Today we will take a close look at the features of the unique WidthScribe plug-in in the example of creating a technical illustration of a car that was produced for the tool's advert WidthScribe Introduction. In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Width Gradient and Width Selector Tools in practice, as well as how to optimise the finished vector artwork.
Create outline of car using Astute Graphics plug-ins
My objective was to create a technical illustration of a car based on a still frame from the movie. I inserted the bitmap image that was given to me into a new document of Adobe Illustratorand locked it in the Layers panel.
Recreate all the elements of the car by using only paths of the same uniform thickness.
Let's take a quick look at the tools I used to create the outline of the car. To create curved segments, I always use InkScribe Tool (DrawScribe plug-in). This allows me to create and edit paths with a single tool. In addition, Smart Remove Points, Ghost Handles and alternating between corner and smooth points by double-clicking on points or Bezier handles allows you to speed your work two-fold comparing to the Pen Tool (P).
To round the corners I certainly use the Dynamic Corners Tool (VectorScribe plug-in). Now I cannot even imagine working without this tool. I would have probably spent a few hours on rounding corners in this illustration alone. Now simply click, click and click.
Some curved segments are parts of the ellipses. To create these paths I use the Dynamic Shapes Tool (VectorScribe plug-in). This tool allows you to immediately draw ellipses, located at the right angles.
Work on the illustration using the Width Gradient Tool
Thus, all elements of the car are created.
Of course, you would agree that such a technical illustration does not look very impressive. In order to improve the result, we can make some lines thicker to separate the basic elements from the minor ones, and even apply the effect of linear perspective to the entire artwork. Let's see how the WidthScribe can help us with that.
Firstly, I think we should emphasize the outer outline of the vehicle. For these purposes, we will be using the Width Gradient Tool (WidthScribe plug-in). To manage the options of this tool, open its panel .
Choose the type of gradient in this panel – Linear mode and Relative Adjustment (this means that changing the width of the paths will be determined as a percentage), then set the range of width variation.
In accordance with the rule of linear perspective, objects that are closer to the viewer should look thicker than the distant ones. The picture below shows how the width of the outline should be distributed from the maximum to the minimum values
According to this, select the part of the outer outline of the vehicle and apply the Width Gradient by click-dragging.
As we have chosen the Relative Adjustment mode, the repeated use of the gradient to the selected path or paths will lead to the cumulative effect.
You can also use the Absolute Adjustment mode. In this case, the range of width variation will have absolute values, such as points for example.
After applying the Width Gradient, the Reapply Gradient button becomes active in the Width Gradient panel.
This allows you to change the values of width variation range and apply the Width Gradient again. As you can see, Relative Adjustment and Absolute Adjustment modes give us the opportunity to experiment. Pick the desired thickness.
We are also able to set a non-linear distribution of thickness along the direction of the Width Gradient — the panel's graph area is intended for this purpose. You can add new points, change their position and control the curvature of the graph.
You can also specify a Radial Width Gradient; to do this, choose the Radial mode in the Width Gradient panel. I have used this type of gradient on the headlights and front wheel of the car.
As you can see, a Width Gradient can be applied to a group of paths, achieving a perspective or light effect.
Use the Optimization level to control the accuracy of the application of the Width Gradient. The smaller its value, the more accurate the effect, but the greater the number of width markers.
Here I want to note that the amount of width markers affects the size of the vector file and the speed of Adobe Illustrator. We will return to the optimization question at the end of this tutorial.
Using the Width Selector Tool
The Width Selector Tool is intended for targeted control of width markers. To open its panel, go to.
Let's see how to use this tool in the process of creating an illustration of a car. Take the Width Selector Tool (after selecting this tool, all the existing width markers become visible) and select markers on the headlights.
Click on the Taper Stroke button in the Width Selector panel, which will lead to the sharpening (tapering) of the ends of the selected paths.
Pressing Taper Stroke button again will lead to an accumulative effect.
With the help of the Width Selector Tool you can also change the width of the selected markers, by setting the absolute value in the numeric field of the Specify Width or percentage value in the Change Width numeric field.
Delete width markers button is intended to delete the selected markers.
If, after applying the Width Gradient Tool, you need to edit the result, the Width Selector Tool is an ideal tool for these purposes. According to my conception of linear perspective, I received the results shown in the following picture.
My first job was as a design engineer, and believe me I know full well what a technical illustration is. In the process of creating perspective in a drawing, I could not even dream about this before WidthScribe!
Optimising the amount of width markers
If we take the Width Selector Tool, we will see the number of width markers that our illustration has.
As already mentioned above, an excessive amount increases the file size, and also slows down Illustrator. Fortunately, WidthScribe allows you to optimise the amount of width makers. Let's see how it's done…
Select the entire image with the Selection Tool (V), then go to. Increasing the Optimisation Amount parameter, we can reduce the amount of markers, watching the changes in illustration quality. In my case, the amount of markers was reduced by 133.
I would like to note that to create variable width strokes in this illustration only the Width Gradient and Width Selector Tools were used alongside the optimization function. If using the Dynamic Sketch Tool (DrawScribe) or Width Brush Tool (WidthScribe), then marker optimisation may well prove to be much more dramatic.
Due to the strict deadlines of the filming process, I had very little time to create this illustration. Would I be able to meet the deadline? This question crept to my mind several times. But I should not have been worried as using the VectorScribe, DrawScribe and their logical extension, WidthScribe, I did not just simply finish the work on time, but also supplied it nicely ahead of schedule, which was a big, yet pleasant surprise for Astute Graphics!
Download the VW vector artwork
This original artwork is supplied as one of the great examples alongside the WidthScribe download (which also provides a full 14 day trial).