Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Today we will learn a new drawing tool for Adobe Illustrator called the Dynamic Sketch Tool — one of the tools of the new DrawScribe plugin. The Dynamic Sketch Tool has many convenient features that makes your daily creative work much easier. Mastering the new tool should not take you much time as it's easy to manage and its user-friendly features are quite understandable.

Step 1

In this tutorial I will be using the sketch of a Viking which was created by Catherine Dedova. Paste the sketch into the current document (File > Place…) and set 50% opacity for it in the Transparency panel, and then lock the layer with the sketch in the layers panel.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

This step is a standard procedure for manual tracing of the sketch in vector.

Step 2

The first stage is the creation of the vector character; creation of an outline. This process is called "inking". To create an outline of variable thickness (Adobe Illustrator CS5+ users only), we are using different tools. Usually we resort to the Paint Brush Tool (B) and the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B), but today we are going to apply a new tool to inking — it is called the Dynamic Sketch Tool. It is one of the tools of the DrawScribe plugin. Let's take a look at this tool.

After downloading and installing the plugin to your computer, icons associated with the new tools will appear on the Toolbox. To open the Dynamic Sketch Tool panel, go to Window > DrawScribe > Dynamic Sketch Panel.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Step 3

The Dynamic Sketch Tool panel allows us to set the variable line width dependence on several parameters. In my work I will be using the Graphic Tablet (eg. those by Wacom), therefore set the path width to be based on the graphics tablet pen pressure.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

In this panel, you can also set the path width value at the minimum and maximum pressure on the stylus. In contrast to the Paint Brush Tool and the Blob Brush Tool dialog windows, the Dynamic Sketch panel stays available during the work. This allows us to change the settings of the tool fast. Besides, the created path is dynamic, allowing us to change its properties after the creation which we will see at the process of work.

Step 4

Proceed to enable the following option in the panel by clicking on the buttons; "Toggle repeat sketch traces" and "Toggle ability to edit or continue existing paths". These functions allow us to re-profile sketch traces and to continue the created path.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

To round the ends of the paths, set the Round Cap in the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke).

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

In order for a new path to have all the current appearances, such as the Round Cap, disable the "New Paths Have Basic Appearance" option in the dialog window of the Dynamic Sketch Preferences.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

To open the preferences window, either:

  • Double click on the icon of the tool on the toolbar
  • Choose the appropriate option from the panel fly-out menu, or
  • If already in the Dynamic Sketch tool, simply press Enter

Step 5

Now the tool is set up as we want it for the task, we can proceed to work.

Create a new layer above the layer containing the sketch, and name it Inking. Choose black color for stroke and no fill. Take the stylus and draw the outline of an ear, varying the pressure of the pen as you go.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Let's see how we can control the shape of the contour. By controlling the accuracy level slider, we can change the number of points in the resultant path and adjust how closely it resembles the original sketch trail.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

The higher the value is, the more detailed the path will be. This parameter corresponds to the Fidelity parameter for the Paint Brush Tool, Blob Brush Tool and Pencil Tool (N). To smooth the path, use the Smoothness level parameter.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

By controlling it, you can also adjust the smoothness of the variable width change.

Step 6

At the bottom of the panel, there is a graph of the relationship between the width of the path to the pressure. It is linear by default.

If you don't see this extended graph area in the tool's panel, click on the panel's fly-out menu and select "Expand Panel".

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Create point A on the graph and change its shape.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Such a displacement of the point A leads to the increase in width of the path at the places corresponding to the medium pressure of the stylus. The graph shown in the figure below leads to the opposite result (thinning of the path in places corresponding to the mid-pressure on the stylus).

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

I believe the principles of operation the graph are clear. For example, you can change the width of areas with low or high pressure.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Or even create S-shaped and parabolic relationships between pressure and path widths.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

In other words, we have a full control of the thickness and shape of the path.

