Monster Sketch and “Draw Inside”

I’m back with an update on the monster sketch. After I printed out the illustration, and used a pencil to show where I wanted to shade the drawing, I scanned it into Illustrator.

This time, I unlocked the new template layer so I can see where where I placed the shading. I move the template layer to the top. Now I can color the illustration while seeing the template.

Now before, I said I’ve been in Illustrator for a long time. So I’m very excited about a new feature in Illustrator CS 5. It was a long time coming. Before CS 5, clipping masks were a hassle. If you made an object a clipping mask, you would lose your shading. You’d have to reapply the shading and go through a bunch of extra steps to make it look the way you want. That has changed with the “draw inside” option.

Draw modes in Illustrator

You will find them in the bottom of the toolbar. The circle and square icons show what drawing mode you are in. In the picture on the left, the icon shows the normal drawing mode. When you use this, a new shape is placed over all the older shapes. The middle icon shows you can draw behind an object now. Thanks to this feature, you don’t have to keep rearranging shapes if you want something to go behind the other.

But by far, the best feature is the icon on the right.


Draw inside Icon

When you click on it, you can draw inside a shape. This makes it so much easier to make the shading align with the original shape. Make sure you have the shape you want to modify selected before you choose “draw inside.” You know the shape is ready when you see dashed lines in the corners of the shape.

A shape with "Draw Inside" selected

Here is an example of one of the finger shapes in “draw inside” mode. Notice that the inside shading extends beyond the original shape. This allows me to shade the monster much faster.

Next, I’ll add the finishing touches to the illustration.

Monster sketch shading


Monster sketch with shading specs

Next, I print out the sketch and determine where I will place the shading. This is a technique I learned from the illustrator, Von Glitschka. He has a great site called He also has a book called “Vector Basic Training” that is chocked full of great info.

The shading is even more important if I choose not to outline the art. Many times, I outline the details and the outer portion of the art with a black rule. On this one, I want the shading to define the shape. It will also allow me to emphasize the roundness or volume of the figure.

Next, I’ll place this file into Adobe Illustrator and make it a template. Yes, you can have more than one template in Illustrator. I’ll start the shading within the program next.

Monster Sketch: Let the Vectors Begin!

Vector Step 1Now 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.

Monster Illustration-back armI 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.

Monster character before colorIn the next post, I’ll begin adding the color. See you then.

Placed Monster

This is the third part of my tutorial on how I create an illustration in Adobe Illustrator.

I have placed the file and am ready to start with the pen tool. When I placed the file, I checked the “template” option within the place dialog box. This allows the image to come in dimmed and locked. It treats the image as if  I’m tracing it on a light box.

Many people skip this step and just start drawing in the program. Perhaps that would be fine if I used a Wacom Cintiq or a touch screen to draw, but even then, I would probably draw the image by hand first. This allows me to get a feel for the third dimension when I draw. Yes, my illustration is two dimension and my paper is flat. But what I mean is I want to be able to see the figure as a 3D object. It is easier for me to see how the head fits on the body if I can get a solid drawing together first. I have yet to see how to build the foundation on the computer. But if you’re willing to send a Cintiq my way, I’d be happy to give it a try!

All my computer drawing is done on a Wacom Intuos 3. I’ve had Wacom tablets for the last fifteen years, and I would not part with them. They make drawing easier on the computer, even if I’m using the pen tool. I thank one of my art professors for teaching me how to make a blind contour drawing. At the time, I thought she was nuts. She asked us to look only at the subject we were drawing and not look at the paper. At first, I couldn’t understand how that would work. Of course you have to look at your paper! Her aim was to make us really see what we were drawing. Several years later, it had the added benefit of helping me adjust to drawing on a Wacom tablet while looking at a screen.

If you are having problems using a drawing tablet with your computer, I’d encourage you to try some blind contour drawing.

Now that I have my drawing placed, and my drawing tablet ready, I’ll outline the shapes in Illustrator. See you then.

Portrait: step one

I’ve been busy with a few assignments. This is one of them. I have a family portrait I am working on. This shows the first steps in digitizing it.

I drew the sketch earlier and got approval from the client. I scanned that sketch and placed it in Adobe Illustrator. The scan is on a template layer. The default for a template layer in Illustrator is a 50% gray. I grayed it out an additional 50% using the transparency palette and setting the blend mode to multiply.

The above figure shows how I’m starting out. I’m using the pen tool to trace my sketch. The lines are magenta so they stand out from the scan. These are all on a layer I’m calling outlines. I will use this layer to create my fills and strokes later.

Here is a detail of how I’m outlining. I’m not worried about the color or weight of the stroke. That will all change later. I use the pen tool because it gives me a much smoother outline with the fewest points.

Next time, I’ll show you how to fill the areas with color.