DAaA- Vector Design

Abstract Phoenix by Nick La
La is a web designer and illustrator out of Toronto.
He has founded a number of projects and has become well-known in the field.



Every artist was first an amateur. 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How are Numbers Beautiful?


Adobe Illustrator (link)

For this unit, we will be learning and using Adobe Illustrator CS6. Adobe Illustrator is a graphic creation software used to create Vector-based works. It is used by professionals in a variety of industries and fields, and it isn’t the easiest piece of software. We’ll work through a few basic exercises to become familiarized with it first.

At the end of this unit, you’ll work toward creating a piece of art utilizing data, numbers, or other mathematical principles. We’ll talk more about this as we move through the six weeks.
PDF About Adobe Illustrator CS6
Videos about Illustrator CS6 from Lynda.com
Videos about New Features from Lynda.com
Learning Illustrator Videos on Adobe.tv

Vocab to know and use

Point: a dot, in Illustrator its location is recorded with x & y coordinates.

Line: a line connecting two points, which in illustrator is drawn by an equation.

Vector Graphics: graphics created by math concepts, such as points, lines, and shapes. If you’ve ever zoomed into a picture, you probably noticed the image become pixelated (blurry with little squares of color). Most pictures will pixelate if you zoom into them, and these types of images are called bitmap graphics or raster graphics. This isn’t so with Vector Graphics created through Adobe Illustrator, or other vector-based graphics software. As you draw in Illustrator, the software places points using x & y coordinates, and connects them with lines calculated through equations. An image created using vector graphics won’t become blurry if you zoom into it, because no matter how far you zoom in, the lines and points are made with math equations. Click on the image to the right to zoom in.

Elements of Art- parts or pieces of a work of art. These are the basic pieces of a work.

Line: An Element of Art- A mark with greater length than width. Can go in any direction, change directions, vary in thickness, and even be implied. Sometimes explained as a point moving across a surface (think the point of your pencil moving across paper). Want to learn more?

Shape: An Element of Art- A closed line, or a line that eventually returns to where it began. They can be geometric, like  square or circles, or organic, like free form or organic shapes. Shapes are 2d. Want to learn more?

Principles of Design- How the artist combines the elements of art in their work.

Repetition: A Principle of Design- When an object, color, shape, or other significant element is seen more than once in the work. Often associated with pattern, it can create a feeling of unity or movement. Want to learn more?

Pattern: A Principle of Design- The repeating of an object, or series of objects, many times throughout the work. This principle of design often pairs with repetition. Want to learn more?

Part 1

Today’s Work

Using Illustrator’s Creation Tools

Your task today is to experiment and explore Illustrator’s different tools to create a doodle or image. At the end of class, post your creation on your blog. Below I’ll discuss a few things I’d like you to experiment with. Just a note, as you work in illustrator, you may notice that it slightly alters the shape of your brush, it’s just happens sometimes as Illustrator tries to match up what you draw with the closest mathematical equations.

When you open Illustrator, you may need to go up to File and click New to actually have a place to draw. In the center of your screen, you have a large white square. This is the Artboard. Around the artboard are quite a few different things, providing you with tools and other panels. Your primary tool panel is on the left, and you’ve got a few other important one’s on the right, like the color palette and your brushes panel.

Lets try out a few drawing tools. You can select the drawing tools in the Tools Panel, found on the left side of your screen. If you accidentally closed your Tools Panel, you can bring it back by clicking ‘Tools‘ from the drop down menu ‘Window‘ at the top of your screen.

Paintbrush Tool: Click and hold to create a path, and applies your current brush settings to that path.

Blob Brush Tool: Click and hold. A more efficient way to create custom organic shapes. Illustrator is essentially created two paths on both sides of the brush stroke, becoming a a shape when you finish with the stroke.

Pen Tool: This tool doesn’t work how you might think. Click once to make a point where you’d like to start your line, then click and hold at another point. If you move the mouse while still holding down the mouse, you can manipulate the line to bend or curve. It takes some getting used to.

Pencil Tool: Create’s a path, but doesn’t apply your brush settings to it.

Part 1b

After you’ve played with those out a bit, lets talk about how we can manipulate the paths you create with those. Use the brush tool to create a squiggle on your canvas.

Selection Tool: Used to select, move, and scale (change the size of) things. Try clicking on a brush stroke you’ve drawn. Can you figure out how to move it, scale it, and rotate it?

Direct Selection Tool: Used to select and manipulate the points on a path (including the paths that define the edges of a shape). Try clicking on a brush stroke you’ve created. Can you see the path composed of points and lines? Adobe calls the points ‘Anchors‘. Try grabbing one and moving it around. This allows you to change your path without having to redraw the whole thing. In addition, if you click on one of the anchors, do you see the lines that extend out on each side? Adobe call’s these ‘Handles‘. Grab a handle and move it around to see how you can use these to adjust the path between anchors.

Brush Panel: This is found in the panel on the right side of your screen. You can also open it by clicking ‘Brushes‘ in the drop down menu ‘Window’ at the top of your screen. With your selection tool, click on any path you’ve created to select it. Now click on one of the options in the brushes window. As Illustrator works with vectors instead of pixels, you can still radically change a brush stroke after you’ve drawn it. If you click on the icon of the books, you can find all sorts of different brushes to play with. In addition to changing the brush style, you can also change the color, thickness, and even turn strokes into gradients (where one color blends into another) of the stroke.

If we were to make all these types of adjustments in photoshop, you would begin to degrade the quality of your image. This is because photoshop, and other programs like it, doesn’t create images with vectors like Illustrator. We’ll talk more about the differences later on.

Part 1c

Experiment and play with these options. Post what you end up with on your blog. When saving, Adobe Illustrator uses formats that store the data as vectors. However, most browsers and web based services won’t read them. To upload an image to your blog, you’ll need to either ‘Save for Web‘, or ‘Export‘ your finished product. PNG and JPG formats are most commonly recommended.

If the canvas size is too big, or small, you can adjust them using the Artboard Tool in your Tools Panel. The Artboard Tool is the icon that looks sort of a like Tic-Tac-Toe, near the icon that looks like a hand. You are welcome to experiment with some of the other tools in your Tools Panel as well.

Here’s my example on the right. I used the Artistic Charcoal & Chalk brushes. Click to enlarge the image. The background on mine is transparent, not actually the same color as my blog. When exporting as a PNG, you have that as an option. JPGs, however, do not support transparency.

Give me a few sentences about how trying out the different drawing tools went. Did you start to get the hang of it? Are there any that are more frustrating than others, or that you’re starting to feel more comfortable with than others?

Vector Image Example >>
Wikimedia Commons
Elements & Principles Icons >>
The J. Paul Getty Museum. 2011
Charcoal Sketch in Illustrator >>
Mr. S Uu. 2012

This entry was posted in DAaA.

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