Author Topic: Learning Illustrator  (Read 9576 times)

Offline ewigginton

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2013, 07:18:59 PM »
I was torn about whether I should post yet more information about Illustrator here or not. I decided I wouldn't, but will add a link in the "off-topic" area about a new Chrismas-y graphic tutorial put together by Laura Coyle and viewable on You-tube.

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2013, 07:54:32 AM »
Sweet! Thanks!
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline Alphabetguy

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2014, 10:20:57 PM »
Thanks for the kind words Erica.

Lettering I create in vector format starts with  many preliminary pencil, marker or fountain pen sketches on translucent Bienfang Graphics 360 paper. I will select sketches to scan. posterize and import to Illustrator as bitmap template images. When I start drawing vector lines in Illustrator I begin with templates as a visual reference but as the drawing progresses I tend to follow the overall contrast of the letters in preview mode. Eventually I turn the template layer off and continue adjusting and reworking all the vector lines and letterform shapes till I have something appropriate for final art.

At some time in the future I'd luv to teach what I know about lettering in vector format but not quite sure how to go about setting up a CCC workshop due to digital requirements. If you or any forum members have suggestions with a digital lettering workshop please share your thoughts.

Alan

Offline Briana

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #18 on: March 04, 2014, 11:26:10 PM »
I didn't read through all the replies so I may repeat a few things, but I wanted to put in my knowledge because I love love love Illustrator. I learned the program in high school and have found a million uses for it since.

If you think about pixels as little building blocks and vectors as a ball of string, you'll understand them easily. Pixels stack next to each other to create an image, like when you see the pictures made of smaller pictures. From far away, they look like a portrait of Elvis but up close you can see tons of smaller images making up the shadows on his nose, etc. As a single smooth line, a vector can be blown up as large as you want and still be a smooth line. PDFs are a great format for saving artwork because they preserve the vector, aka smooth, scaleable lines, whereas JPG's compress the image into pixels. I think everyone is clear on that, but I wanted to repeat it just in case.

The pen tool in Illustrator lets you set anchor points (imagine using push pins to secure a point on the string of yarn) to create paths (also called strokes). The area between anchors on a path can be filled with color or left blank.

You can set the anchors yourself by tracing over an image (click to set anchors with a straight line between or click and hold while pulling the mouse to "stretch" the path into curves), or you can use Live Trace and Illustrator will look at your image and create paths for you. The important thing to know about this is you can adjust how detailed Illustrator gets in tracing for you, and figuring that out just takes some fooling around. Once Illustrator Live Traces, you can use the pen tool to delete erroneous anchor points and smooth out the path.

Say you've got a zig zagged line of yarn-- remove all the points between the first and last anchors and tug...now you have a straight line. Hopefully that makes sense! Illustrator just connects the dots, so delete the dots you don't need.

Let me know if this helps or is just confusing!
Briana, aka Pickles 'N Vodka-- landscape designer, aspiring calligrapher, top-notch goofball
(facebook | 365 Messages of Love)

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2014, 08:11:02 AM »
Hi Alan,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise. I would be beyond thrilled if you offered Illustrator Lettering classes and I think I can speak on behalf of the calligraphy community as a whole and say they would be as well! I don't know if you have seen the other thread about this yet but the general consensus is the Illustrator classes in general are very surface. They are less about teaching lettering using Illustrator as a tool and more about teaching Illustrator basics with lettering (if that makes sense).

Skillshare has offered some classes but since they are project based and geared toward all skill levels, they are usually less in-depth. Some are very good, others not so much.

I have been enjoying Laura Coyle's courses and she has recently started to self-host her workshops after Renee Pearson retired.

I will PM you with some ideas about digital workshop venues so as to keep this thread on topic. Thanks again for sharing.  :D
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
Dasherie Magazine | Paperwhite Studio | Instagram | Facebook

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #20 on: March 05, 2014, 08:14:45 AM »
Briana,
I love your analogy! That is a terrific way to help people visualize the differences and how it works. Thank you for sharing that!  :)

I agree live trace has come a long way in the past ten years! I just need to learn how to do it manually and understand how it works so I can use it as a tool to create lettering, rather than just trace lettering. Now that I am working through the LC class, it's getting a bit easier.

