How to Create an Isometric Grid in Adobe Illustrator

How to Create an Isometric Grid in Adobe Illustrator

This is a very quick and easy tutorial for creating an isometric grid in Adobe Illustrator, which you can then either work directly over in Illustrator or print out for freehand sketching.

If you want to skip the tutorial and get working in isometric right away, download these completed grids in PDF format, ready for printing or import into Illustrator or Corel:

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Animation Resources for Technical Illustrators

If your new year’s resolution was to learn how to bring your illustrations to life with motion and interactivity, you are in luck. Below I’ve gathered some resources, tutorials and inspiration to get you started on your journey.

Adobe Flash

For better or for worse, Flash has been around for 15 years. While rival technologies may be digging its grave, Flash remains the most intuitive animation tool for users of Adobe Illustrator — and 15 years worth of online tutorials and forum discussions make for an easy learning curve.

Both made by Adobe, Flash and Illustrator work pretty well together (although, not as well as you might expect). Like Illustrator, Flash is vector based and can import .AI vector artwork along with bitmaps and video files. Illustrator can export .SWFs for Flash, and later versions (AI CS3+) can even include symbols, animation clips and dynamic objects.

In addition to animation tools, Flash also has a programming language called ActionScript (AS) with which you can make your animations interactive. There are three versions of ActionScript (AS1, AS2, AS3) which are not cross-compatible, each more esoteric than the last. I find AS2 to be the right mix of natural-language programming and breadth of possibilities, and seems to have the most tutorials too.


Create Flash Animations Entirely in Illustrator
Illustrate and Animate a Bouncing Ball
Kirupa – Flash & ActionScript Tutorials
AdobeTV – Learn Flash CS5 Professional

Adobe After Effects

AE is a beast of a program; it’s like the Photoshop of video. It’s used for 2D & 3D motion graphics, editing, compositing, post-production and special effects for video, TV and film. And like Photoshop it can be used to create entire projects from start to finish, but its real strength is in manipulating and compositing assets made by other means, such as Illustrator and 3D applications.

AE takes just about anything you can throw at it — AI, EPS, PSD, PNG, PDF, MP3, WAV, AVI, MOV, even camera movements from popular 3D software — and spits out a wide variety of video formats.

Although AE does allow you to control animations and effects with scripting, it only exports video meaning no interactivity with AE alone.


Intro to After Effects
Build a Car Racing Scene from Photographs
Greyscale Gorilla – After Effects Tutorials
AE Tuts
AdobeTV – Learn After Effects CS5

Ai to Canvas

Ai to Canvas is a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator produced by developers at Microsoft. It enables Illustrator to export vector and bitmap artwork directly to a new HTML5 web element called a Canvas. Canvas-enabled browsers (latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera) can then interpret and render that content for viewers.

The advantage over simply exporting images for the web is that artwork in a Canvas element remains vectored and can be animated and manipulated with JavaScript code. In fact, Ai to Canvas allows rudimentary animation simply by renaming your layers.

The fact that Canvas doesn’t rely on a browser plug-in (like Flash does) means that your animation & interactivity will run regardless of the viewer’s installed components. This means content presented in a Canvas element are viewable on Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, since they disallow browser plug-ins. I made this HTML5 demo to try it out.


Ai to Canvas Plug-In for Illustrator
Ai to Canvas Samples & Documentation
Canvas Element Tutorials & Documentation

Use What You’ve Got

You don’t necessarily need a fancy program to create rich animated and interactive media. Photoshop is equipped with an animation palette suitable for creating flipbook type animations; Here’s a primer.

Failing that, try to be creative with the tools you have. Here are two web pages that feel animated, using only static assets:

Ben the Bodyguard
Lost Worlds Fairs: Atlantis

Have a tool or resource to recommend? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to our Resources page!

Google Coloring Book

Google Patent Search "Toy Robot"

Google Patent Search "Toy Robot"

Looking for some lineart to practice your rendering? Or maybe some plans and elevations to practice a perspective or axonometric drawing system? Check out Google Patent Search, a searchable database of patent applications including the supporting technical drawings.

Quality of the drawings varies, but some digging may save you some drawing if all you really want to do is paint.

[via Boing Boing]

Free PSD everyday

This came to me via a guy at my work. You can download the psd files and see how they were created. There are some nice looking files on here, tons of buttons, icons, web stuff and some nice examples of creating illustrations in photoshop. Dig in people.



Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications

Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications by John A. Dennison and Charles D. Johnson

Technical Illustration: Techniques and Applications

Marc Gellen was looking for recommendations for books on technical illustration on Twitter, but ended up providing me with the recommendations. Fortunately, all three books he suggested were available from my local library. I thought I’d give them a brief review here for the benefit of anyone whose public (or private) library might be lacking on the subject.

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Illustrator CS5 – Perspective Grid

Adobe Illustrator CS5 - Perspective Grid

Adobe Illustrator CS5 - Perspective Grid

It’s that time of the year when we’re blessed/cursed with another release of Adobe’s Creative Suite software and the inevitable question of whether or not to upgrade. For those of you teetering on the edge, here’s the push you may need to break out the credit card.

