Clipping Masks in Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Clipping Masks in Illustrator

Hey, everyone! For this short and sweet Design Tip of the Week, I’ll show you how to use clipping masks in Illustrator. They are very to do, yet incredibly useful in creating backgrounds, making textured shapes and cropping in objects.

DTOTW_9-21-15_Article_Image_2

Start by opening the image you would like to be masked in Illustrator. Create a rectangle on top*. Select both the image and the rectangle, right click, then select Make Clipping Mask. Keep in mind that the rectangle must be on top of the image.

*So that you may see better, I gave my rectangle a white stroke. (You do not need it.) 

DTOTW_9-21-15_Article_Image_3

Ta-da! Told you it was super easy.

DTOTW_9-21-15_Article_Image_4

Double-click on the rectangle to edit the image inside. You’ll notice that the display will change to that of working inside a group. You can also remove the clipping mask by right-clicking and selecting “Release Clipping Mask.”

DTOTW_9-21-15_Article_Image_5

Any shape can be used to create a clipping mask. Again, just remember to have it on top of all of the elements you want inside the mask.

There are many uses for clipping masks. For example, You can use them in your illustration! (You too can create a debonair character like this one.) The suave Casanova above is made from three different images of textures, all confined in their designated shape by using clipping masks.

In need of some good textures? Look no further! Check out our texture packs in the Arsenal!

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by!

9-21-15

Creating Learning Material

-Creating Learning Material:
A Beginners Guide to Making
Educational Content

In 2014, back when I lived in Pittsburgh, I received the opportunity to be an art instructor at a community-focused arts organization known as Wash Arts (located in Washington county). In addition to myself, Joe Mruk, a Pittsburgh-based illustrator and one of my best friends, was asked to be involved as well. Every Saturday morning we would teach a kids class, which was then followed by an adult class in the afternoon. Joe had Intro. to Drawing while I was responsible for the Beginner’s Digital Illustration class. I should mention that at that time we had no prior teaching experience. However, this did not stop us from being beyond excited. We could not wait to share what we knew, yet wanted to do more than just provide instruction on foundational skill sets. It was our ambition to encourage and inspire, to make art accessible and break down the excluding notion that not everyone is creative or could be an artist.

As soon as we received the opportunity with Wash Arts, we hit the ground running. We did a lot of preparation: wrote lesson plans, gathered references and created learning resources. We discussed during the week what we would teach for Saturday and spent Friday nights going over each others lesson plans. Sometimes we were up late working on educational infographics and other instructional visuals. We taught for six months and while we absolutely loved it, we eventually decided to move onto other opportunities.

In this tutorial, I will share with you the class material on vectors I created at that time, as well as the steps and considerations I recommend when creating your own inspiring and insightful content!

DIGITAL ILLUSTRATION | INSTRUCTOR: JORDAN WONG | SATURDAYS AT 10AM & 1PM

Lecture Material 3-1

Lecture Material 3-2

Lecture Material 3-3

Lecture Material 3-4Lecture Material 3-5Lecture Material 3-6

Lecture Material 3-7

Lecture Material 3-8

Teach What You Know and Love
This is the starting point. Let’s pretend that you’re teaching outside the world of academia, where you have more freedom and are not limited to a mandatory curriculum. Maybe you’re working for a non-profit arts organization or doing a class on Skillshare. Whatever the case, here are two questions in helping you decide what you should teach:

What am I really knowledgeable about?

What am I passionate about?

If you found something that answers both of these questions, you’re off to a really good start. Ever taken a class where the teacher could care less, which resulted in you caring less? Your level of enthusiasm will affect your students’, so be sure to choose something that you absolutely love. Something you could talk for hours and hours about, all while maintaining the biggest smile on your absurdly thrilled face!

In relation to what you’re knowledgeable about, make sure that you KEEP BEING knowledgeable. You, who people will look up to, must be on your A-game. Stay up to date on industry standards and trends. Know who the top dogs of the field are, their work can be used as class examples as well as sources of inspiration for your students (and you). Attend seminars, conventions, workshops and other events (like Weapons of Mass Creation Fest). I guarantee you will come back with fresh ideas and new material to share with your students.

Determine Who Your Students Are
Are your students very young with lots of energy and short attention spans? Are they older, yet not too familiar with the computer? Or are they seasoned experts with years of experience? Knowing who you will be teaching will determine the information you will cover. If they are just beginners, then you probably do not want to jump into really nitty-gritty, technical instruction or conceptual topics that will go over their heads.