In any event, I love they way you explained this - it creates a very clear, concise picture.  :)
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
Dasherie Magazine | Paperwhite Studio | Instagram | Facebook

Offline PaddyMac

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2014, 03:27:27 PM »
OP posted "Would you be willing to respond to a few questions I have about vectorizing calligraphy for Letterpress?"

I'm curious you would you want to vectorize calligraphy for letterpress? Letterpress printers prefer B&W files at 1200 ppi.

Vectors are for outputting to a Postscript printer that prints using math, or because vectors are resolution independent, they are useful for sizing your file to a huge size (think billboards). But realistically, if you are scaling to poster size, you would be redrawing it from scratch in Illustrator, not vectorizing it.

I've seen some really questionable tutorials around the web, such as "use Threshold to make the calligraphy b&w so it's easy to vectorize". Which of course, just means the vectors are following the edges of a "stair step" line!


Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2014, 08:20:38 PM »
Actually, threshold does just that - forces the lines to either black or white. This eliminates any gray area. I have found it to help immensely. And no stair step edges.

And most letterpress printers these days require a vector file, unfortunately.

In terms of redrawing, versus vectorizing, that is not always the case. For example, the Mercedes Benz poster size tags I did, they wanted vectorized from original calligraphy, not created in Illustrator. I've had several jobs like that.

Different experiences render different processes and different preferences.
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
Dasherie Magazine | Paperwhite Studio | Instagram | Facebook

Offline PaddyMac

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2014, 07:49:59 PM »
I think it might be worth starting with the letterpress printer and asking what they prefer though, and not assume that they prefer vector. I know one printer who prefers 1200 ppi B&W, although a printer with a laser cutter might require vectors. As always with any kind of printing, start with the printer (and paper) and work back from there (rougher paper would be less likely to show bumps etc.).

In many case, tidying up a high-res bitmap file may give a truer image than tracing when the scan is pointed pen calligraphy. (Fraktur would be a different matter.)

Offline idrawletters

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2014, 02:26:48 PM »
Hi all! I use Illustrator all day every day for my graphic design work, so I'd be happy to help/answer questions if I can. I've also sent files to letterpress printers (and had my own printing plates made from my files), always using vector graphics, though they're certainly not always necessary. They just tend to be cleaner and crisper files from the get go.

Regarding Joy's original question #4, yup that's pretty much spot on. If you are going to try and use Illustrator, its best to use it for the pen tool because that will just give you so many options going forward once you are comfortable with it.

Briana did a great job explaining a lot, so I'm just going to build on that. The main issue with the Live Trace tool is that it adds a huge number of additional "bezier control points", which is likely to be the cause of the bumpy and wiggly look if its a vectorized piece (as opposed to the original calligraphy). The best way to trace letters in illustrator is to scan and use the pen tool to draw from scratch.

Here are a couple of links (depending on how comfortable you already are with Illustrator), but in sum you want to keep the bezier points to the minimum. I usually start by placing my points out on the letters for the whole piece, then going going back to manipulate them and create the proper forms. Most letterers who create vector forms of their sketches are very specific in the placement of their bezier points, because it allows for the most logical drawing and also keeps things smooth. It can be pretty tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it its very intuitive. This is how typeface designers draw each perfectly crisp letter!

Pen Tool Tutorial (beginners)
http://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/illustrators-pen-tool-the-comprehensive-guide--vector-141

Effective Bezier Point Placement for Lettering (once you know the basics of the pen tool)
http://theagsc.com/community/tutorials/so-whats-the-big-deal-with-horizontal-vertical-bezier-handles-anyway

Hope that helps a bit!
NYC / HKG
Instagram @idrawletters

Offline Roseann

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2014, 04:17:43 PM »
So helpful!

Thank you :)
Roseann

The world is so full of a number of things, Im sure we should all be as happy as kings.   R. L. Stevenson

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2014, 08:17:19 PM »
Thank you Chavelli! That is very helpful!  :)
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline ExtrasbyAlaina

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Re: Learning Illustrator
« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2015, 09:34:50 PM »
Love this thread! I too work in Illustrator constantly, and Chavelli is spot on - thanks for sharing! A weird addendum - but I actually prefer keeping a slightly "bumpy" texture in vectorized calligraphy...when subtle, it reads like hand-lettered ink on paper as opposed to digitally-created design (not that one is better than the other!). No matter how smooth letters appear on paper, they have that texture at a magnified level which is what the scanner picks up...and I lurve it! However, I do recognize the importance of being able to digitize lettering in both styles  :P