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February 14 2014

09:00

Get Prepared: 40+ Top Free Vectors for Spring Holidays


  

Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving (in the US) are such big holidays in the winter that it can be easy to forget the smaller holiday that occur at the end of winter and into spring. Valentine’s Day is today, so we are little late for that, but we still have St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and even Memorial Day at the end of spring.

February 12 2014

08:14

February 07 2014

16:11

Smashing Book #4: Behind The Scenes


  

If you’re a graphic designer, you will often have to work with off-the-shelf material created by others — for instance, combining ready-to-use fonts with images from a photographer or stock website. Also, you’ll often have to follow the branding already developed by someone else. It’s OK; it’s a part of the job, and you shouldn’t be bothered by it.

But the part of a project that almost every graphic designer likes and is proud of the most is something that you can do from scratch, something that you have control over and can sign off on confidently: illustration. It’s why I love illustration projects so much. You can show your individuality in every detail and create every stroke of the artwork, trusting your vision and fully exercising your skills.

Given this love of mine, it’s no surprise that I took on illustration duties for the Smashing Book #4 without hesitation, despite it being quite a large and lengthy project (20 illustrations). I pulled myself together and started working, promising to myself that no matter how hard it turned out to be, I would find the time and internal resources to complete the project.

I’m very keen on the traditional way of drawing — by hand, using paper, pencil, watercolors and so on. Of course, I’m not against using computers when necessary — especially nowadays, when we have drawing tablets and pens and all of that other digital stuff that mimics hand-drawn work. But it seems to me that there is still no substitute for the charm of a well thought out and elaborate handmade drawing.

My process for transforming illustrations into vector files is a little complicated and sometimes long, but it’s the only way to capture my drawings down to the smallest details. Retracing every line of the illustration as a curve using the Pen tool (in Adobe Illustrator, in my case), I am able to really feel every line and make the drawing as close to perfect as possible.

I began each of the 20 illustrations with many ugly sketches, trying to grab hold of an idea. I’m not able to think first and draw after. The two processes are one for me: I draw while thinking. I’ll waste piles of paper and use any surface at hand to capture an idea that suddenly comes to me. Reviewing the sketches now, I’m intrigued by the evolution of the ideas and the birth of the characters.


Looking for ideas. (View large version)


(View large version)


The evolution of a character from start to finish. (View large version)

Then, I made detailed drawings in pencil, which became the prototypes of the vector images. The more developed the drawing, the easier it was to create a vector image. When the pencil drawings were ready, I scanned or photographed them, and then painted with the usual brushes in Photoshop. These were the prototypes that I submitted for approval.

To color the sketches, I’ll choose one of the basic brushes with a sharp edge and just paint over the scanned image on a new layer. “Multiply” mode is on for this layer to make the texture of the drawing visible. Then, I’ll create one more layer for shadows (with “Multiply” mode enabled again).


Adding color to the sketch. (View large version)

This is a fast and easy way to estimate the color spectrum of the final illustrations (I’ll sometimes do several color sketches). I sent the colored sketches to the Smashing team for approval of the direction and concept of the illustrations.

The colored sketches retain a kind of watercolor effect. I love that this quality can be achieved so easily.


The colored sketches. (View large version)

Once the sketches are approved, I start the most important part of the work. I paste each scanned pencil drawing into an Illustrator file and trace it. I’ll put the pencilled prototype on the bottom layer and lock it. Then, I’ll look at my illustration carefully and divide it in my mind into several areas, creating a separate layer for each area. Working with layers is very convenient if the image is complicated and has many small details.


(View large version)

You can lock or hide layers that you are not working on to focus on the areas that you are. From the screenshot below, it is obvious that every kite will have layers and that the background will have several layers. I also separated each animal into different layers; for example, one layer for the body, one for the head (usually including the eyes and nose) and one for the limbs (legs, wings and so on).


Creating separate layers. (View large version)

There is no trick to tracing an image by hand. Just take the Pen tool and trace the contours of the sketch. I usually choose a bright color to mark off the contours well. The process is boring, but once you’re skilled at it, it doesn’t take much time. It can almost be meditative, sitting and calmly tracing element after element as your thoughts drift away.


The outlining process. (View large version)

I’ll usually use the Live Paint Bucket tool to divide a shape into several color areas. I draw lines that will be the borders between colors, and then select the group of shapes and enable the Live Paint Bucket tool . By clicking on each shape with the tool, I can assign a unique color to it. By the way, if you use colors from the swatches, you can find the appropriate tool by clicking the left and right arrows.


Using the Live Paint Bucket tool. (View large version)

If an element of the illustration doesn’t have a defined shape and needs a bit of improvisation, then I’ll use the Blob brush . Working with this brush on a drawing tablet is a real pleasure.

You can configure the settings of the Blob brush by double-clicking in the Tools panel. I’ll usually set it to the biggest brush to make the pressure of the pen as sensitive as possible. With several assured brush strokes, I’ll draw the background and the bushes, using random colors according to my feeling and then choosing more appropriate colors later. I’ll also draw the branches of the bushes with the Blob brush. If I need to correct the shape, I’ll usually use the Erase tool.


Using the Blob Brush tool. (View large version)

Here’s a tip if you ever have to transform a regular line into a ribbon flapping in the wind. I’ll use the Width tool to make the stroke weight variable. Using this tool, select the dot on the line where the stroke weight is to be changed, and drag the auxiliary lines until the ribbon looks the way you want.


Creating a ribbon from a line with the Width tool. (View large version)

Now, the image is ready for coloring. Yes, it looks weird without colors. But you need just a few minutes to fill in the shapes and get the image close to being complete. To complete the kite image, I added some small flowers on the bushes with petals flying up into the wind (using the Blob brush). I also added shadows using Multiply mode.


The outlined and finished illustrations. (View large version)

The technical work was not the hardest part for me. I’ll often spend much more time on sketching and developing the ideas. Now that the Smashing Book #4 is complete, I can say that the most difficult part was devising a “plot” for each chapter title. When I got the plan for the book and read the titles, I was at a loss.

Some of the titles are quite conceptual, suggesting obvious metaphors. But others are concrete and related to code, and those were hard to illustrate (especially with cute animals). When my imagination gave up, the guys from the Smashing team were ready to pitch in some inspiring ideas. So, this creative project was genuinely collaborate, and I think we were on the same wavelength.


Smashing Book #4, a new book for front-end designers and developers.

I believe both parties have taken only positive emotions from the project. Holding this hefty book now in my hands, I would have done some things differently — I’m never completely satisfied with my own work. Overall, though, I’m happy with the result.

So, enjoy the Smashing Book #4. It contains so much useful stuff. (Believe me, I know.)

(al, il, ea)


© Anna Shuvalova for Smashing Magazine, 2014.

November 15 2013

15:05

Blueprints For Web And Print: Specctr, A Free Adobe Illustrator Plugin


  

Have you ever submitted design files to a development team for production and a few weeks later gotten something back that looks nothing like your original work? Many designers and design teams make the mistake of thinking that their work is done once they’ve completed the visual design stage.

A design is more than a simple drawing on a canvas in Illustrator, Fireworks or Photoshop; it is a representation of function. “Form follows function” is a well-known principle, first coined in 1896 by the architect Louis Sullivan. How will the website work? How will that section fold? What happens when you hover over this button? How does that menu function?

Designers also know that the details will make or break a product’s usability. But designers are also responsible for not letting those details fall through the cracks in production. Yes, those 5 pixels do matter! The development or production team also needs to understand how the product will work and what it will look like in every scenario and variation of the product’s use. Annotating all of these scenarios can be a nightmare, but this is where Specctr can help.

Specctr is a plugin for Adobe applications. (Currently, versions are available for Fireworks, Illustrator and Photoshop, the first of which you can read about in “Blueprints for the Web: Specctr Adobe Fireworks Plugin”.) Specctr transitions a visual design to production by enabling you to specify form (spacing, width and height, colors, fonts, etc.) and function (hover states, transitions, user flows, etc.). It automatically generates a specification and creates a blueprint for the design, which saves time.

Specctr logo

Note: The Specctr plugin for Adobe Illustrator has two versions, Lite and Pro. The Lite version is free for everyone but has some limitations. The Pro version is more powerful, is paid and has an “Expand Canvas” feature, and you can change the font in which the specification is displayed. Specctr Pro has other advanced settings that can be configured in the “Spec Options” tab in the panel, including options for the colors in the three types of specifications, the color mode (RGB, CMYK, HSL, HSB), etc.

Overview Of Specctr For Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a favorite tool of many designers because of its flexibility and versatility. Whether you use Illustrator for Web, print, identity or packaging design, Specctr may be useful to you, and in this article we’ll show you how. This plugin includes:

  • the width and height of elements;
  • text specifications (font family, font size, font color).


The main tab of the panel, the “Select Details” panel tab and the “Spec Options” panel tab in the Specctr Lite version. (see larger preview)

The width and height of elements as well as the text-specification abilities are most common to a designer’s workflow, which is why we included them in the free version. These two features alone should save you a lot of time. Additionally, the free version has the “Expand Canvas” feature and the option to change a specification’s font.

Requirements and Installation

Specctr Lite can be downloaded for free from our website (search for “Try Specctr Lite”). To use Specctr for Illustrator, you will need:

  • a Mac or Windows machine;
  • a copy of Adobe Illustrator CS5, CS5.1, CS6 or CC (Creative Cloud version).

The installation process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Download the Specctr installer.
  2. Double-click the downloaded ZXP file. The Adobe Extension Manager will open. Click on “Install.”
  3. Restart Illustrator.
  4. In Illustrator, go to Window → Extensions → Specctr in the menu to open the Specctr panel.

Note: If you are using Windows Vista+, you might need to launch the Adobe Extension Manager as an administrator, or else the extension could fail to install (this is a known limitation of the Adobe Extension Manager).

A Quick How-To Guide

After you install Specctr, you can spec a document in a few easy steps:

  1. Adjust your settings in the “Spec Options” tab.
  2. Select the options you want to display.
  3. Make room for your specifications (optional).
  4. Spec away!

The process of working with Specctr Lite and Pro is quite similar. The only difference is in functionality (Lite has fewer features).

1. Adjust Settings in “Spec Options” Tab

First, it’s a good idea to customize how the specifications will look. You can do this in the “Spec Options” tab in the Specctr panel. There, you can do the following:

  • Control how your specifications will look by adjusting font, color, size and line weight.
  • Set the color mode in which you want to spec: RGB (both rgb() and HEX modes are available), CMYK, HSL or HSB.
  • Assign different colors based on the type of specification: type object, shape object, and spacing and dimensions.

2. Select the Options to Display

In the “Select Details” tab in the panel, you can define (using simple checkboxes) which properties of objects to spec.

For example (as mentioned earlier), for shape objects, the following properties (or specification) can be generated by Specctr: fill color, fill style, stroke color, stroke size, opacity. And for text objects, the following properties (or specification) can be generated: font family, font size, font color, font style, text align, line height, letter spacing, opacity.

3. Make Room for Your Specifications

Optionally, you can expand the size of the artboard (or canvas) to make more room for the generated specifications. Use the numeric field next to the “Expand” button to increase the size (in pixels).

4. Spec Away!

Simply select any object(s) on the artboard, and then use one of the specification buttons: “Shape / Text,” “Width & Height” or “Spacing.” Specifications will be generated automatically for the elements selected on the artboard.

You can select two objects (by holding down the Shift key) to spec the space in between them. If only one object is selected and you press the “Spacing” button, then the distance from the object to the artboard’s edges will be displayed.

Here’s a brief screencast of this workflow:

Other Features

For maximum time-saving, you can spec multiple text and shape objects with one click. Simply select multiple (or all) objects and hit the spec button.

For better readability, line endings in Specctr will change depending on what you are spec’ing: a filled dot for text, an outlined circle for shape, and brackets for distance.

Spec line ends
Line endings automatically adjust based on shape, text and distance.

Your specifications are automatically organized and grouped into layers so that you can quickly turn their visibility off or delete them.

Specs in layers panel
Specifications organized into layers.

If many objects are close to each other, then there is a chance that specifications might overlap. To fix this issue, simply move and spread the specifications out. The arm that connects them to their object will always remain connected to the object, no matter where you move them on the artboard.

Please note that if you update an object after you’ve spec’d it, then the specification won’t update automatically; you must spec the object again. You don’t have to delete the old specification, though, because it will update with the new properties and remain in its current position.

