Jan 13 2010

illustrator techniques: use custom brushes to create a custom border or frieze

The technique of making a custom border in Illustrator is similar to specifying a pattern. View the example starting motif and the finished border.

Start with a linear pattern that you wish to repeat seamlessly. I found this albatross motif which I (hand) traced in Illustrator.

And generated at least one instance of a seamless repeat by copying and pasting and filling in the missing segment.

First, make sure all of the elements of the motif are grouped together: Select > All and then Object > Group

This will also place all of the objects on the same layer.

Make sure the rulers are visible: View > Show Rulers

Find the edges of the repeat and drag guide lines from the vertical ruler to align with each of the edges. Try to be precise so there are no gaps or overlaps in the repeated design.

Make sure the guides are locked: View > Guides > Lock Guides. Make sure there is a check mark next to Lock Guides. Click to toggle the lock on or off.

With the Rectangle Tool (1), draw a box with no fill and no border (2) that completely encompasses the area to be repeated.

Select All again and choose Crop (1) from the Pathfinder panel (2).

This should result in a single instance of the repeat.

Note: If the original design includes complex appearances or blends, you may have to expand the appearances (Object > Expand Appearance) or expand strokes and fills (Object > Expand…) before cropping.

Select All again and open the Brushes panel (1). Make a new brush (2) and select New Pattern Brush (3):

Frm the Pattern Brush Options dialogue box, name the brush (1) and click on the Side Tile indicator (2) and click OK:

To test the repeat, use the Pen Tool (1) to draw a straight line (2):

Select the line. From the Brushes Panel (1), choose the new custom brush (2):

To change the size of the border, first select Object > Transform > Scale…

From the Scale dialogue box, make sure Scale Stroke & Effects is checked:

With the line segment selected and holding down the Shift ket, pull the upper corner handles out:

Jan 2 2010

illustrator techniques, part 2: editing colors

This is the second part of a two-part tutorial on creating a repeat pattern. This (much shorter) part explores using the Color Editor features of Illustrator CS3 or CS4 to change the colorway of a pattern swatch. Defining a pattern is covered in Part 1 of this tutorial.

Defining a pattern has been a part of Illustrator for many, many versions, however Color Editing is only available in more recent versions, starting with CS3. If you want to skip Part 1 and move right into color editing with the pattern swatch used for this exercise, it can be downloaded and installed as follows:

Un-zip the downloaded file

Move the file japanese_04b.ai to the Applications folder (or Program Files directory for Windows):

Adobe Illustrator CS3 (or CS4) > Presets > en_US > Swatches > Patterns > Decorative

Quit and restart Illustrator

Note: The colorizing techniques using Color Edit can be used with any pattern.

Open a new document (print or web)

Insert the pattern japanese_04b into a Swatches panel by clicking on the upper right corner of the panel (A) to reveal a flyout menu of options for this panel. Select Open Swatch Library (B), the choose Patterns (C), then Decorative (D), and finally the swatch file japanese_04b.

This will open a new swatches panel with the color swatches and pattern swatch.

With the Rectangle Tool, draw a box.

For the fill color, select the pattern from the Swatches panel.

With the Selection Tool, select the filled box.

Open the Color Guide panel (A) and click on the color wheel icon at the bottom of the panel (B) to open the Recolor Artwork dialogue box.

In the Recolor Artwork dialogue box, click the Edit button (A) to reveal the Color Editor.

The link icon (B) should be ‘connected’ to preserve the same color harmony relationship. If you want to experiment with other relationships, you can ‘unlink’.

To see the results of your color choices, be sure Recolor Artwork (C) is checked.

Rotate the Active Colors (D) by clicking on one of the circles and dragging it around the color wheel to test various hues. You can also change the value by pulling the Active Color toward or away from the center of the color wheel.

Once you have chosen a new colorway, give it a name (E) and create a new group (F).

Click OK to close the Color Editor.

This will result in a new color group and a new pattern swatch being added to your Swatches panel.

A complete explanation of the Color Editor can be found in the Adobe Illustrator help file:

Aug 26 2009

ivan bilibin

It came to me last night that the crescent moon is featured in a couple of my favorite illustrations by Ivan Bilibin (1876 to 1942). Bilibin is best known for his illustrations of Russian folk tales: The Tale of Tsaravich Ivan, the Firebird and the Grey Wolf; Vassilisa the Beautiful; Vassily the Unlucky; The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Many of the illustrations are bordered with simple graphic motifs that recall the Russian folk genre to which they belong.

Bilibin was also a noted stage designer whose portfolio included stage designs for the 1909 premiere production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or.

vassilisa_the_beautiful_black_knight_smHowever noteworthy are his larger works, I’m attracted to some of his smaller illustrations featuring stark Russian landscapes that serve as endpieces or the back cover of books. Their simplicity is reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints.

Apart from his work as a illustrator, Bilibin painted scenes from his travels to Egypt and the Middle East. The paintings have a graphic quality often playing light against shadow in stark contrast to his illustrations of the northern Russian crescent moon.

View a Bilibin sampler.