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.

Auto-Save in Adobe Illustrator Using Actions

Auto-Save in Adobe Illustrator Using Actions

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.

Adobe Illustrator Tutorial – Working with Live Paint

In an effort to contribute more to the site I thought I would experiment with creating short tutorial videos on tricks and tips for Adobe Illustrator. This one is dealing with how I use the Live Paint tool to create custom arrows. Thanks to my friend Loren Brinton for the intro movie.

Let me know what you think in the comments or if you have suggestions on other videos you would like to see in the future.

Thanks.

Who Stole My Pictures?

Reverse Image Searching with TinEye

I’ve mentioned TinEye in passing before, for protecting your images and your reputation online. TinEye is a reverse image search, meaning you upload or link to an image, and it finds all the places the same image appears online.

Using TinEye periodically on images in your online portfolio can help you find unauthorized usage of your images on other sites. The best course of action from there is up to your discretion—you could ask for a credit line and a link to your site, request they remove the image, demand payment, or file a DMCA Takedown.

But uploading or linking each image from your site to TinEye is tedious and time consuming. And TinEye’s database hasn’t indexed every image on the web (“only” 2.18 billion) which means it might not find all cases of infringement. For a more exhaustive search you’d have to repeat the process on Google Images, the Russian search engine Yandex and the Chinese search engine Baidu.

Instead, you can use browser plugins/extensions such as Who Stole My Pictures for Firefox and RevEye for Chrome to search all of these engines at once. Simply right click on the image and select Search All In Tabs (or something similar). A tab will open to each site showing the results.

Thanks to my pal Chad for the tip!

How do you protect your images online, and how do you deal with infringers? Let me know your opinions in the comments!

Cintiq Alternative Reviewed

Illustrator Ray Frenden was disappointed with his Wacom Cintiq 20WSX and had reservations about giving the company another stack of cash for a “sluggish, incremental, trivial” new generation model:

The last generation of Cintiqs based on Intuos 3 tech had some significant issues with display quality. They used cheap TN panels. They looked muddy and washed out. An anti-glare coating on the back of the plastic screens worsened an already low contrast ratio and robbed the colors of what little vibrancy they had. The newer Cintiqs, like the 24HD, have IPS panels similar to the Apple Cinema Displays. Others have said the display quality is a vast improvement over the last-gen models. That said, the new 24HD has a lower PPI than even my older 20WSX, so I’m healthily skeptical. […]

I’d be less harsh on the Cintiqs if Wacom weren’t demanding such a hefty price for what amounts to little more than an Intuos digitizer with a cheap LCD slapped atop. […] I felt I should at least look into other options when buying a new tablet monitor for a second machine.

Not finding many reliable reviews, he took matters into his own hands. He ordered two models made by Yiynova, the $299 10.1″ DP10 and the $499 19″ MSP19, and extensively documented his experience.

From my read, the hardware was better than he expected, though he did get one dud which the distributor replaced. Both had flaky driver support, and neither worked well in Mac OS. But they worked passably in Windows, with the DP10 performing better than the MSP19.

Given the price point, less than half Wacom’s comparable models, these devices might be attractive to students or illustrators who want to try out a tablet display. Either way, it looks like Wacom has some competition and might have to up the ante.

Click through for Frenden’s full review, unboxing and demo videos

The Business of Freelancing Creative

Peter Beach, a technical illustrator with over 25 years of freelance experience, wrote in to share his blog The Business of Freelancing Creative. There Peter has a wealth of wisdom, including his 21 Practical Tips to a successful illustration career, and candid essays on finding your niche, work-for-hire, copyright, pricing and stock illustration.

I’ve only started reading through, but it’s already proving to be a valuable resource for those considering a career of freelance and seasoned professionals alike.

If you have a site or resource to share, please visit the Suggest page.

A Cautionary Tale

Bill Mayer, a seasoned veteran illustrator, recently shared this cautionary tale. Innocently enough, he took on a cover illustration for an alternative weekly magazine with a very low budget because he loved the subject matter and thought that being an award-winning professional would earn him some creative freedom. Instead his best concepts were thrown out and his final illustration was micromanaged by the magazine’s advertisers. Then he was tarred and feathered by his peers for ever taking on the job.

Steve Brodner summed the whole thing up best:

One more thing I tell my students: if [clients] pay you like shit, they treat you like shit.

It might be a good time to review our tips on pricing technical illustration.

Have a similar horror story? Let us know if you can relate in the comments.

Twitter for Technical Illustrators

Twitter for Technical Illustrators

Greg Maxson, freelance technical illustrator and co-author of The Complete Technical Illustrator, recently wrote to share his experiences using Twitter as a marketing tool:

I saw Twitter as a sales tool with an immediate and pointed delivery, to be aimed at current and prospective clients. Free, direct, and uncluttered advertising to an audience with a common interest.

Using Twitter he reconnected with Popular Science magazine, a client he worked with regularly between 1994 and 2001. He had tried with hard-copy promos, emails and even voicemails with little response. Then he started following @PopSciGuy, art director Matthew Cokeley:

Each morning Matt would Tweet, “Morning tweeps! Let’s get to work!” After following PopSciGuy on Twitter for a few weeks, I decided to make a bold move. While having lunch at a local restaurant, I replied to one of these morning salutations with “Matt, put me to work in the next issue!”

Now, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this approach to everyone! But my gut told me that this direct, outside-the-norm tactic might just garner a favorable response from the A.D. of a leading science and technology magazine. This approach was destined to go either of two ways: bold, yet smart or, the dumbest move ever.

…and it worked—within two hours, Matthew got in touch with a project for Greg.

For those of you on the fence about it, this is what Twitter is for; Connecting with people with shared interests & goals, in a casual, personable way.

To get you started, you should follow Greg @gregdraws, the hilarious Matthew Cokeley @PopSciGuy, me @jamesprovost, the TechnicalIllustrators.org feed @technicilly and everyone on the the Technical Illustrators list!

 

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.

Resources:

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.

Resources:

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.

Resources:

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!