Ok so I've been meaning to to put together a tutorial/process piece for a while -- for a couple reasons really, both which bear mentioning here. So I'll go through those first, and then get into an explanation of the file. So skip to that if you don;t care to wallow in my endless pontification.
Reason 1: I am thrilled to see the interest there has been recently in creating vector art both on dA and elsewhere on the net -- and at the same time a little nauseated at the standard Illustrator Course class assignments the crop up day after day, or worse the super tight, photo-realistic traces/not-traces of either stock photos, web cam photos, or copyrighted press shots. I guess both have their merits, but both sort of miss the point.
The first group are great learning pieces, but their not generally portfolio pieces. I was really pleased with my Alpina roadster that I did for my illustrator course, but I have never really re-visisted that project, ie, I have never been asked, at any time, to produce a photorealistic illustration of anything, much less of a car in my line of work. Most companies decide to go with an illustration because it ISN'T a photograph. If we want photo realistic, we use a photo.
The problem is that as students, I think we some times have a hard time seeing the application of what we just did. The point, I think, in the standard "car illustration" assignment, is to get a grasp on blending modes, gradient vs. flat fills, textures, etc. (I think teacher's don't really understand the point of these exercises either). We never really make the jump to applying these techniques to our own ideas, our own illustrations. We just keep drawing cars. And the Honda Import Tuner PC Wallpaper community has been richly blessed for it.
The second, the photo rips, are a little more ridiculous to me, because its essentially vector masturbation. They don't illustrate anything. They don't communicate anything. Their not really all that creative. Whether you use the trace tool or not, you're still just tracing a photo. I'm sure I am guilty of this as well, I'm not pointing any fingers, MAry, I'm just callin' a spade a spade. (And I guess the other beef is that their usually not even good photos to be tracing from, e.g. these really detailed shots of emo kids with their arm extending from one corner to their chests, clearly holding the camera. In an illustration. Its what I imagine artificial intelligences Myspace profile pics to look like.) We more or less relegate ourselves from the position of artists, to that of someone who transcribes photos into bezier curves. Which is really a lot in life that I would like to avoid, if at all possible (When the revolution comes and our robot-masters need their myspace pages pimped, I will be the first against the wall.).
So what I'm hoping to do here is show how to use, or at least how *I* use, Illustrator to accomplish what I would normally do in pencil or ink or acrylic. You know how I feel about the idea of there being a "vector style" illustration. Its ridiculous, its a medium like anything else. And I think the goal is to be unfettered by the application, to be able to just do what you see in your head in the target medium, in this case a drawing application. To get away from tracing photos, and just going through the motions, to actually creating something you could put in a portfolio.
Reason 2: I understand that drawing apps are a little hard to get a head around, but I also know from experience that it is really not that hard, but requires a little practice. In showing some of my techniques I want to make it very clear that I am NOT attempting to post a tutorial on a particular style, my style specifically, but rather technique. I am hoping that you will read this and realize that something you want to execute in a drawing app is not only possible, but easier than you thought; and that you will then run with it and start rocking your own style.
That being said: lets look at some nuts and bolts of a piece that I am working on; a doodle of Musashimaru that I did back in 2004 while I was on the Big Island of Hawaii.
1.The first chunk in the piece needs little explanation. This is the sketch from my sketch book, done with a clicky pencil on cheap paper. I scanned it in at about 150 dpi, and then placed the image into my illustrator document (file > place).
2. From here I locked the layer, and created a new one to begin creating the lines in Illustrator (CS2 -- but these techniques will work as far as I know with any version back to 7, which is when I started with the app). So I begin by drawing evrything by hand, with my mouse, just custom shapes. You can see in the outline view beneath the line details. These are just simple objects with a black fill and no stroke/outline. I usually do all the principal line work in this fashion. You have greater control over how the lines go down, you can make them do what ever you want without having to worry about some of the eccentricities of how Illustrator wraps a shape to a path when using a "brush" (a stroked path).
3. Once I have the principal lines down, I usually, due to time constraints (this is something I have only recently started doing) create a custom brush to do some hatching/shading lines. This is very easy. See "ONE CUSTOM BRUSH". I draw a custom shape, in this case one that resembles the shape put down by a liner brush and ink. All you need to do from there is drag the object into your brush pallet (See Inset 1) and then select New Art Brush (See inset @) in the dialogue box that will appear. From there it will give you a few options on how you want to apply the shape to a line. Usually, I just push ok and start running with it. From there you can adjust the weight of the line just like you would with a default, uniform stroke.
4. After the lines are completed, I lock that layer and create another layer beneath it and start working on the color flats. This is the quickest part of the job usually. This is good time to get the idea thats in your head finalized. Get the basic colors where you want them to be, you don't want to have to go through and change the color of all your shading objects later on just because you decide you want the piece to be a little warmer hours later.
Keeping all these things on separate layers is just something that works for me -- I don't know what kind of person it is that decides to keep all this on the same layer, but kudos to you sir, you who probably throws whole boxes of needles into haystacks and then sorts it all out for a good time on a Friday night. This is just what works for me.
So thats it for Part 1 -- I will post Part 2 as I complete the illo. Question, comments, molotov cocktails are welcome, just reference the section you're referring to.