Also, who your students are will determine the “look” of your content. It would not make sense to hand out the same bright, colorful, goofy material to your adult class that was meant for a kids class. But what if you’re instructing an adult beginner class and a kids beginner class as well? What if there is just no time (or money) to re-create different visual versions of the same content? If this is the case, take that into consideration in designing your curriculum. Perhaps you go for an aesthetic that is not too “old” or “young”, but  somewhere in the middle so that it can work for both classes. (In fact, my lesson handouts were for both the beginners kids and adult class.) There are other ways to relate and appeal to your differing students, such as the projects that are assigned, the examples that are shown and your demeanor when lecturing and instructing.

The main point is this: really get to know who your students are. Find out their passions, their goals. What they struggle with and what they are really good at. The better you understand and empathize with your students, the greater success you will have in teaching and inspiring them.

Show Them Who YOU Are
You are the instructor, the teacher, the intelligent and well-versed leader standing in the front of the class. Naturally, your students are going to be curious who you are, so show them! Talk about how you got into your craft – origin stories are the best! Show your work and share your accomplishments, yet also tell of your struggles and failures. The latter is especially important. People relate and feel more motivated when they learn that the experienced, incredibly talented legend before them has also made mistakes along the way. They then feel that they too can do it!

Provide Context
Showing application and real world examples is important. Knowing why and when to do something is, if not more, just as important as knowing how to do something. Educate them on the rules so they may break them. Let them see how creativity lives in the real world. Don’t just stop at how to create a beautiful image, but how it can be used in a practical sense or even bring about change. We are not hobbyists, we are professionals. This is not only our passion, it is our careers and livelihoods. There is value to what we do. And we need to teach our students that there is value in what they do.

Introduce Concepts Sequentially
You do not read a book by bouncing around randomly chapter to chapter (UNLESS it’s a choose-your-own-adventure book). Your content needs to have a sense of order, building upon each other from basic to complex. The end of a lesson should segway into the beginning of the next.

In the “What are Vectors?” section of my handout, you’ll notice I allude to a previously taught section:

Lecture Material 3-3B
I used it to help introduce vectors and how they are composed of paths and anchors (as opposed to pixels). The lesson continues to build on that idea, showing the possibilities and nuances of working in Illustrator. The more “flow” your curriculum has, the more your students will retain and be able to apply.

Make it Engaging
Three ways to do this:

  1. Add personality
  2. Make it look good
  3. Have the visuals emphasize key points and help explain concepts

Blocks of text and bulleted lists will most likely bore your students. Utilize witty and playful elements to help get your point across. Show relevant, fun and interesting videos. Of course don’t go overboard and overload your material with silly internet memes or unrelated GIFs. Remember, employing visuals, even if they’re humorous, is to highlight the main ideas.

Lecture Material 3-4

Lecture Material 3-5
Revisit and Improve
Looking back, there are somethings I would change in my material. It’s always a good idea to review what you have taught so it can be better for the next time. Perhaps your examples are out of date or there are topics in which you need to expand upon. With software updating regularly and new versions being released every year (sometimes more), new capabilities will turn into industry standards sooner than you think. As said earlier, it is your job to be up to date and ensure your students are aware of current practices.

“But who am I to teach?”
Having never taught before, I struggled with some insecurities. “Who am I to teach anyone? Don’t I have to be really established in order for my teachings to be valid?” The truth is that you (and I) have experience that others don’t. You have skill sets that others have yet to develop. You have knowledge on subjects that people know nothing about. The focus is not on being the authority on matters, it’s about sharing what you know. There will probably be times in which your students will actually teach YOU something. Like I said, it is about imparting what you have learned onto them as well as encouraging them to surpass you. Learn and grow together.

There you have it! I hope this tutorial has been helpful. Like I said, I had no prior experience of teaching and felt like I was just “wingin’ it.” The truth of the matter is that is how everyone starts, doing their best and making it up as they go. So, if you feel unsure and nervous, know that you will do just fine. After all, We are all just trying to figure stuff out, so we might as well do it together.

Conceptualizing Through Questioning | Design Tip of the Week

Conceptualizing Through Questioning

Coming up with an idea can be difficult. Coming up with a GOOD idea is even more challenging. There are times when one faces a creative drought, when those AHA moments feel as if they are never going to happen and solutions are elusive. We’re left with that frustrating feeling of being “stuck.” But what if we focus less on finding answers and spent more time asking questions? For this Design Tip of the Week, I’d like to share the approach of conceptualizing through questioning.

We often ask practical, straightforward questions to determine situations and starting points in a design project. This includes figuring out the budget, timeline, audience, company history and goals. While figuring out these aspects help in sparking some ideas and providing direction for aesthetics, sometimes we still get stuck. When this happens, ask even more questions.

What is the medium?

How long will a person have to experience it?

What does it need to feel like?

Should it be masculine or feminine?

What do similar things out there look like? What is being done that is successful? What is not?

What associations people do have of ________?

What is too typical or cliché? How can I make it unique?

Is this boring?

Is this too strange?

Is this too simple? Is it too complex?

