Tutorials & Tips Archive

Two New Tutorials at MyStockVectors

I added a couple new tutorials on the blog at MyStockVectors. The first one is for making animated GIF files in Adobe Photoshop. The second one is for creating 8-bit style graphics (like the little star above) in Photoshop. So, go check them out:

Animated GIF Tutorial

8-Bit Graphic Tutorial

Mixing Colors in Adobe Illustrator

I’ve seen a lot of beginner work lately that could use a brush up on its color theory, so I thought I’d write a tutorial that deals with colors. For this tutorial, I wanted to focus on the overuse of black in mixing colors. For cartoons, you usually want bright vibrant colors and nothing muddies up colors quicker than adding black. When I used to paint, I would usually try to avoid using black. I’d typically make my darker colors or shadows by mixing two complimentary colors together (green and red, yellow and purple or orange and blue). This philosophy has carried over to my vector work as well.

I’m starting with a yellow caterpillar I did in Illustrator.

Next, I’m going to add a gradient to the yellow body. It’s going to be a three stage gradient. The colors I’m using are white, yellow-orange and orange. If you want more info on how to use the gradient tool, I’ve got tutorials here and here.

Notice, I’m making the darker color by adding more magenta instead of black. I made the same gradient using just black and yellow. It turns to a pea soup color pretty quick.

I made the color on the belly by using yellow and red. Again, no black.

For the drop shadow, I used mostly blue with a little black instead a flat gray.

Here’s the final image. Look, I’m not saying to stop using black. I still use it in my colors. I’m just trying to suggest that you can get a lot more vibrant colors by using other colors instead.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Doodle Style Tutorial in Adobe Illustrator

This a tutorial for making cartoon doodle illustrations in Adobe Illustrator. For this tutorial, you’ll need an additional plug-in (it’s free) for Illustrator. It’s a tool that let’s you find Open Paths. It is and invaluable plug-in for stock artists and anyone else too.

I start with my traced sketch that I drew with the Pen Tool and a stroked line.

Next, I drag my layer from the Layer Palette onto the Create New Layer button. This will create a duplicate layer.

I want to turn the visibility off on my new layer because I won’t be working on it right now. Click on the little icon that looks like an eye to the left of the layer to make it invisible.

Now, I select the original layer and use my new plug-in. Go to Select > Object > Open Paths. This will select all the lines that aren’t closed shapes.

Since I’m going to use this layer as my colored shape layer and the top layer as my line art, I want to delete the all the Open Paths. So, I hit delete on the keyboard.

Next, I select all. Go to Select > All or use the keyboard shortcut Command/Control A. With everything selected, I put a fill color on the shapes and eliminate the stroke color.

Now, I turn the visibility back on for my other layer.

With both layers visible, I want to select all again. After you have selected everything, go to Object > Group. Grouping the objects will pull them all onto the top layer. The reason I want to do this is that some of my shapes need to overlap some of my lines. So, I need everything on one layer to do that.

Next, I want to add a Brush stroke to all my lines. To do this I’ll need to select all my lines. Yeah, I should have done this before I merged my layers, but I like to do things the hard way. Anyway, select one of your lines, then go to Select > Same > Stroke Color.

Then, open your Brush Palette and pick the brush you want to use. I used one of the defaults. You may need to adjust the stroke weight after you pick the brush.

I still need to move my shapes around, so some of my shapes are overlapping the lines. To do this, I select the objects I want to move and use the Object > Arrange > Send to Back.

Here’s my illustration with everything arranged correctly.

Next, I want to turn my lines into shapes. To do this, I’m going to use the Flatten Transparency. Select all, and go to Object > Flatten Transparency.

A dialogue box pops up. Move the slider to 100% vector and click OK.

Finally, I adjust the colors of my shapes and I’m done.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Resizing Images in Photoshop with Actions

Making images for microstock, I end up resizing a lot of Illustrator files. I use the Action palette in Photoshop to help save some time doing the tedious operation of resizing files. With that said, here is a little tutorial for the Action palette.

