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Design challenges in Illustrator

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  • Design challenges in Illustrator


    I am having a couple of problems connected to designing two different artworks in Illustrator.

    These two questions are not connected to specific examples rather than to finding a technical way of achieving the supposed look and final result in general.

    Question - No. 1

    I have often seen (ie. on t-shirts, in logos etc.) that text is wrapped into a form of either customized shapes or warped with the Illustrator-filter that comes with certain adjustment options in which the text then is fitted.

    I tried out the Illustrator-filters and the closest to what I want to achieve is done using the "bulge"-option in the warp menu with settings adjusted to "horizontal" and "bend" set to 50% (rest is set to 0).

    This works often quite well but usually only with a short text containing 3-4 or a similar amount of letters. Using several letters or a longer word the text will still warp in "vertical lines" if looking at the edge of a warped "E" for example, however often these lines are still getting a bit distorted and thus are skew for a sharp eye to catch immediately.

    Meanwhile the letters on those t-shirts, logos and similar seem to be perfectly straight although the letters are warped the same way and into similar shapes (like into an oval shaped circle that is "laying" in a horizontal position").

    I checked a few videos on the net with tutorials for just that problem and noticed someone dragging the type into the vertical direction thus extending it's height before warping it with the "bulge" option. I tried this as well but the letters still seem to be a bit skew.

    Some people in other videos also suggested manually tweaking the text to get it the way it should be but I am rather doubting that you can tweak the text to a satisfactory look after it has been warped in some way.

    Also I am wondering if there are some plug-ins that people in here might know of that could do the trick and that are either free or that could be purchased...?

    Question - No. 2

    I am furthermore having a problem of finding the best and/or easiest way of applying a gradient to specific areas that one wants to give a darker or brighter tone etc.

    I will give a specific issue I am having as an example.

    Say we got a shape of a rectangle with rounded corners and would like to imitate the shadows of those die-cut tin-plate signs. Now the rectangle has a raised area but where it bends towards the non die-cut areas there would be either reflections of the light or areas of darker shades of the same color - let's say marine blue.

    My problem now is how to find the best way of applying those shadows to the darker and slightly shaded areas on the sides of the sign. I am not looking for crisp-clear cut edges like an overlay simulating the shadows rather than shadows with fine gradient transparency that are showing a feathered transition from the corner shadows to the brighter blue areas that are "elevated" to give the impression/illusion of a die-cut or raised area.

    I was considering making the background area the darker marine-blue and then copying the same shape just a bit smaller in the normal, lighter marine-blue color on top after which it could be feathered using the filter or effects.

    However if it would be needed to apply it the other way around - say a larger lighter marine-blue area in the background and a layer of a fat outlined stroke that would be painted with the darker marine-blue color on top which then would be feathered, the feather - according to my best guess - would be not only be applied to both sides of the stroke, giving a wrong effect but also pose the risk of overlapping over the outside of the large rectangle in the background.

    This would spoil the whole illusion I would like to achieve, thus my question is now...

    How do you create this effect apart from the first mentioned solution ie. when you are forced to use the second possibility...?

    Any input is greatly appreciated.

    I wrote this very late and while I was very tired so if this doesn't sense or you got some questions just shoot from the hip...!

    PS. I also know that for the last issue gradient mesh could be used but am having trouble applying it easily and fast without being dragged down by the cumbersome work of clicking a zillion times and selecting point by point. The auto feature of gradient mesh neither seems to work too well with lighting in order to achieve a convincing "die-cut effect" although I have been trying several options. Just to mention this in case anybody wondered...
    Relax, there is enough stress for everyone!

  • #2
    For the text, Did you try using envelope?
    Illustrator, for a vector software has some interesting gaps in its algorithms. Any sign software (Flexi or Signlab) does exactly what you want with a few clicks.
    I don't know of any plugins other than HotDoor that I use for CAD measurements and functions but they may have something you can use.

    As for your other problem, can you post an example from somewhere of what you want to do?


    • #3
      The second problem, have you tried using a blend?
      Design is not decoration.


      • #4
        Or a transparency mask. I find blends sometimes staircase inconveniently when expanded.

        Bear in mind that any gradient, mesh, or effect may cause print issues down the road if it has to be enlarged. Especially if it involves transparency.


        • #5
          It all falls down to viewing distance then.
          Design is not decoration.


          • #6
            And how hard you can squint.


