Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: June 22, 2012 9:45 am

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Creating a vector character in Illustrator can be a tricky process but it all really revolves around the Pen Tool, mastering this tool with a little patience is all you need to create yourself a great detailed character based on a drawing or image you have already.

To start this process you need to create your character outside of Illustrator as it is far too difficult to come up with a detailed character design while still trying to master your Illustrator skills. So whatever way you find easiest to draw your character go for, the best option is to break out the pencil and pad. If you struggle to think of ideas for a character or can’t think how certain body parts look then simply research other characters or images online to get an idea and create a new one in your own way.

Once you have your character designed, scan your file in and get the image into Illustrator then lock the image as your background layer. Now you will need to select the Pen Tool and select a nice visible but small stroke with no colour on the fill. Now start drawing around your image, make sure to get your curves smooth by tweaking the Pen Tool as best you can. This is where practise with the Pen Tool is key.

Once you have the outline of your character created you can now fill the areas in with some colour and gradients and remove the stroke colour from all shapes.

Shadows are a necessity to add a final bit of detail, so choose the areas that need shadow and you can either go to Effect > Stylise > Drop Shadow and add very subtle shades to your image. Areas that usual need a drop shadow are under the fringe of any hair and any overlapping areas.

You can then add overall shadow to your image by using the Pen Tool and drawing black shapes with a light transparency to areas where shadows would appear. Once you are happy, feel free to add any other simple effects or amendments to get your character right. Just remember that simplicity is key so use simple colours with subtle effects to make a really effective character.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: June 15, 2012 9:28 am

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This tutorial will show you how to create a vector shape with smooth round corners. These shapes can then be taken into photoshop and used to smooth corners on an image or graphic – this would be alot smoother then any other options that photoshop give.

Firstly, if you just want a round cornered square, simply select the ‘Rounded Rectangle Tool’ and you can either click once on the canvas and manually enter your corner radius and shape size, or alternatively click and drag to create your shape and with the mouse button held down you can click the up and down arrows on the keyboard to increase the size of your curve (corner radius).

If however you require a more complex shape like a star or a hexgon to be rounded you will need to add the ‘Round Corners’ effect. Firstly, select your shape by clicking and holding the shape tool to reveal the following:

If you want a star or polygon to have more sides simply click on the relevant tool then click and hold in the canvas and hit the up and down arrows again to do so. With the star tool you can even increase the length of the points by holding down the Ctrl key and dragging the mouse.

Once you are happy with your shape, you can add the round corners by going to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners, then enter the size of the radius you want (click preview to get an idea of how it looks) and hit OK.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: July 19, 2011 9:20 am

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This tutorial will show how to create simple umbrella as shown below:

Open Illustrator and create a new document, then select the Elipse tool and with holding shift draw a perfect circle. Now select the Direct Selection Tool and click on the bottom center point of the circle then hit delete to create a semi-circle (this is your umbrella frame). Now lock that layer and create a new layer above. Select the Pen Tool and your are going the have to create the first two sections of the umbrella.

Firstly, click on the top center of the circle, then click and hold on the bottom left of the circle, now drag the mouse until the curve matches that of the circle then let go, click again onto the end point you just made to reset the curve. Now while holding shift, click and hold  horizontal about a third into the semi-circle and drag the mouse to make and nice curve for the bottom of the umbrella. Once done, let go and click again on the point to reset. then simply join this shape to the starting point at the top middle of the circle (dont worry about this curve as it will be hidden by the next shape). Your shape should hopefully look something like this:

Once your first shape is made, copy the shape and flip horizontally then move to the right side of the umbrella, now you just need to create the middle section. Lock this layer and create a new one above then similar to before use the Pen Tool and starting at the top, just left of the center create your point and create curves similar to the example by joining up to the points on the previous shapes. This could get a little tricky so you may need to practise with the Pen Tool first, and you can always use the Direct Selection Tool to click on a point and edit the curve if any look a little off.

Once the umbrella shape has been created, unlock the layers and delete the semi-circle, now add the same gradient to each shape, depending on the colour you want for your umbrella, simply create a gradient with a lighter to slightly darker colour balance, in my example to lighter red is #af0e0e and the darker is #771313. Then adjust the gradient angles on each using the Gradient Tool to suit, I used an angle of 160 for the first shape, 2 for the middle and 22 for the right one.