More specific questions can certainly help in making particular decisions. Say you are choosing a color palette for a new aromatherapy clinic. “What colors are relaxing, yet encouraging and supportive?” Another example: perhaps you’re having trouble picking a typeface for a new BBQ restaurant owned by a renown chef. You may want to ask yourself, “What typeface communicates the idea of being established, yet not too fancy in that the viewer feels they have to wear a suit and tie or elegant dress?” (After all, it is still a BBQ joint, and not, say, a French gourmet restaurant.) These questions keep us focused, reminding who and what we are designing for.

Boosting Imagination Through Questioning

There are times the right solution requires the strangest, most unorthodox approach. The new Old Spice commercials are a perfect example. They are absolutely fantastically random and hilariously imaginative, which resulted in a large increase of sales. How does one even come up with this stuff? Well, a great way to expand our minds into those inconceivable, brilliant territories is through, again, questioning. But not normal, pragmatic ones. I’m talking really weird questions, force-you-to-think-out-of-the-box-but-then-realize-there-is-no-box-and-that-your-imagination-has-the-potential-that-equates-to-a-space-whale-being-born-from-a-supernova-weird.

I stumbled upon this idea when I was sketching one morning at a coffee shop, however I was facing the problem of not knowing what to draw. I ended up doing some loose figural sketches. The one figure I drew had this strong, heroic pose, and for whatever reason, it sparked a strange question: “I wonder what this figure would look like as a deity of nature?” From there my imagination ran wild and I delved into more abstract concepts. “What would this figure look like if he was composed of a wood and iron?” I began visualizing gnarled, bark-like forms fusing with a mechanical, hard-edge appearance. I jotted down my thoughts, and from them I hope to create a new series of drawings.

I went from not knowing what to draw to coming up with a concept for a new body of artwork. And it all resulted from me asking just one, very weird and random question. Because what I was asking was so strange, my imagination was unhindered by obvious answers. Possibilities were endless.

I encourage you to try it out. Ask yourself ridiculous, bizarre questions. Your mind will launch an expedition of thoughts. Practicality and logic are of no concern. The more extraordinary the question, the better! Here are a few that I came up with:

How would you design a poster for an audience that is blind?

What if there was a device that could conduct positive emotions and use them to charge your cell phone? What would the device be called? What would the promotional campaign be?

If you had a robot companion, what functions would be programmed into it? Based off of those functions, what would its appearance be?

What would a computer keyboard look like if we had an extra finger?

What if umbrellas had hyper-efficient solar panels on them?

What would the mission statement be of a non-profit organization that had the ability to control weather forecasts?

Phew! This was quite a long Design Tip of the Week, so thank you for reading. Again, questioning can be extremely useful, from establishing aesthetic directions, helping make specific visual decisions and boosting one’s imagination. Remember, the answers and solutions will come. All you have to do is ask the right questions.

Cheers!

9-14-15

Adjust Rounded Rectangle Corners in Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Adjust Rounded Rectangle Corners in Illustrator

I forgot who showed me this (I think it might have been Aaron), but man, it absolutely blew my mind. It’s so simple too. In fact, you probably already know this tip, but for those who don’t, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You can easily adjust rounded rectangle corners in Illustrator simply by using the UP arrow key or DOWN arrow key.  Simply equip the Rounded Rectangle Tool, drag out your rectangle – don’t let go of your mouse click – then use your arrow keys.

DTOTW_9-7-15_Article_Image_1

I’ve been using Illustrator for freakin’ over seven years, since I was in high school, and I had no idea about this little shortcut. GAH! Absolutely awesome. Again, for those who knew this tip already, I apologize. For those who didn’t, YOU’RE WELCOME! It goes to show you that there’s always something new to learn. It’s these little tips and shortcuts that can help streamline your process and just make things a whole lot easier.

Want to save even more time? Check out my article on designing faster with vectors on hand.  (There’s even a freebie included!

God speed!

9-7-15

Color Linework in Photoshop | Design Tip of the Week

Black and white linework is always nice, but sometimes a bit of color is needed to add a pinch of visual flavor to your delicious illustration soufflé . (Hooray cooking metaphors!) Let’s get into it and show you how to color linework in Photoshop.

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_1

I’ll be using the heroic imagery of this guy doing a Shoryuken. (I drew him at of the Cleveland Drink and Draws, a social meet up for artists, illustrators and doodlers to hang out, drink some beer and draw cool shit.) As you can see, it’s just a graphite pencil drawing, so while the majority of it is linework, there are some tonal gradations.

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_2

The first thing to do is to darken the drawing in the Levels settings (Image > Adjustments > Levels). Just don’t make it so dark that you’re losing detail. This will help in selecting the values of the drawing.

