Important product change information
Since this article was originally published, DrawScribe has been separated into two individual plug-ins:
DynamicSketch: sketch naturally in vector
InkScribe: draw precisely and accurately in vector
Existing customers of DrawScribe can find full details of how this affects their licenses by reading this article.
Creating the outline
The mechanical, geometric nature of the robot character featured in this tutorial lends itself to vector artwork — Astute Graphics' tools really help speed up your workflow in projects like this. Most of this tutorial will use the InkScribe Tool (part of the DrawScribe plugin for Adobe Illustrator) as well as some features from VectorScribe's range of tools.
We'll start with a sketch which I've scanned, saved and placed onto the page using
We will be creating the lines in the pictures first then adding colour at a later stage. The colour will be on a layer below the lines. The lines will help keep everything crisp and neat.
Using the InkScribe tool, select the straight segment mode and click, click, click… right round the body shape.
Select the Vector Scribe Dynamic Corner Tool. Click and drag on each corner to create the appropriate curve. You can go back and edit these curves at any stage by clicking and dragging the circles on the ends of the red arrows. This tool is an absolute boon for this type of job. We'll be using it a lot!
Use InkScribe to create the lower part of the body, don't worry about the overlap, we will sort that out next. Use the Dynamic Corner Tool again to curve the lower corners.
Select the body and copy it ().
Make sure that the main body is the upper-most object on stack ().
Trim the lower body to size.
The body will disappear leaving only the lower part of the body cut perfectly to size. Now paste back the body exactly into place using. A neat trick – remember this for later.
With the fill colour set to black and the stoke to none, use InkScribe to draw this closed triangle.
Copy the triangle to the other end of the body and select both of them. Rather than drawing eight separate triangles and having to worry about spacing and alignment we'll use the blend tool to do the work for us.
Opt for onand select Specified Steps, then enter '8' as the number of steps then click .
With the two triangles still selected, click on.
Repeat the process on the right hand side of the body with Specified Steps set to '4'.
The techniques for making the screen will be familiar to you by now. Draw out the screen with the InkScribe Tool. Add dynamic corners. Drag it away from the body so that the next move doesn't affect the body. Copy a second screen up and right from the first. Select both and choose.
Select both remaining parts and drag them into place on the body.
Make three buttons under the screen using the same technique.
Construction of the head follows a similar pattern to the body. Click out the head and add dynamic corners. Notice that bottom left and right corners remain sharp.
Time to use one of the powerful features of the Dynamic Sketch tool!
Select the Dynamic Sketch Tool and open its panel (). Toggle Gesture Trimming Button to 'On'.
With a simple squiggle of the pen you can quickly erase the line that shouldn't be showing with it cut accurately to length at both ends.
Back to InkScribe to draw the aerial, dragging out the handles as appropriate to curve the end.
Add the circle at the top.
Then tidy up the lines through the magic of gesture trim. It saves loads of time and feels so intuitive!
Finish the face by adding the eyes and mouth.
We'll initially create the arms on a separate layer just for ease of construction. Create a new layer on the top of the others. Select the layer and lock the other layers.
Create an oval roughly in place and rotate it slightly to fit the sketch.
Copy the oval twice by Alt-dragging it, rotating it twice slightly as you do. Use the InkScribe Tool to draw the upper arm.
With the final oval and the arm selected open the Pathfinder panel () and merge the two pieces together by clicking the first pathfinder option.
Use InkScribe's smart remove point to tidy up the joint between the arm and oval.
Use the InkScribe's retract handles button on the top corners of the arm to make sure that the corners are sharp.
Use the gesture trimming trick to tidy up the arm lines. Add another oval to the end of the arm to complete the upper arm section.
Trim the diagonal line with the following step:
Select the oval and copy it
Cut out the curve on the upper arm matching the oval using
Paste the oval back into place using.
These steps will let you colour the upper arm and the oval easily later on.
Draw the forearm in the same way.
The fingers are each made from a two segment straight stroke. Set the stroke weight to 12pt, add a curved end cap and curved corners.
With the line still selected click on. This will convert the line into a fill with the same shape. Change the fill to none and the stroke to black with a weight of 2pt.
Copy the finger twice and arrange the three fingers to make a hand.
Tidy up the hand lines with gesture trimming.
That's one arm done. Select the whole arm and group it ().
Copy the arm, flip it, re-size as necessary and position it on the other side of the body. Delete the shoulder ovals and use gesture trimming the fit the arm to the body.
