on my keyboard to return myself back to the Fit in Window view, so that I can get started with my drawing. In fact, because the grid itself is so strong, even though right now the grid itself is set back to 50% Opacity, which is the default setting inside of Illustrator, I may want to dim, in fact, just a little bit more, so it doesn't get in the way of the artwork that I draw.
To do that, I'll go to the View menu, choose Perspective Grid > Define Grid, and I'll change the Opacity value here to 30%. Now comes the fun part - actually creating the artwork in Perspective. Now when you're working inside of Illustrator, as we see here, the Perspective Grid has three different planes. It has a plane on the left side. It has a plane on the right side. And it has a plane on the ground. Illustrator also refers to this ground plane as the horizontal plane. When I'm drawing in Perspective, Illustrator can only map that artwork to one of these planes.
As such, I need to somehow indicate to Illustrator which plane I want my artwork to be attached to. This plane is called the Active Plane, and it's indicated by this widget that appears in the upper left- hand corner of your screen. In fact, if you don't want the widget to appear in the upper left-hand corner, you can specify other locations for this widget, again, based on your own preference. You can do so by double-clicking on the Perspective Grid tool, and then choosing where you want that widget position to be. For now though, I'm going to leave it on the Top-Left and click OK. As you can see, here, by moving your cursor over this particular widget called the Active Plane Widget, you can control which of the planes you want to work with.
Right now, you can see that the Left Grid over here, which is highlighted in blue, which refers to this side of the pane right over here, is currently active. That means if I start drawing artwork right now, it's going to attach itself to this particular grid. When you're working inside of Illustrator, basic drawing tools, such as those found in this grouping over here, for example, the Line Segment tool, the Arc tool, Spiral, Rectangular Grid, and Polar Grid tools, and also the tools that are found in this grouping here, Rectangle tool, the Rounded Rectangle tool, Ellipse, Polygon, and Star, are all tools that work in Perspective.
But to get started right now, let's use the Rectangle tool. Again, taking note that the Left Grid right now is highlighted in my Active Plane Widget, I can now move my cursor over here, and you notice that the cursor itself has a little arrow pointing to the left. That indicates that my Left Grid right now is currently selected, again, another indicator to let me know, when I'm working with Illustrator, where my artwork is about to go. I'll start to click and drag to draw a rectangle, and you'll notice that my rectangle actually appears in Perspective, matching that Left Grid as I draw.
The width and height values that I'm seeing right now with Smart Guides are actually the real dimensions of that shape, had I drawn them not in Perspective. I'll release the mouse, and I'll press the D key for default. Maybe I'll go ahead, and I'll increase the Stroke weight over here to something like 6 points. And you can see that I've now drawn a shape directly in Perspective. Let's say I want to draw some artwork on this side of the Perspective. To do so, I'll start first by selecting this particular part of the grid in the Active Plane Widget. Notice now the red part is highlighted, which again, maps this part of the grid right here, and notice, again, that the actual arrow that appears in my cursor, for my Rectangle tool, actually has an arrow pointing to the right.
It's important to remember that in Illustrator, the grid itself is visible in certain areas, but any place that I draw artwork is always going to be mapped towards that Perspective, meaning if I start clicking and dragging over here, this is that rectangle being drawn on this plane of Perspective. This is an important concept to understand, because when I'm working inside of Perspective drawing with Illustrator, everything that I create inside of my document is now being locked to that particular grid. However, I may have some other artwork that I want to create, that I don't want to be on this grid. To do so, I would need to use the Active Plane Widget over here to deselect all of my planes so that there is no Active Plane.
You'll notice that when I move my cursor over the widget, I can highlight the Left Grid, the Right Grid, the Horizontal Grid, which is the ground, or if I move my cursor just outside the cube, but within this little circle area, there is an option called No Active Grid. If I click on that, now, when I draw a new shape, that new shape is not mapped to any grid at all. Whenever you're using Perspective drawing inside of Illustrator, you could use the numbers on your keypad to determine which plane you want to work with. For example, the 1 key on your keyboard will highlight the left plane.
Tapping 2 on your keyboard will select the ground or the horizontal plane. Hitting the 3 key will make the right plane active and tapping the number 4 will deselect all active planes. In other words, you'd be able to draw without having artwork locked to any specific Perspective plane. So, now that we know how to use the Active Plane Widget, or more importantly, the keyboard shortcuts, let's take a look at putting some artwork together quickly in this Perspective drawing. I'll press Command+A, or Ctrl+A, and just delete the artwork on my artboard. I'll start by drawing the basic outlines of the building.
I'll tap the 1 key on my keyboard to highlight the left plane, and I'll click and drag over here to create the basic outline of that building. I'll tap the D key for default, which will reset this to a white rectangle with a 1 point black Stroke. In fact, it's probably going to be easy for me to draw this without any Fill whatsoever. So, I'm going to go over here to the Fill setting and just set it to None. Now that I've done that, I want to start drawing the artwork or the rectangle for this side of the building. I'll tap the 3 key on my keyboard to now highlight this actual Perspective plane, and once again, I'll start clicking and dragging to draw this shape over here.
You can see how quickly and easily you can actually build artwork in Perspective in this way. There is a nice little border here at the top of the building, so I can actually start to draw a rectangle from there as well. And I'll tap the 1 key on my keyboard to do the same thing here for this side. Next, I want to add the windows and the doors. So, once again, I'll tap 3 to move to that Active Plane, click and drag to draw the window and then also click and drag to draw the door as well. Once you get the hang of using the keyboard shortcuts, it's really easy to quickly draw artwork in Perspective. Just remember to tap the 4 key to disable any active planes, and that way you can draw artwork without being mapped or attached to any Perspective plane.