Fun graphic in Adobe Illustrator

I know that we have not gone over adobe illustrator in class. In most cases tutorials and How-To’s will advise you to use photoshop, but personally illustrator is more fun to work with and has a wider capability of image creation.  I am going to create a cool little graphic with a walkthrough that should help you learn the basics of the program.

First open adobe illustrator and go to “file”, and then “new.”  In the middle of the box there is a menu to the left of “Units,” make sure that is set to pixels. Now set the width 640px, and the height to 480px. You’re set up. Press “Ok.” Now you should see an empty art box in front of you. Select the rectangle in the tool box. At a any corner of the art box click and drag the mouse to the opposing corner; you’ll find similar tools as in photoshop. When you have the rectangle filling the art box select a deep blue color, something like water.

What’s really cool about illustrator is that it works in vector graphics rather than pixels, which allow you to be much more specific. Photoshop uses raster images or a bitmap. This means the image is made up of tiny squares that make a whole. You can see these squares if you zoom in real close on an image in photoshop. Illustrator works in vector graphics: imagine the art board is covered in a coordinate plane in which are all the ways a line can move, and when you draw a curved line with the paint brush tool you will see that the line is as if you literally drew  onto the screen. The points are very specific.
One of my personal favorites that came with cs4 are the brush options. They will really help in giving you the right stroke for the image. In our case, water. So on the right hand side on the screen you will see a panel bar. This is just as important as the panel bar in photoshop, learn to love it. If you do not see this bar go to “Window,” highlight “Workspace,” & check “Essentials.” Cool. First thing to do, create a layer. At the bottom of the panel there is an icon that are two squares, this is your layers panel. Open the menu and at the bottom select the “create new layer” icon. Make sure that layer is above the first layer.
Now in that panel there should be an icon that looks like a cup with paint brushes sticking out. When you have your mouse over top it will say “Brushes.”  Click and you will see a variety of strokes that you can use, but they are not what we are looking for. In the bottom left of the bushes box that expanded you should see a tiny icon that looks like a couple folders with an arrow, when you roll over it should read, “Brush Libraries menu.” This will be your new best friend. It is full of super cool strokes, symbols, and borders. But for the purpose of our ocean image.  Open the library, highlight “Artistic,” and select “paintbrush,” This should open up a menu of brushstrokes, expand the menu to see all of the strokes.
This is the fun part, you get to experiment with all of the strokes and colors to give you your perfect ocean. And the color is important, for my ocean i used the 2nd to last brush, “Quick Brush 3.” Select a brush stroke and head over to the color swabs at the bottom or the tool bar. When using the paint brush the color of the outline is going to be the visible. just as photoshop the two squares of color are the same: the square higher up is the fill and the lower one is stroke. Turn off the fill and open the stroke color. You’re going to want a lighter blue than your background to make the waves stick out. And when you have found a color that you like select the paintbrush tool. Make sure that “Stroke weight” is set to 1pt. That is located at the top header of your panels. These artistic strokes tend to get pretty large fairly quick.  Now start at the top of your image and make a descending curved stroke (like above). Get a feel for using the mouse as a drawing utensil.
Make these curved stokes across the image. Play with the strokes orientation, it appears differently depending on the direction.
CREATE a new layer (layer 3). Stay on the panel menu, second to the top you should see an icon that looks like a fan, but once you roll over it lights up and reads “Color Guide.” Depending the color you choose this panel gives you complimentary colors, shades, and tints. It helps. I would not suggest relying on this option, but it helps for accents and such.  Select another color, lighter than the color of your initial strokes, and draw lines that look like a “U” but cut off the top of the right side. Experiment with brushstrokes.
CREATE a new layer (Layer 4). Now use that “color guide” i told you about before and select a color that is a good mix for your other two colors, something not lighter than your light, and not darker than your dark.
Select your paintbrush and draw some strokes over the light colors. Don’t completely cover the light color, let it show, it resembles the foam.
SELECT Layer 2 in the layers menu. With the stroke you used for that layer, make a line with the color of the stroke from layer 4. It should look similar to the picture to the right. This gives the wave some movement.
CREATE new layer (layer 5). Select a different brush from you brushes library. You’re going to want something with a smaller stroke, I used a combination of “Dry Brush 2,” & “Dry Brush 7.”
Select a color that is really going to pop off the screen, but more importantly blends with your image. These strokes are going to be accents. And go nuts. Before you start, go to  the panels menu and select the icon that looks like a venn diagram, it says “Transparency.” With the paintbrush icon selected in the toolbox, turn the “opacity” level down in the “transparency” menu. Opacity is the level of visibility your object. Turn the opacity down to about 75 %, this will help blend the accents. Now fill in your wave with some accents, run along areas where you can still see the background. Use a combination of a couple of strokes and a couple of colors.
CREATE new layer (layer 6). You’re going to want this layer below Layer 5 but above layer 6. You can do this by clicking and dragging the menu inbetween layers 4 & 5. Be sure not to place the layer inside of another layer. No worries, find the layer and drag it into place.
Back to the panel menu there is a icon that looks like a club on a playing card, like an Ace of Clubs, when you roll over it should read “Symbols.”
Just as you were able to access the brushstroke libraries, you are able to open the symbol libraries. There are a bunch. Look at the bottom and you should see “Tiki,” open it. There should be a fish symbol. click and drag onto your image. Scale down your fish and tilt it up. Since layer 6 with the fish on it is below the accents of Layer 5 it looks like the fish is jumping out.
One more step and we have a big blue ocean wave. Open the Layers menu. on the left of the layers there is an eyeball and an empty box. If you click on the eyeball you will shut the visibility of the layer on and off. Click on the empty box and you will see a lock appear. This locks the layer and prevents from the ever present human error. cool. Lock layers: 1, 4, 5, & 6.  Layers 2 & 3 should be unlocked and visible.
Open the “Select” menu in the bar on the top of your screen and click “ALL” (For macs the shortcut is command-A; windows control-A).
Now that you have all of layers 2 & 3 selected, open the effects menu. Highlight “Blur” towards the bottom of the menu, and select “Gaussian Blur.” This will give the stokes a watery appearance. I suggest the blur should be set at a radius of 7 pixels.
You Now have a cool picture of a wave and fish. you can save this image for the web and upload it to your website. Or, you can play around and create some really cool digital art. There you Go! Hope you enjoyed this walkthough, and you play around with illustrator.
– Michae Mo.

~ by michaemo43 on January 20, 2010.

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