A Note About Units

Specctr will use distance-based units based on the user’s settings in Illustrator (Edit → Preferences → Units). For Web documents, Specctr will always use pixels.

Illustrator preferences.
Illustrator’s “Preferences” dialog: Units.

Different Specification Scenarios

Web Design

There are plenty of reasons to use Illustrator for Web design. (Read Vincent Le Moign’s article “Productive Web Design With… Adobe Illustrator?” to hear some of the arguments.) Illustrator is fast, reliable, reusable and especially useful for designers who create both wireframes and final designs.

Specctr was created with Web designers in mind because of the myriad of screens flows that have to be created and spec’d. Although spec’ing is usually a process that only large design teams do, I’ve found the plugin to be helpful on small teams as well. With technology advancing and our capability to create more complex graphics, transitions and animations growing, there is an increasing demand for designers to spec their work. Interactions, responsive design and hover states should become clearer with a few notes and annotations attached.

Here follows an example of a one-page Web design made in Illustrator and spec’ed using the Specctr plugin. The first screenshot shows the large-screen version, and the second shows the mobile-screen version.

Example of a web site design spec'ed with Specctr
Example of a Web page spec’d with Specctr. The artboard contains the large-screen version; below it are shown three states of the same button (normal, :hover and :focus, and pressed). (View larger version)

responsive design spec'd example.
Example of a Web page spec’d with Specctr. The artboard contains the small-screen (i.e. mobile) version. (View larger version)

Note: In Illustrator, you can use multiple artboards to create variants of the same Web page for different screen types; for example, desktop, tablet, mobile, etc.

Make sure to set up your document correctly for Web design work. Create Web documents with the “Align new objects to the pixel grid” option activated; always use whole pixel sizes for all objects; and select the RGB color mode. The “Align new objects to the pixel grid” option is especially important.

Web settings
My recommended settings for Web documents in Illustrator. (View larger version)

Print and Packaging Specification

Unique print pieces (die cuts, special folds, etc.) require detailed instructions. Here is an example of a custom folder that was spec’d using Specctr for Illustrator.

Packaging spec example
A print design example. (View larger version)

Setting up your document correctly for print design is important, too. Here are the settings that I often use:

Print settings
My recommended settings for print documents in Illustrator (View larger version)

Branding Guideline Book

A brand is the public face of the company. It conveys the mood and tone of the company and covers every detail of its communication with the public. A branding book is a vital step in a branding project because it establishes the rules and teaches collaborators how to use the new visual language; a rebranding campaign is only successful if it is used consistently and widely.

A brand book usually includes the logo, fonts, colors, textures and patterns, photographic and image styles, language and tone. The guidelines can get quite detailed and long.

Here is an example of a very brief brand book that uses Specctr for the nitty-gritty details:

Brand Guidlines
Specctr for Illustrator can help you create a brand book.

Here are a few brand guidelines:

To learn more about branding, I recommend Kat Neville’s article “Designing Style Guidelines for Brands and Websites.”

Conclusion

Being a successful designer takes not only creativity and design skills but the follow-through to see a project come alive just as you imagined it. A designer may create a well-crafted website or a beautiful logo or an elegantly packaged product, but chances are they won’t be the one bringing it to life.

Communicating and explaining your design both verbally and visually is a requirement for precise and successful results. This is especially true for large teams spread out over the globe. We hope the Specctr plugin for Illustrator helps you with this important task.

Plans for the Future?

Here’s what the Specctr team is working on next:

  • CSS exporting (the objects you spec will be the ones that are added to your CSS export);
  • Relative (i.e. percentage-based) spacing, to help you with responsive design tasks;
  • More options for iOS and Android design specs.

Please let us know which features you would like to see added to the next version of Specctr’s panels! You can also leave a comment here. We’d appreciate your feedback.

(mb, al, il)


© Chen Blume for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

September 04 2013

16:43

How To Create A Water Lily In Illustrator


  

Water lilies are beautiful flowers and ideal tutorial material. To get to our result, we’ll be doing a lot of clever actions, mostly rotating and duplicating, and we’ll have a lot of room for experimentation as well. For instance, we can try out different ways to build the layers of petals, and we can play with different shades of pink gradients.

This tutorial shows the basic steps I followed; but in creating this flower, I did way more than what is presented here. You see, every creation is never straightforward or perfect right away. It takes some trial and error, because I also needed to find the method that can be most easily explained.

Load The Water Lily Swatches

To make it easy to apply colors and gradients repeatedly, I have saved the swatches I used in an Illustrator swatch library file. The easiest way to use a swatch library file is simply by opening it as a regular Illustrator file via File → Open. You may still modify the settings of the document, such as dimensions and color, via File → Document Setup.

If a document is already open and all set up, then you can load it into your Illustrator document by going to the swatches panel options menu, choosing Open Swatch Library → Other Library…, browsing to the Water-lily-Swatches.ai file, selecting it and clicking “Open”. Then, select the swatches and drag them into the main swatches panel of your document (Window → Swatches). Make sure the swatches are displayed in list view; go to the Swatches panel options menu again, and choose “Small List View.” This way, you will also see the names of the swatches.

the water lily Swatches Library

We’ll start by building the various layers of petals, level by level. Then, we’ll create the inner part of the flower, which I’ll call the “core.” At the very end, I’ll briefly explain how I created the environment of the water and floating leaves. To help you with this part, I have added all of the colors and gradients to the Illustrator swatch library file.

Creating The Petals

Looking at the typical shape of a water lily’s petal, I figured that using the Ellipse tool would not give us the exact result we’re after. The petal has a rather pointy tip, so I thought to use a tool that I hardly ever use, the Arc tool. This tool is hidden under the Line tool in the tools panel (hold down your mouse click to reveal the hidden tools). First, we’ll set the right options in the Arc options window.

Create the First Petal

Define the Arc tool’s options.

To make sure you can preview things in the Arc options window, click “Fill swatch” in the tools panel, and select the “Light Pink” color swatch from the swatches panel. We’ll also need a vertical guide because we will create one fourth of a petal and then reflect this shape using the vertical guide as the axis. Drag a vertical guide from the rulers somewhere towards the center of your document. If rulers aren’t visible in your document, go to View → Rulers → Show Rulers or hit Command/Control + R.

Now, double-click the Arc tool in the tools panel. In the Arc options window that appears, enter the value 40 px for the x-axis’ length and 70 px as the y-axis’ length. Also, for the “Type” option, choose Closed; for “Base Along,” choose Y Axis; for “Slope,” select a value of 40; and enable the “Fill Arc” check box.

Create the arc.

With the Arc tool still selected, click precisely on the vertical guide. The Arc window will appear showing the settings you’ve entered. Just click “OK” to create the arc object.

Copy-reflect the arc object around the vertical axis.

With the arc object selected, select the Reflect tool from the tools panel (hidden under the Rotate tool), and click precisely on the vertical guide while holding down the Alt/Option key. In the Reflect options window that appears, select the vertical axis, and click “Copy.”

Copy-reflect the two arc objects around the horizontal axis.

Make sure both arc objects are selected. Then select the Reflect tool again, and click precisely on the bottom line of the two objects while holding down the Alt/Option key to invoke the Reflect options window. This time, select the horizontal axis and click “Copy.”

Unite the four objects.

Select the four arc objects, go to the Pathfinder panel, and choose “Unite.” This will unite the four shapes into one. Now you have created one petal, which is the flower’s most important base element. We will use this object multiple times during this tutorial. It’s time to let those petals fly!

Creating the Middle-Level Petals

Copy-rotate the petal.

First, drag a horizontal guide from the rulers somewhere to the bottom of the petal. The intersection of both guides will serve as the center of the flower. The position of this point is crucial, so make sure it is positioned as shown here:

Select the Rotate tool, and click precisely on the guides’ intersecting point while holding down Alt/Option. In the Rotate options window that appears, enter a value 90° and hit “Copy” to duplicate the object. Repeat this transformation action twice by hitting Command/Control + D two times (or go to Object → Transform Again twice).

Apply a radial gradient.

Select all objects and select the radial gradient swatch named “Darker Radial Gradient.” The gradient will now be applied to each petal separately, with the dark area at the center of the each petal. To change the position to the center of the flower, we need to reapply this gradient by selecting the Gradient tool and click-dragging the mouse from the center of the flower to the outside (i.e. the end of a petal). I usually do this in a straight horizontal movement, holding down the Shift key.

Copy rotate at 45°.

With the object still selected, copy-rotate the object by copying the object (Command/Control + C) and pasting it in front (Command/Control + F, or in the menu, Edit → Paste in Front). With the Selection tool selected, mouse over a corner of the bounding box until the rotate cursor appears. Hold down the mouse and slowly rotate the object while holding down the Shift key so that the rotation jumps to 45°. When it reaches 45°, first release the mouse, then the Shift key.

Apply a new gradient.

Select the “Light Radial Gradient 2” swatch from the swatches panel to apply this gradient to the new petals. If you like, you can tweak some of the color swatches in the gradient by double-clicking on the gradient stops (in the Gradient panel), or by sliding them to the left or right. While working on this project, I’ve tweaked them here and there, saving the gradients I like best. Feel free to play around by making them a bit more white or more pink, etc.

Creating the Bottom-Level Petals

From now on, keep things as organized as possible, because we will be creating different levels of petals to build up the flower. Aside from the flower’s core and stamen, which are each on a separate layer, we’re working with five different levels, putting each level on a separate layer:

  • the top yellow petals (to be created in the last step),
  • the yellow petals (to be created in the last step),
  • the top petals (to be created in a later step),
  • the middle petals,
  • the bottom petals (to be created in this step).

Create the first bottom-level petals.

Name the layer with the middle-level petals that we’ve just created by double-clicking the layer. I’ve called it “middle petals.” Select the topmost vertical petal, copy it, and lock the “middle petals” layer by clicking in the column next to the eye icon of the layer in the Layers panel. A lock icon should appear. Create a new layer by clicking “Create New Layer” at the bottom of the Layers panel. Paste the petal in the exact same place by hitting Command/Control + Shift + V. Double-click the layer and name it “bottom petals.” With the layer still selected in the Layers panel, drag the layer to below the “middle petals” layer.

First, we’ll resize the petal a bit, making it taller. Select the Scale tool, and click precisely at the intersecting point of the two guides (i.e. the center of the flower) while holding down Option/Alt to invoke the Scale window. Choose the “Non-uniform” option, and enter 85% for “Horizontal” and 115% for “Vertical.” Check the “Preview” option to see how this will look, and click “OK.”

Apply a gradient.

Apply the “Light Radial Gradient 2” by selecting the swatch from the Swatches panel and then selecting the Gradient tool. Now, drag vertically straight towards the top of the petal, starting from the center of the flower, holding down the Shift key. To keep the petal light near the end, stop about one fourth from the end.

Copy rotate at 45°.

With the petal still selected, select the Rotate tool and click precisely at the guides’ intersecting point while holding down Alt/Option. In the Rotate options window that appears, enter a value of 45° and hit “Copy” to duplicate the object. Repeat this transformation six times by hitting Command/Control + D six times.

Rotate at 27.5°.

To create a bit of natural variation in the positions of the levels of petals, we’ll rotate them by 27.5°. You could, of course, choose another value — for instance, keeping the petals perfectly symmetrical and going for 22.5° instead, which is exactly half of 45°. It’s totally up to you. Make sure all petals of this level are selected. Click precisely at the guides’ intersecting point again while holding down Alt/Option. In the Rotate options window, enter a value of 27.5° and hit “OK.”

Tweak the gradient where needed.

While creating these different levels of petals, you can tweak the gradients of the petals at any time, making them a bit lighter or darker. Do this by sliding the gradient stops to the left or right or by changing the color of the gradient color stops (by double-clicking one of the stops of the gradient in the Gradient panel). You could, of course, leave this part till the very end, too.

Copy rotate at 27.5°.

Click precisely at the guides’ intersecting point again while holding down Alt/Option, and enter a value of 27.5° in the Rotate options window. Hit “Copy” to copy this action. Choose another value here if you like. If you go for a fully symmetrical style, then try 22.5°. Apply a gradient that is light near the end of the petals. Select one of the light radial swatches and tweak if needed.