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_3b

Next, open your Channels palette and hold down CTRL (or Command) and click on the RGB layer. If you’re in CYMK color mode, click the CYMK layer. Notice that the everything around the drawing is now selected, but it’s the drawing itself we want selected. Go ahead and simply inverse the selection via Select > Inverse (Shift + CTRL + I).

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_4b

With the drawing selected, create a Layer Mask by clicking its icon, which is next to the Layer Style (fx) icon in the Layers Palette. You’ll notice that all of the white disappears.

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_5

Choose a your favorite color, select the Brush Tool (B) and color over your drawing. Because the Layer Mask is activated, it will only affect that which was selected (the drawing).

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_6

I went ahead and added a few more elements: a radial background using a vector from one of the Arsenal vector packs, a faint texture layer and the word “WIN.”  And listen, if you don’t think you can do this, remember to tell yourself: SURE YOU CAN! (Shoryuken.) Get it!?

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. That joke isn’t even original and rather old. But oh well. Hooray puns!

DTOTW_8-31-15_Article_Image_7

Tune in again next time! (“Next time” meaning a week from now.)

8-31-15

Positive and Negative Space in Illustrator| Design Tip of the Week

Positive and Negative Space in Illustrator

We all know that Illustrator is great for creating dynamic linework and wonderful shapes, but what about creating lines WITH shapes? You know, positive and negative space? Get what I’m saying? Picking up what I’m putting down? Smelling what I’m stepping in? If you’re still unsure, no problem.  I’ll walk you through it, and by the end you will have another method to illustration in your repertoire.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_1

Does this little guy look familiar?

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_2

Yep! He’s the mini version of the cosmic robot Buddha illustration I did for Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 6. This little dude also was featured on the WMC Fest 6 kid’s shirt.

Anyways, let’s get into it.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_3

Pasted in the Illustrator artboard is the original sketch for my illustration. From this I outlined and created silhouetted shapes…

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_4

This layer is named “Positive 1” (as it says in the Layers Palette).

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_5

Next, a new layer was created (Negative 1). In this layer, I created the white (negative) shapes by using my original sketch as reference. It is at this point that the linework becomes defined.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_6

My third layer (“Positive 2”) contains the last set of positive (black) shapes that sit on the white (in Negative 1 layer*).

*In my opinion, Negative 1 layer should actually only be named “Negative,” since there is not a “Negative 2” layer. 

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_7

First making sure that my layers are unlocked and visible, I then select all my shapes, then copy and paste it all into a new layer (“Grouped”).

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_8

With everything selected, I use Pathfinder > Divide. This breaks down everything into separate shapes according to the intersecting edges.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_9

By first ungrouping my illustration, I can now use the magic wand to select all the positive (black) shapes. I copy that, delete my all of my previous work, then do a Paste in Place, leaving only the positive shapes.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_10

Your Fill will indicate that this has been done correctly if everything that is selected has black fill. No white (negative) shapes remain.

DTOTW_8-24-15_Article_Image_11

So why bother with this approach?
Honestly, it’s just matter of preference. For some illustrations, I’d rather just do the linework, yet there are some instances where it is easier for me to break it down (and build it up) through positive and negative space. I have also found that this approach enables me to translate my original line weights. The point is there are many ways to skin a cat. (Man…that’s a horrible expression. Skin a cat? Who does that? I don’t even…) Anyways, this is just another method of creating linework in Illustrator. In fact, I used this method a lot in creating the Iconic Cleveland Vector Pack.

Well that is all for now. If you want more tips on Illustration, check out the Arsenal, which has TONS  of tutorials! (I would strongly recommend the Halftone Triple Technique Tutorial.)

Thanks for reading, everyone! Now go out and draw some cool shit.

Cheers!

8 -24 -15

With Each Day You Get Little Bit Better | Design Tip of the Week

With Each Day You Get Little Bit Better.

A week may have already passed since Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 6 ended, but I’m still riding that inspiration wave and hopefully can share it with others. Therefore, this week’s tip goes out to those who have been feeling down in the dumps, who feel discouraged or even defeated. We’ve all been there. I hope that this Design Tip of the Week provides you a nugget of encouragement.

Let’s face it, there are days when we are just not our best. We feel sluggish and unmotivated, small and incapable. There are days when we’re slow, taking forever on something that does not even turn out all that great. We inevitably ask ourselves “am I even good enough?” or “will I get better?”

The answer of “you become good over time” is not always so reassuring. We’re too focused on the now, the immediately-felt insecurities. In the present when a brighter future feels uncertain, we are left with questioning “well…WHEN will I become good?” We search and search for that definitive moment of success. We are dying to hear “you made it.”

When I was facing these thoughts (and I still do), I was so fortunate that I had Aaron, a friend and co-worker at Go Media, to confide in. This article is because of him and it is his piece of advice that I wish to share with you all. This is what he told me…

With each day you get little bit better.

