Illustrator versus Photoshop

August 21, 2009 at 8:30 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m still working on illustrations for another children’s book using Photoshop. In my spare time I’m trying to master Illustrator. After working with beautiful organic pixels in Photoshop for so long, that do anything I ask, easily adding illusions such lighting and 3-dimension with the Dodge and Burn Tools or the use of Blending Modes. Illustrator on the other hand has blending modes, but when vectors are blended there is not the same subtle realism, so a lot of extra time is spent adding fake shadows and highlights. I find this a bit cumbersome, especially when the file becomes large and Illustrator’s screen redraw begins to choke. Whereas Photoshop CS4’s instantaneous Open GL is beyond amazing, it is worth every penny of the upgrade.

At the moment I’m experimenting, trying to become comfortable with the tools and effects. I love the way you can reflect and rotate while copying which makes creating repetitive shapes a breeze, and selecting and coloring multiple objects at the same time. I was able to create this mandala in minutes using these techniques. I afterwards saved it as a Symbol so that I can use it over again. It can be recolored in seconds using Illustrator’s recolor feature.

Vectors are amazing. I’ve repeated the mandala inside the mandala several times. Illustrator allows you to zoom in to 6000% !! which means I can keep repeating the mandala perfectly inside its center over and over again until I can’t zoom any further. If you look closely into the center, you will see the pattern repeat again and again. I also placed some typed messages that are so tiny it can’t be viewed until you zoom into about 1200% And it is completely crisp with perfect edges.

It can be a full time job learning software, especially since there are so many that I want to conquer: Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, After Effects, and then there’s keeping up with multi-platforms, XP, Vista, Tiger, Leopard … oh for the days of my youth when I actually had weekends to relax and romp …

Learning to draw in Illustrator has taught me a lot about the way my brain functions. Although I have no trouble with the pen tool, I can use it with ease, but I’ve discovered that if I “carve” out the shape using a combo of the Blob Brush Tool and Eraser, I can draw with more accuracy … like a sculptor who thinks in terms of contours and the surface, rather than “outlines”. ie: in the image below I drew thick blobby lines for the head and limbs, then carved out the contours of the body using the Eraser tool. I then went back afterwards and removed unwanted points and tweaked the body shape using the white arrow tool and the Simplify Paths function. Surprisingly easy (blob brush is new to Illustrator CS4). This image is still a work in progress. I’m not finished adding shadows and highlights to the body. Gradient mesh will not work on complex shapes with too many vector points so I have to experiment with a work around.

red_dress

If you look closely you’ll see that I’ve superimposed the mandala from the first image over the bodice of the dress in this image. I’ve masked away the exterior using a “Clipping Mask” and blended it into the dress using “Overlay Blending Mode” which works exactly the same as in Photoshop. The floor was created by drawing with Pen Tool over a checkerboard shape that I created in Photoshop … for me it was easier to use Photoshop’s perspective transform tool, then simply place the image into Illustrator and trace over it, then delete the original. The clouds and door background is an imported jpeg.

Here is some fruit I created using the pen tool and Gradient Mesh to color them, created from scratch in Illustrator:

gradient_mesh_fruit

When it comes down to paths or pixels, for me pixels and Photoshop win hands down. But I now find myself jumping over to Illustrator to create bits and pieces that I import back to Photoshop to create various effects. Together they are dynamite!

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