Creating the Top Level of Petals

To finish off the petals, we need to add yet one more level of petals at the top. Select the four petals stacked at the top (first unlocking the “middle petals” layer by clicking the lock icon of the layer in the Layers panel), and put them in your copy memory by hitting Command/Control + C. Lock both the “middle petals” and “bottom petals” layers, and create a new layer by clicking the “Create New Layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Name the layer by double-clicking it; I’ve named mine “top petals.” Now, paste the petals in the exact same place by hitting Command/Control + Shift + V.

Rotate at 27.5°.

With the petals still selected, select the Rotate tool and click precisely at the center of the flower while holding down Option/Alt. Enter a value of 27.5° and hit “OK.” Again, choose whatever value you think fits best. Just check “Preview” to peek at the result.

Apply a radial gradient.

Apply the radial gradient swatch named “Light Radial Gradient 3.” This gradient is almost the same as “Light Radial Gradient 2”, but the lighter color is a bit lighter and the color stop has been moved a little to the left to shorten the transition of the gradient, thus making the petal lighter from the middle to the end. Again, play around with the gradient color stops to create the effect you like best.

Creating The Core And Stamen

In the next step, we’ll create the core of the flower. To get started, lock the three layers. Create a new layer, naming it “core” (or whatever you like).

Creating the Core

Draw a circle and apply a gradient.

Select the Ellipse tool and draw a circle from the center out, holding down Alt/Option + Shift while dragging. Apply the radial gradient named “Radial Core Gradient” from the Swatches panel.

Creating the Stamen

Create a filament by drawing a rounded rectangle.

First, lock the “core” layer, and create a new layer, naming it “stamen.” Select the Rounded Rectangle tool, and draw a vertical rounded rectangle, as shown in the image above. Start at the top, to the left of the vertical guide, and drag diagonally to the bottom-right of the vertical guide. While dragging, you can modify the radius of the rounded corners using the up and down arrow keys.

Horizontally align the center.

To position the object perfectly in the center, select both the object and the “core” circle below it. Temporarily unlock the “core” layer to be able to select it. To select the second object in a row, hold down the Shift key and select the core circle again, but this time without holding Shift. You should see an extra-thick selection line; this means that this will be the target object to align with, and so this object will stay in its position, and only other objects will move as needed. Now, select the “Horizontal Align Center” option from the control bar at the top. If you don’t see this bar, go to Window → Control. After aligning the object, make sure to lock the “core” layer again.

Apply a linear gradient.

Apply a “Linear Gradient,” and enter 90° in the “angle” field.

Scale down the bottom anchor points.

Now, we need to make the bottom part of the filament smaller. Select the Direct Selection tool (white arrow), and draw a selection over the three bottom anchor points. Select the Scale tool, and click precisely to the top anchor point of the object. Make sure you see the scale arrow cursor first somewhere near the bottom-right of the object. Now, start dragging from right to left to make the bottom part smaller (see the image for a reference). Turning on the smart guides might also help; go to View → Smart Guides (or hit Command/Control + U to toggle them on and off).

Cut a slice to create the anther.

Now we’ll create the anther. Select the Knife tool, which is hidden under the Eraser tool. Hold down both Shift and Alt/Option, and drag from left to right, crossing the object in a straight line at the very bottom (as shown in the image above). Now, the object will be cut in two parts, the filament and the anther. Select only the bottom part, and apply the “Soft Brown” color from the swatches panel.

Copy and paste in front and apply different colors.

Copy the two objects and paste them in front by hitting Command/Control + F. Apply “Linear gradient 2” to the filament, making sure to enter 90° in the “angle” field. Give the anther a “Brown” color.

Scale down and rotate manually.

In this step, we need to position the second stamen next to the first, but slightly rotated, with the rotation from the center of the flower, and also slightly smaller. We’ll first scale down the object and then rotate it into position. First, make sure the stamen is properly selected. Mouse over the top-left corner of the bounding box until you see the resizing arrows. Click and drag slightly towards the bottom right to make the object smaller. There is no need to keep the proportions exact; just make the object slightly smaller (see the image below).

With the object still selected, mouse over the top-right corner of the bounding box until the rotate arrows cursor appear. Click and drag to rotate the object just slightly. An alternative here is to use the Rotate tool and rotate the object from the center of the flower. I don’t have exact measurements to give you because it all depends on the sizes of the two stamens. As you’ll see in the following steps (the second image that follows), this might require a bit of trial and error to get right.

Copy-rotate at 20°.

When both stamens are aligned nicely, select them both and Alt/Option-click at the center of the flower. In the Rotate window that appears, make sure the Preview option is checked, and enter a value of 20°. Click “Copy” to copy them.

Tweak to get it right.

If you end up with the result in the image above, then you’ll need to undo your action (using the shortcut Command/Control + Z) and reposition the second stamen. Make sure the stamens don’t overlap when you rotate the second one. You might need to make both stamen a bit thinner or smaller, adjust the rotation angle, or adjust the position of the second stamen; this step might require some trial and error to get right. Another option is to go with another rotation value (for example, 24°) to end up with fewer stamen (say, 15 instead of 18) — see the next step.

Transform again until you get a full circle of stamens.

When the rotations of all four stamens are right (after having hit the “Copy” button), repeat hitting Command/Control + D to apply the transformation again and again, until a full circle is drawn (as shown in the image above).

Creating The Core Petals

Creating the First Layer of Petals

Copy and paste a petal in place and resize it.

We need to do one final step to complete the flower, and that is create a layer of small yellow petals around the core of the flower. First, create a new layer, and name it (I’ve named it “yellow petals”).

Unlock the “middle petals” layer, and select the vertical petal at the top. Copy the petal, re-lock “middle petals,” click the new “yellow petals” layer, and paste the petal in the exact same place by hitting Command/Control + Shift + V. Apple the color named “Soft Yellow for Petals.” Select the Scale tool, click the center of the flower, and manually scale down the petal, as shown in the image above.

Copy rotate at 60°.

Select the Rotate tool and Alt/Option-click in the center of the flower. In the rotate window, enter a value of 60°, and click “Copy.” Hit Command/Control + D four times in a row to duplicate this transform action to complete the circle of petals.

Creating the Second Layer of Petals

Duplicate the layer of petals.

We could do the same actions as before for this next step and copy and paste the layer of petals in place on a new layer. Instead, we’ll duplicate the petals directly onto a new layer, just to demonstrate another easy technique.

First, create the new layer on top of the current one, and name it something like “top yellow petals.” Select the layer of petals by going to the Layers panel and clicking in the area to the right of the circle icon, located on the right side of the current layer. This selects — or, more precisely, targets — all selectable objects of the layer. A small colored square will appear, indicating the selected art. This square wouldn’t appear if this layer was empty, which makes this a handy check whenever you want to remove unnecessary layers during or at the end of the process. We’ll duplicate the selection onto the new layer by holding down Alt/Option and click-dragging the colored square to the new layer above (see the image above).

Apply a gradient

Lock the “yellow petals” layer so that you don’t accidentally modify it. Select the newly duplicated petals, and apply the “Radial Petals Gradient” swatch.

Copy rotate at 30°.

Select the Rotate tool and click precisely at the center of the flower, holding down Alt/Option. In the Rotate window that appears, enter a value of 30°, and click “Copy.”

Create An Environment

That’s it! The flower is now finished. All that’s left is to add a layer of water and leaves below, give the flower a subtle shadow, etc. For the water, I used a radial gradient, making sure the lighter blue surrounds the flower. To help you create this environment, I’ve added all of the colors and gradients that I used to the Illustrator swatches library.

The result of the water lily placed in a natural environment

For the shape of the leaves, I created a circle and a very sharp triangle at the top, which I then subtracted to create that characteristic sliver. I used the Minus Front Pathfinder option to do this, but you could easily use the Shapebuilder tool instead, holding down Alt/Option to remove the triangle shape. Then, it’s a matter of duplicating, rotating and scaling the leaves and applying different shades of green.

There you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and maybe even learned a few things here and there. Keep experimenting, and keep it fun!

(al)


© Veerle Pieters for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

August 09 2013

05:05

Adobe Illustrator CS6 Shortcuts Cheat Sheet

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Illustrator is a very important tool for designers and creative professionals. And no matter how familiar you are with it, there are always some shortcuts you could learn to be more productive. This is why you will love today’s exclusive Photoshop CS6 cheat sheet that the good people at ZeroLag have put together for WDL.

Adobe Illustrator CS6 Shortcuts Cheatsheet

How to Read the Adobe Illustrator CS6 Keyboard Shortcuts Key:

Adobe Illustrator Tool Shortcut = grey text

Action Shortcut = orange text

  1. Look for the Adobe Illustrator Tool Shortcut (grey text) or Action Shortcut (orange text) that you want to perform on the keyboard.
  2. If you want to use a Adobe Illustrator Tool Shortcut (gray text), press on the corresponding key. (Example: To access the “Pen” Tool, press the letter “P” key.)
  3. If you want to use an Action Shortcut (orange text), hold down the Command key, then press on the Action Shortcut key you want indicated in orange text. (Example: To access the “Select All” Objects Action Shortcut, hold down the Command key and press the letter “A” key.)

How to Perform Other Shortcuts Not on the Keyboard:

Follow the indicated keys/actions next to the specific shortcut you want to perform. (Example: To access the “Eraser” Tool hold down the Shift button while pressing the “E” key to access the tool.)

Other Cheat Sheets

ZeroLag Photoshop CS6 Cheat Sheet

August 07 2013

06:30

Exclusive Vector Freebie: 250 Ultimate World Monuments Icon Pack by Freepik


  

Have you not been waiting for it? I bet you have. We are glad to be able to bring you another freebie, the team of Freepik, our friends from sunny Spain, put together exclusively for you, Noupe’s dear readers. Today we have 250 symbols compiled in an “Ultimate World Monuments Icons Pack” for you to download. All these little icons represent well-known monuments from somewhere around the world. They are completely vector-based and you can use them freely for any type of project, but you can only get them here (and our sis Dr. Web)…

August 05 2013

06:30

How To Create a Set of Vector Weather Line Icons

Stroked line icons really complement a flat interface style with their minimal and basic appearance. Let’s take a look at building a set of stylised vector icons of our own. We’ll base them on the weather to allow us to create a set of consistently styled icons that would be a perfect match for a weather app. Follow this step by step Illustrator tutorial to see how the most simple of tools can be used to create a set of trendy glyphs.

Creating a cloud icon

Let’s begin with a basic cloud. Open up Adobe Illustrator and draw three circles on the artboard. Overlap each one but pay attention to its outline along the top edge.

Drag a selection around all three objects and use the Align palette to make sure they all sit along the same baseline.

Draw a rectangle to fill in the gaps on the lower edge. Turn on Smart Guides (CMD+U) to help align the rectangle to the circles then hit the Unite option from the Pathfinder tool to merge everything together.

Clear out the fill colour and increase the stroke weight to around 5pt. Turn on the round cap and round corner options to create a smooth outline.

Creating a sun icon

Elsewhere on the artboard draw a circle using the same stroke configuration options, then add a short line above it.

Copy (CMD+C) and Paste in Place (CMD+Shift+V) a duplicate then move it vertically to sit underneath the circle. Copy/Paste the two lines then rotate the duplicate by 90° (hold Shift to constrain the angle).

Paste in two more duplicates and rotate these shapes by 45° to form a set of evenly spaced ray lines. Group all these individual lines together.

Select both the group of lines and the inner circle and align the objects along the horizontal and vertical axis to centre them up.

Combining the icons

One advantage of working with basic style icons is elements can be reused to aid consistency between the icons. A “sunny spells” icon can be created by combining the cloud with the sun. Rotate the sun slightly to balance the gaps between the ray lines.

Use the Scissors tool to clip the path of the sun’s circle, leaving a small gap between each element. Select and delete the unwanted portion.

Ungroup the set of sun ray lines then delete any unwanted copies.

The combination of the two separate icons creates consistency between the icons.

The same principle can be used to create other icons based on existing elements, such as a “heavy cloud” icon.

A moon icon is often used to represent “clear skies” at night. Use duplicates of the sun circle to create a crescent moon shape with the help of the Minus Front Pathfinder option.

Variations of the weather icons using the moon create nighttime alternatives for the cloudy icons. The rounded edges and the even spacing continues the consistent style of the set.

Draw one short and one long line at 45° underneath a copy of a cloud to represent “heavy rain”. Select and drag out a duplicate of these lines while holding the ALT key, then repeated press CMD+D to repeat the transformation.