This may feel trivial at first, but it is a simple truth that offers so much encouragement. I will admit when I first heard him say this, it didn’t really sink in. I was too stuck in the now-ness of feeling “I suck and am no good.” Each time we would talk, he would graciously repeat, “Remember, with each day you get a little bit better.” Aaron’s insightful reminder now really hits home. We often don’t recognize the subtle growth we undergo day to day. A child has no idea if he or she is becoming taller if it weren’t for those little tick marks on the wall, each marking a new height gained month by month, year by year.

Pay attention to those tick marks. Take notice when something becomes easier for you, even if it is slightly. Seriously, set aside time to reflect on the things you’ve accomplished. Cherish those achievements and use them to propel you towards the next one. It is little by little that we become extraordinary.

Check out other articles on design insights that we have in our Go Media Zine. Get smarter, become inspired and go forth in creating masterpieces!

8-17-15

Meet Other Creatives | Design Tip of the Week

Meet Other Creatives

I wanted to write an article about meeting other creatives, but struggled with it. The advice of networking and connecting to those in the industry can often be belaboured by college professors and concerned parents. However, they are totally are in the right. Who you know does often lead to that next opportunity. In addition to that, building camaraderie and a sense of belonging goes a long way.  I’d like to share my experience of being part of the creative community, which I believe will be more helpful than an article full of obvious advice.

I should first point out that ever since my years of college I have always felt intimidated. Many of the artists, illustrators and designers I know are older than me. I often felt like a kid, young and inexperienced (which I was.) Yet despite my feelings of smallness, it was awesome to have the opportunity of spending time with those who were experienced and damn good at what they do.

From my sophomore year in college up until the point I left Pittsburgh, I made it a point to attend everything: art shows, lectures, happy hours, workshops, performances and whatever else. The art and design scene, especially in Pittsburgh, is a small one, so after a while, you begin to recognize faces. Before I knew it, I would hit up an event and exchange handshakes and high fives with the majority of people there. It was fantastic, that feeling of being a part of something. There is a quote about the importance of just showing up…But it’s escaping my memory right now. Regardless, attending events was crucial in developing my involvement with the art and design community. I heard once that “YOU are the scene.” These words could never be truer.

So #ThisIsCle

Since moving to Cleveland, I have been to a number of events. Actually, even before I moved to Cleveland I attended Brite Winter Fest, Wizard World Comic-Con and the 78th St. Studios gallery crawl. This all took place when I was in town for my interview at Go Media and apartment hunting (once I got the job). Within the first week of living in Cleveland, I hit up a AIGA Cleveland happy hour, which is actually how I met Ian Zeigler of Photonic Studio. Since then I have participated in a live drawing event at Spaces gallery, shared a drink with Aaron Sechrist (Ok Pants) and met Sean Higgins (the Bubble Process) and Brian Jasinski (Grey Cardigan) at an arts festival. Cleveland’s art and design scene is flourishing, and it is filled with the friendliest, most supportive and talented people.

Because of the excitement of moving to a new city and being somewhat of an extrovert, I was able to do a lot of things and meet many people. However, I was still rather nervous through all of it! In many of these situations, I did not know anyone. No one could be my social safety raft. This can be terrifying. But the nerves go away after the first conversation starts, so you just have to take a big gulp of your beer, go up to someone and sincerely say, “Hey there, I’m so-and-so. I’m new here and looking to meet people.” The rest is easy-peasy.

From Pittsburgh to Cleveland, I have met the most amazing people. From sharing struggles and triumphs to teaching and inspiring, it is because of them that I have grown so much in my ability to think and create. With that, I say this to you, wonderful reader: go out there and show ‘em your stuff! Meet people and do things. Make new friends, form strong bonds and learn all you can from everyone and anyone. I know it can be nerve wracking and down right scary to put yourself out there. It is for everyone else. Like I said, things become a lot easier with that first “hello.”

8-10-15

How to Halftone Photos | Design Tip of the Week

Halftones are a fantastic method of achieving lovely tonal values through a flat, graphic look. From the time of Andy Warhol to the present, they are still being stylistically used in art, illustration and design. Don’t know how to do them? You’ll find this week’s design tip to be quite useful then!

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_1

I’ll be using this photo as an example. (Pretty sweet, huh? Look at those gnarly-looking monsters.)

Step 1Convert the photo to grayscale and up the contrast

Do this by going to Image > Mode > Grayscale. Then increase the photo’s contrast in either Levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels) or Curves (Image > Adjustments > Curves).

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_2

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_3

Step 2: Covert the grayscale image to bitmap (halftone )

Similar to the last step, go to Image > Mode > Bitmap.

• Output Resolution should match the image’s input.