I start by taking my Illustrator eps file and dragging it onto the Photoshop application icon to open it. A dialogue box pops up. For this example, I want my end file to be 470 pixels by 470 pixels, so I set my greatest dimension (height or width) to a little under 470. I went with 450. Since the Constrain Proportions box is checked, the other dimension will change automatically to keep my file proportional. I click OK and my file opens up.

Next, I want to use the Action palette. To open it, go to Window > Actions.

I click the Create New Action button at the bottom of the palette.

A dialogue box pops up. I name my Action and click Record.

If you look at the Action palette, you’ll notice the red Record light is lit up. Basically, it is recording the actions you are doing on the screen until you Stop it. So, let’s record your canvas resize. Go to Image > Canvas Size.

A dialogue pops up. I set my canvas size to 470 x 470 and click OK.

Notice, I’m still recording. Next, I want Save for Web. Go to File > Save for Web. Set your image specs and Save it to a folder. Take note of the folder you save to because this action will always save to that folder.

Finally for your last recorded action, close the file.

Now, go back to the Action palette and hit the Stop Recording button.

Now that I have my new Action, it is time to do some heavy lifting with it. Select several files that need resizing and drag them onto the Photoshop application icon to open them. A dialogue box will pop up for each file. Like before, set the greatest dimension to below 470 (I used 450).

After all your files are open, select your 470×470 action from the palette and hit Play. Photoshop quickly goes through the Canvas Size, the Save for Web and Closes the file. If you check the folder you set up for it to save in, you’ll find your resized file. Now hit Play for the rest of the files and you’re done.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 8: Using Offset Paths for Dynamic Lines

This is the eighth tutorial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. Up to this point, you have mostly been learning to trace over sketches with the Pen Tool. If you missed any of those thrilling tutorials, you can check them out here. With this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create dynamic lines with the Offset Paths feature.

Here is my stroked line drawing from the last tutorial.

I start by selecting the pupils in the eyes and the mouth using the Selection Tool. To select multiple objects, press the Shift key each time you click.

Next, change the color of the stroke to none and the color of the fill to black using the Swatch palette.

You can also use menu bar at the top to change colors. They added this menu in either CS or CS2, so you may be out of luck if you’re on an older version of Illustrator.

Your drawing should look like this after the color change.

Next, select the leaf part.

I’m going to change the color of this to white. The final won’t be white, but I usually like to fill everything with either black or white to start. Don’t ask me why. That is just the way I do things. Anyway… instead of using the Swatch palette to change the color, I’m going to use the Eyedropper tool. With your leaf selected, click on any of the white space of your artboard. The leaf will turn to white.

Now, you’re ready to use the Offset Path on the leaf. Go to Object > Path > Offset Path.

A dialogue box pops up and I set the Offset to 2 point.

This creates a shape that is uniformly 2 points larger than the original. I set the color to black for the new shape. Notice how it looks like a line, even though it is just a slightly larger shape.

If your leaf is overlapping your eyes or your stem is overlapping your leaf shape, you may need to move things around. If you are working on layers, then drag the layers into the right order. Be careful not to drag the layers into one another. You can always undo layer changes with the Undo (Command/Control Z).

If you aren’t using layers, then use the Send to Back (Object > Arrange > Send to Back). I have a little trick to move things around using the Send to Back and the Group. Basically, if you group an object in the back to one in the front, the group moves your object in the back to directly underneath the front object. This also works for layers. If you group two objects from different layers, it will move the object from the lower layer onto the upper layer. This trick mixed with the keyboard shortcuts (Command/Control G and Shift Command/Control [ ) can save you a lot of time.

Next, I repeat the steps I did with the leaf shape on the stem.

After that, I do the same thing with the eyes. For the eyes, I used a 1 point offset.

Finally, I wanted to make my lines a little less uniform looking. I start by selecting the eyes with the Selection Tool. When the eyes are selected, you can see a bounding box around them. Pull down on the middle anchor point on the bounding box. This will make the black shape a little larger which make the line weight look heavier on the bottom.

