Vector Illustration for New Training Course
This is one of the illustrations in a new course due to publish in late February or Early March 2019. It's been produced using Adobe Illustrator Draw and then Illustrator, with optimisation using Astute Graphics' Vector First Aid plugin.
Above is an outline view of the finished file in Illustrator—it's a busy file as you can see (although not as heavy as the first version—see below) so I ran it though Vector First Aid and the initial result is shown below:
You can see it picked up quite a few things that could be optimised:
• 413,745 unneeded points
• 40,103 redundant points
• 11,427 short handles
• 911,475 close points
• 1,243 axis-alignable paths
• 416,012 inconsistent point types
If you add all of those up together it's a staggering 1,794,005 optimisations possible from that file, and all without changing the appearance! Running the Vector First Aid "Fix All" command took just a little over a minute to run and fix those but I ran a second pass that reported there were still optimisations that could be made (this is often a good thing to do with VFA).
As you'd expect there were significantly less this time:
• 24,947 unneeded points
• 2,060 redundant points
• 11,004 close points
• 16 axis-alignable paths
Running Fix All took a little less time and a third pass just showed up a few minor tweaks which were cleaned up really quickly. Sometimes I'm asked why you need to run it three times to get the best results and the answer is that you don't have to, it's all a matter of the complexity of the file and what can be optimised without penalty. You may get files that are cleaned up with a single pass but AI Draw files rarely clean in one go, as there are usually so many points to deal with, many of which may overlap perfectly (as was definitely the case here).
Manually optimising in AI Draw before pushing to Illustrator
Before getting to the state above, I pushed an earlier version to desktop which I then decided could be optimised in AI Draw first. The file began with the drawing below, with the white areas being transparent so that I could paint quickly and freely in the tutorial with low-opacity brushes and have a nice sharp result.
Here's a combined image of the "painting" layers; there were around seven of these at the final stage but frequently new layers were added during painting, either to paint on alone or as new "mask" layers—I think the maximum total was around 18. As you can see, there's a lot of redundant information there, that would never be seen as it is below the "mask" layer:
Merging all of the painting layers—you have to merge down one at a time—took just a minute or so and the next step was to create a duplicate of the "mask" layer and then merge that down too, followed by pressing on the black area with the eraser for it to remove all areas of that compound area. I'm using the new third-gen iPad Pro (12.9") and even with it's super-duper processor it was obviously choking, but I was asking a lot of it, in fairness, so I aborted the operation and then undid all of the previous merges and duplication. What I did next was to make several duplicates of the mask layer and position each one above a "painting" layer, then merge down each in turn and delete the black region each time, and once complete (it only took a few minutes) merge all of the painting layers and the file was ready.
The upshot of that (apart from having a more optimised file) was that with the "mask" layer turned off, I've got a really attractive image that looks very watercolour-like, but is entirely vector!
Once the course is published, I'll update this post so it can be easily found if you're interested. In the meantime, why not check out my YouTube channel (https://youtube.com/thedesignninja) for tuts and tips with all of your favourite Creative Cloud desktop and mobile design tools.
Short video showing me working in AI Draw, from my Instagram (@tonyharmer).