A “light rain” variation of this icon can be created by deleting some of the rain symbol lines.

Create a small stylised snowflake by crossing two short lines. Duplicate the flake symbols into a 45° pattern, then select and rotate each flake randomly to reduce the uniform appearance.

“Light Snow”, “Thunder Storms” and “Sleet” variations can also be created by altering and combining existing icons.

The final icon pack

Vector weather line icons

The final icon pack contains a set of consistently styled icons to represent various common weather conditions (plus a special one for “British Summer”). Download the source file to get to grips with how they’re put together in Illustrator or to use the icons in your own projects.

Download the vector weather line icon pack

August 01 2013

06:30

Best of July 2013: 30+ Brand-New HTML/PSD Themes & UI Elements


  

This is the second compilation in our monthly series of brand-new HTML/PSD themes and UI elements. All the works exposed here are fresh resources from the month of July 2013. You will find another big set of ready to use themes, templates and elements for the web as well as completely editable files for your favorite image or vector editor. We got something for everybody…

July 16 2013

09:04

The Joy Of Illustrated Maps In The Era Of Google Earth


  

In my career as a freelance illustrator, map-making has become a favorite specialty of mine. With each map assignment, I virtually travel across the globe, visiting places I’ve never been. Most recent was a “trip” to New Zealand for a sampling of local Wellington beer for Draft Magazine. My maps are designed to appear next to magazine stories about trips to faraway places, or about the best restaurants in a nearby neighborhood.

I create them in Adobe Illustrator, and I relish the research process as much as working on the drawings themselves.

There was a time when map assignments arrived from clients in a FedEx envelope, full of research, including Xerox’ed maps taped together and marked up with a highlighter. Back then, I could search online for photo references, but it certainly wasn’t the 3-D experience of flight that it is now. With Google Earth, I can get the lay of the land and see the heights of buildings and the way green spaces meet city blocks. These details give me a sense of place that fires my imagination.

I received the brief for Draft Magazine’s project from art director Kevin Robie, with a list of publications to highlight, a preliminary layout and a few reference maps. My starting ritual is to create a Google “My Places” map, with a marker for each landmark, shop or restaurant highlighted in the story.

Here are the steps I took:

  1. Log into Google, and click on “Maps.” Click on the “My Places” button and then the “Create Maps” button.
  2. Name the map. Choose to make it “Public” or “Unlisted.” Hit “Done.”
  3. Search for a location using the search box, and then click “Save to My Maps.” From here, I can choose which map to save it to and view the map.
  4. Once I have saved locations on my map, click the “Edit” button, and then click on the location that I want to edit in the list. A callout box will appear on the map, allowing me to change the location’s title and description and even the color and style of the pin.
  5. With the map set up and Google Earth installed, I can choose to look at locations in “Satellite” mode or “Street View,” and then try the “Earth” view right from my browser to fly in and get a feel for the heights of buildings and the topography of the city.
  6. Download a KML file of my map by clicking the KML link or the Google Earth icon under the title of the map. Double-click the file to launch Google Earth on my system with my map preloaded.

Whether you explore your map in the browser or from the Google Earth app, you can fly around, visit street level and see the Panoramio photos taken in the neighborhood you’re visiting. If you’re lucky, the location you’re researching will have a panoramic virtual tour of the interior space. Street-view images can get out of date, so I always visit the websites of any businesses or restaurants that are being highlighted. I find that the Google Earth and satellite views give me a sense of a city or neighborhood that helps me to envision the overall look of the map.

Google has recently released the Google Maps Engine (currently in beta), which offers further customization, such as the ability to draw lines to create a virtual walking tour. If 3-D aerial views of buildings are what you’re after, Bing has a nice Bird’s Eye view that can supplement your research.

I took screenshots and kept my reference images organized in the project folder on my system. In Illustrator, I created a CMYK document at the size of Draft Magazine’s pages. I took maps provided by the client, along with screenshots of my Google Map views, and File → Place’d them in the document.

Place-linking images (as opposed to embedding them or pasting them from the clipboard) in Illustrator keeps the document’s size small — but it’s important to have a strategy for keeping up with the images on your system. If you move an image to a different location, the next time you open the document, Illustrator will ask you to find and relink the image that you moved.

I created a few more layers above my locked reference layer for the map’s background and the streets, and one for the dots that mark the locations I was highlighting.

The first stage of creating the map was to figure out the composition. In this instance, art director Kevin Robie provided his page layout with the map indicated. Once I’d drawn the location dots and some simple shapes indicating the background of the map, I could begin to see the shape and scale of the map and the space available for illustration.

At this early stage, I worked in grayscale and I traced the layout of streets with the Pen tool. I may not have included all of the streets I was drawing in the final map; sometimes the pattern of streets provides a grid texture that I can work with later. I tried to strike a balance by creating a basically accurate map that also functions as an illustration. I’ll take some liberties if it makes the information more legible and the art more attractive on the page.

With my background shapes isolated on their own layer, I clicked the Target icon in the layers panel and lowered the opacity of the background shapes layer to see the map reference below. With the basic map area laid out, I began searching for photo references to help me decide on a color palette and imagery for the different locations.

Each location I was highlighting needed an icon illustration that’s emblematic of the place. Food bloggers, such as foodiegemsofwellie, are a lifesaver to me because, although I can read about the specialty pies on Hashigo Zake, that website has no images to help me visualize the size and presentation of the dish that this bar is famous for.

One of the great advantages of working in Illustrator is that I have my own spot illustration elements, which I’ve collected from previous projects. I have glasses, bottles of beer, pizza and foliage that I can scale, recolor and rework to suit any project — a major time-saver.

I also collect color palettes from previous projects, which I save in the Swatches Panel libraries (click Swatch Libraries → Save Swatches…, and then access them under User Defined). Over the years, I’ve learned not to assume that a color on screen will print accurately, so I’ll always check it against a physical sample.

I used the Pantone Plus Color Bridge guide fan book to help me choose CMYK colors from the right-hand CMYK column (I ignored the spot colors on the left because this was a CMYK job). The bridge guide also shows the equivalent spot colors, hex codes and RGB values for each color. Illustrator’s swatch libraries for Pantone books can be found in the Swatch Libraries menu, under “Color Books.” Once I find a color I like in the fan book, I add it to my swatches panel.

With colors loaded on my swatches panel and photo references gathered, I was ready to start building the illustration. I did most of my work from beginning to end in Illustrator. With other types of illustration, I may start with pencil sketches, but maps really lend themselves to being “built” from solid shapes and lines in Illustrator.

After flying around Wellington in Google Maps, I knew I’d be surrounding the map with a border of green trees, so I started drawing circles in shades of green and trying out different tree shapes for the border. I typed notes about an icon’s subject matter directly on the map to save my ideas for later.

Keeping the tree decoration on its own layer allowed me to use a layer clipping mask in Illustrator to quickly crop the edges of the trees to fit the map. Later, I got rid of the layer mask and used individual clipping masks on separate groups of trees so that I could vary their placement. (See the resources at the end of this article for masking tutorials.)

I turned off the layer with notes and printed out a preliminary map in grayscale, at a slightly larger than final size. I laid the printout on my light box and drew letters in ink multiple times to find some that I could combine to make labels for the different locations. I’d later make a 300-DPI TIFF scan of the lettering in Image Capture.

Next, I opened the TIFF in Illustrator and “Image Trace”’d it in black and white, with “Ignore White” turned on. I’ve saved a custom Image Trace preset in Illustrator that I use specifically for my handwriting, to retain as much of the original line character as possible. All of the detail settings are very high, and noise is at the lowest setting:

  • Mode: Black and White
  • Threshold: 128 (default)
  • Paths: 97%
  • Corners: 90%
  • Noise: 1 px
  • Check: “Create Fills,” “Snap Curves to Lines” and “Ignore White”

To save these settings as a custom preset for future use, click the “Manage Presets” button (circled above) on the Image Trace panel, and choose “Save as New Preset.”

After ungrouping the expanded trace, I started assembling the letters into place names and grouping them. Then, I copied and pasted the names onto a separate layer in my map file.

The title was created from a line of type and a rectangle, using Object → Envelope Distort → Make With Warp → Rise. I kept a copy of the “live” envelope objects off to the side, so that I could always adjust the amount of distortion. Then, I chose Object → Expand… to convert the warped type to paths, so that I could change colors and edit further.

I sent my Illustrator sketch positioned in the layout to the art director. At this stage, I showed him the composition and color palette, with a few details to show where I was going with it. In Illustrator, changing the colors or shuffling the composition elements is easy, so I always let the client know that this work is preliminary, even though it looks solid and not “sketchy.” The icons were plain shapes, which allowed me to get my ideas across without investing time in details that might need to be changed later.

Sometimes, I’ll include pencil sketches of the icons, placed on the Illustrator map; in this case, I’d worked with Kevin enough that I could use Illustrator shorthand, and he would know the level of detail to expect from my finished work.

I saved separate AI files for the sketch, comp and final version, so I could always go back and grab something I’d gotten rid of if I decided later that I needed it. Illustrator files are small enough to make this possible without eating up much storage space.

Once I’d finished detailing the final illustration, I got rid of any unused colors on my color palette (Panel Options → Select All Unused, and delete). Then, I saved the color palette for future use (Swatch Libraries Menu → Save Swatches). I can always access it from the same menu under “User Defined” later. Then, I went to “Select All” and chose Edit → Edit Colors → Convert to CMYK. Now, if I clicked on a color in my artwork, I could see the CMYK formula in the color panel.

Finally, I exported a high-resolution CMYK TIFF of the artwork. I could bring this into Photoshop if I needed to make any final adjustments or convert it to RGB for the website. I sent the final TIFF, rather than the Illustrator file, to my client. The final AI file is complex and made up of so many tiny parts that it would be safer for me to do any necessary edits myself. I learned that lesson after receiving a printed cover on which I found my main character’s ear unintentionally floating away!

After a project, I’m always excited to see the final work in print. I filed the magazine away in the hope of getting to see New Zealand some day. In that case, I’ll be tearing out the page.

Further Resources

(al)


© Laura Coyle for Smashing Magazine, 2013.

February 18 2013

20:48

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November 20 2012

00:09

Tribute to Yuri Galitsyn

The Kiev based Ukrainian illustrator and graphic designer Yuri Galitsyn passed away unexpectedly earlier this month.

According to Galitsyn’s LinkedIn profile, he studied book drawing in the early 1980s at the Higher Polygraphic Institute in Kiev (known as the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute) during the twilight years of Soviet ruled Ukraine.

Galitsyn’s body of work was extensive  with a distinct style that incorporated line drawing and animal motifs giving his work a contemporary ’neo-gothic’ feel with the effective use of line weight and shadow to create depth and feeling to his designs.

He was an active member of the online design community. Galitsyn’s Dribble profile displays  more than 2,000 followers and 20,000 ‘likes’ for his designs. His work can be viewed on Dribble.com and LogoMoose (see links at end of post).

As a well-liked and respected member of this community, designers from around the world have publicly shared their feelings about Galitsyn’s death.

“I heard about this tragedy. Really liked his unique style. Glad that you guys didn’t forget him. I think that his style should be called by his name, because I don’t know any other designer who designs logos like that, ” said Lithuanian designer Paulius Kairevičius.

We commissioned Felix Diaconu to curate a roundup of Galitsyn’s most recent designs which we’re publishing today. The Romanian designer says, “The following collection of 25 brilliant logo designs belongs to a great man and designer, Yuri Galitsyn.  Our sincere condolences to Yuri’s family and relatives. R.I.P. Gal! Your work will always be remembered in our hearts!”

Bull Restaurant

Lion Football

Shop Honey

Shaman Letterpess

Charterbook

Oldtimer gallery

Cat logo letterpress

Iron elephant

Raccoon

BTS

Happy Lama

Seahunter

Camel

Hockey

STARCOM

City-bike

Guitarshop

Union Express logo

Dachshund

Gorilla

Hopenia

LOMAPOKO

Scherkhan

Dodo Pizza

Logo of Theater Institute

You can view more examples of his work here:

http://www.logomoose.com/members/Gal/
http://logopond.com/members/profile/showcase/35527
https://www.free-lance.ru/users/urag/

Do you know more? If you knew Yuri personally or just admired this prodigiously talented designer from afar, share a link to your favorite designs of his in the comments below.

