Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love the new Illustrator blob brush

That is how these plants and the beastie below were drawn. There’s something ironic about using such a 21st century tool to draw prehistoric life.... I’ve never used Illustrator that much despite having it for at least a decade, but it seems the time has come. Photoshop, for all its wonderfulness, just can’t make lines this crisp. Illustrator brushes have an adjustable “smoothing” option that (surprise) smoothes out the wobbles and bobbles in each stroke. I keep the level pretty low and have to redraw some lines, but overall it works wonderfully well to create attractive, swooping line work. You also can make the size vary according to the pressure, and several other parameters.
What’s helpful about the blob brush is that it automatically merges all lines that overlap and are the same color. Saves some steps. When you don’t want the lines to combine, the regular brush is the one to use. One problem I ran into that took awhile to figure out... once you’ve used the blob brush, if you switch back to the regular brush, it won’t work. Instead of the cursor, it shows a circle with the slash through it. You have to open the brush panel and choose a brush tip, then it works again. There may be some other way to avoid this, but whatever works, right?

Next step is filling in and otherwise coloring these in Photoshop.


Beena said...

I use Illustrator way more than Photoshop. But it didn't start out that way. Considering all the digital artwork I've done, Painter and Photoshop were the way to go. But there is something to be said for the scalable vector images you'll never get from a raster image digital editing program. For pattern design, Illustrator is unparalleled. And the precision of using the align palette, the super copy and type capabilities of Illustrator are all just some of the reasons it's top choice for me.

Diane J. Evans said...

Could a relative neophyte, such as myself, learn to use Illustrator? It seems intimidating. I'm working my way through Photoshop, thanks to your tutorials and hints, Loreen -- is there an "Illustrator for Dummies" out there???


Loreen Leedy said...

It's hard for me to say whether a vector program such as Illustrator is right for someone... you really have to try it. Some people take to it immediately and are very happy with it, some prefer a painting program like Photoshop or Painter.

Years ago around here there was an adult ed course that had several art programs loaded on the computers. You could try them all out and see what they did which was very helpful. Demo versions, if available, give a similar hands-on preview, though it's nice to have other people around to ask, "Hey, what is going on with this pencil tool?" or whatever.

There is in fact an Illustrator for Dummies book, your local bookstore probably has it. If you search on YouTube there are also some Illustrator Basics videos.

Loreen Leedy said...

Hi Beena, for line work, Illustrator is hard to beat. Have you ever used the Artlandia plug in for Illustrator? It allows you to make unbelievable patterns in a flash, from simple half-drop repeats to 6-way kaleidoscopic wonders. It's called SymmetryWorks. There's a similar plug-in for Photoshop. I don't have the upgrade at this point, not sure if I really need it.

Stephen Aitken said...

Thanks for posting this Loreen. I have been following your comments on this through the PBAA list. I am still on CS3. Is the blob brush new for CS4? I have only had one illustrator assignment...which upgraded my skills dramatically and I ended up liking it alot. I primarily used the pencil tool and then played with the lines to smooth them out (the publisher had very specs for line sizes). The blob brush sounds like a faster option, especially the merge feature. Do you import the illustrator files into Photoshop to work on them or stay in Illustrator?

Loreen Leedy said...

Hi Steve,

The blob brush is new in CS4. Since I had been using CS1, it feels like jumping ahead about a decade.

Sometimes you want to be able to tweak the drawn path, in which case the blob brush would not be the best choice. The terminology is confusing because you do get a path with the blob brush, but it's the path around the entire shape, not the path of the actual line you initially drew. (This probably sounds pretty esoteric to those who haven't played much with the program, sorry.) I'm inventing the "drawn path" term, don't know if there's another term in use.

Anyway, if you have to maintain a certain line size and be able to edit the drawn path, it seems like only the pencil tool would work. Both brushes seem to vary in size even if you have the brush tip set on a fixed diameter. (I just tried them all to see.)

I've been pasting the Illustrator line work into PS as paths, then filling and coloring them. You can paste as pixels but then you don't have the paths at the ready for the inevitable tweaking. (Someone, stop me before the perfectionism takes over completely!) I guess you could paste first as pixels, then as paths.

There is also an option to paste as a Smart Object or Shape layer, but I haven't learned about those yet. Might be a real time saver for all I know(!)

Stephen Aitken said...

Well I just love the style you have created. Can't wait to see it integrated into some of your upcoming books. You sound like you are having a good time with it. Happy invectorating!

Breadwig said...

I'm so glad you posted these examples and explained it so well! I've been using photoshop since, egad, version 1 back in 1990-91, and have never really warmed up to illustrator. I've been hearing so much about the blob brush and now seeing it in action really helps. You're the best!