Method: Halftone screen

Frequency option is really based on preference. The higher the number, the more dots will be used to translate the photo’s tonal values. However, a lower input will produce a result with less dots and a more stark appearance. The result of the frequency is also dependent on size and resolution. I recommend 25 lines/inch to 45 lines/inch for images that are between 150 and 300 dpi. If the dpi is at 72, I prefer 12 lines/inch. Slight adjustments through trial and error may be needed in order to get the desired halftone look.

• Shape: Selecting “Round” will produce a halftone that utilizes dots to translate the photo’s values – the typical “halftone look.”

• Angle: I would keep this input value on default (22.5°). It pertains more to “Line” option (Shape).

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_4

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_5

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_6

Step 3: Marvel at its beauty

Boom! Hafltone complete!

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_7

Screen Display Discrepancies

There are times when a halftone image may look odd or plain crappy on a monitor. I do not know the reason for this, but after experimenting I found the frequency, size of the image and its resolution can affect the result displayed on screen. I recommend zooming in at 100% for a more accurate visual outcome. Checking printed proofs is never a bad idea either.

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_8

Dropping it into Illustrator

Because the image has been converted to Bitmap, you can select its Fill in Illustrator and easily change its color. Just save it as a .Tiff from Photoshop and re-open it in Illustrator to do so.

DTOTW_8-3-15_Article_Image_9

You now know how to halftone photos! This concludes this Design Tip of the Week, but speaking of halftones, did you know we offer a Halftone Pattern Vector Pack? There are also more resources and tutorials in the Go Media Arsenal, so definitely check them out! Finally, keep your eyes peeled. We’re working on something big, which may or may not be halftone-related…

Anyways, God speed!

8-3-15

Using Keyboard Shortcuts | Design Tip of the Week

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are truly a wonderful thing. With quick pecks at the right keys (at the right time), designing and illustrating becomes faster, more efficient and enjoyable. Imagine if you had to keep laboriously clicking around to select a new tool or option. Ugh, how strenuously horrible. Well, okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. Regardless, keyboard shortcuts are great, making one’s workflow a lot smoother.

This Design Tip of the Week is not going to focus on listing out all of keyboard shortcuts. (There are tons of resources on the internet for that.) Instead, I will focus more on process: how keyboard shortcuts can be used in combination with each other and how you can use them strategically. The following are a few that I personally use along with how they help me in my workflow. Let’s roll.

Zoom In and Out

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-1

I am very detail-oriented and like to spend time making things perfectly lined up and flawlessly spaced. It’s not uncommon to find me working at 6000% zoomed-in. But I need to also step back and see everything working together. Unfortunately, constantly zooming in and out can be really time consuming. Good thing there is the Z key and CMD + 0.

Hitting the Z key immediately equips the Zoom Tool, which can pinpoint and zoom in on areas that need to be looked at with relentless scrutiny. While being able to quickly hone in is useful, having the ability to zoom out just as fast is super crucial. This is where CMD + 0 (CTRL + 0) really comes in handy, zooming out instantly to a nice, encompassing view of the artboard (Illustrator) or canvas (Photoshop).

*In Illustrator, use CMD + OPT + 0 (CTRL + ALT + 0) to see ALL artboards in one view. 

I know it seems kind of elementary, but using these two keyboard shortcuts, especially in combination with each other, greatly help with refining details (kerning, adjusting curves, erasing, aligning elements, etc.) AND stepping back to see how those refinements affect your design overall.

Selection & Direct Selection Tool

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-2

Using the V key (Selection Tool) alongside the A key (Direction Selection Tool) allows you to not only easily move, rotate and scale elements, but also distort and transform them*. When working on a complex illustration that has many anchor points formulating numerous shapes, lines and curves, toggling between the Selection and Direct Selection Tool definitely speeds things up.

*These two keyboard shortcuts refer more to working in Illustrator.

Fill and Stroke

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-3

Using the X key allows you to switch back and forth between Stroke and Fill in Illustrator, which is especially useful in making color choices and creation of shapes (solid vs. outlined). You can also use Shift+X to invert a shape’s Stroke and Fill color.

In Photoshop, the X key shifts between the foreground and background color. This becomes extremely useful for erasing (Brush Tool set to black) and restoring (Brush Tool set to white) parts of an image in a Clipping Mask.

Adding and Subtracting Anchor Points

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-4

Creating excellent vectors requires a great amount of attention to their anchor points. Whether it is plotting new points on a path or taking some out, using the + key and – key streamlines that process. I use these two keyboard shortcuts constantly when working intensively on linework.

And Finally…

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-5

DTOTW_7-27-15_Article_Images-6

The two most common keyboard shortcuts.

We all make mistakes. Thankfully we can undo (CMD + Z) them in a blink of an eye, so we may move on to a better solution without losing time. Then there are those moments of brilliance. Don’t let lose them in the digital ether. Save (CMD+S) them.