November 02 2012

06:41

When & How to Use Illustrator’s Live Trace Feature

Illustrator’s Live Trace option came about with the release of Adobe’s Creative Suite 2, so it has been around for a while. Live Trace was designed as an easy way to convert raster-based graphics into vector graphics, be it either .gif versions of graphics or symbols or .jpg versions of photographs. Anything that involves pixels you can bring into Illustrator and use the Live Trace to produce some sort of vector graphic.

The Live Trace option can be great for many things, but can often be misused too. It is often used to achieve many different ends, such as quickly turning a graphic into a vector without having to redraw it by hand and taking a photograph and giving it an illustrative or graphic appearance. To me, these are often the two extremes on the uses of Live Trace, however, sometimes the result is amazing, other times the result requires some work.

Let’s walk through four situations in which Live Trace is often used, and how you can use Live Trace to help you in those situations.

Typography

If you have a raster-based image that has quite a bit of typography that you are wanting to convert to vectors, Live Trace is not your tool. Since often in raster images, any fonts or letters that were originally produced using a font will not keep their crispness and exact lines, even though to our eyes it appears that way.

thenewyorktimes

Take for instance the logo of The New York Times. The left version looks very clean and crisp, however an up-close inspection on the right shows that it actually isn’t as clean and crisp. Live Trace often has a hard time figuring out which of the pixels should be included and which pixels shouldn’t.

Unless you are working with hand-drawn type that you would like to eventually polish on the computer, using Live Trace to capture type that was computer-generated to begin with is only going to cause you headaches. Live Trace will produce uneven results, often resulting in curvy lines that should be perfectly straight, circles and ovals not perfectly symmetrical that should be, and often an overall rough appearance. You can see this in my attempt to vectorize a .jpg version of The New York Times logo.

times

The top one is the .jpg version and the bottom one is my best attempt to replicate the logo using the basic Live Trace features. In cases with alot of computer-generated type, you are best off finding the font and regenerating the typography yourself.

Let’s try this out using Live Trace. I am using Fuel Your Creativity’s logo (minus the flame) for this example. Opening the bitmap logo in Illustrator, select the logo and look for the option in the option bar at the top for “Live Trace.” For more Live Trace options, we are going to select the down arrow beside the Live Trace button and select “Tracing Options.” You can see this in the example image below. I have two copies of the FYC logo so that the one on the left will be the original as we use Live Trace to vectorize it.

Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 4.22.37 PM

Once you select “Tracing Options,” a dialogue box will appear with several options. To make it easier for you to see what is going on, you can select “Preview” on the right hand side of this dialogue box. Also, for this example it may be best to select “Black and White” from the “Mode” drop box on the left hand side of the dialogue box. You can see a screenshot of what you should be seeing now below.

Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 4.40.43 PM

As you can see, you will need to make some tweaks to the default settings in order to get close to the original on the left hand side. We now know that Live Trace isn’t very good at handling typography, however, adjusting settings on the Live Trace dialogue box (hovering over each option will tell you what each one does) will allow you to get close. Once you have changed the options to produce a result you are ok with, then press “Trace” in the top right corner of the box. To make the tracing a vector, you will need to select “Expand” in the top options box in order to see the vectors. There may be some needed clean up after doing the Live Trace.

Basic and Simple Shapes

Live Trace is ideal for turning bitmap simple shapes into vector shapes that can then be manipulated using other Illustrator tools. Taking the idea of using Live Trace to take bitmap images and making them into vector images, let’s use the flame portion of Fuel Your Creativity’s logo and go about the same process we did above.

Going to the Live Trace options dialogue box and doing the same above, you can see that you can get closer to the actual flame shape than you can with typography. I followed the same idea above and below is my result:

Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 4.51.34 PM

You can see that I was able to get fairly close, although not exact, to the original flame that is on the left. More vector manipulating using the direct select tools and pen tools may be needed to make it exact, but as you can imagine, doing this can save time compared to using the pen tool to just simply trace it.

REAL Hand Drawn Elements

I hinted at this above, but if you have something hand-drawn that you are wanting to convert to vectors, then Live Trace is a great starting place to do this. Although it won’t give you an exact replica of your hand-drawn masterpiece, it is a great way to get all the vectors in place so that you can then go in and make changes as you need.

In order to do this, you will need to scan in your artwork and open it in Illustrator before you can use Live Trace. You can then follow the same steps above for “simple shapes” to help you save time in converting your handwork into vector art that you can use in your designs.

Some tips to make this much easier for you:

  • If at all possible, make your artwork as contrasted as you can. Draw your work on a white sheet of paper and draw in a black marker or Sharpie to allow for maximum contrast. The higher the contrast you use, the better your scanner can scan it for you.
  • Take your scanned image into Photoshop to clean up things such as stray scan marks and anything else you may not want Live Trace to find. You can also up the contrast here as well.
  • When using Live Trace on your hand-draw image, select “ignore white” so that Live Trace does not unintentionally trace large areas of white space.

Manipulating Photographs

If you are needing to change an original photograph to give it a more graphic or illustrative look, Live Trace can help you with that. Since the object is not to produce an exactly replica, some minor changes are acceptable in this process. Live Trace is often used as well to achieve many different effects instead of using things such as Photoshop and Illustrator effects, with the added benefit of being able to manipulate the pieces later.

My favorite thing to do is to take a photograph and manipulate it using Live Trace to give it a nice, illustrative feel. Let’s take for instance the below sunrise (in which you can download for free here)

sunrise

Opening in Illustrator and the Tracing Options dialogue box, some notable changes you can make includes switching to “Color” for the mode and changing the “Max Colors” count to achieve the effect you want. You can also change other options in that dialogue box, but I find that the color options are the best ones to change to achieve great effects. You can see what I was able to do with the above image below:

Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 5.08.23 PM

It is worth noting that different options produce different results. For instance in the above example, I changed the max colors from 20 to 40 and it produced a drastically different image. The one on the left is with 20 max colors, the one on the right is with 40 max colors.

Screen Shot 2012-11-01 at 5.11.29 PM

Conclusion

Live Trace is one of those tools that takes practice before you can really know what all it is capable of. However, with the above examples, you can not only get started using Live Trace, but also know what its expectations and limitations are when working with this powerful tool.

A word of caution: lots of designers get in trouble for taking others’ works and using it with little to no change. Live Trace is often the tool behind such problems, as they feel that if they replicated it through Live Trace than it is theirs. It should be said that you should only use Live Trace on your own elements. I used bitmap images in this example, but to avoid possible copyright claims, you should use your own elements.

August 28 2012

07:37

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Set of Sleek Web Ribbons


  

In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a set of sleek web ribbons. We’ll start with two simple shapes and some basic masking techniques. Next, using a simple rectangle and some simple vector shape building techniques we’ll create the overall ribbon shape. Once we have the starting shapes we’ll continue with the smaller parts. Using some Pathfinder options, several Warp and Gaussian Blur effects plus some basic blending techniques we’ll add the final touches.

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Open Illustrator and hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width and height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a gridline every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box.

You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Pick the Ellipse Tool(L) and create a 250 by 40px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below, lower its opacity to 50% and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 5px radius and click OK. Bear in mind that the yellow zero from the gradient image stands for opacity percentage. Switch to the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 350 by 50px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the second image. Reselect both shapes, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel, click on Make Opacity Mask then uncheck the Clip box. In the end your masked ellipse should look like in the third image.

Step 3

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 180 by 75px shape, fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it as shown in the following image. The white numbers from the gradient image stand for location percentage.

Step 4

Reselect the rectangle created in the previous step and go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. Keep focusing on this shape and grab the Direct Selection Tool(A). Select the middle, bottom anchor point and drag it 15px up. In the end your shape should look like in the second image. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this shape and name it "Ribbon".

Step 5

Focus on the top, right corner of the shape edited in the previous step. Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 10px square, fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it as shown in the following image. Focus on this new shape, grab the Delete Anchor Point Tool(-) and click on the top, right anchor point. This will remove the anchor point turning your square into a triangle.

Step 6

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Reselect the triangle shape created in the previous step and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px to the right using the right arrow from your keyboard.

Reselect both copies, open the Pathfinder panel and click on the Minus Front button. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 15%. Focus on this new shape, grab the Delete Anchor Point Tool(-) and get rid of the top, right anchor point. In the end your shape should look like in the fourth image.

Step 7

Reselect the triangle shape created in the fifth step and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 3px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 15%. Focus on this new shape, grab the Delete Anchor Point Tool(-) and get rid of the top, right anchor point. In the end your shape should look like in the fourth image.

Step 8

Reselect the triangle shape along with the two shapes created in the previous two steps and group them (Control + G). Make sure that this new group is selected and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the data shown below and click OK.

Step 9

Enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Reselect the group created in the previous step and go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Check the Vertical button and click on the Copy button. This will create a horizontally flipped copy of your group. Select it, drag it to the left and place it as shown in the third image. The Snap to Grid will ease your work.

Step 10

Reselect "Ribbon" and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill and go to Effect > Warp > Shell Lower. Enter the data shown below and click OK. Make a copy of "Ribbon" (Control + C > Control + F), select it and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this new shape and name it "RibbonExpanded".

Step 11

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 5px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Ungroup the resulting group of shapes (Shift + Control + G). Delete the thin, right shape and fill the other one with white. Also, lower its opacity to 40% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 12

Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 10px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Ungroup the resulting group of shapes (Shift + Control + G). Delete the thin, right shape and fill the other one with black. Also, lower its opacity to 20% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 13

Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 5px to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Ungroup the resulting group of shapes (Shift + Control + G). Delete the thin, left shape and fill the other one with white. Also, lower its opacity to 40% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 14

Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 10px to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Ungroup the resulting group of shapes (Shift + Control + G). Delete the thin, left shape and fill the one shape with black. Also, lower its opacity to 20% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 15

Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

Step 16

Reselect "RibbonExpanded" and make two, new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image and change its blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 17

Enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Pick the Ellipse Tool(L), create a 240 by 45px shape, fill it with a random color and place it as shown in the first image. Select this new shape along with "RibbonExpanded" and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image, lower its opacity to 40% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 18

Reselect "Ribbon", focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select it, drag it in the bottom of the Appearance panel, make it black, lower its opacity to 7% and go to Effect > Warp > Shell Lower. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Step 19

Reselect "Ribbon", focus on the Appearance panel and add a third fill. Select it, drag it in the bottom of the Appearance panel, make it black, lower its opacity to 10% and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 3px radius and click OK.

Step 20

For the following step you will need a grid every 1px. So, go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box. Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create a 280 by 1px shape. Place it as shown in the following image, fill it with the linear gradient shown in the first image then send it to back (Shift + Control + [ ).

Step 21

Let’s add a simple background for our ribbon. Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a shape the size of your artboard, fill it with R=190 G=190 B=190 and send it to back (Shift + Control + [ ).

Step 22

Disable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Reselect the thin rectangle created in the twentieth step and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select it and move it 1px down using the down arrow. Make sure that your copy is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and replace the existing linear gradient with the one shown in the following image.

Step 23

Pick the Type Tool(T) and add your text. Set its color at R=42 G=92 B=5 then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown below and click OK.

Step 24

Reselect the rectangle used for the background, focus on the Appearance panel, add a second fill and use the radial gradient shown below. Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a third fill for this shape. You’ll need a built-in pattern for this new fill. Go to the Swatches panel, open the fly-out menu and go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures.

A new window with a set of built-in patterns should open. Make sure that your background rectangle is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and select that third fill. Lower its opacity to 20%, change the blending mode to Multiply and add the "USGS 19 Land Inundation" pattern.

Step 25

Finally, here’s a quick technique that you can use to recolor your ribbon. Select all the shapes that make up your ribbon and go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork. Click on the Edit button, make sure that the "Recolor Art" and the "Link Color Harmony" buttons are checked then play with the color handles.

And We’re Done!

Once again, here’s how your final result should look.

Now that we have made it to the end, we would like to know your thoughts on this new tutorial. Leave us your two cents in the comments.

(rb)

August 23 2012

09:23

How to Prepare a Business Card for Print in Illustrator

Advertise here via BSA

Believe it or not, print isn’t dead! Although much of today’s advertising is going to more electronic means, there are still a vast amount of printing being done every single day. Many freelance graphic designers are still working on print projects for clients, communicating with printers, and sending their designs to print.

