Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

There are several ways to color vector images. Here I will describe the most common of them and the tools that are used in this process. All these methods are used by professional illustrators. What are their differences and advantages? Learn more after jump!

For this artwork we will be using a sketch of a Viking created by Catherine Dedova for this tutorial.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

I created an outline based on this sketch.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

To learn how to create an outline you can read in the first part of this tutorial – click here. I will only add a little bit to the previously described techniques. If you are using the Paintbrush Tool (B) to create an outline, don't worry that the line doesn't go quite the way you wanted.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

You can always remove extra points on the curve with the help of the Smart Remove Point command from the PathScribe panel (Window > VectorScribe > PathScribe) and correct its shape using the PathScribe Tool, of course, if you are already using VectorScribe plugin in your work.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

In this case, you only need to keep an eye at the line thickness, as the shape can always be fixed. I was using this method to create Viking's outline.

Coloring using the Pencil Tool (N)

The Pencil Tool (N) is the most common way of coloring the illustrations in Adobe Illustrator. However, this method is the most laborious. Many artists use it because in the drawing process, it allows for more details within the illustration. In addition, this method does not involve any technical requirements of the outline. The outline may be open (as it is in my case) or may consist of multiple open paths (in case you used the Paintbrush Tool (B) without further processing).

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now, before coloring the illustration, let's examine the settings of the Pencil Tool (N). To open the Options window of the Pencil Tool, double-click on the icon of the tool on the toolbar.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Fidelity controls how far you have to move your mouse or stylus before a new anchor point is added to the path. The higher the value, the smoother and less complex the path. The lower the value, the more the curves will match the pointer's movement, resulting in sharper angles. Fidelity can range from 0.5 to 20 pixels.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Smoothness controls the amount of smoothing applied when you use the tool. Smoothness can range from 0% to 100%. The higher the value, the smoother the path. The lower the value, the more anchor points are created, and the more the line's irregularities are preserved.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Fill New Pencil Strokes applies a fill to pencil strokes you draw after selecting this option, but not to existing pencil strokes.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Keep Selected determines whether to keep the path selected after you draw it. This option is selected by default.

Edit Selected Paths determines whether or not you can change or merge a selected path when you are within a certain distance of it (specified with the next option).

Within: [x] pixels determines how close your mouse or stylus must be to an existing path in order to edit the path with the Pencil tool (N). This option is only available when the Edit Selected Paths option is selected.

When coloring the picture with the Pencil tool (N) the last three options can be picked/specified. However, this is your preference.

It happens that many users of Adobe Illustrator practically do not use the Pencil Tool (N) in their work. So I'll explain what I consider to be important features of this tool.

To close the path, hold down the Opt / Alt, when you get closer to the starting point of the path. Do not try to combine the starting and ending points, after pressing Opt / Alt path will close at the shortest distance between the points.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

To connect two open paths, select them, then continue the first path with the help of the Pencil Tool (N). When joining together the cursor with the endpoint of the second path, press Cmd / Ctrl.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Set the parameters for the Pencil Tool (N) shown in the figure below.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now create a new layer located below the path and start creating color elements of the illustration on it. When working on it, try not to go beyond the outline's border and color all the required fields without gaps.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

In fact, you have to move the cursor along the outline of the image.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

You can always edit the mistakes made using the same Pencil Tool (N), because all the necessary options are set.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Please note that editing a shape with the help of the Pencil Tool (N) can lead to unpredictable consequences such as the opening of a closed path, closing of an open path, and even removal of the part of the shape. How to edit a shape correctly? I came to a conclusion that a new stroke of the tool should begin as close to the original outline as possible and end as close to it too, in spite of the value of Within: [x] pixels, which you set in the dialog window of the Pencil Tool Options.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

The Viking's outline has a rather complicated shape, so it took me more than half an hour to color it carefully.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now I propose to take a look at other, faster methods of image coloring.

Coloring with the Live Paint Bucket (K)

To fill with the Live Paint Bucket (K), select the objects that we intend to fill. However, if your illustration consists of open paths to which a brush was applied, then this kind of filling is impossible. A warning window will signal this.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Therefore, our illustration should be prepared in a certain way before using this method. Select all the objects and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Now our outline is a group of regular vector objects.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Keep the object selected, click the Unite button in the Pathfinder panel, then go to Object > Compound Path > Make.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Before filling I will tell you briefly about the options of this tool. The Live Paint Bucket options let you specify how the Live Paint Bucket tool works, choosing whether to paint just fills, strokes, or both, as well as how to highlight faces and edges as you move the tool over them. You can see these options by double-clicking the Live Paint Bucket tool.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Select the Compound Path and by clicking fill the shapes with appropriate colors.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

To switch quickly between the Live Paint Bucket (K) and the Eyedropper Tool (I) use the Opt / Alt key.