To wrap this all up, the point is not to remember every single keyboard shortcut. Instead, think about your process. What actions are constantly being made? Is there a way to make that particular step easier? After all, a major part of design is not only the creation of a visual, but the thinking that goes into it. Save yourself time with a more efficient process, then use the time that was saved to focus on things like conceptualization that require incubation and development.

Work smarter, not harder.

Thanks for reading!

7-27-15

Sharpen Images in Photoshop | Design Tip of the Week

Sharpen Images in Photoshop

It was actually Carly, one of the wonderful designers here at Go Media, who showed me this tip: using the High Pass filter to sharpen images in Photoshop. It’s real easy and super quick. Check it out!

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_1

Who doesn’t love red pandas? We’re going to be using this little guy for our example.

*Note: I just borrowed this image from a Google search for this example. Make sure you always use your own images or ones that you have purchased from a stock photography provider.

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_2

We’re going to duplicate the layer.

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_3

On the duplicated layer, apply the High Pass filter (Filter>Other>High Pass).

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_4

Select a Radius value. You’ll want to keep this value towards the lower end of the spectrum, but may even have to go back and play around to see what value best enhances your photo.

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_5

Once you have chosen a Radius value, set the layer to Overlay.

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_6

Voilà!

DTOTW_7-20-15_Article_Image_7

*Click on the image to see a larger version.

The left is the original photo, while the right is with the High Pass filter applied. Notice how the right is crisper and has more definition.  So if you find yourself with some not-so-sharp images, you can now give ’em a little boost!

Cheers!

7-20-15-01

Line Variation in Illustrator | Tutorial

Line Variation in Illustrator Tutorial

In a previous Design Tip of the Week, we mentioned the increasing trend of icons and simplistic, geometric illustration. While their minimal, clean aesthetic is perfect for some situations, there are other times when an illustration needs to have more personality and be more dynamic. Line variation can add that extra flavor.

Line Variation Example-01

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how I personally add line variation in Illustrator (there are, however, many different approaches and methods). Let’s begin!

Line_Variation_Tutorial_Article_Image_1

We’re going to use this guy for our first example. (He may look familiar, but he is in fact a different blob-person than the one I previously introduced in an other tutorial.)

Line_Variation_Tutorial_Article_Image_2

Take a look at the Stroke Panel, you’ll notice that the (line) profile is uniform – consistent all the way through. (Also the line weight is 3 pt. – this will come into play later.) We want to change that. After all, our friend here has some lovely curves that need to be accentuated. With a monotonous line weight, no wonder his expression is rather plain.

Line_Variation_Tutorial_Article_Image_3

Illustrator offers an array of line treatments.

Line Profiles-01

We’re going to select one that has more variety.

Alright! Now we have something going on. However, I am not so sure if I want the line to be as thin as it is where it tapers.

Line_Variation_Tutorial_Article_Image_5

This is a crucial part in fixing line weights that are too thin. You’ll want to…

1. Click on the original line
2. Copy it
3. Paste IN PLACE (Shift+Command+V or Shif+Ctrl+V).
4. Set the newly pasted line weight to a lower value (than your original, dynamic line). Our original line was at 3 pt., so I’ll make this one’s line weight set to 1.5 pt.
5. Change its Profile to Uniform

Line_Variation_Tutorial_Article_Image_6

Ta-da! Just by those simple changes, our blob friend now has more personality. He even now has a charming mustache!

Now let’s take a look at an example that is a more complex illustration. And what better imagery than a pig with a jet booster strapped to its back!

Jet_Booster_Pig_Comparison-03

Jet_Booster_Pig_Detail

As you can see, the illustration on the right has more complexity and character with its linework than the version on the left. The varying thick-to-thin lines play off the curves of the rounded forms and the angular lines of the more streamlined shapes.

Now give it a shot! Go transform those boring vectors into lively illustrations! In addition to this one, we have TONS of tutorials on illustration in the Arsenal. Check ’em out and start creating masterpieces!

Thanks for reading!

Hanging Punctuation in InDesign and Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Hanging Punctuation in InDesign and Illustrator

This week, we’re getting into a nitty gritty aspect of type: hanging punctuation. For those who do not know, hanging punctuation is a method of typesetting punctuation marks (and bullet points) to preserve the ‘flow’ of a body of text and avoid breaking the margin of alignment. Let me show you what I’m talking about. While there are options that include hanging punctuation in InDesign AND Illustrator, I’ll show an example in InDesign. (Don’t worry, I’ll touch upon Illustrator towards the end.)

DTOTW_7-13-15_Article_Image_1

As you can see, the quotation marks are tucked inside next to the “M”, throwing off alignment.

(Side Note: I decided to use pirate ipsum for my copy. I mean, why the hell would you use boring lorem ipsum when things like pirate ipsum exist?)

DTOTW_7-13-15_Article_Image_2

You’re going to want to go to Type>Story.