I also adjusted the leaf shape as well. Here is what the whole thing looked like when I finished. Hey, you’ve got a line drawing! Put some color on that sucker and your Grandma just might hang it on her fridge. With that said, next up is the magical world of color.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 7: Turning Lines Into Shapes

This is the seventh tutorial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. We’ve already covered placing sketches, using the Pen tool, tracing sketches with the Pen tool, making symmetrical vector files, using the Ellipse tool and creating symmetrical curves. This lesson covers turning lines into shapes.

Here’s my sketch. You can either work on the same layer as your other shapes or create a new one to work on for the stem. If you want a refresher on using layers, you can refer to the first tutorial.

I start by drawing a curved line. If you need a refresher on the Pen tool, check it out here.

Next, I open my Stroke palette. Go to Window > Stroke.

The palette pops up. I click on the up arrow next to the stroke weight. This increases my stroke weight by one at a time. I do this until it looks about the right width as my sketch. I ended up with a 10 pt line.

Next, I want to turn my line into a shape. I’m going to use the Outline Stroke. Go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. You can also use the Flatten Transparency.

Your line turns into a shape. It will now have a solid fill instead of a stroke. If you want to change the color back you can either change your colors the usual way or you can use the Eyedropper tool. To use the Eyedropper, select the stem, change to the Eyedropper tool and click on another object with it. I turned the layer with the eyes back to visible in my layer palette and clicked on the eyes with the Eyedropper. The Eyedropper changes the stem to the same color as the eyes. It also picks up the same stroke weight.

Here’s what my leaf stem shape looks like.

Next, I use the Direct Selection tool to adjust the shape. I pull out the bottom anchor points a little and the move the top ones in a little bit.

I want my stem to have a slight curve to the bottom, so I’m going to add an anchor point to the bottom. You can either add anchor points with the regular Pen tool or the Add Anchor point tool (located in the same spot as the Pen tool). To add an anchor point, select the stem shape. Then, switch to the Pen tool and click on the spot on the line where you want to add another point. I put one in between the bottom two points.

Next, I use the Direct Selection tool to move my new anchor point down.

Now, I want to make the new point curved. To do that, I’ll need to select the Convert Anchor Point tool.

Click and drag on the new anchor point with the Convert Anchor Point tool. Instead of moving the point, you’ll notice it creates handles and the line curves. Move it around until you get the desired curve. You can also go in and fine tune the shape with the Direct Selection tool.

Well, that’s it. You’ve finished tracing the sketch. I went back and turned on all the layers and turned off my sketch layer. I may or may not continue with this series, so hopefully, this helped prepare you for some of the other cartoon tutorials. Let me know if anything isn’t clear or you’d like further explanation of something.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 6: Creating Symmetrical Curves

This is the sixth tutorial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. We’ve already covered placing sketches, using the Pen tool, tracing sketches with the Pen tool, making symmetrical vector files and using the Ellipse tool. This lesson covers creating symmetrical curves by making the smiling mouth.

Here’s my sketch. You can either work on the same layer as your other shapes or create a new one to work on for the mouth. If you want a refresher on using layers, you can refer to the first tutorial.

Start by drawing one half of the smile using the Pen tool. Start your first point at the corner of the mouth and make the second one near the middle of the mouth. Hold down the Shift key while making the line curve. If you need a refresher on the Pen tool, check it out here.

The reason for holding down the Shift key is it makes your curved line end pointing in a straight line or parallel to your page edge (instead of being angled up or down).

Next, draw the crescent shape for the cheek. Start by making the top curved line with the Pen tool, then click off of the line. Remember you can hold down the Command/Control key to quickly switch between the Pen and the Selection tools. Now, start drawing again by hovering your mouse over the last point you made. When you see the slash next to the tooltip, click on the point. Then complete the shape by hovering over the original point until you see the circle. Click on the point and pull out your curve.

Note: If you try to restart your curve on the first point you made, you’ll probably have trouble with trying to make the right shape (you end up with a distorted blob). If this happens to you, undo the last line (Command/Control Z) and start at the opposite point instead.

Now, select the two parts of the mouth to make a copy. To select multiple objects, Shift click on the second object or draw a box around all the objects you want to select with the Selection tool. Now that your objects are selected, hold down the Option and Shift keys while dragging the objects to the right. You’ll want to press the Shift key after you start dragging, otherwise you’ll deselect the shapes.