Step 7

If the original sketch trail didn't follow the underlying artwork as intended, you can always redraw the path again, or change some parts of its shape by changing the pressure at this point.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

For such changes, we turned on the "Toggle repeat sketch traces" and "Toggle ability to edit or continue existing paths" options in the Dynamic Sketch panel.

Step 8

There are two buttons "Define smooth points" and "Define corner points" in the upper part of the Dynamic Sketch panel. By clicking on one of these buttons, you switch from drawing mode, into Corner or Smooth mode. This allows you to click on individual dynamic sketch points, or drag a marquee box over a range of points, to either force them to become smooth or corner, or "prime" them ready for further path editing.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

To make the path absolutely smooth, you can change to the Smooth mode and drag a marquee selection box over all the points in the path.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

For more information about the Smooth and Corner modes, please refer to the Dynamic Sketch – Smooth and corner modes movie.

Step 9

Let's talk more about some features of the Dynamic Sketch Tool that haven't been mentioned. You can invert the width of areas with high and low pressure if needed:

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

You can also set the relationship of the path width to cursor speed:

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

This relationship fits better for drawing with the mouse. None of the tools of Adobe Illustrator has such a function.

Step 10

Next, enable the "Toggle gesture trimming" button.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

This option allows you to remove the parts of intersecting paths through zigzag cross-out gestures.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

In addition, it can be used to create shapes, replacing some of the features of the Pathfinder panel and Shape Builder Tool.

Step 11

So far we were talking about the technique of creation of a path with a variable width. So, in what areas of the artwork should the outline be wider or thinner? An experienced graphic designer will tell you that there are two classic styles to create an outline of an illustration; "Draftsman" and "Painterly".

With the Draftsman inking style, the silhouette of the character is done with extra heavy lines, and as we move within the artwork, the outline lines become thinner.

With the Painterly inking style, the thickness of the outline lines depends on the location of the light source. The closer the line is to the illuminated part of the character, the thinner it is.

However, recently graphic designers often use the third, mixed style. In this style, through line thicknesses, artists convey the significance of an object by the thickness of the line — the more significant the object is, the thicker line is. When creating such an outline, an artist relies more on their inner feeling rather than any rules. I advise you observe one rule; lines should become heavier from top to bottom emphasizing the weight of objects.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Step 12

To boost the volume, create objects that convey a deep shadow. I'm using the Dynamic Sketch Tool to create them.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Now, the creation of the path can be considered complete.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Step 13

To color the illustration, create a new Coloring layer and place it below the layer with the outline. There is no need to use other tools such as the Pencil Tool or Pen Tool to create color objects. I create all the objects with the help of the Dynamic Sketch Tool with the editing function enabled.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

It does appear similar to working with the Pencil Tool, but editing of the shape with this Pencil Tool can lead to unpredictable results, such as object removal, the opening of the closed path, or closing of an opened path. When working with the Dynamic Sketch Tool all the editing results are more predictable. This will speed up your workflow several times. It is also important that the Dynamic Sketch panel is open during the work, allowing us to customize the tool quickly or change the smoothness and accuracy of the already created objects, as all paths are dynamic.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Step 14

Now you only have to create light and shadow. Create a new layer and place it between the Inking and Coloring layers. To create light and shadow only use the Dynamic Sketch Tool.

It's time to tell you about another feature of this tool; click on the "Toggle intelligent path joining" button in the Dynamic Sketch panel. Now when creating intersecting paths, they will automatically crop and join at the intersection.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

This property allows us to avoid the Pen Tool to get these shapes shown in the figure above. As a result, benefit from a significant time saving. All the shapes of light and shadow were created using the techniques described above.

Vector Drawing with Dynamic Sketch Tool

The basic steps of creating the illustration, and the techniques used, can be found in the video below:

Download the example artwork

The wonderful original Viking vector sketch is available to examine further by downloading the DrawScribe 14 day trial – click here… The file may be found in the example artworks folder along with the software installer.

Conclusion

Convenience and time savings are two factors that persuade me to choose the Dynamic Sketch Tool as a basic drawing tool.

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