In July we extended our monthly competition to Facebook and Instagram as well as Twitter and we had a great response. A big thank you to all that entered!

As a result we awarded a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. This blog article is dedicated to Mark Grace who won first place for his impressive artwork and won Featured Artist on the Blog and a prize with his personalised design on it. Please keep reading for how he created his winning artwork.

Second and third place winners were awarded a plug-in free and a feature on the blog, keep a look out for their posts coming soon!

“I have been using Illustrator since 2008-2009 starting with version CS-4. My biggest issue was with the Pen Tool, difficult to use and time consuming so I avoided it at all costs. Then one day, I was watching You-Tube digital art tutorials and found some vector stuff by Von Glitschka. He was using this really awesome tool called pathscribe. So I went to the Astute Graphics site, downloaded the plug-in and I’ve been using it and a few other plug-ins ever since.

Recently, I started working on a series of Weirdo Hot-Rod art illustrations that was a popular style back when I was a kid. My first Hot Rod concept was a 1956 Ford pick-up which started out as a thumbnail in one of my sketch books. After gathering reference images, I refined the sketch, scanned, tweaked, printed, and refined it again until I felt it was ready to render.


Once the basic line-work and flats were done, I needed to start breaking up all of those dark areas, so I began with the tires and chassis. Correctly adding highlights and details will make or break this illustration and Astute Graphics has plug-ins that save time and are easy to use.


Using the InkScribe tool, I started to lay out highlights on the tires. With Inkscribe you can alter points and curves without switching tools, such a time saver! This tool has a handy fly-out menu so you can see the status of your points and quickly change or delete them.


After the initial strokes were laid out, they seemed a bit much. I felt that the lower set of strokes needed to be shortened, so how could I accomplish this without consuming too much time?


Enter DynamicSketch, another time saving plug-in from Astute Graphics. First I created a trimming line across the lower strokes on the same layer at a shorter height with the inkscribe tool.



Next I select the lower strokes and the trimming line. Then, In the DynamicSketch tool panel, I click and activate the “Toggle gesture trimming on and off” icon. Using the DynamicSketch tool, I trace back and forth a few times across the portion of the strokes below the trimming line….


….and behold! My strokes are trimmed quick and easy, then I just delete the trim line and the fix is complete.


As the image details progress, it’s time to add highlights to the top edge of the tire sidewalls. I created a special wide brush and then expanded the stroke to add shapes quickly. But, to edit this shape, there are just too many points. Enter VectorScribe, yet another time saving plug-in from Astute Graphics.


I just click and hold down on the Pathscribe tool in the tools panel to access the Smart Remove Brush tool and clean up those unnecessary points. Oops, what happened to my shape? Well, I like to use the Fixed Tolerance function to quickly clean up points, but my brush tolerance was set too high. By hover clicking the Smart Remove Brush over my selection, a small text box appears next to the brush displaying a current setting of 40.


To change my tolerance setting, with the Smart Remove Brush active, I hit the Enter key to open the preferences panel. I changed the fixed tolerance to a value of 10, my shape is preserved with much fewer points to edit. I found that anytime a tool preference is changed, the value will remain, even after closing and reopening illustrator.


Now I switch back to the Pathscribe tool and edit the shape. Having fewer points to edit makes this task a breeze.


The final result. I no longer suffer from Pen Tool anxiety. Using plug-ins from Astute Graphics saves me time. They are easy to use and have greatly improved my workflow.”


From all at AG headquarters we’d like to thank Mark for entering and we hope he likes his T-shirt with his winning design on! Please check out his website

There’s still plenty of time to enter this months competition and we’ve extended the competition to Facebook and Instagram.

 To enter on Facebook like our Facebook page and share your image with #AGjuly2015, on Twitter simply use #AGjuly2015 and on Instagram please follow Astute Graphics and tag us in your design so we don’t miss it!
Please note that you do not have to designs something specific for this competition you can simply use artwork where you have used any of our plug-ins providing you have permission to share with us if it’s a commissioned piece.
We love seeing all your amazing design designs so get entering.
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