With your copied half mouth selected, double click on the Reflect tool.

A dialogue box pops up. Select Vertical and click OK.

Your mouth should have flipped. You may need to move it around to get it to line up with your sketch.

Now connect the two mouth halves with the Pen Tool.

Open up your Stroke palette. Go to Window > Stroke.

The Stroke palette pops up and I set my stroke to 2 pt. This will thicken up your line a little.

Now, let’s make your line into a closed shape. Select just the mouth and not the cheeks. Go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. You’ll notice your stroked line is now a closed shape. I usually don’t do this step until the very end, so I can change the stroke weight if I want.

You can also outline your stroke by using the Flatten Transparency. Flatten Transparency will also convert dashed lines and brush effects which the Outline Stroke doesn’t do. Go to Object > Flatten Transparency to use it. Move the slider to 100% Vector.

Finally, select the cheeks and the smile and use the Add to shape area from the Pathfinder palette. Again, I probably wouldn’t do this step until the end. Just in case I wanted to change something, but I figured it was good to show for the tutorial.

Here’s my final mouth. I was originally going to do the stem in this tutorial too, but this one ran long. So, it will get done in the next one.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 5: Using the Ellipse Tool

This is the fifth tutorial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. We’ve already covered placing sketches, using the Pen tool, tracing sketches with the Pen tool and making symmetrical vector files. This lesson covers using the Ellipse tool to make eyes.

Here’s my sketch. You can either work on the same layer as the leaf shape or create a new one to work on for the eyes. If you want a refresher on using layers, you can refer to the first tutorial.

Select the Ellipse tool from the Toolbar.
Next, draw an ellipse. Click on the starting point of your oval and slowly pull your mouse down until your ellipse is about the same size and shape as your sketch.
Many times, I’ll just use the oval as is, but let’s make it a little more difficult by using the Direct Selection tool to adjust the curves. You may want to zoom in on your oval to adjust it. Z on your keyboard will bring up the Zoom tool. If you click on the artboard with the Zoom tool, it will zoom in a set amount. This is kind of tedious, so I usually use it by clicking and dragging a box around the area I want to zoom in on. I think this is a much easier way to use it. To zoom out, hold down the Option/Alt key. You’ll notice the tooltip changes from zoom + to zoom -. Again, this will only zoom you out in increments. I like to use View > Fit in Window or Command/Control 0.

Alright, back to the Direct Select tool… I click on the line of the oval with the Direct Selection tool. The line lights up and I can see all the anchor points and handles. I start by clicking on the left middle anchor point and pulling it down a little. This makes my eyeball a little more bottom heavy and egg shaped. Next I grab the top left handle of the top anchor point and move it in or closer toward the anchor. If I hold down Shift while I’m moving it, it will only move in one direction. Then, I do the same with the right handle.

For a more precise way to move anchor points and handles, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard. Select the anchor point or handle you want to move and click on the arrow key to move it in an incremental step.

You can adjust the distance the point moves by changing your settings. Go to File > Preferences > General. A dialogue box pops up and the first box is keyboard increments.

Next, draw the pupil with the Ellipse tool. Holding down the Shift key while you draw an oval will make it a perfect circle.
Now to flip the eye you just drew, so you can have a symmetrical second eye. Select both the eyeball and the pupil with the Selection tool. Next drag them to the right like you were going to move them, but hold down the Option/Alt key and the Shift key. You’ll want to press the Shift key after you start dragging, otherwise you’ll deselect the shapes. Holding down the Option key will make a copy of the shapes while you drag them and holding down the Shift key will make sure that you only move the shapes left and right and not up and down.
To flip them, double click on the Reflect tool while they are selected.
A dialogue box pops up. Choose Vertical and click OK.
You’ll probably have to move the eye a little after it flips to get it in position. Hold down the Shift key when you move them like before, so the eye only moves in one direction. Or you can use the arrow keys to nudge it over. Here are the eyes with the leaf shape. Next, it is on to the mouth and the stem.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 4: Symmetrical Objects

This is the fourth tutroial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. We’ve already covered placing sketches, using the Pen tool and tracing sketches with the Pen tool. This lesson is about making symmetrical vector files. The best way to make sure your file is symmetrical is to draw half of it and flip it.

