Business of Illustration is dedicated to educating new and aspiring artists to the field of illustration from a business perspective. Its primary focus is on the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator and what it takes to create a sustainable career in this challenging, creative field.
Subjects covered include finance, promotion, contracts, rights, and general knowledge for a career in illustration. Updated every Monday (work-permitting) it should be a great resource for anyone interested in working in the field.
Matthew Jennings wrote in to let us know about his illustration libraries. For £10-15 (USD $16-25) you get a set of fasteners, power connectors, or computer/AV connectors, all in vector format ready to use in illustrations, instruction manuals or parts diagrams. The illustrations show a nice attention to detail and line weight.
Kevin Hulsey offers a similar fastener library (USD $50), with a smaller selection of parts but a greater variety of angles.
Scoop all these up and you’ll never have to fuss with drawing a connector again!
Update: Matthew has added two new libraries. The Fixings library (£15.00) is a collection of 23 common fixings in varying degrees of rotation, and comes complete with placement guides for precise positioning. The Measuring and Marking library (£7.50) contains a variety of measurement tools. Get them here.
Three years ago, members of the Adobe Illustrator team got in touch with me to gather feedback from the Technical Illustration community. While they couldn’t promise any new features, or that any issues we had would be addressed, they were at least reaching out and willing to listen.
Since then, Illustrator has seen two releases: Illustrator CS6 in April 2012, and Illustrator CC in June 2013. Having just recently upgraded to Creative Cloud, I thought it might be time to revisit our list and see what’s been addressed, what problems persist, and what more could be done to improve Illustrator in the future.
Tired of losing work to Adobe Illustrator’s random and spontaneous crashes? You’re not alone.
This tutorial on Vector Tuts+ will show you how to roll your own Auto-Save function using the Actions palette. It’s really easy and lets you set a custom interval and name & location for the auto-save file. So easy, you’ll wonder why Adobe hasn’t added it as a feature.
One caveat is that this workaround means an action is running constantly, and that you can only set one interval for all your actions. This effectively disables your other actions.
Scott Robertson is a concept artist well known for his educational books, DVDs and workshops. Every Friday he posts a free video tutorial to his YouTube page. He covers a wide variety of topics including sketching, inking, marker rendering and Photoshop painting. What I like about his videos is that they’re not strictly technical, he’s really good at explaining the thinking and process behind everything he does.
Astute Graphics has released a new version of their VectorScribe plugin for Adobe Illustrator. The new version adds some really useful features to their existing tools, as well as a few new tools that technical illustrators might find handy.
The Dynamic Corners tool now detects previously expanded or non-dynamic corners and makes them dynamic again. Similarly, the Dynamic Shapes tool can restore dynamic status to expanded artwork or even convert shapes created with Illustrator’s default shape tools into Dynamic Shapes.
New to the suite are the Smart Remove Brush and the Path Extender/Trimmer. The Smart Remove Brush makes it easy to clean up artwork that is overly complicated, LiveTraced or expanded. The Path Extender/Trimmer works as expected on straight paths, but its real power is intelligently extending curved segments.
There are many reasons to specialize as a creative freelancer: Clients trust experts, word of mouth works better, and your marketing becomes more straightforward. For your inspiration, and to give you a little push to specialize, I interview graphic designers, illustrators and web designers who already have chosen their niche.
What’s your niche?
I specialize in technical illustration, the visual communication of technical information. I work with magazines, advertising firms and corporations with projects in the automotive, aerospace, architecture, engineering, energy, science and robotics fields.
How did you originally break into technical illustration?
My first job in technical illustration was an internship with Toronto’s Transit Commission where I produced instructional illustrations for their training department. During my final year of school I started receiving freelance work which enabled me to continue freelancing fulltime after graduation.
Nowadays, how do you find new clients in this niche?
My marketing strategy is simply to do the best work I can and get it in front of the right people by sharing it as widely as possible online. Personal projects, where I’m pursuing my curiosity or exploring new techniques, tend to get the best response and bring in the kind of work I like to do.
What advice would you give a fellow illustrator/graphic designer about to choose a niche?
Be the best at what you do. Define your niche narrowly enough that you are among the best providers of your specific service. This may limit your job prospects, but clients who need your specific service will find you, and you will be prepared to provide exactly what they’re looking for.
You should compete on quality, not price. In a global economy you will lose a price war. But if you provide the highest quality service to your niche, they will receive the best value for their money and keep coming back to you.
Martin Woodward, also known as tecmedi, is a British technical & medical illustrator. He has been producing illustrations for publishing, manufacturing & advertising clients for over 20 years. His portfolio features a broad range of subjects as well as tutorials and a quite sensible style & pricing guide.
In Illustrator CS 4, Adobe added a bunch of features to Smart Guides that made them, well, dumb. Moving an object in even a simple drawing became a tug-of-war against seemingly random alignment guides and snapping points. Sure, these features could be adjusted or turned off, but the only way to get something approaching the legacy behaviour is to hold the Command/Ctrl key while dragging. And even if Smart Guides happen to snap to the desired object, switching to Outline mode (Cmd/Ctrl+Y) often reveals that the snapping wasn’t accurate.
Once again, Astute Graphics to the rescue. Their new ColliderScribe plugin for Adobe Illustrator makes snapping a snap. It enables precise snapping, consistent spacing and tangential alignment easy and painless. It’s a small, easy to learn, affordable but powerful addition to your toolset.
Astute Graphics is holding two webinars tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13 at 3:00PM and 5:00PM GMT (10:00am and 12:00PM EST) to demonstrate ColliderScribe and SubScribe. Only 25 spaces are available in each session, so reserve now: