Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drawing in Illustrator [Tutorial]

This is the skill-building tutorial I was mentioning all along. Using Illustrator is ideal for drawing since it is a vector-based program. But drawing and shading more complex designs can be difficult. There is a way to draw more efficiently and make future edits easier.

Learn advanced techniques and basic concepts in Adobe Illustrator. Here is what the final drawing will look like.

Hit the break to start.

Sketch it out
Drawing. It's usually done on paper with a pencil. It always starts with the sketch. Now of course I was going to draw a Mettaur. It shouldn't take very long to complete and I can cover plenty of techniques while doing so.

To start, it helps to find reference when drawing. Concept art of the Mettaur is in the Mega Man Battle Network Official Complete works.
I think this is seriously all they had to work with, but it's enough for this. Sketch out an original pose using the reference material. The sketch will be used to create the final product. Here is my sketch.
My drawings aren't the best, perhaps, but the outlines are enough to work with. Just make sure it's in proportion to the reference, which can be difficult at the start.

Going Digital
The next step is taking the pencil drawing to digital. Scan it in somehow and try to enhance the lines if they're not visible enough. In Illustrator, make a new document of any size. RGB is probably good for this. I'm using 600x600 pixels.

After setting up the new document Place the scan of your sketch by either dropping it in or going to File > Place. Fit it nicely in the middle. Making it large will help with Stroke sizes later.

Now at this stage, it is important to evaluate which parts will be their own shape and how they'll work together. I'll start with the face. It's supposed to be a sphere, so that means it's going to be a perfect circle. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a circle that fits the drawn shape. It doesn't matter if it doesn't fit the sketch exactly.

It matches the most visible part which is more important. Color doesn't really matter right now since all the lines are for reference. Next up is the helmet. According to the reference, the helmet is spherical-based. This means that the part where the face goes in is a cross-section of a sphere making it a circle in perspective. Grab the Ellipse Tool again and draw an ellipse that fits the under-part of the helmet. You can rotate and distort it to fit.

This seems close enough.

Since the eyes are also circular, you can draw its eyes using the Ellipse Tool. Same as the step before, draw an ellipse and rotate it to fit.

Looks okay. Mettaurs also have a black center in their eyes. This part is easy. Select both eyes by shift-clicking them. Copy it and Paste it in Front (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+F). This is going to be a very important shortcut later on. Deselect (by click off the artwork) and click on one of the eye outlines. Hold Shift + Alt and grab one of the 4 corners of the bounding box. This will scale the selection equally based on the selection's center. Just scale it back a little to get that dark spot of the eye.

I had it drawn in the sketch, but I knew I could just shrink the eye to get it right. Once you find the correct scale, do the same for the other eye. Remember to keep the proportions nearly identical, otherwise it may look like a mistake. Give the inner outlines a Fill Color to distinguish the eye if it helps right now.

There is one more ellipse on the Mettaur sketch. Mettaurs have the iconic "ear-cap-thingy" which is common among designs from the Battle Network series. The process is similar to the one I explained on the eyes. Draw a larger ellipse, and fit a smaller ellipse inside.

That finishes the instances where ellipses could be used.

The rest of the Mettaur will be drawn using the Pen Tool. This tool is capable of making almost any shape using curves and lines.
Quick things to know if you've never used the Pen Tool before:
  • Clicking and dragging will create a curve which is identified by the 2 handles that come out from the anchor point.
  • Clicking, holding Alt, then dragging will make only one handle. This is useful when you have a sharp corner before or after a curve you just drew.
  • If you're in the middle of making a curve, holding Alt will break the curve and allow you to re-form the curve.
  • Simply clicking from one point to another makes straight lines.
  • With the Pen Tool selected, holding Alt and clicking on an Anchor Point will turn the point into a corner. Dragging makes it a curve.

Well I'd like to start with the feet since they're simpler. I'm starting with the round point on its left foot. Set up a round point and make the next anchor point on the left. It should look like the picture below. Also remember you can draw through other shapes. You can always change the layering of the drawn shapes.

Points can always be adjusted later using the Direct Select Tool (A). Finish the rest of the foot. It is ideal to use the fewest number of points necessary.

Easy, right? I drew the underside of the foot. Draw that too, but let the shape go past the foot's shape. This will be solved later.

Last up is the helmet. This part can be the trickiest, so here is how it's done. Draw the outer shape of the helmet. This does not include the inner circle done earlier.

This is what it should look like.

Finally, draw in the pattern which goes across the helmet. Try to adjust the shape to the curvature of the helmet. Again, you can draw outside the bounds of the helmet shape you just drew.

Now it's time to color!

Coloring and Clipping
This is the fun part, but first select all the outlines (Ctrl+A). Under the Stroke Panel, change the Align Stroke option to Align to Outside. Now selectively color each part according to the reference.