It is often much easier to publish something electronically than for print. With sending something to print, you have many things you must do in order to prepare your file for printing, depending on the printer you are working with.

In this article, I am going to walk you through the several steps you can do to prepare a business card for print. Although I focus on a business card here, these same tips can be applied to other printed pieces as well, such as post cards, letterhead, invitations, and the like.

First, make a copy of the document

First and foremost, after your document is finalized and before you start prepping it for print, it is vital that you save a copy of the document and work on the copy. I recommend labeling the document with “print ready” or “for print” in the title, so that you know that the print ready file is not the original, editable file.

Some of the things I discuss below are irreversible (without a ton of work) once you do them, which is why it is best to keep the original file so that in the future if you need to make changes, it is easy to do so.

Get printing specs from printer (if possible)

Since every printer is going to want files differently, it is important to contact the printer you plan to send your file(s) to and ask them if they have any specific requirements. They may often tell you that they need the font files or outline the text, account for a specific amount of bleed, save in a certain format, etc. Make note of these requirements and adjust the below mentioned steps as needed. If you don’t know who the printer is going to be, then the steps below should get your file(s) closer to print ready with only minimal changes required once a printer has been selected.

Outline Fonts

The very first thing I do is outline the type in my document. I do this for a couple of reasons: I don’t want to spend time finding the font file and sending with my document and most font licenses don’t allow you to give the files to other people. Some printers I have worked with try to get the font, but I simply just outline the text and explain that the fonts have been outlined.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 12.38.46 PM

In Illustrator, this is done by selecting all of the text (that is editable), then go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift-Command-O on Mac or Shift-Ctrl-O on Windows). The type now becomes vector shapes. Once you do this and exit out of the document, you can no longer edit the text unless you simply redo it.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 12.45.19 PM

Check and adjust your bleeds

A bleed (in graphic design and printing) is any area on a printed document where the ink must run off the edge of the paper. Thus, in your document, you should actually run any colors off of the edge and then some to accomodate for the printer cutting your piece to the appropriate size. As you can see in my business card above, I indeed have a bleed on all four sides of my business card (please note that my business card size above is 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches).

Sending my card to print right now, with the bleed only going to the edge of the 3.5 by 1.5 size, I could get my cards back having some white borders on some of the edges of the card. Why? Because it actually is not a true bleed. Printers reserve a fraction of an itch of wiggle room for their cutting machines. In essence, you need to prep your file to cover their non-exact cutting. You will need to push your bleed further than the actual size of your document.

If your document has a bleed, there are a couple of ways to indicate this in your file and accomodate it, and the way printers want you to do it often varies from printer to printer. Since mostly every printer is different, and every program they use is equally different, below is the way to prep your business card for any program and for most printers.

In Illustrator, draw a rectangle around your business card to the exact size and in the exact place you want the printer to cut your card (in the image below the rectangle has a red stroke so that you can see the shape I drew–you should make yours have no fill and no stroke color).

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 12.57.58 PM

Next, while the shape is still selected, go to Effect > Crop Marks. You should now have printer marks around your business card that indicate exactly where you want the printer to cut your cards. Your business card with the crop marks should look similar to mine below.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 1.00.45 PM

With crop marks in place, we still need to make our document program-independent, meaning if our file is opened in a program other than Illustrator, or in an older version of Illustrator, the printer should still see your file. Since older versions of Illustrator and other vector-based programs do not render art boards properly, it can cause your artwork to potentially be cut off or not seen by the printer, so we need to change the size of our art board if we have it set to be the size of our business card.

Select the Artboard tool from the tool panel (one of the last four in the tools panel). Illustrator will then show you your art boards by graying everything out around the art boards. Now grab the art board and push the edges so that they are past your crop marks (see before and after shots below).

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 1.06.55 PM

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 1.07.41 PM

We aren’t done yet! We still need to set the bleeds. Since I am a very visual person, I like to see where my safe zone, cut area, and bleed areas are. For the sake of this tutorial, let’s say the safe area is 1/8th inch from the cut area (that means all important things that should not be cut off should be 1/8th inch from the edge) and the bleed is 1/8th inch on the outside of the cut area.

To mark off these areas, I like to use guides. I went ahead and set the safe area, cut area, and bleed area in my business card using guides, which you can see below.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 1.30.22 PM

Finally, we push all of our bleeds out to our bleed guide we created, as seen below.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 1.32.25 PM

Check for colors

The business card example I have been using above uses one color: blue. But what if you have several colors in your business card? If you have multiple colors in your business card, then you have two options for printing: digital printing or offset printing.

Digital Printing

Prepping your files for digital printing when it comes to your colors is easier than for offset printing. A word of caution however, just because it is easier to prep doesn’t mean that you are free from color shifts or undesirable colors. While the different types of settings on your program, what the printer requires, and how sensitive you are to accurate colors for a digital print could be an article in and of itself, keep in mind that you could have some color shifts and taking extra care in making sure the colors are what you want is important at this step.

With that caution behind us, for digital printing processes, your printer will either want the document and colors to be CMYK or RGB. For this tutorial let’s say the printer wants your document and colors to be in CMYK. First place to check this out is the document itself. Go to File > Document Color Mode. Make sure CMYK is selected if it is not already.

Next, select everything in your document and go to Edit > Edit Colors > Convert to CMYK. Now all of your objects should be using CMYK colors. You can check this by selecting anything in your document and going to the colors panel. If the color is made up of CMYK, then it is correct, however if the color is made up of RBG, then you need to repeat the steps above. Just remember this could cause color shifts (not always evident on screen).

Offset Printing

If your business card is being printed using offset printing, you can check to make sure everything is properly indicated for the right color. For simplicity, I am going to use the back of my business card above and use PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors. In my card below I have three PMS colors: PMS Black at 90% (Gray), PMS 298 (Blue), and PMS 381 (Green).

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 2.02.27 PM

To check to see if your objects are in PMS colors, click each one and look in the color panel. If it gives the correct name of the PMS color there, then you have designated that object as a PMS color. If you see numbers for either CMYK or RBG colors, then you must designate that object as a PMS color.

To pick a PMS color, go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Color Books > Pantone Solid Uncoated (or the option of your choice). A new window will appear with all of the PMS swatches. Select the object then select the appropriate swatch.

Now in the color panel you should see the name of the PMS color you selected. Repeat for all the other objects in your document. I went through and did all of the objects in the appropriate PMS color for my business card seen below (note color shifts from the one above – read my note above about color shifts).

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 2.27.15 PM

The best way to check now to make sure the printer will see the right colors is to print color separations digitally. You can do this on your computer and it requires no actual physical printing. Unfortunately, Illustrator doesn’t make this process easy so please bare with me.

Go to File > Print. In the print dialogue box, select “Adobe PostScript” in the printer drop down and select your local desktop printer in the PPD drop down. Next, select “Output” in the option box on the left hand side. Your print dialogue box should look like this one.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 2.37.02 PM

Next, select “Separations (Host-Based)” where it says “Composite.” Click the printer icons to the left of every color that is not one of the PMS colors you want to print (so that the printer icon is no longer in that box). Finally, click “Save” at the bottom and in the dialogue box save it to your desktop for now.

Find the file on your desktop and open it in Adobe Acrobat. This will convert the .PS file into a .PDF file so you can view it. Each page of the resulting PDF will show in black what each color will print. You can see where the page count is in Adobe Acrobat the name of the PMS color for that page. Flip through and make sure everything appears right. If something is wrong, you can go back and check to make sure every object is designated the correct PMS color. Below is a screenshot of the PMS Black at 90% separation for the back of my business card.

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 2.47.19 PM

Die-cuts, Foils and Spot UV

If you have special effects going on with your business card, they require attention as well. Three common effects used in printing today include die-cuts, foils, and spot UV (or spot gloss). Foils and spot UV can be prepped the same way for printing, however die-cuts are prepped for differently. Depending on your printer’s requirements, they may either want these special effects in a different document or in a different layer in Illustrator. We are going to do them in a different layer.

Die-cuts

In short, die-cuts are special made dies (or cutters) that are designed to create a special shape (think cookie cutters). They are often used to cut circle business cards, business cards with rounded corners, or a custom shape. I am going to show you how to prep a card for rounded corners die-cutting, but the same applies to any shape.

Taking the back of my business card above, I would like to add rounded corners to it. The best way to do this is to do it on a separate layer. Create a new layer and name it “Die-Cut.” Next, using the Rounded Rectangle tool, I create the shape that I want my final business card to be. You can see the shape (with no fill or stroke color) in the image below (I have some bleed on my card that is why the shape is not all the way out to the edge of the gray). Finally, all you have to do is inform your printer the name of the die-cut layer!

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 3.02.04 PM

Foils and Spot UV

These can be done in a similar fashion as die-cuts, only making the shape a solid black color. Let’s walk through the process together for the spot UV on my business cards (keep in mind it is exactly the same as foil too). As you can see below, I want part of my logo in spot UV over the front of my business card, show in black below. All I have to do is make sure it is where I want it to be, then move it to a new layer (create a new layer, name new layer “spot UV,” select new layer, right-click object then select Arrange > Send to Current Layer).

Screen Shot 2012-08-22 at 3.16.23 PM

A little messy looking, I know, but this along with telling the printer you want spot UV (or foil) should be all the indication they need to properly print your cards.

File Delivery

Again, every printer is different, however once you do all the prep work above, the only file you should have to send to the printer is a PDF file of each side of your document (or however they want you to send it to them). If your printer can take .EPS or .AI files, then you can send them your print-ready files in that format as well, but also send them a PDF so that they can work from either type and see how you want your final product to be.

I always like to be on the super safe and clear side, so I often send along a JPG or PNG version of the card as well, one for each side and one for the color part and one for any special effects, just so it is crystal clear to the printer. Doing a little bit of leg work on your end can help get your card printed faster and accurate. It also never hurts to ask for a proof as well, and approve the proof, so that if something does come back incorrect, the printer will be responsible for it if you approved the proof.

A note about detailed business card designs

The one I used in this tutorial was a simple design with only a few colors, however if you have an extremely detailed business card, you may run into situations that require more prepress work, such as intricate lines with strokes, overlapping objects, trapping and knockouts, photographs, several special effects, etc. It is almost impossible to cover each one in this article but a quick Google search and/or a chat with your printer should help you in your prepress work.

Conclusion

Taking the extra steps to ensure your business card (or any printed document) is prepped for the printer will not only save you some headache with your printer, but also save you money, as some printers charge you prepress fees for this type of work. Why get charged a fee when it is easy to prep your own document? Just keep in mind that a lot of headache can be saved by talking to your printer to find out their requirements first.

August 16 2012

07:43

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Simple Drop-Down Menu


  

In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a detailed web element, a simple drop-down menu. We’ll start with a bunch rectangles and simple paths, some basic vector shape building techniques and the Rounded Corners effect. Once we have our starting shapes we’ll continue with the colors. We’ll use multiple fills and strokes along with the Drop Shadow effect and some simple blending techniques. Finally, we’ll add the text. Let’s get started.

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating.

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width and height boxes then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before you click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a grid every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box.

You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Start with the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 200 by 50px shape, fill it with R=96 G=96 B=96 and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting shape and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). You’ll need it for the next step.

Step 3

Grab the Pen Tool(P), draw a 60px vertical path and place it as shown in the first image. The Snap to Grid will ease your work. Select it along with the copy of the rounded rectangle created in the previous step, open the Pathfinder panel and click on the Divide button. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group of shapes and ungroup it (Shift + Control + G).

Step 4

Focus on the right shape created in the previous step. Select it and replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Make sure that this shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a 2pt stroke. Select it, set its color at R=143 G=248 B=168, align it to inside, lower the opacity to 60% and change the blending mode to Screen.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second stroke for your shape using the Add New Stroke button. Select this new stroke, make it 1pt wide, set its color at R=0 G=128 B=60 and make sure that it’s aligned to the inside.

Step 5

Next, you need to copy the properties used for the shape edited in the previous step and paste them onto the other shape created in the third step. Here is how you can easily do it. Go to the Layers panel, focus on the right side and you’ll notice that every shape comes with a little grey circle. It’s called a target icon. Hold Alt, click on the target icon that stands for the shape edited in the previous step and drag onto the circle that stands for the second shape created in the third step.

