Category Archives: Illustrator


SVG Theatre Seating Plan

I’m still doing loads of work in and around SVG at the moment, and have just finished this diagram showing the seating plan at Strode Theatre in Street, Somerset.

Using symbols appropriately in Illustrator converts through perfectly to the <symbol> markup in SVG and trimmed loads off the finished file. I’m still convinced that SVG’s day is just around the corner – with Illustrator right at the front of the field as a production tool.

Captain America’s Shield from One Shape: Illustrator

Partly because I’m really looking forward to the release of the Avengers movie (probably the less said about it the better though) and (mostly) because I’m always trying to get people to realise just how powerful the appearance panel is inside of Illustrator, I thought I’d come up with a nice Captain America shield graphic from just one object. Here’s how that comes together.

Start out with a 5-pointed star using the Star Tool, with a white fill and no stroke. If you want to use the same numbers as I’m doing here, then make your star by clicking with the Star Tool and using the following dimensions: Radius 1 = 64px, radius 2 = 24px, Points = 5 (otherwise you’ll just need to experiment).

Go to the appearance panel and add a new fill. Choose a blue fill colour, and then drag this fill beneath the original one. Making sure that the new fill is selected in the Appearance panel, go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse… The settings I used were as follows: Relative; Extra Width -10px, Extra height -10px. You may notice that the star doesn’t sit directly in the centre of the circle, so select your original white fill (in the Appearance Panel) and go to Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform… and shift the star up a bit. I moved it vertically by a value of -6px.

Now click on your modified blue fill and click the Duplicate Selected Item button at the bottom of the Appearance Panel, giving you two fills – you’ll be repeating this step a couple more times in just a minute. Select the bottom-most of those two fills and change its colour to Red, and if it isn’t visible already, click the small triangle to the left of the word fill to expand its properties. Click on the Ellipse hyperlink to edit it., and modify the Relative values to 10px and 10px.

Repeat this step twice more by selecting the bottom fill, duplicating it and editing the properties (colour and Ellipse effect properties). Make the next fill white with the following Ellipse values: 30px, 30px, then the final red fill has the values 50px, 50px.

Make the stroke colour black and about 5 – 7px in weight. This will be applied to the star shape to begin with but you can alt-drag the ellipse effect from the bottom fill onto the stroke to copy it there. You should have something that looks like the picture below.


Next I added a couple of shading gradients – these are essentially black to black and white to white gradients that have different opacities such as 100% at one end and 0% at the other. I duplicated the largest fill and moved it up to the top of the stack and added a black-black gradient, with the blending mode set to Multiply. This is achieved by clicking on the Opacity hyperlink related to the fill. I duplicated that effect to strengthen it a bit and then duplicated that once more, moving the new fill to the very top of the stack just beneath the stroke and then applied a white-white gradient with the blend mode set to Screen. Here’s a shot of the final, fully expanded Appearance Panel.

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What’s That, and How Do I Use It? Illustrator: Outline Object

In what may become a bit of a series (subject to response, as always… ) I’d like to add answers to some of the more interesting and less-often-asked questions posed by my training delegates.

This one comes up from time-to-time as people explore some of the path effects: Outline Object. You may well have tried this one yourself, and been baffled by the result – it doesn’t seem to do anything and surely you’d just add a stroke to a shape?

screen grab 1

You may well just think that it’s a feature from an earlier version of Illustrator that the engineers have just forgotten to remove and leave it at that, but the persistent and curious will know that’s extremely unlikely and dig a little deeper.

The help system is usually the next port-of-call but that’s usually pretty fruitless – and again persistence may well lead you to discover that it works with images. So, you place an image in your document, apply the effect and… it suddenly disappears – eek! “Maybe I should add the stroke first,” you think, and one rapid undo later you find yourself trying to add a stroke by clicking firstly on the swatches (with the focus on the stroke attribute, of course) only to find that nothing happens there either – but you’ll be pleased to know that you are on the right track, at least.

What’s needed now is a trip to the appearance panel, and adding a new stroke either by:

  • clicking the icon at the bottom of the panel (first one on the left)
  • visiting the panel menu and choosing “add new stroke
  • or, if you’re a super-duper-power-user with the shortcut alt-cmd-/

Once you’ve done that, all you then need to do is apply the effect and (hey presto!) it works. You can add other strokes to it as well to build up effects – mystery solved.


Illustrator Week: Sketchbook Styles and Scrawl Text

Here’s a technique for creating grungy scrawl – it can be applied to text also as I’m going to demonstrate here – that remains live and editable – using lines and graphic styles. There are several variations you can do here – including using different brushes in the mix but for now this simple approach will have you emulating your sketchbook in minutes.

As usual, Windows users should substitute CMD with CTRL and if you’re on a US Mac keyboard substitute the ALT with OPTION.

Making the components

Use the pencil tool to draw a simple bumpy line, as I have done above.

Use the shortcut CMD-ALT-J to invoke the average command – it is under the Object > Path submenu. Select the horizontal radio button and click ok.

You should end up with something that looks like the above. Leave that selected and double-click on the reflect tool in the toolbox.

Once again, select the horizontal option; click copy.

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag a selection marquee over the last endpoint of the top and bottom lines to select them both.

Once again, use the average command – this time choosing the both option – and then join the two points together by using the Join command – CMD-J (this is also available from the Object > Path menu). Repeat this at the other end of the lines to create a closed shape.

Go to the brushes panel and click on the new brush icon at the bottom. Choose art brush from the dialog and just click ok in the options dialog. If you want, you can repeat these steps a couple more times to create a couple of other brushes to use as well – this technique works best when there’s more than one and the image below shows my brushes panel for this exercise with three new brushes created.

Creating the Appearance

Now you can draw a rectangle with no fill and apply the brush stroke to it by clicking on the stroke in the brushes panel.

If you created more than one new brush, go to the Appearance panel, choose Add New Stroke from the panel menu and apply another (different) brush stroke to your shape.

Repeat as necessary – my shape ended up with the three brushes I’d created added to it, as pictured above. Keep it selected.

Defining and applying the Style

Switch to the Graphic Styles panel and either click the new icon at the bottom of the panel or choose New Graphic Style from the panel menu. All of the attributes of your rectangle now become a style.

All that’s left to do now is to click on a bit of text (or indeed any other object) then select your graphic style from the panel, and you’re done!


Illustrator Week: Time to Reflect

Here’s a really simple technique for creating editable, reflected artwork using a symbol – this is so easy my cat could do it!

Thanks for all the positive feedback about Illustrator Week – I’m really glad that so many of you are getting something from it and enjoying it.

Next week will be another InDesign tip and coming up soon: Dreamweaver Day!

Stay Tuned.