Isometric Action Tutorial from Astute Graphics

Isometric Action Tutorial from Astute Graphics

Iaroslav Lazunov has a great isometric illustration tutorial for Adobe Illustrator on the Astute Graphics blog.

It’s similar to the scale-shear-rotate method we’ve talked about before. You start by drawing straight-on orthographic views of the top, front and side of the object, then distort each onto their respective isometric planes.

What’s cool about this technique is that it uses Graphic Styles to apply the distortion. This way the artwork stays dynamic, meaning you can edit the straight-on flat projections to update the isometric version. They also use Astute Graphics’ Phantasm plugin to apply shading to each plane at the same time.

This technique would be really handy if you had to create a large detailed locator map, especially if you might have to change the design of elements down the road.

Full disclosure: As a beta tester for Astute Graphics I receive complimentary products.

Isometric Illustration Libraries

Isometric Illustration Library - Workshop Lifting

Matt Jennings has been hard at work adding to his stock technical illustration component libraries [previously]. New libraries include Workshop – Lifting, Workshop – Automobile and Office Stationery. The illustrations look well constructed, have great line quality, and are super affordable at £7.50 to £10.00 ($12 to $15 USD). If you have a relevant project, these could save you a huge amount of time.

Isometric Illustration Library -  Auto Workshop  Isometric Illustration Library - Office Objects

Industrial Artworks Technical Libraries

Adobe Updates Mobile App Lineup

Drawing made with Adobe Illustrator Line on iPad

Drawing made with Adobe Illustrator Line on iPad

At its Adobe MAX conference today, the company has announced new features for its iPhone and iPad app offering. Potentially of interest to tech illustrators are:

  • Illustrator Line Create vector sketches freehand or with the help of a selection of shape guides and axonometric, isometric, or two-point perspective grids. Work can be brought into Illustrator CC or Photoshop CC via Creative Cloud.  [Video]
  • Shape CC Auto-traces photos captured with your device’s camera, creating vector artwork for use in Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC or Illustrator Draw. [Video]
  • Color CC Generate color palettes from photos, then mix, edit and sync via Adobe Color service. [Video]

All apps are free, but require a registration for a free Creative Cloud membership.

Do you use mobile apps in your creative process? Does professional work require a desktop? Sound off in the comments!

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 7

Sketchbook Pro has been around for almost 10 years and is popular amongst comic, character and concept artists, but its latest release has a toolset that might be of interest to technical illustrators. While it’s a pixel-based application, as opposed to vector, I think it could still be handy for sketching roughs and even looser-styled finals.

Perspective Guides

These guides let you quickly and intuitively lay down lines converging on one, two, three or even five vanishing points. The tool gives you constant feedback as to where your cursor is positioned in space, and when you draw, it constrains your line to the appropriate heading. This looks like it would be very useful in the planning stages of an illustration, enabling you to quickly sketch in a variety perspectives.

Ruler & French Curves

The Ruler tool allows you to stroke a straight line in any direction. This works similar to Photoshop’s constrain modifier (Shift key) while using the Brush tool, but works in any direction. The French Curves shows an overlay of a variety of arcs and curves which can also be used to constrain a brush stroke. These tools would help add detail to a sketch once you’ve established the overall perspective.

Ellipse

Photoshop and Illustrator may have ellipse tools, but the one in Sketchbook Pro includes a minor axis guideline and displays the rotation and degree of the ellipse for added precision.

Everything Else

Other notable tools include the Symmetry mode that mirrors your drawing along a vertical and/or horizontal axis, Free Transform which is handy for distorting textures, patterns, shadows or repeating features into perspective, and Flipbook which enables frame-by-frame animation.

Sketchbook Pro is US $65, or via subscription for $25/year or $2.99/mo.

Mapbox – Design Beautiful Maps

Mapbox Sample Map

Mapbox enables you to easily design and use beautiful maps, selecting your own colors, typography, imagery, textures and line qualities from their vast and flexible toolbox. Then you can add points of interest and data from Pinterest, Foursquare, Github, spreadsheets and more.

This looks like it would be great for everything from an on-brand locator map to some serious big-data number crunching.

Hat tip to Davvi for the suggestion!

Connector & Fastener Libraries

Fasteners Library Power Connectors Library Computer/AV Connectors Library

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.

Industrial Artworks Fixings Library Industrial Artworks Measurement & Marking Library

Adobe Illustrator Bugs, Gripes & Feature Wishlist

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.

Read More

Astute Graphics VectorScribe 2

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.

Astute Graphics’ YouTube Channel is a great way to see VectorScribe 2 and all their tools in action.

Full disclosure: As a beta tester I received a complimentary copy of this plugin.

Also of note to Mac users, Astute Graphics has updated their whole product lineup for compatibility with Mavericks (OS X 10.9).

ColliderScribe Illustrator Plugin

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.

Sigh.

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:

10am EST GoToTraining session
12pm EST GoToTraining session

ColliderScribe by Astute Graphics (£10 / $15 US) or try it free for 14 days.

Full disclosure: As a beta tester, I received a complimentary copy of this plugin.

WidthScribe Illustrator Plugin

Astute Graphics has released another amazing plugin for Adobe Illustrator. WidthScribe adds a tremendous amount of ease and control over the Width Tool added in CS5.

WidthScribe consists of:

  • Width Brush Adjusts the width on existing strokes by brushing over them.
  • Width Gradient Applies width by clicking and dragging, much like the Gradient Tool for colors. Perfect for creating depth and perspective.
  • Width Selector Allows for marquee selection and group adjustment of any number of width points, including quick and easy tapering, smoothing and averaging of line widths.

…and that’s just scratching the surface. As with all their plugins, Astute Graphics allows for very granular control and customization, both through tool preferences and additional panels. For more information, check out all of the demo videos.

Until February 28 2013, existing customers can save £10 (about $15 US) on WidthScribe via Astute Graphics’ loyalty discount.

WidthScribe by Astute Graphics (£39 / $60 US) or try it for free for 14 days.

Full disclosure: As a beta tester, I received a complimentary copy of this plugin.

UPDATE: Astute Graphics has a full tutorial on How to Enhance a Technical Illustration with WidthScribe and Adobe Illustrator.