Step 6

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 10px square, fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it as shown in the first image. Focus on this new shape and grab the Direct Selection Tool(A). Select the bottom anchor points and go to Object > Path > Offset Path (Alt + Control + J). Check the Both button and click OK. This should turn your little square into a triangle.

Step 7

Reselect the triangle created in the previous step and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1px radius and click OK. Focus on the Appearance panel and add a 1pt stroke for this shape. Make it 1pt wide, align it to the outside and set its color at R=0 G=128 B=60. Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second fill for this triangle using the Add New Fill button.

Select it, drag it below the existing fill, add the linear gradient shown in the following image and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 2px offset and click OK. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for opacity percentage. Make sure that this new fill is still selected then lower its opacity to 50% and change the blending mode to Screen.

Step 8

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Pick the Type Tool(T) and add your white "Menu" text. Use the MoolBoran font with the size set at 23pt. Select this text, focus on the Appearance panel and add two fills and a stroke using the Add New Fill and Add New Stroke buttons. Select the bottom fill, lower its opacity to 40%, change the blending mode to Screen and add the bottom linear gradient shown in the following image then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 2px Offset and click OK.

Return to the Appearance panel, select the second fill and use the top linear gradient shown below. Move up in the Appearance panel, select the stroke, make it 1pt wide, set its color at R=0 G=128 B=60 and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 0.5px Offset and click OK.

Step 9

Reselect the grey rounded rectangle created in the second step and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the top window (in the image), click OK and go again to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the middle window, click OK and go one more time to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the bottom window and click OK.

Step 10

Reselect all the shapes created so far and group them (Control + G). This will be your closed drop-down menu. Make a copy of this group (Control + C > Control + F) then move to the Layers panel and turn off the visibility for the original group by clicking on the little eye icon.

Step 11

Focus on the remaining, visible group created in the previous step. First, select the left, green shape and delete it. Next, focus on the "Menu" text. Select it and move to the Appearance panel. Remove the bottom fill and the stroke then select the remaining fill and replace the existing linear gradient with the one shown in the following image. Also, with this text still selected go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown in the following image and click OK.

Step 12

Reselect the grey rounded rectangle and replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Add a 2pt stroke for this shape, set its color at R=165 G=165 B=165 and align it to the inside. Focus on the Appearance panel, add a second stroke for this shape, make it 1pt wide, set its color at R=20 G=20 B=20 and align it to the inside.

Step 13

Reselect the shape edited in the previous step and focus on the Appearance panel. Add three new strokes and drag them below the existing ones. Select the bottom one, make it 11pt wide, set its color at R=35 G=31 B=32 and lower its opacity to 10%. Select the middle one, make it 8pt wide, set its color at R=35 G=31 B=32 and lower its opacity to 10%. Select the top one, make it 8pt wide, set its color at R=35 G=31 B=32 and lower its opacity to 10%.

Step 14

Move to the little arrow shape, select it and focus on the Appearance panel. First, replace the linear gradient used for the top fill with the one shown in the following image. Next, add a new stroke and drag it below the existing one. Select it, make it 1pt wide, align it to inside, set its color at R=20 G=20 B=20 and lower its opacity to 50%.

Step 15

Enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Grab the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 200 by 270px shape, fill it with R=96 G=96 B=96 and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting shape and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F).

Step 16

Pick the Pen Tool(P), draw a 210px horizontal path and place it as shown in the following image.

Step 17

Reselect the path created in the previous step and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

More on Page Two

Halfway through the tutorial, but don’t stop here. There is more on page two.

August 07 2012

07:41

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Detailed Dynamite Illustration


  

In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a detailed dynamite illustration. We’ll start by turning some plain text into a symbol, and by making some simple rectangles. Once we have our starting shapes, we’ll continue with some Extrude&Bevel and Warp effects plus some Pathfinder options along with a bunch of basic blending techniques. For the final touches we’ll use some complex linear gradients and some blur effects.

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width and height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before you click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a grid every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box.

You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Start with the Type Tool(T) and add your black, "dynamite" text. Use the Myriad, Bold font with the size set at 10pt. Open the Symbols panel (Window > Symbols). Make sure that your text is still selected and click on the New Symbol button from the bottom of the Symbols panel. Pick a name for your symbol and click OK. Make sure that your new symbol shows up in the Symbols panel then remove the one from the Layers panel.

Step 3

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create two, 50 by 315px shapes. Fill them both with R=153 G=30 B=45 and place them as shown in the following image. The Snap to Grid will ease your work.

Step 4

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create two, 25 by 315px shape. Fill them both with white and place them as shown in the following image.

Step 5

Reselect the right, white rectangle created in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude& Bevel. Enter the data shown in the following image and click on the Map Art button. Go to"Surface 1" and select the "dynamite" symbol from the Symbol drop down menu. Rotate it and place it as shown in following image then click OK. Make sure that this white rectangle is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Step 6

Move to the other white rectangle created in the fourth step. Select it and add the same Extrude&Bevel properties used in the previous step. The only thing that you need to change is the position of the symbol from the map art menu. Don’t forget to go to Object > Expand Appearance after you add all these properties.

Step 7

Focus on the two groups created in the last two steps. Move to the Layers panel, drag the wrapped symbols outside their groups then delete the rest of the shapes. Reselect the wrapped symbols one by one and turn them into compound paths (Object > Compound Path > Make).

Step 8

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 50 by 325px shape, fill it with R=190 G=30 B=45 and place it as shown in the first image. Continue with the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 25 by 325px shape, fill it with white and place it as is shown in the second image.

Step 9

Reselect the white shape created in the previous step and add the Extrude and Bevel effect used in the previous steps. Don’t forget to add the symbol as shown in the first image. Once you add all these effects go to Object > Expand Appearance. Again, keep the wrapped text and delete the rest of the shapes. Also, don’t forget to turn the wrapped text into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).

Step 10

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 50 by 325px shape, fill it with R=212 G=30 B=45 and place it as shown in the first image. Continue with the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 25 by 325px shape, fill it with white and place it as shown in the second image. Select this white rectangle and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F).

Step 11

Reselect the copy of the white rectangle created in the previous step, add the Extrude and Bevel effect (and the symbol as shown in the first image) and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Focus on the resulting group of shapes, turn the wrapped text into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make) and delete the rest of the shapes. Select the other white rectangle created in the previous step, add the Extrude and Bevel effect (and the symbol as shown in the third image) and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Focus on the resulting group of shapes, turn the wrapped text into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make) and delete the rest of the shapes.

Step 12

Reselect the compound paths created in the previous steps, make sure that they’re all filled with black and lower their opacity to 15%. Select the four, red rectangles and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 2px radius, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. Enter the data shown in the following image, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Step 13

Reselect the right, red shape and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 325px shape, fill it with white and place it as shown in the second image. Select it along with one of the copies created in the beginning of the step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 30% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 14

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 325px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with the other copy of the red shape created in previous step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 15

Reselect the left, red shape and make three copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F > Control + F). Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 325px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the second image. Select it along with one of the copies created in the beginning of the step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 16

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 10 by 325px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with one of the copies created in previous step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 17

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 325px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with the remaining copy created in step 15 and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 18

Reselect the right middle, red shape and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 335px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the second image. Select it along with one of the copies created in the beginning of the step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 19

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 15 by 335px shape, fill it with white and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with the other copy of the red shape created in previous step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 30% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 20

Reselect the left middle, red shape and make three copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F > Control + F). Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 10 by 335px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the second image. Select it along with one of the copies created in the beginning of the step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 21

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 5 by 323px shape, fill it with black and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with one of the copies created in previous step and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 25% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 22

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 15 by 335px shape, fill it with white and place it as shown in the first image. Select it along with the remaining copy created in step #20 and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, lower its opacity to 30% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 23

Select all the shapes that make up the left dynamite and group them (Control + G). Continue and create three new groups. One with the shapes that make the left dynamite, one with the shapes that make up the middle left dynamite and one with the shapes that make up the middle right dynamite.

Step 24

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Focus on the middle left dynamite, select the main red shape and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down using the down arrow. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=110 G=30 B=45.

Step 25

Reselect the main red shape from the middle left dynamite group and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px down using the down arrow. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 75% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 26

Reselect the main red shape from the middle left dynamite group and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up using the up arrow. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=110 G=30 B=45.

Step 27

Reselect the main red shape from the middle left dynamite group and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px up using the up arrow. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 75% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Step 28

Move to the other dynamite shapes and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last four steps.

More on Page Two

That get’s us about halfway there! Head on over to page two to finish up the tutorial and put the finishing touches on your illustration.

May 01 2012

17:08

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Semi-Realistic Oil Barrel Illustration


  

In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a semi-realistic oil barrel illustration. First, we’ll use several rectangles along with some professional pixel perfect vector shape building techniques to create the starting shapes. Next, we’ll break some of the starting shapes apart as needed using a bunch of Pathfinder tools.

Once the overall illustration comes together, we’ll use some warp effects to add a three-dimensional look to the oil barrel. Finally, we’ll add a grungy texture using a simple radial gradient, some simple blending techniques and a Sponge effect. The final color used for the oil barrel is easily editable so it won’t be difficult for you to use the colors that you like.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width and height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a grid every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box.

You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create eight 130 by 225px shapes. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below then make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). The white numbers from the gradient image stand for location percentage.

Step 3

Again, use the Rectangle Tool(M) and create four, 140 by 5px shapes. Fill them with a simple red, and place them as shown in the following image. The Snap to Grid should ease your work. Select all four rectangles and turn them into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).

Step 4

Select the compound path created in the previous step along with the copy of the rectangle created in the second step, then open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Minus Front button. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a group with three simple rectangles. Ungroup them (Shift + Control + G), fill them with white then duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F).

Step 5

Pick the Ellipse Tool(L), create two, 180 by 65px shapes and a 180 by 75px shape. Fill them with a random color and place them as shown in the following image. Again, the Snap to Grid will ease your work.

Step 6

Focus on top shape created in the previous step. Select it along with the copy of the top, white rectangle and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a group with four new shapes. Select the two, left shapes and lower their opacity to 35% then select the other two shapes and lower their opacity to 15%. Finally, fill them with the linear gradient shown below. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for opacity percentage.

Step 7

Move to the other two shapes created in the fifth step and repeat the techniques mentioned in the previous step.

Step 8

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Focus on the top, white rectangle, select it and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35 G=31 B=32.

Step 9

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35 G=31 B=32.

Step 10

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=78 G=78 B=78.

Step 11

Move down to the other two white rectangles and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last three steps.

Step 12

Focus on the top, white rectangle, select it and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting with black and lower its opacity to 35%.

Step 13

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 3px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 14

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 5px down. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

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Step 15

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 15%.

Step 16

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 3px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 17

Reselect the top, white rectangle and make only one copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select it and move it 5px down. Select this copy along with the original white shape and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black and lower its opacity to 5%.

Step 18

Move to the other two white rectangles and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last six steps.

More to Learn on Page Two

We are just over halfway through the tutorial, but don’t stop here. There is still some more to learn to finish up the oil barrels waiting for you over on page two.

April 10 2012

07:59

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Simple Map Illustration


  

In the following Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create your very own simple vector map illustration. First, we’ll build the starting shapes using pixel perfect alignment, some basic vector shape building techniques along with a bunch of warp effects. Then we will put on the finishing touches. We will add the colors along with some simple effects and highlights to give it that final bit of character.

Final Image

As always, this is the final image that we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 7000 in the width box and 500 in the height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid).

Next, you’ll need a grid every 10px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 10 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All of these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create eight, 120 by 110px shapes. Place them as shown in the following image and fill them with the two colors shown below.

Step 3

Pick the Direct Selection Tool(A), select the anchor points highlighted in the first image and drag them 10px down. The Snap to Grid should ease your work.

Step 4

Now we will help the map sections take shape. Take the first column of blue shapes. Select the top shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Again, enter the data shown, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Once again, enter the data shown below and click OK.

Move on to the bottom shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown in the following image, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Once again, enter the data shown below and click OK.

Step 5

Focus on the fourth column of shapes. Select the top shape and like before, go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Again, enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Once again, use the data provided below and click OK. Move to bottom shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data and click OK.

Step 6

Now move on to the second column of shapes. Select the top shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Use the data provided, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data shown below and click OK. Move to the bottom shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data shown and click OK.

Step 7

Select the third column of shapes. Take the top shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Upper. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data shown below and click OK. Now move on to the bottom shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data provided, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Flag. Again, enter the data given and click OK.