Brand new to  Illustrator CS5 is an embedded perspective grid and all the accompanying tools you’ll need to streamline your perspective drawing work flow. I was lucky to be part of the beta testing for this tool, along with fellow contributor Cody Walker, and I have to say I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Anil Ahuja of Adobe has posted a tutorial that shows most of the features of the perspective grid. Have a look at it here. Check out the PDF at the bottom – it goes into more detail regarding how the tools are used. A sample of the file is there as well, but you’ll need a copy of CS5 to open it.

The grids come in default one-point, two-point and three-point perspectives, but you can tweak everything – vanishing points, origin, grid size, the height of the horizon and much more. When the grid is active, the shape tools all conform to a plane (chosen by you with the 1, 2 and 3 keys). Once objects are on the grid they can be copied and moved perpendicularly through the space as well.

However, for me the true power of this tools comes from the ability to transfer flat orthographic drawings directly to the grid. The only drawback is that raster images are not supported – only vector shapes can be applied to the grid.

The new tools will not obsolete or undermine our abilities as technical illustrators. Rather, as Anil states:

“…please understand that Perspective Drawing in Adobe Illustrator CS5 is NOT a 3-D environment. It is an extension of traditional perspective drawing technique. An artist will have a capability to define a perspective grid (one-point, two-point or three point), define a relative scale, move the grid planes and draw objects directly in perspective or attach flat art onto them by dragging with the new Perspective Selection tool.”

Also, all the old quirks of working with a grid are still there – so don’t throw out your techie toolkit just yet!

I highly recommend downloading and trying out the new version of Adobe Illustrator cs5. A 30-day trial is available on Adobe’s site.

Texture Tutorials

While working on a recent freelance job, I stumbled upon a great website,  MY Ink BLOG, with some realistic texture tutorials for grass, wood, stone and water.  Andrew Houle, the creator of the site uses various filters in each of these tutorials to achieve the desired results.

Specifically, the following are the texture tutorials:

Creating a Realistic Water Texture in Photoshop

Water Tutorial

Creating a Realistic Wood Texture Using Photoshop


Creating a Realistic Stone Texture Using Photoshop


Create an Awesome Grass Texture in Photoshop


The site has a great selection of Photoshop tutorials as well as so many other resources for Illustrators and Designers, that could be valuable in future.  Make sure you check it out!

Do you know any good websites for creating textures or have any “tricks” you use to save time on your illustrations?

Kevin Hulsey

Kevin Hulsey - Radiance of the Seas Cutaway Illustration

Radiance of the Seas Cutaway - Copyright © 2010 Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kevin Hulsey - Radiance of the Sea Process

Radiance of the Sea Process - Copyright © 2010 Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Any subject-matter is no more, or less, complicated than any other if you break it into small enough sections. A big, complex object like a car, plane or ship is just 30 or 40 small illustrations that happen to occupy the same space.”

The career of technical illustrator extraordinaire Kevin Hulsey is nothing short of prolific. His client list reads like a roll call of the world’s major transportation, technology, manufacturing and entertainment companies. His work has been recognized with numerous awards from Belding, Best in the West, Communication Arts Magazine, and the Art Directors Club Of Los Angeles. He began his trade with an airbrush in hand, then traded it in for a Wacom tablet and made the leap to digital media. And his website is an abundant source of inspiration, with illustrations of mind-boggling complexity and accuracy and myriad resources, articles and tutorials.

This all keeps Mr. Hulsey rather busy—unfortunately for us too busy for an interview. However, with his permission, I’ve collected some links to images, resources, and an interview he did with another site:

Kevin Hulsey - Pickup Truck Cutaway

Pickup Truck Cutaway - Copyright © 2010 Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kevin Hulsey - Automobile Motor Illustration

Motor Illustration - Copyright © 2010 Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Even after nearly thirty years, and thousands of illustrations, it is still fun to see your work on a billboard or in a magazine, particularly when you aren’t expecting it.”

Big thanks to Mr. Hulsey for sharing his time and work with us, and all the amazing resources on his site!

Update: Wacom case-study on Mr. Hulsey.

All images copyright © 2010 Kevin Hulsey Illustration, Inc. All rights reserved.

Illustration Podcasts

Illustration Podcasts

Sometimes freelancing can be like solitary confinement. Big projects, tight deadlines, (and if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, terrible weather) can all keep you locked up in the home studio. To ward off cabin fever I like to listen to a small selection of podcasts, some illustration-related, some business-related and others general interest to stay current with the rest of the world.

Sadly, I haven’t found a technical illustration podcast, but here’s my playlist:

Illustration Related:

Escape From Illustration Island: The Podcast
In-depth interviews with illustrators, artists’ representatives and art directors. Companion to Escape From Illustration Island, a resource portal and illustration community.

Big Illustration Party Time
A conversational podcast about the ins and outs of freelance illustration and cartooning.

Hawk and Squirrel
A brand new podcast searching for its voice. As manic and entertaining as its hosts (and friends of mine), Chad Covino, Juan Solon and Nimit Malavia.

Freelance and Business Related:

Freelance Radio
Official podcast of covering work and life issues of freelancers.

General Interest:

The Monocle Weekly
A mix of discussions, interviews and field reports on world events and culture.

Stuff You Should Know
Official podcast of, explains how everyday things and not-so-everyday things work.

Have any podcasts to recommend, illustration-related or otherwise? Let us know in the comments!