Now your umbrella is created, simply select the Rectangle Tool and draw a narrow grey stick for the pole, then draw another small, black one for the handle top. To make the handle itself, select the Elipse Tool and makesure only the stroke option is selected, in black, with no fill. Then match the size of the stroke to the width of the handle. Now select the Direct Selection Tool and click on the top center of the circle and hit delete, then join this to the bottom of your handle top and use Pathfinder to join the handle and pole together.

Place the handle under the umbrella and put in the bottom center, now simply create the umbrella top using the Elipse Tool to create a small narrow oval and place under the umbrella with just the top showing just like in the example and you are done.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: February 15, 2011 10:43 am

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This tutorial will show you how to make an icon into a 3D icon using Illustrator.

Firstly create your desired icon, like that shown below and group the whole icon:

Now, make the icon into a symbol by bringing up the symbols pallete, Windows > Symbols, then select the icon and drag it into the Symbols window.

Now create the shape you want your icon to be, in this case I want it to be the same shape as my icon, so I copied the shape and then give the new graphic a darker tint than the icon itself, as shown below:

Now go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel and click on Map Art, select your Symbol from the dropdown and click OK. Then simply alter the Shading Options to suit by clicking on the More Options button and check the Preview box to see how it looks. Press OK once down and your 3D icon is created.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: February 1, 2011 9:25 am

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This tutorial will show you how to create an effective, glassy button in minutes using Illustrator, like that shown below.

Open Illustrator, create a new document and select the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Draw a nice button shape onto the canvas, while dragging the object to create, press the up and down arrows to adjust the curvature. Now give the stroke colour no colour and add a nice gradient as the fill colour, make the gradient vertical with the darker of the colours at the bottom. In this instance I have used the colour #c3262e at the top and #8c181b at the bottom.

Once that is done, copy and paste the object (CTRL + C, then CTRL + F) then shrink the image so that there is an even gap between the two, this usually means shrinking the vertical slightly more. With the new object selected replace the top gradient colour with white (#ffffff) and reduce the Transparency to around 25%. Your main button is now created.

Now select the text tool and type the button text in white, with a nice, strong font, in this case it is Helvetica LT Compressed. You can then add a shadow to the text to help it stand out. Go to Filter > Stylize > Drop Shadow and you want a very subtle, not too distant shadow. These proportions may change depending on the size of your button but I used: Opacity 50%, X and Y Offset 0.5mm and Blur of 0.3mm.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: January 27, 2011 4:47 pm

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Open a blank document in Illustrator, select the Spiral Tool and draw a nice spiral onto the canvas. Hold CTRL while creating the spiral to expand the curve and hit the Up and Down arrows to add or remove curls.

Once you have created your spiral copy and paste it in front (CTRL + C, then CTRL + F). With the new spiral selected rotate it around 20°, just enough so there is a nice space between them but the ends can still be joined ok, like that shown below.

Now select the Direct Selection Tool and drag over the two end corners, right click and select Join. Now do the same to the inner join, even if it looks joined, just to end the path. If the joins look a little off, then you can tweak the angles using the Direct Selection Tool. Click onto a join and ankers should appear, tweak those until you are happy.

You can now fill the spiral with a nice colour or gradient, then copy, rotate and resize them to make an effective floral graphic. In the example I have also added a subtle drop shadow by going to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and adjusting the settings to suit.

Posted by: Peter Andrease

Posted on: January 18, 2011 9:47 am

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When creating a website design in Photoshop there are often occasions when you need to curve off an image or Graphic, one way to do this is to CTRL + click on the image layer to select its area, then go to Select > Modify > Smooth and enter the amount of curve you want (say around 5), press OK and then right click on the selection and choose Select Inverse and press delete, then CTRL + D to deselect.

This works fine but you might notice some pixelation of the image and if you zoom in you can see what i mean below.

So, the best way is to use Illustrator. Open Illustrator, with a blank document and drag your image / graphic onto the canvas, this will pixelate but dont worry we wont be using it there. Now select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and any fill colour but no stroke on, click once on the canvas and enter your desired Corner Radius, say around 5mm, press OK then delete, yes delete, the created graphic. Now click and drag on the canvas to match the shape to the same size as your image.

Now, drag your created graphic back into photoshop as a smart object and position it on top of your image. You can now CTRL + click on the new graphics layer to select its area, then right click on the selection and choose Select Inverse, hide the new graphics layer and then select your original image and press delete. If you just wanted one corner or two then defore pressing delete go to the Rectangular Marquee Tool, select Subtract From Selection and simply draw around the corners you dont want deleted.

Now you should notice a much smoother corner as shown below:

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