22 Jan 2015

Where to Save Brushes & Other Custom Libraries in Illustrator

If you use custom libraries for brushes or other assets in Illustrator (symbols, swatches, graphic styles, etc), it’s easy to make sure they appear right off the flyout menu as long as you know where to save them. By default, this is not where they are saved and you have to manually search for them every time you want to load them, but it’s easy to force them into a different spot for quick access all the time. Once you have created, purchased or inherited your custom libraries (these libraries will be saved with the standard .AI extension), you will want to save them in the following location accordingly:

Mac OSx

Macintosh HD > Applications > Adobe Illustrator (your version here, i.e. CC 2014) > Presets > en_US (or your language) > Brushes (or other folder for the appropriate type of library) where_to_save_custom_libraries_illustrator


C: > Program Files > Adobe Adobe Illustrator (your version here, i.e. CC 2014) > Presets > en_US (or your language) > Brushes (or other folder for the appropriate type of library) By putting files in the Brushes folder, they will automatically be available from the flyout of the panel.  You can even take it one step further and save the libraries named strategically so they land at the top of the list (files are listed alphabetically, so number 1 & 2 will appear first as shown in this example): custom_libraries_illustrator_flyout

05 Jan 2015

Curved Paths Made Easy in Illustrator

Illustrator always had a lesser known tool called the Reshape Path Tool. In theory, the concept was great but it was a bit fussy to use. In AI CC 17.1, they updated the Convert Anchor Point Tool to simply the Anchor Point Tool and the new functionality works beautifully (make sure your AI version is 17.1 or newer – Illustrator > About Illustrator).  In this super quick 3-step tutorial, we’ll draw a tank top using straight paths and convert them to curved paths using the new tool.

1. Create half of a tank top using straight paths with the Pen Tool.
2. With the Anchor Point Tool (hiding under the Pen Tool), click and drag on the paths you want to curve. Continue this on all the paths that need to be curved.
3. Reflect and copy half of your tank top, then join the center anchor points (learn more about reflecting & joining).


29 Dec 2014

Top 10 Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts & Tricks

With over 10 years of experience using Illustrator (mostly for fashion design but a lot for general graphic design as well), I have quite a few tricks and shortcuts that I’ve grown to rely very heavily on.  Here, I divulge you in those tricks so you too can speed up your work flow.  You’re welcome.

10. D for Default Attributes

The default attributes for objects are a white fill and a black 1pt stroke.  The keyboard shortcut to change a selected object to the default attributes is simply the D key.  Bonus: You can change the attributes of the default settings by editing it in the Graphic Styles Panel.

9. Tab to Hide Panels

If you’re feeling cramped on monitor space or you want to see your artboard without any distractions, hit the Tab key to hide all tool panels.  Simply hit it again to bring the panels back.  Bonus: Another single key shortcut to change the appearance of your screen view is the F key – there are 3 options that the F key will cycle you through, so keep hitting it until you find the one you want.

8. Opt/Alt to Scale to Center

Hold the opt/alt key while scaling an object with the Selection Tool so that it scales to the center.  Bonus: Hold the Shift key as well to constrain proportions while scaling.

7. Shift + X to Swap Fill and Stroke Colors

Use this to quickly swap the position of the fill and stroke colors.  Bonus: Use the / (backslash) key to change a stroke or fill to non (whichever is active on the Tool Bar is the one that will be changed to none).

6. Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + Shift + J to Average and Join

Not available via any menus (meaning you can only do this with the keyboard shortcut you see here), this will Join & Average two Anchor Points in one step.  Great for joining breaks in paths where you want only one Anchor Point.  Bonus: If you’re on AI version 18.1.0, you’ll notice there’s a new Join Tool you can play with (hiding under the Pencil Tool) – I find it a bit finicky but it can be handy sometimes!  View the video tutorial here.

5. Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + Shift + V to Paste on All Artboards

This handy shortcut (a handful I know but well worth it!) will paste an object in the exact place on all artboards!  I use it a ton when laying out multi-page files that I want to all have the same header or border and I forgot to add that element at the beginning when creating the artboards.  It’s also available via Edit > Paste on All Artboards.  Bonus: If you planned ahead and added your header or border before you made multiple artboards, simply use the Artboard Tool to create multiple artboards (use the bonus trick from tip #1 one below to quickly make artboard copies) making sure Move/Copy Artwork with Artboard is turned on in the Control Bar so that your header/border copy along with the artboard.

4. Cmd/Ctrl + F to Paste in Front

If you want to paste an object exactly from where it was copied, this is the shortcut to use (available via Edit > Paste in Place but cmd/ctrl + F is much faster!).  A simple cmd/ctrl + V (Edit > Paste) will paste an object in the middle of your document based on the current screen position.  When you are creating objects that need to be aligned or you want to return something to its exact original position (ie organizing layers after the fact), Paste in Front is a huge time saver.  Bonus: Paste in Front will paste the object in front of everything on that layer, while Paste in Back (cmd/ctrl + B) will paste in back of everything.

3. Cmd/Ctrl + ~ to Transform Patterns

One of my most time saving tricks, the tilde key (~ located in the upper left corner under escape) will make scaling, rotating or moving patterns a breeze.  This trick is specifically for manipulating patterns independent of the objects they fill.  To move patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using either the Selection or Direct Selection Tool.  To scale patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using the Scale Tool.  To rotate patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using the Rotate Tool.  Bonus: When scaling, be conscious of whether the strokes and effects are scaling as well – you may not want this.  To change whether strokes/effects scale or not, check or uncheck the Scale Strokes & Effects box in the general Illustrator preferences (Illustrator > Preferences > General or cmd/ctrl + K).