However, not all the necessary shapes can be filled. The fact is that our outline is open in some areas. I've already talked about this at the beginning of this tutorial. Open outlines can be designed by an artist or be a result of careless work. Clicking on this part of a picture will not result in filling.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Fortunately, we can customize the Live Paint Bucket (K) so that it detects such areas of an illustration as a closed path. Keeping it selected, go to Object > Live Paint > Gap Options… and increase the Gap value. The program shows which gaps were detected and, therefore, allows filling of the inner spaces next to them.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

It is advisable not to change this parameter in the process of work, as this may lead to changes in the already filled shapes.

After filling the objects go to Object > Live Paint > Expand. The coloring is not finished as we will be also creating lights and shadows, so we need the Outline in one piece. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select part of the outline and go to Select > Same > Fill Color.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Keeping it selected, go to Object > Compound Path > Make.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

With all the described nuances, this method is faster on occasions than the method using the Pencil Tool (N)!

Coloring with the Release Compound Path

This method is applicable only to a closed outline which represents a Compound Path. In the case of creating a outline with the help of the Paintbrush Tool (B) you need to prepare the outline. Select all the objects and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Now our outline is a group of regular vector objects. Keep the object selected, click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. As you can see, the outer path consists of several objects.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

We need to connect them. Select the break with the Direct Selection Tool (A), take the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) and connect the parts of the outline .

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Note: all the items of the outline must be ungrouped. If you're not careful or did not think that you were going to use this method, you will need to spend some time closing the external outline. Thus, the outline is closed, copy it and paste it back (Cmd/ Ctrl + C, Cmd/ Ctrl + B). Fill the bottom outline with another color, for example red.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Keep the red outline selected, go to Object > Compound Path > Release.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now we only need to select objects and color them in the necessary colors.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Some elements within the outline have to be created using the Pen Tool (P) or Pencil Tool (N).

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Create highlights and shadows

You may find that our illustration looks a little bit flat, so we need to add highlights and shadows. Create a new layer. It should be placed between the layer of the outline and the one with the colored objects. Or the equivalent group layers if you are working in one layer.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Define the position of the light source; I have it at the left top.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now using the Paintbrush Tool or Blob Brush Tool create lights and shadows in a new layer.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Shades of the basic color can be easily get in the Color panel, when the HSB color mode is on.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

In my work I used the Paintbrush Tool, so you can see how the brush strokes are.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Of course, you can use the Pen Tool (P), if the shape of the shadow is large. Now the Viking looks like this:

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Using the Bristle Brush

Bristle Brushes (introduced in Illustrator CS5) allows you to create vector brush strokes with the appearance of a natural brush with bristles. When you use Bristle Brush with a graphic tablet, Illustrator interactively tracks the movements of the stylus over the tablet. It interprets all aspects of its orientation and pressure input at any point along a drawing path. Illustrator provides the output that is modeled on the stylus's x and y position, pressure, tilt, bearing, and rotation.

To create a Bristle brush, click on New Brush in the Brushes panel and select Bristle Brush in the open dialog window.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Now, in the Bristle Brush Options window, select the type of brush and set its other options, watching how a brush stroke will look like in the preview window.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

The bracket keys [ and ] are used as shortcuts for decreasing and increasing the size, respectively. The bracket keys increase and decrease the size in 1mm increments. You can use the numeric keys [0-9] as shortcut to set the opacity of bristle brush strokes where: 0 = 100%, 1 = 10% … 9 = 90%.

In this artwork, we can apply a Bristle Brush to the Viking's beard and to create hair on his boots.

Vector Drawing with Graphic Tablet, Coloring

Conclusion

I hope that this tutorial will help you to optimize and accelerate the complex process of creating a vector artwork.

Download the tutorial artwork

Click here for the Illustrator CS5 artwork…

Further reading

The following articles and resources are of great use when using a graphics tablet (typically a Wacom device) with Adobe Illustrator:

From the Astute Graphics Blog…

External links…

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