Add these colors to your swatches:

R=248 G=200 B=48

R=208 G=112 B=0

Dark Brown
R=178 G=87 B=0

R=54 G=195 B=60

Dark Green
R=36 G=150 B=48

Cool Gray
R=56 G=72 B=88

R=16 G=32 B=5

R=10 G=19 B=32

R=88 G=144 B=14

Start by coloring the inner ring under the helmet. Make it the Dark Brown color. Now shift-click the helmet and feet. Color these Yellow. Layering might be odd but to fix this, use the shortcut key Ctrl+[ to lower a selection and Ctrl+] to raise it. The shading shape under the foot should also be Dark Brown. Color the face Cool Gray. Color the pattern on the helmet Green. Eyes are white and black in the center. Ear-cap thingies are Teal. When you adjust the layering properly, it should look more like this.

Yeah, it looks really weird. Clipping will save the rest. The most important one is the face. Shift-click all parts of the eye and face. Group these (Ctrl+G). Select the dark brown-colored ring and Copy it. Click on the face group you just made and Paste in Front (Ctrl+F). Shift-click the face again with the recently pasted ring still selected. Right-click and select "Make Clipping Mask". Should get something like this.

Almost there.

Open the Layers panel. With the recently clipped group still selected, click on the options icon on the top-right corner of the panel and select "Locate Object". Click the circle next to the layer named "Clipping". It's the one with the gray thumbnail. Grab the Direct Select Tool (A) and click on the anchor point towards the bottom of the face.

Click it once, then drag it outwards. This should start revealing parts of the face. The head now "goes inside" the helmet!

The next clipping paths are easier. Group the green helmet patterns. Copy the helmet layer and paste it over the green pattern. Make a Clipping Mask like before and the shape should fit inside the helmet's shape. Do the same for the foot. It should look more like this now.

You can still go back and edit the shape by releasing the clipping mask, then reapplying it. Any clipped shapes can also be freely edited using the Direct Select Tool.

Once you've got the looks you want, you can proceed to create shading. I didn't draw any shading but I'll still go over the technique since shading a Mettaur is easy. Assuming the light is coming from the upper-right directly where the Mettaur is looking, draw shading on the opposite side. I'll start with the helmet.

I drew a shape which goes around the contour of the helmet's shape. Once it goes outside the shape, I can be as sloppy as I want to since it will be clipped later. In this case, it is the only time you want to make another Clipping Mask for one shape. Repeat the steps used to clip the green pattern, only this time it applies only to the shading. Adjust the layering and it should look fine.

The green part of the helmet isn't shaded. Special attention is given to color so it must be a unique shade and fit the same shape of the helmet's shading. A-click the brown shading. Click on the green pattern and Ctrl+F. Change the color to the Dark Green color. Make a Clipping Mask out of the green shape it is over using the same technique as before.

It should clip exactly the same.

Next step is to draw the shading on the face. It should be darker by its right eye.You can sloppily pen the outside while carefully select the parts inside which should be shaded. Use Gray for shading.

That looks correct. Since there is more shading under the helmet, draw another shape in a curved form. Get some over the eyes, too since it's a defining feature. This time, get the shape, Cut it (Ctrl+X), A-click the previous shade and Ctrl+F. Just like on the green pattern, copy and clip the shape to the eyes. Use a light blue-ish color.

Finish shading all the parts using Clipping Masks and keeping consistent lighting. Spot lighting appears on the Mettaur and it is a white circle.

Keep shading. I got this.

When you think you've finished, you just need to prepare your file for output. For the artwork to be in Battle Network style, the final artwork needs a thicker stroke than everything else. Select everything (Ctrl+A) and open the Pathfinder Panel. Copy and Paste in back, the selection (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+B). Select the Merge command, then the Unite command. Add a thicker stroke than the size used elsewhere in the artwork. This should be the final product.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Please let me know below and I'll get back as soon as possible. 
This tutorial also appears in image form at Deviant Art.


Megamanzero said...

Wow that was actually pretty helpful on learning this thanks please post some more?

Mega Rock.exe said...

I actually felt I rambled on too much. If there's a certain technique I should focus on more, please say so.

Anonymous said...

Nice tutorial, but sometimes a bit confusing. What do you mean by "A-click the brown shading. Click on the green pattern and Ctrl+F"? How do I A-click something?

Mega Rock.exe said...

Oh, by "A-click" I mean that you push A to switch to the Direct Select Tool, and click, which should select the intended object. Ctrl+F would paste it in front.

So what I meant to say was "select an object inside a clipping path, and paste the previous object inside that clipping path"

Anonymous said...

That was very, very helpful. I was wondering how everyone draws their lines so smoothly. >_>

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