            • #7
              Pffff. PrintDriver. Always thinking ahead.
              "I used to wonder what friendship could be, Until you all shared its magic with me." - Jesus Christ


              • #8
                For a start thanks for all the input and help...!

                Okay, I am going to answer all posts in this one in order to keep things a bit easier.


                First of all I did in fact use "envelope" feature (that's why I mentioned the "bulge" option in my previous post) but the result yields often an inferior outcome that is still skew/distorted in terms of vertical lines in the letters speaking.

                Furthermore I tried the "blend" tool when trying to create the illusion of a die-cut tin-plate sign and that one is really yielding some great results...!

                I attached some samples here as to show how things are/were meant, what I have tried to do so far and - sort of - what I am trying to achieve in the final result.

                The first image shows the first problem with the t-shirt style logo.

                First of all I used "Fujiyama Extra Bold" for the font because it sort of resembles a good font like those used on t-shirts etc. (could be a thin one as well for that sake).

                The first object is the font capitalized and on it's own before being warped.

                The second object is the font warped with the "envelope tool" and "bulge" etc. as described earlier.

                The third object is the font warped into a custom oval shape that I drew myself sort of like a sign on a door-bell or similar.

                As can be seen with "FISH" the letters warp rather nicely and almost exactly as supposed to with "envelope" set to "bulge". But already when using the oval custom shape the text goes "cuckoo".

                Trying to use some other and fewer but more complex letters in regards to bends and other features within each of those letters - in this case "BIG" - the text not only goes haywire when applied to the oval custom shape but also when using "envelope" set to "bulge". So instead of "gluing" to the top of the oval shape in some way the "b" and "g" in BIG get's totally distorted instead of keeping it's easy readable shapes when being warped into some shape. This can be desirable but in this case somehow (doesn't know if I am making sense here) would like to keep the look of the letters also after they are squeezed into the shapes.

                Maybe I am a bit naive here and there is just no real possibility of achieving this. Maybe the t-shirt logo designers use different types or the they find some well suited one's before creating their artwork or maybe the logos all hand-drawn and/or manually tweaked in order to look the right way after the warping into shapes took place.

                I am unsure about this part but I hope that this gave you guys the "bigger picture" of my intent and the result I want to achieve. I will try to find some example of those logos I am talking about and attach it to my next post if possible.

                Maybe that can make things more clear...


                In the second image you can see the result I achieved using the "blend" tool as proposed here in the forum. This is getting awfully close to what I imagined and wanted to achieve. However in this example I tried to make a sample of a postcard sized tin-plate that I actually got hanging on my wall.

                I didn't add lighting reflections or the darker shades but only tried to quickly imitate the illusion of the "punch" by the die that has been been applied into the metal "from behind" and thus "raised" the outer areas or edges while leaving the "lower inside" intact as it was before the punch.

                As mentioned when using the blend tool the effect comes through quite well even with this quick and little effort where I merely blended from the larger (dark marine blue object in back) to the slightly smaller (light blue area on top of the dark marine blue object) rounded rectangle that creates the impression of the "elevated area". Just for fun I added the rounded rectangle on top (holding the somewhat "dirty blue" color that is somewhere in between the two other colors) to give it the final look of the real tin-plate sign hanging on my wall.

                I could have chosen not to do the latter since what I wanted to achieve only included the two blended rounded rectangles. However, although the two objects (without the last step) were somewhat giving the right effect the illusion still doesn't feel real enough for me.

                Part of this problem is actually that I would like to know better how to easily or more effectively apply and control the reflective and darker shaded areas that occur while the image is hanging on the wall.

                I know you could roughly use some overlay areas and manually apply them in some way but it seems very "low-tech" looking at all those wonderful features and menus of Illustrator. Which in turn makes me wonder if there isn't some other way of using mesh, blur etc. etc. etc. do do just that.

                That together with "control" of those areas and the best way of applying them is basically what I am looking for here.

                Ie. if taking a closer look at the tin-plate sign again and focusing on the upper left corner. Say we got light falling into the room from the right side in a 45 degree angle and the viewer is standing left of the sign in the same angle. The left side would be more shaded with a darker tint. However the corner isn't as straight as the punch on the signs and thus "warps" more.

                The reflections and shades here would be more complex than on the side and this is what I would like to apply and control in a "more professional way" if I one can put it this way.

                Hope this made a bit more sense and am looking forward to your comments and ideas.

                By the way..., someone mentioned using a "transparency mask".

                I am VERY interested in knowing more about this procedure (although I know masks and how to use them) and in which way to apply the mask(s)...!