In the last tutorial, I traced over my placed sketch with the Pen Tool. Since the stem isn’t symmetrical, I’ll draw that later.

Next, I want to use the Reflect Tool. It usually hides under the Rotate Tool, so click and hold the Rotate Tool to see it.

With your leaf half selected, double click on the Reflect Tool. A dialogue box will pop up. Set the Axis to Vertical and click copy.

This will make a copy of your leaf facing the opposite way.

Next, you’ll want to make sure your Smart Guides are on. Go to View > Smart Guides or use the keyboard shortcut Command/Control U. If you’d like to know more about Smart Guides you can see a brief tutorial about it here.

With your Smart Guides on, you can roll over your lines and they light up and say things like path or anchor. Now, you’ll need to line up the two edges of your leaf halves. Roll over straight edge of one of your leaf halves. When it says path, click on the line and drag it towards the other half’s straight edge. You’ll want to hold down Shift while dragging the half. Holding down Shift constrains your object to moving on only one axis. In this case, you want your object to move right and left, but not up and down. When the leaf half line that you’re dragging hits the other leaf half’s line, the line will light up and it will say intersect. That means they are lined up and you can stop dragging.

If for some reason your two halves aren’t top aligned, you can use the Align palette to align them at the top. Open the Align palette by going to Window > Align.

Now that your leaf halves are lined up, you’ll need to join them.

You can use the Pathfinder palette to join them. If you don’t have your pathfinder palette open, go to Window > Pathfinder. Select both halves using the Selection tool in the Toolbar. To select a second object, hold down Shift and click on the second object.

With the two halves selected, use the Add to shape area on the palette. It is the first button on the top row. Click Expand to finish joining the objects. Now, you have a symmetrical object.

As with any time your working in Illustrator, if you make a mistake use the Undo. Go to Edit > Undo or Command/Control Z.

Since your leaf shape is complete, we’ll move onto the eyes in the next tutorial.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.

Illustrator Beginner’s Series 3: Tracing with the Pen Tool

This is the third part in my Adobe Illustrator Beginner’s series. This tutorial is about tracing over your pencil sketches with the Pen tool. The first part of this series was about getting your sketches into Illustrator and the second part was about using the Pen tool. If you missed the either part, you can check out the first one here and the second one here.

Here’s my placed sketch.

Select the Pen Tool and the color you want to draw in from the Toolbar. I like to draw in a bright color like red, so I can see the lines over my sketch.

Start by clicking on the bottom of the leaf in the middle. Next, click on the top in the middle. Hold down the Shift key when you click. Holding down the Shift key will make your line straight.

Now, you want your line to curve to follow the shape of the leaf. Make your next point, at the end of the curve, but don’t release the mouse button. Instead, slowly move your mouse down. Notice it is making a curved line. When you get the curve correct release the mouse button.

After making a curved line, you’ll want to click off your line to avoid the recipricol curve like in the last tutorial. Hold down the Command/Control key to get either the Direct Select or the Selection tool and click off the line on the empty artboard. Then, release the Command/Control key and continue drawing with the Pen tool.

Now you want to continue drawing with your line. With the Pen tool selected, hover your mouse over the end of the line. A small black slash mark will appear next to pen tool tip (or the part where your pen meets paper). This means that you are over the end point of the line. Click on it. If you miss just undo. Go to Edit > Undo or Command/Control Z.

Next, click on the next point you want your line to continue to. This line is a straight line, so you won’t have to click off of it to draw the next one.

Continue following the contour of the leaf by making the line curve and go straight. When you come to the end, you’ll want close the shape. If you remember from the last lesson, to close a shape hover over the first point you made. You’ll know you’re over the point when a small circle appears next to your pen tool, then click on the point. Your line or path is closed.

You have just drawn half the leaf shape. The next lesson will show you how to flip the shape and join it, so you have a symmetrical object.

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.