Select the two layers that hold the body and the arm and merge them together into a single layer.
The wheel is made from ovals. Draw them and re size them to fit the drawing. Make the recessed rim using the same copy, cut, paste in front method as the screen and the elbow ovals.
Use a the Dynamic Shapes' rounded rectangle (part of VectorScribe Studio) for the wheel support. Finish the whole thing off with a final flourish of gesture trimming.
Here's the final robot outline with the sketch layer turned off. Your diligence with gesture trimming has created a picture will all lines and no fills ready to be coloured with a mixture of straight forward shape fills and the blob brush for highlights.
We will now make three identical layers each containing the same robot picture. Do this by dragging the existing layer twice onto the new layer icon on the layers palette.
Rename the three layers so that you can keep track of what you are doing.
Colour: The bottom layer. This layer will be a single solid colour background to the whole character.
Hilights: This layer will be for adding extra colour to the character's individual parts.
Lines: The black, ink lines for the character. You can lock this layer now as it is complete and won't be changed.
Bottom layer first. Hide the other two layers by clicking on their eyes in the layers palette. Select the character and use the first button in the pathfinder window to make a single shape. Set the fill colour to white.
Add a grey rectangle to the back of the colour layer temporarily so that you can see what is going on.
Make the lines and hilights layer visible again
Lock the colours layer and select the hilights layer.
Add fill colours to the joints and wheels by selecting them and changing their fill colour.
To tighten up the image we'll add a thick black line round the edge of the character. Unlock the colours layer and select it. Select the silhouette object. Open the Appearance panel (). Via the panel's fly-out menu, select . Set the stroke to black at 5pt and drag it below the fill in the appearance panel. Repeat the process, this time adding a white 10pt stroke and drag this one below the black line.
Create a second hilight layer ready for the blob brush hilights and lock the other layers.
Select the blob brush and a fetching shade of cyan for the fill colour. Carefully paint in the coloured edging to give a bit of depth to the picture. The top Lines layer keeps the blob brush colour tidy just as we planned! If you make a mistake with the blob brush you can edit it with the eraser tool which is next to it on the tool bar.
And that's the robot done!
Time for a bit of scene setting.
Lock all the layer then create a new scenery layer. Add the simple sky and ground as shown below. Notice how the robot escapes slightly from the scene, this is an old graphic designer's trick that gives a feeling of movement and depth to the picture.
Use the InkScribe tool to create a dark blue wedge lined up with the road vanishing point.
Select the rotate tool and drag the rotate origin to the road vanishing point. Alt-drag the wedge round to a new position one wedge width from the first one. Because you were holding Alt the wedge will copied rather than just moved.
Repeatedly pressto duplicate the last copy making this sun burst effect.
Drag out a rectangle the same size as the background scenery.
Select the whole of the scenery. Create a mask to hide the excess sun burst parts using
The final flourish is the cactus. Start off with this basic shape created with the InkScribe tool.
Curve the corners with the dynamic corners tool. You know how now.
Here are a few steps in one rather than going over stuff you already know;
Set the stoke width to 20px with round end caps and curved corners.
Outline the strokes and merge them together with the pathfinder.
Smooth out the corners with the dynamic corners tool.
Reduce the curve on the base of the cactus with the InkScribe tool
Make a copy of the cactus to use later for the shadow.
We'll use the Dynamic Sketch tool for the cactus prickles. Start off by setting up the preferences. Un-check Keep selected and Show Dynamic Sketch Path Indicators. There will be a lots of prickles so it is best to keep things simple.
Use the Dynamic Sketch Tool to draw on randomly aligned prickles.
Select and group the completed cactus.
Drag the cactus into position on the background.
Set the fill colour on the shadow cactus to black and the stroke to none. Set the opacity to around 40%. Flip it so that it is upside down and use a combination of re-sizing and the sheer tool to fit it in place as a shadow.
The Finished Comic
Done! Astute Graphics' tools really speed things up and make vector based comics as easy to create as Photoshop based ones but far easier to edit, re-use and modify.
Download the webcomic robot original vector artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS3 version…
Click here for the Illustrator CS4 version…
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 version (PDF compatible)…
About the author
You can find more work by Rob Ives at the newly relaunched webcomic strangenessandcharm.net where he has finally moved over to vector tools for comic creation. Also check out robives.com for paper animations by Rob Ives.