                Thanks in advance to everybody in here...!

                PS. The two image files here were directly exported as 150 dpi jpeg's from Illustrator in case anybody wondered about quality etc.
                Last edited by Andy1975; 05-04-2012, 09:03 AM.
                Relax, there is enough stress for everyone!


                • #9
                  for # 1: "bulge" is somewhat a pseudo-3D warp effect, that's why it appears the way it does. You could also do this in a two step process using arc-upper, expand the effect, then arc-lower.

                  for # 2: make a compound path of the "ridge" and *cringe* use the bevel/emboss photoshop effect if you're going for speed over quality. Just make sure your raster effects are set to a suitable DPI.
                  Design is not decoration.


                  • #10
                    When doing your tin plate sign, you have to take into account light direction. It wouldn't be dark all around the inside and light all around the outside.


                    • #11
                      Envelope distorts in a vector drawing app were long ago (we're talking decades) refined in... CorelDraw. One of the features their envelope controls sport that Ai does not is multi-mode distortion mapping. Ai seems restricted to just one type of distort, but Corel has 4: 'Original', Putty, Vertical and Horizontal. I think what you're describing would be using the Vertical setting where the algorithm maintains vertical lines.

                      Now there's probably an Ai plugin extension that will do this too, somewhere. It's just that this particular trick has been a Corel feature since... probably the early nineties.

                      Corel's latest version has some even fancier vector distortion tools. Effectively adding localizing brush-based distortion tools like bloat, taper, twirl etc. to the toolset.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bob View Post
                        Envelope distorts in a vector drawing app were long ago (we're talking decades) refined in... CorelDraw. One of the features their envelope controls sport that Ai does not is multi-mode distortion mapping. Ai seems restricted to just one type of distort, but Corel has 4: 'Original', Putty, Vertical and Horizontal. I think what you're describing would be using the Vertical setting where the algorithm maintains vertical lines.

                        Now there's probably an Ai plugin extension that will do this too, somewhere. It's just that this particular trick has been a Corel feature since... probably the early nineties.

                        Corel's latest version has some even fancier vector distortion tools. Effectively adding localizing brush-based distortion tools like bloat, taper, twirl etc. to the toolset.
                        pfft taper... Free Transform Tool + cmd + shift. Now if Corel was capable of closing paths when converting text to "curves" or actually outlining lower case san serif L's (and uppercase i's) instead of converting it to a stroke... that would be something.

                        They might have since fixed these, but I still come across it on files sent to me that were made in Corel
                        Design is not decoration.


                        • #13
                          Corel has a lot of weaknesses and potholes. But in get down to vector shape drawing -- it's real 'Core' toolset, it's at time quite brilliant.

                          Unfortunately, over times (again, decades), Adobe seems to have taken the tactic of adding many of Corel's less stable 'features' and frivolous tools first, and only in the last five or six years have we seen Adobe trying to finally add more primary, but useful things which have been standard in Draw for so long. Like interactive gradient control lines, (only Corel's is much faster/better), or making a clipped object's boundary -- woah-- the clipping path!

                          And by the way, perspective distort (Free transform +Cmnd/Shft) is NOT the same as the taper I was talking about.

                          Check out this little video on Corel X6's latest shape tool effects:

                          Coming soon (2020?) to a newer version of Ai?

                          All I'm saying is that if someone (not me) had the time to actually sit down and plot the migration of features that have were pioneered and then migrated from CorelDraw to Ai over the last twenty years, it might add up to a slightly embarassing case of innovation blushing for a certain development team that remains largely immune to true user criticism.


                          • #14
                            I'm curious as to what you mean by taper then.. I'm by no means saying AI isn't without it's issues, and YES the way it doesn't use the clipping path as Object Boundary is excruciatingly annoying. That's why I prefer to do layout ID over AI TBH.

                            In my limited experiences with Corel products, they have consistently been unstable at best.

                            And you are probably right, Adobe is getting Quarky, I mean lazy.
                            Design is not decoration.


                            • #15
                              Taper was a poor choice of word. I don't know what they called it -- but check out that YouTube vid -- it's short and quickly shows what these new tools are, and do.

                              And yet... at the same time I can see these new tools being an absolute breeding ground for prepress abominations. That's the thing with Corel, they always assume that their average user knows enough about prepress limits to not go too far. Mistake! Not unique to Corel's UI design, but probably much, much, more accessible and likely -- given the characteristically sad level of prepress knowledge among most of its users.






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