2. Spacebar to Move Objects While Drawing

This great trick works when dropping individual Anchor Points with the Pen Tool or when drawing shapes such as rectangles or ellipses.  While drawing a shape or dropping an Anchor Point, before releasing the mouse, hold the Spacebar to move the position.  Bonus: This also works with the Zoom Tool – when you click and drag over an area to zoom in, hold the Spacebar to move the zoom area!

1. Opt/Alt to Make a Copy

By far one of the best and speediest ways to quickly make a copy of an object.  This trick is applicable to anyone using Illustrator, no matter what they’re using it for, thus while I saved it for number 1!  With the Selection or Direct Selection Tool, hold the opt/alt key and click and drag on any object to make a copy.  Bonus: Opt/alt also works with artboards, so use it while creating multiple artboards with the Artboard Tool.

25 Nov 2014

Recolor Artwork in Illustrator: Tonal Colors

There are a lot of tutorials about recoloring artwork in Illustrator, but I haven’t seen any that document working with tonal colors.  This is great for recoloring tonal prints, heathers / melanges, and other textures that you want to keep tonal.
recolor_heather_melange_swatches_illustratorThis specific example is demonstrated using a 3 color tonal heather pattern swatch.  You can grab a library of 360 different color melange texture swatches here if you don’t want to make them all yourself!

Start by selecting your swatch and choosing Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork, or choose the Recolor Artwork icon from the control bar.
recolor_artwork_illustratorThe Recolor Artwork dialog will launch in “Assign” mode where there are 2 columns of colors: Current Color(s) and New.  You will want to switch to “Edit” mode, which shows a color wheel with all of the colors.
edit_assign_recolor_illustratorOnce in Edit mode, you can play around with manually adjusting each of the colors.  Notice that they each move on the color wheel independently.  This is great if you want to manage each color individually, but for tonal colors it’s not the best / easiest way to do it, so you’ll want to “Link harmony colors” by clicking on the chain icon in the bottom right.
link_harmony_colors_illustratorWith harmony colors linked, you can move them around the color wheel and their hues will be locked to each other.  You can still drag each individual color towards the center or the exterior of the circle to change saturation if you need more or less contrast.
harmony_colors_linked_illustratorEach time you click OK from the Recolor Artwork dialog box (make sure Recolor Artwork is checked in the bottom left corner before clicking OK), a new pattern swatch in those colors will be created (if you’re working with a pattern – if you working with artwork, then you’ll want to make multiple copies on your artboard depending on how many color variations you want to make).

Play around with it yourself to see how easy it is to adjust tonal colors super quickly!

21 Nov 2014

Creating Ruffles in Illustrator with a Brush

Illustrator Ruffle Brush
In Illustrator, it’s easy to emulate ruffles, ruching, elastic and gathering with brushes.  This is by far one of the more underutilized brushes I see, finding that most fashion designers draw ruffles manually one by one.    This tutorial will go through a few different techniques to easily create a basic ruffle brush:

  • How to convert multiple anchor points to smooth (or corner)
  • How to adjust stroke profiles for more realistic looking paths
  • How to flip stroke profiles on a path
  • How to create a simple pattern brush
  • How to define the pattern brush path alignment

How to Convert Multiple Anchor Points

Instead of trying to draw smooth curved paths for our ruffles, we’ll start with jagged zig zag paths and let Illustrator do the work for us.  I’ve drawn a variety of paths with the Pen Tool that I want to use for my ruffle brush, and I’ve then selected all of the corner anchor points (all anchor points except the start and end points) on each path with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow).  With those points selected, you will notice along your Control Bar along the top of you workspace there are two convert icons: convert to corner and convert to smooth (if you don’t see the Control Bar, turn it on via Window > Control).  For this example, we want to convert to smooth, so click that icon.
Convert Multiple Anchor Points in Illustrator

How to Adjust Stroke Profiles

Our paths look like a pretty good start to a ruffle, but they’re not quite as realistic as they could be.  I want to vary the width of the stroke so they aren’t all exactly 1 pt weight.  Using the various Stroke Profiles, we can easily adjust this.  For ruffles, I like Width Profile 5.  From the bottom of the Stroke panel, choose the profile you like best.
Illustrator Stroke Profile

How to Flip Stroke Profiles

Depending on what profile you’ve chosen, it might not be applied to the path in the correct direction.  Don’t worry, you can easily fix this!  Select the path(s) with the profiles you want to change direction of, and choose Flip Along at the bottom of the Stroke panel.
Illustrator Flip Stroke Profile

How to Create a Simple Pattern Brush

With your ruffles selected, drag the artwork into the Brushes panel and choose Pattern Brush from the options.  Leave all settings as default and choose OK.  Now, draw a path and apply the brush to it.  It probably looks great, BUT you will notice that the path runs along the center of the ruffles, which in my opinion is not a very intuitive place for the path to be.
Illustrator Simple Ruffle Pattern Brush

How to Define the Brush Path Alignment

If you want the path to run along the bottom of the ruffles, it’s simple to define.  Draw a rectangle along the bottom edge of the ruffles.  Wherever the middle of the rectangle hits (as shown with a red dotted line) will define where the path runs along the brush.  Before turning this into a brush, you have to make sure the rectangle has two attributes:

  1. The rectangle must have NO STROKE & NO FILL
  2. The rectangle must be in the very back of the artwork (Object > Arrange > Send to Back)

Once you’ve done this, drag the ruffles and the “invisible” rectangle into the Brushes panel (if you want to overwrite the first brush, simply hold opt/alt while you drop it on top of the old brush) and create the Pattern Brush.
Align Pattern Brush to Path
Now, draw the path again with the new brush and you will notice the path alignment is on the bottom of the ruffle – PERFECT!
Ruffle Pattern Brush Aligned