Now that we have the basics of the folds created we shall move on.

Step 8

Select all the shapes created so far and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting shapes and duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F). Select these copies, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Unite button. Most likely your resulting shape has a few gaps.

Step 9

Now we need get rid of these gaps. Pick the Pen Tool(P) and draw a simple shape around those gaps. Select this new shape along with the shape created in the previous step and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Send the resulting shape to the back (Shift + Control + [ ) and add a 1pt stroke. Align it to the outside and set its color at R=117 G=174 B=136. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this new shape and name it "Map".

Step 10

Focus on the eight, blue shapes. Select the top, left shape, make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to the front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this copy along with the bottom, right blue shape and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Step 11

Keep focusing on the eight, blue shapes. Select the top, right shape, make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this copy along with the bottom, right blue shape and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Step 12

Move over to the Layers panel, select "Map" and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 5px offset and click OK. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the second image and set the stroke color at R=215 G=215 B=215. The white numbers from the gradient image stand for location percentage.

Step 13

Disable Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Select the shape created in the previous step and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and hit the up arrow once (to move it 1px up). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=190 G=190 B=190 and remove the color from the stroke.

Step 14

Reselect the shape created in the twelfth step and open the Appearance panel. Add a second fill for this shape using the Add new Fill button. It’s the little, white square icon from the bottom of the Appearance panel. Select this new fill, make it black, lower its opacity to 3%, change the blending mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the data shown below and click OK.

Step 15

Reselect "Map", make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and send it to the back (Shift + Control + [ ). Fill this copy with black, move it 10px down. Lower its opacity to 10% and go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Enter the data shown in the final image, click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 3px radius and click OK.

Step 16

Select the top, blue shape from the second column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down and 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 10% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 17

Select the bottom, blue shape from the second column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up and 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 10% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 18

Select the top, blue shape from the fourth column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down and 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 10% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 19

Select the bottom, blue shape from the fourth column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up and 2px to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its opacity to 10% and change the blending mode to Soft Light.

Step 20

Select the bottom, blue shape from the first column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 10px down and to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white. Switch to the Delete Anchor Points Tool(-), make sure that your white shape is still selected and click on the two anchor points highlighted in the third image. In the end your shape should look like is shown in the fourth image.

Step 21

Reselect the shape created in the previous step, lower its opacity to 8% and fill it with the linear gradient shown below. Remember that the white number from the gradient stands for location percentage while the yellow zero stands for opacity percentage.

Step 22

Repeat the techniques mentioned in the last two steps and create the three shapes shown in the following images.

Step 23

Select the bottom, blue shape from the second column and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 15px up. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the third image and lower its opacity to 15%. Repeat this technique for the bottom, blue shape from the fourth column.

Step 24

Select the top, blue shape from the first column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Lower its opacity to 20% and fill it with the linear gradient shown below.

Step 25

Select the bottom, blue shape from the first column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Fill it with the linear gradient shown in the second image and move over to the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill and lower its opacity to 20%. Add a second fill for this shape, select it from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 50% and use the linear gradient shown in the third image.

Step 26

Select the bottom, blue shape from the second column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Fill it with the linear gradient shown in the second image and move to the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill and lower its opacity to 20%. Add a second fill for this shape, select it from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 40% and use the linear gradient shown in the third image.

Step 27

Select the top, blue shape from the second column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Now, you need to copy the properties added for the shape created in the previous step to this copy. Here is how you can easily do it. Go to the Layers panel, focus on the right side and you'll notice that every shape comes with a little grey circle. It's called a target icon. Hold Alt, click on the circle that stands for the shape created in the previous step and drag onto the circle that stands for the copy created in the beginning of this step.

Step 28

Select the top, blue shape from the third column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Fill it with the linear gradient shown in the second image and move to the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill and lower its opacity to 25%. Add a second fill for this shape, select it from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 20% and use the linear gradient shown in the third image.

Step 29

Select the bottom, blue shape from the third column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Again, copy the properties from the shape created in the previous step to this fresh copy.

Step 30

Select the bottom, blue shape from the fourth column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Fill it with the linear gradient shown in the second image and move over to the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill and lower its opacity to 40%. Add a second fill for this shape, select it from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 50% and use the linear gradient shown in the third image.

Step 31

Select the top, blue shape from the fourth column and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Lower its opacity to 40% and fill it with the linear gradient shown below.

Step 32

Select all the shapes created in the last sixteen steps and group them (Control + G).

Step 33

For the map you need to start with this simple image . Save it to your hard drive and drag it inside your Ai file. Select it and open the Transform panel (Window > Transform). Check the "Constrain Width and Height" button then enter 500 in the Width box. Select this resized shape.

First, go to Object > Live Trace > Make then go to Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. Enter the data shown below, make sure that you check the "Ignore White" box, click on the Trance button then go to Object > Live Trace > Expand. Select the resulting group of shapes and go to Object > Compound Path > Make.

Step 34

Select the compound path created in the previous step and place it as shown in the first image. Reselect the "Map" shape, make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this new copy along with the compound path and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object. In the end your compound path should look like it’s shown in the fourth image.

Step 35

Reselect the compound path, move to the Transform panel and enter 350 in the Width box. Make sure that your compound path is still selected, change its blending mode to Soft Light then drag it below the group created in step #32 (in the Layers panel).

Step 36

Reselect the "Map", make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Fill it with white, change its blending mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Enter the data shown below and click OK.

Step 37

Finally, let’s add a nice background. Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a shape the size of your artboard, fill it with R=240 G=240 B=240 and send it to the back (Shift + Control + [ ). Add a second fill for this shape and use the radial gradient shown below.

Step 38

For this final step you will need a built-in pattern. Open the fly-out menu of the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) and go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures. A new window with a bunch of patterns should open. Look for the "Diamond" pattern. Reselect the shape created in the previous step and add a new fill. Select it from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 15%, change the blending mode to Color Burn, add the "Diamond" pattern and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the data shown below, click OK.

And We’re Done!

Once more here is a look at what your final result should resemble. We hope that you all enjoyed this all new Adobe Illustrator tutorial and that it was easy to follow along with. Feel free to leave us your thoughts, critiques, or questions in the comment section below.

(rb)

March 28 2012

07:47

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Create a Detailed Restaurant Chalkboard


  

In the following new Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a detailed restaurant specials style chalkboard. We’ll start with the Rectangle Tool and some simple vector shape building techniques. Once you have your starting shapes you can continue and add the colors. We’ll use multiple fills and strokes along with a bunch of new effects and some simple blending techniques. For the finishing touches, we’ll use several built in brushes and patterns along with some simple masking techniques.

This is a pretty challenging tutorial, but with patience and some basic Illustrator knowledge you will make it through, and have a new illustration to play with. We hope that you enjoy the process. Here is a peek at the final image we’ll be creating:

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Enter 850 in the width box and 650 in the height box then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK.

Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Next, you’ll need a grid every 10px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 10 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes.

Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create a 640 by 420px. Fill it with R=140 G=105 B=75, remove the color from the stroke and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 10px radius, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Step 3

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 590 by 370px shape, fill it with black and open the Align panel (Window > Align). Pick the Selection Tool(V), select the two shapes created so far and click on the border of the shape created in the previous step (it should get emphasized). With this selection still active, move to the Align panel and simply click on the Vertical Align Center and Horizontal Align Center buttons. In the end your black shape should be centered as shown below.

Step 4

Reselect the two shapes created in the previous steps, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Minus Front button. The resulting shape should look like in the second image. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this fresh compound path and name it "Frame".

Step 5

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Select the "Frame" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and simply hit the down arrow once. This will move your selected shape down 1px.

Reselect both "Frame" copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a new group with two shapes. Select it, turn it into a compound path (Object > Compound Pat > Make) and fill it with R= 169 G=124 B=80.

Step 6

Select the "Frame" and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up. Reselect both "Frame" copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Object > Compound Pat > Make) and fill it with R=74 G=54 B=28.

Step 7

Reselect the "Frame" and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -10px offset and click OK. Fill the resulting shape with R=74 G=54 B=28, move it 5px down and to the right, lower its opacity to 50% and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 4px radius and click OK.

Step 8

Next, you need to mask the blurred shapes created in the previous step. It’s a small detail but it’s better to take care of it. We’ll use an Opacity Mask, so open the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency). Select the "Frame", make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F), fill it with white and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this white shape along with the blurred shape from the previous step, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel and click on Make Opacity Mask.

Step 9

Reselect the "Frame", make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Re-enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid), pick the Pen Tool(P) and draw the four oblique paths shown in the second image. The Snap to Grid will make it easier.

Step 10

Select the for oblique paths and the "Frame" copy created in the previous step and click on the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel and you will find a group with five simple shapes. Find the large rectangle shape (the one with no color set for fill or stroke) and delete it. Now focus on the remaining shapes.

Start with the top one. Select it, replace the flat color from the fill with the linear gradient shown below and open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Select the fill from the Appearance panel, lower its opacity to 50% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the fill is still selected and simply click on Duplicate Selected Item. It’s the little file icon from the bottom of the Appearance panel. This adds a copy of the selected fill. Select it and simply change the gradient angle. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.

Step 11

Keep focusing on the group of shapes created in the previous step. Continue with the right shape. Select it and fill it with the top linear gradient shown below. Move to the Appearance panel, select this fill, lower its opacity to 50% and change the blending mode to Overlay.

Add a second fill for this shape using the Add New Fill button. It’s the little, white square icon from the bottom of the Appearance panel. Select this new fill, lower its opacity to 50%, change the blending mode to Multiply and use the bottom linear gradient shown below.

Step 12

Move to the left shape from the group created in step #10. Select it and fill it with the top linear gradient shown below. Move to the Appearance panel, select this fill, lower its opacity to 50% and change the blending mode to Overlay. Add a second fill for this shape, lower its opacity to 50%, change the blending mode to Multiply and use the bottom, linear gradient shown below.

Step 13

Finally, select the bottom shape from the group created in step #10. Fill with the linear gradient shown below and move to the Appearance panel. Select the fill, lower its opacity to 50% and change the blending mode to Multiply. Make a copy of this fill, select it and edit the gradient angle.

Step 14

Pick the Pen Tool(P) and re-draw the four oblique paths from the ninth step. Add a 1pt stroke for these paths, set its color at R=84 G=64 B=38 and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown below, click OK, then group them (Control + G).

Step 15

Reselect the "Frame", make a copy (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to the front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this copy along with the group created in the previous step and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. In the end your group should look as it does in the third image. Move to the Layer panel, select it and drag it below the group of shapes created in step #10.

Step 16

For the following step you will need a built-in bristle brush. Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes), open the fly-out menu and go to Open Brush Library > Bristle Brush > Bristle Brush Library. A new window with a nice set of bristle brushes should pop-up. Double click on the Mop brush and increase its size to 10pt.

Pick the Pen Tool(P) and draw several horizontal paths (690px long) as shown in the following image. Set the stroke color at white, add the 10pt, bristle brush for these paths, then group them (Control + G).

Step 17

Reselect the "Frame", make a copy (Control + C > Control + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Select this copy along with the group of paths created in the previous step and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Make sure that this masked group is still selected, lower its opacity to 25% and change its blending mod to Overlay.

Step 18

Reselect the "Frame", move to the Appearance panel, add a second fill and select it. Set its color at R=35 G=31 B=32, lower its opacity to 7%, change the blending mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Sketch > Graphic Pen. Enter the data shown below, click OK and return to the Appearance panel.

Add a new fill, lower its opacity to 7% and use the linear gradient shown in the following image. Finally, make sure that the "Frame" is still selected and add a stroke. Make it 1.5pt wide, set its color at R=84 G=64 B=38 and align it to outside.

Step 19

For the following step you will need a grid every 5px. So, go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box. Pick the Rectangle Tool(M), create a 590 by 370px shape, fill it with R=35 G=31 B=32 and place it as shown in the first image below.

Move to the Layers panel, find this new shape and name it "Board". Switch to the Pen Tool(P) and draw several vertical paths as shown in the second image. Select them, set the stroke color at white and add the 10pt, bristle brush. Lower their opacity to 10%, change the blending mode to Overlay and group them (Control + G).

More On Page Two

We are about halfway through the tutorial, but there is still plenty more to work to be done. So go ahead on over to page two to finish it up.

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