Now the fun stuff begins. I start laying out the vector portions of this illustration. It may sound strange to say this, but when it comes to Adobe Illustrator, I’m probably old school. What I mean by that is I’ve been using Illustrator since it was Adobe Illustrator ’88. The program was so basic then, that you couldn’t have the preview on while you edited. Everything had to be in outline mode as you drew your artwork.
Yes, this was my world twenty-three years ago!
This is an advantage when you are tracing your artwork. You can keep whatever fill and stroke you want, yet see underneath to the object you are tracing. You can find the outline mode under the view menu. It’s the first item in the menu.
When you draw in Illustrator, you’ll save yourself so much trouble if you learn to use the pen tool. One book I’ve gotten a lot of info out of is Sharon Steur’s “Illustrator Wow” books. within it, she has an exercise called “Zen of the Pen.” She has included the activity online. Check out the pdf. And if you get a chance, I’d get one of the books.
The key is to keep the points to a minimum. The less points you use to create an illustration, the more smooth an illustration will appear. As I’m drawing each point, I use the option key (on the Mac, alt key on the PC) to create desired corners. Sharon’s pdf will explain how you develop the skill to do that.
I start with the shape in the character that appears to be the farthest away from us. On this character, it is the back arm. One of the things I love about Illustrator is it allows you to “draw through” the illustration. What I mean by that is I can draw the whole shape in an illustration to make sure it fills the space like it would in the real world. When your arm is behind your body, the whole mass of your arm still exists, you just see part of the arm. Similarly, if I draw the whole arm, I can tell if it is taking the proper space within the whole illustration. This also gives me freedom to animate it in the future if I choose to take it to Adobe Flash.
As I begin drawing the back arm, I put it on its own layer. Layers are essential in Illustrator as well as Photoshop. Before layers, it took a lot of work to organize the picture. If you had a complex drawing, editing it could dictate your entire day. Layers allow you to isolate small parts of the the illustration. This is also essential if you choose to animate your drawing.
After I get the arm drawn, I’ll add details, such as the fingers. I want to get the whole shape in rather than the partial shape we see in the real world. The color will eventually blend together, so when we are previewing the finished illustration, it will look like a single finger instead of an oval. But for the moment, I want all shapes to be closed up.
I continue drawing each shape. Next comes the back leg, then the body, front leg, front arm and head. Each section of the character gets its own layer. When I have all the shapes drawn in, I’ll change the view to preview. This is what the illustration looks like before any color is added.