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.
Does this little guy look familiar?
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.
Pasted in the Illustrator artboard is the original sketch for my illustration. From this I outlined and created silhouetted shapes…
This layer is named “Positive 1” (as it says in the Layers Palette).
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.
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.
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”).
With everything selected, I use Pathfinder > Divide. This breaks down everything into separate shapes according to the intersecting edges.
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.
Your Fill will indicate that this has been done correctly if everything that is selected has black fill. No white (negative) shapes remain.
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.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Now go out and draw some cool shit.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
Illustrator offers an array of line treatments.
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.
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
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!
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!