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Team Think Labs | Make hot vector illustrations, fast-like
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Make hot vector illustrations, fast-like

Here’s a few quick tips to make the illustrating faster so you can spend more time enjoying your end product and less time crying at the feet of your project manager, begging for just ONE MORE HOUR of budget time to perfect the twinkle in your animated characters eye.


So you’ve drawn your basic outlines and strokes. It’s pretty much the best freaking outline of anything you’ve ever drawn, and you’re taking a minute to bask in it’s awesomeness. You realize that while you couldn’t have done anything more perfect than what you just did, you’re also the type of illustrator that constantly ramps up the awesome to unexpected levels. You also have about -4 hours of time left to inject a little power into your illustrations. Here’s a quick, neat way to not only add stroke modulation to your outlines, but to do it quickly and consistently throughout the illustration.

1) Use the width tool on your tool bar or press Shift + W to access it (Unless you’ve remapped that key combination to something else, in which case, good luck, buddy. )  Create the line modulation you prefer on a single piece of your illustration until you’re satisfied with the result.

2) Once you get the stroke the way you want it, open the stroke panel with your modified stroke selected and click “Add to Profiles”.



3)  This will create a stroke “profile” that’ll allow you to apply this same modulation to all strokes in your illustration quickly and easily.

Try not to be overwhelmed by the majesty of my illustrative abilities.

This quick little trick will not only add interest and weight to your illustrative lines but may also only take about 5 minutes.  FREEDOM!


One of the challenges we faced recently was creating high detail objects that matched a clients 3D texture and brand in a short span of time.   Illustrator isn’t widely known for being as sensitive as Photoshop is to the variable texture, light, and shadow needs that a detailed image may require (although we don’t say that out loud because we may get punched in the face.)

A quick and sometimes useful trick that I ended up using was switching between drawing modes and using textured brushes within a shape.  If I want to create a mossy overhang on the top of a low wall, I can give it a rougher texture to make it stand out and give it a sense of realism.

1) Create your simple shapes that you want to texturize








In this case, we’ve created a simple wall with a piece of moss hanging over the side. Looks great. We’re done!


…just kidding.


2) Add shadows and highlights to give illusion of depth.  You know, like an artist would.








3) At this point, it still has a very flat, “smooth” feeling to it reminiscent of most vector art.  To give it that chunky bit o’ moss some texture we’re going to duplicate it’s shape.  On the duplicate, we’ll remove all shadows, highlights, bells, whistles, and color until it’s completely naked.







4) Once you’ve got this empty shell, you’re going to slide on over underneath your color swatch on the toolbar and click the icon below, labeled Drawing Modes; “Draw Inside” is what you’ll want to select.










5) Select a bristle or other textured type of brush from your brush palette.  You can adjust the width of the bristles, size of the brush, etc, in the brush menu, so play around and get a stroke that’ll translate well as a texture.











6) You’ll now be able to paint over the top of your empty shape, and the Draw Inside mode will neatly mask the edges of your wild artistic strokes into the shape, creating a “texture” shape that can be layered over your original drawing.







You can play with blend modes to get the texture to blend in, but the end result is a nice variation of that flat smoothness we don’t always like getting with vector drawings.



I textured the crap out of the wall, too. How do you like that?




Ultimately this tool could help create a more “illustrated” feel to background and object elements with a minimal amount of time.  And the nice part is, it’s already vector!

Hopefully both of these quick tips will help you slide in under budget with even sexier designs and illustrations than before.