An Illustrator’s Foray into Adobe Illustrator – Week 5

During my Illustrator tutorial spree I’ve learned a lot about how shapes and gradients can be used to make objects, textures, and even characters come to life as vector art.  While I’d never say I’ve been 100% converted to the superiority of digital techniques over traditional pencil and paper, I can certainly see the benefits of using digital methods to enhance hand-drawn artwork or to produce specific kinds of images for specific purposes.  My day of hand drawing and scanning logos, backgrounds, and simple objects to fill surroundings are certainly over.

Creating textures is still tricky and the next tutorials I undertake (after taking a bit of a tutorial break…) will be all about my artistic Achilles’ heel…coloring.  To get that ball rolling and still keep a foot in the basic shapes n’ gradients territory I found this tutorial that teaches how to make a nice water ripple texture:
This one combined many different tools, like the previous posting, to create a basic shape of a water ripple.  It was more complex (for me at least) because it added perspective (creating an oblong ellipse to simulate a horizontal circular surface) and added the use of a gradient mesh tool, which I still have yet to figure out…  But it worked very well for this tutorial.  It also displayed how to effectively use color, using black, white, and various shades of blue to give depth to the water.  Everyone’s water drop+ripple will be different and here’s the look of mine:

Next week I’ll be taking a bit of a break from tutorials and starting a new recurring series of lessons I learned from a lifetime of gaming, from the 80s through current generation.  It’ll be a fun diversion and something that is much needed…video games can be good for you!  But fear not, there is more Illustrator progress coming.  And all my fellow newbie digital designers and I can continue to unsolved the mysteries locked away in Adobe Illustrator!

An Illustrator’s Foray into Adobe Illustrator – Week 4

Shapes can show emotions too.  Really.

Seeing shapes is how illustration begins, especially in Illustrator, but using shapes to create something with personality is a different level.  I could gladly live in a world of inanimate sharpened objects and smooth, perfect polygons all day (they are rarely annoying and frequently useful) however living such a life, even in artwork, would be kind of a drag.  So I sought ways to turn shapes into characters.  In doing so I stumbled across this site, which has been a wonderful resource of Illustrator tutorials:

Not all of them are perfect and some of the instructions can be a little vague, especially if you like to go through tutorials in a “I get the gist” kind of way and skip ahead…you’ll be doing a LOT of ctrl+z…read all the steps…seriously…

This tutorial was by far my favorite on the site as it had the most to do with my kind of illustration and it allowed some real creativity to burst forth:

This is a little surprising given my penchant for the macabre but seeing all of the steps needed to create this character; all of the tools used; the various effects, gradients, and polygons combined and altered to turn simple shapes into an expressive character was truly entertaining.  It also allowed for a significant amount of learning-while-doing that sticks with me because of the fun I had making the lil sun guy.  Here’s my result of the tutorial:

I love this guy. From his dilated eyes to his gap-tooth smile. Just love him. Don’t know why.

And because I’d rather be howling at the moon that funning in the sun I created this original piece using the steps and tools in the tutorial:

I hate to be overly proud of myself (not really) but I was really fond of how this moon came out. I like him even more than the sun.

Hopefully all of these sphere tutorials have been as enlightening for other Illustrator neophytes as they were for me.  Next week will be one last shape tutorial I found that includes shapes and textures used to make a dramatic and slick-looking graphic…even if it’s not as personable as a happy sun character it’ll be something to look forward to!

An Illustrator’s Foray into Adobe Illustrator – Week 3

More spheres!  Admittedly working all of these tutorials was pretty addictive and once I started learning how to use Illustrator’s various functions it was hard to stop seeking out new applications to learn.

After designing the previous sphere, which was of course simply a circle shaded to resemble a 3D object, I became curious about the rendering capabilities of Illustrator.  While cruising the forums the rendering features are often discussed and, much like pathfinder tools, which can be a little confusing for beginners like me, the 3D rendering feature feels inaccessible.

My first attempt to create something in 3D without instructions was a sphere, what could be simpler than a circle, right?  So I created an ellipse and tried a few of the 3D options, creating a cylinder, a disc, and finally this thing:

The Great Black Oil Donut

I clearly needed some assistance with this feature and while searching for “How to Create Spheres” I found another tutorial that showed, as an element of the exercise, how to create 3D spheres.  Once you see how it’s done it feels a little less psychotic than all the random shapes you can create just trying to make a polygon a 3D polygon.  The tutorial taught how to make a “peel effect” which is similar to the AT&T logo of a shape wrapped around an invisible sphere.

The tutorial:

Not only does this teach how to make 3D spheres using the rendering tools, but how to repeat graphic shapes using transform, how to create symbols, and of course how to apply the symbols to make the peel effect.

During one of the steps it shows how to easily create a 3D rendered sphere like this:

My first sphere rendered in 3D.

It was one of my favorite basic illustrator tutorials.  It was very easy to follow and provided clear steps in the multiple tools used to create the graphic.  Also it teaches by osmosis several other useful tools and finally hammered into my analog brain how digital 3D rendering works. I used it to create the peel effect he shows:

I admit when it worked I did say aloud, “What the…that actually worked!”

One slightly more difficult one of my own:

It was just an attempt to apply the rectangles in an overlapping fashion but it came out looking a bit like a Christmas tree ornament. It let me try the process one more time though!

And then combined it with what I learned in the previous tutorials to create this original graphic inspired by the wonderful, colorful, world of James Rolfe’s AVGN:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is…an F-Bomb… And I think the Nerd would approve since it looks like a Nintendo 64 graphic.

The above graphic was created using the 3D rendering sphere technique learned in the tutorial from this week; the cylinders I created by accident using “bevel and extrude” trying to create spheres before I learned how to do it properly; radial gradient shading learned from last week’s tutorial; and the pen tool (which I accidentally left on the gradient fill and made a nice fire effect).  It goes to show, once you learn enough to operate properly, classic trial-and-error methodology still has skills it can impart…and that feels like a Mr. Miyagi-level lesson.

Next week is the last tutorial about making spheres and how they’re used to create textures and even characters.  I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to use the 3D rendering tool so feel free to share creative ways to use them.  To quote Bender Bending Rrrrrodriguez: Learning is fun.

The inspiration for the F-Bomb:

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