DTOTW_7-13-15_Article_Image_3

Check the box next to “Optical Margin Alignment” and change the value below until you’re happy with the alignment.

DTOTW_7-13-15_Article_Image_4

There we are. Donezos.

For Illustrator, it’s actually one option, which is Optical Margin Alignment – right under “Type” in the top menu. When I tried this out in Illustrator CC, the results were pretty good. However, I wasn’t satisfied with how Illustrator CS5 handled the alignment. If you think it needs some tweaking, I suggest making those adjustments using Tabs (Window>Type>Tabs.)

Thanks for stopping by! Hope this was helpful!

7 - 13 - 15

Making Perfect Curves in Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Making Perfect Curves in Illustrator

Hello, hello! Last week, I gave some tips on designing faster in Illustrator, but this week, we’re going to focus more so on quality. In Illustrator (as you all know,) you have super-tight control over line weights, shapes, etc. and can produce incredibly crisp visuals. The best creatives who make the most stunning vectors are those with a sharp eye for detail. Having a hawk’s eye (both the animal and the Marvel character) that can pick up on subtle changes in line work and curves of a shape is pretty crucial for creating awesome illustrations. For this Design Tip of the Week, we’re going to focus on curves.

Here is our example:

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_1

As you can see, this little blob dude is not happy. He feels insecure of his imperfectly smooth form*. Let’s help him out.

*Note: you do not need to have a perfectly smooth form to be a strong, independent, beautiful blob thing. 

If you can already see where some touch-ups need to be made, then you, my friend have a good eye! For those that haven’t picked up on the areas that need working, hey, no sweat! That’s why I’m here, to help and walk you through it.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_2Okay, first problem. As you can see, there’s a bit of a point where the two curves are not aligned perfectly. This is very common and can easily be overlooked. Let’s smooth that out.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_3

There we go. Take advantage of those curve handles, they will indicate the direction and sharpness of the curve. When the handles are aligned and create a perfectly straight line, you’re curve is good to go. Remember to always zoom in and out to see how your changes affect the overall shape.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_4

Hmm…something is still off.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_5

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_6

There it is. Cases of super, super subtle misalignment are what you really have to watch for. Be relentless in going through your illustration and checking for any places that need refined.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_7

Awe, he looks so much happier. Getting into the habit of really examining your illustration, finding the places that need some polishing and making those improvements will only result in your work becoming better and better. So, roll up them sleeves, zoom in at 6400% and make that shit flawless.

Just to let you know, we actually have tons of tutorials on Illustration that you should definitely check out!

Until next time!

7 - 5 - 15

Design Faster with Vectors on Hand | Design Tip of the Week

Design Faster with Vectors on Hand

You’re a pro. We all know it. However, do you ever find yourself drawing the same shape over and over again? With the growing popularity of icons and simplistic, geometric illustration, it’s not uncommon for elements to be used time after time in your designs. This does not mean that we have to stay trapped in some sort of weird, repetitive dimensional hell of making that perfectly-narrow (or wide) triangle.

Let’s save some time and design a little faster! Have all those faithful shapes already made and saved in its own Illustrator file. When the time comes to make that “ice cream cone” icon or that minimalistic illustration of a bicycle, you’ll be like, “Oh, looks like I have to ma- WHOA! It’s halfway done!”

ice-cream-cone-icon-614x460 bicycle simple illustration

Before you leave, I want you to know that I care about you. That is why I made an Illustrator file that is full of shapes and elements that you are free to use! I hope that it saves you some time and gets you to happy hour a little earlier. Cheers!

Helpful_Shapes_Illustrator

6-29-15

Want more tips? Be sure to also check out Bill’s article on how to become a faster designer!

Also, you can save even more time with our vector illustrations! Check ’em out!

Tips on Drawing Symmetry | Design Tip of the Week

Tips on Drawing Symmetry

Symmetrical_Illustration_Examples

I have a hard time drawing things perfectly symmetrical. I mean, really, who doesn’t? Drawing symmetry is tough! We’re not robots with mathematical precision. No worries, here are some quick tips that will surely help.

One trick that I picked up on is to draw half of your image, scan it in, duplicate it, flip and merge it together. It helps to draw a center line, so you know where the one half ends and the other will begin. Need the whole piece hand-drawn and inked? No problem! Just print it out an opaque version (of the whole image – two halves merged) and use that as the structure for your drawing. In fact, the legendary Jon Contino works this way. (I reached out to Jon over email about this, to which he graciously replied, resulting in us bonding over this mutual creative process.)

This approach is a “two birds with one stone” kind of thing. By duplicating, flipping and merging the one half, the whole drawing is completed! And it required only half the work! If you want to see more on how I use this method, check out this article I wrote about creating the WMC Fest 6 Poster.

Thanks for reading!

6-15-15