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Create a Vector Chopper With Illustrator CS5 and VectorScribe

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Read Time: 24 min

This tutorial will cover a set of tools and techniques for creating a photorealistic vector chopper, such as Blends, Gradient, Gradient Mesh and most importantly we will meet the new VectorScribe plugin, which will make your job easier.

The VectorScribe plugin offers dynamic change in shape, fully managed, and correct rounding corner radii, the selection and simultaneous control of anchor point handles, fixing the rotating angle of the edited handle, Smart Remove point feature, and much, much more. It is really a fantastic addition to Adobe Illustrator. I came up with an idea to create this chopper right after testing the plugin, I wanted to create something as quick and elegant as the VectorScribe plugin. Let's get started!

Step 1

Start with creation of the geometry of the bike. Let's create simple shapes, which will determine its basic proportions. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle – it is the shape of the front wheel. Now create a horizontal guide and place it so that it passes through the lowest point of the circle.

Preferably that you will adhere to the sizes listed here, therefore it will be easier for you to stick to proportions. To indicate the sizes, I'll be using the Dynamic Measure tool. This tool is included in the VectorScribe plugin toolkit. In this work, it will be used as an auxiliary tool for display purposes. It may be useful for you to establish the sizes in technical drawing.

You can adjust the scale, use different measurement units and choose the parameters that will be displayed.

Step 2

Create another circle - the rear wheel.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a line segment – it is a guide of the front fork of the bike. You certainly should not follow the sizes with such accuracy, it will be enough just to take an entire quantity.

Step 3

With the help of the Pen Tool (P) create a broken line as shown below – it is the basis for the motorcycle frame guide.

This guide should have a wavy appearance, see how you can use the VectorScribe plugin for the paths editing. After installing the plugin, its tools will appear in the sidebar and the palette will be available in the Windows menu.

So, open PathScribe panel. It has 10 basic commands, which we will learn while practicing, as you complete this tutorial. Besides this, the panel has a menu with lots of additional functions.

Step 4

To select all the points of the selected path, you simply press the corresponding button in the palette and avoid using other selection tools, such as the Lasso Tool (Q) or the Direction Tool (A).

You will agree, that it is very convenient, especially when you have multiple objects that overlap each other. Now transform all the selected points into smooth ones.

Step 5

An experienced illustrator knows how important it is to place the points correctly so that the paths are smooth. Their amount is of fundamental importance as well and knowing this skill does not matter if you are using the VectorScribe plugin. I put one extra point on purpose because of this the curve does not look so perfect.

Removing the extra point in the traditional way will greatly change the path trajectory and it will have to be edited. The PathScribe Tool is designed to control points and their handles that can do much more than the Direct Selection Tool (A).

So, take the PathScribe Tool and select an extra point.

By clicking on the Smart Remove point button, the path becomes perfectly smooth.

Operating the handles of the points, brings the curve to the shape indicated in the figure below.

Step 6

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a broken line, which will set the location of the handlebar of the motorcycle.

The location of the fuel tank and engine will be set up by an ellipse, we will use the Dynamic Shapes Tool only for this purposes.

The palette of this tool is impressive, isn't it? In this case, the use of this tool is justified by the fact that we can immediately assign any position of the axes of the ellipse in the process of creating, rather than only vertical-horizontal ones, as in the case with the Ellipse Tool (L).

To change the proportions between the axes, hold down Command while creating an ellipse. So, you should get the ellipse like this.

Step 7

Proceed to the creation of the elements of the motorcycle. Start with the frame. With the help of the Dynamic Rectangle create a rectangle, so that its greater sides are parallel to the front fork.

Divide the rectangle into parts, using the Split Path from the PathScribe palette, this command cuts the figure at the anchor points (similar to Scissors Tool, but for the whole path). Now remove the smaller sides of the rectangle.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and extend the left side of the rectangle, creating a wavy curve, as shown in the figure below.

Remove the extra point in the path, using the button Smart Remove point.

Using the same technique, create the upper part of the frame and close the path.

With the help of the PathScribe Tool you can bend the straight parts of the path. To do this, select the location with the tool, and while holding down the Shift key, pull to the side.

Step 8

Using the Pen Tool (P) create a part of the frame at the place of the mounting of the handlebar and the shape of the headlight. On the section AA, there is used the technique described at the end of the previous step.

Create an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L) - this will be the front glass part of the light.

Step 9

Using the Scissors Tool (C) cut the ellipse at points A and B and continue the upper part of the ellipse with the Pen Tool (P), as shown below.

Select the points C, D, E and hit the Smooth point button from the PathScribe palette.

Delete point D, by clicking on the Smart Remove point button.

Step 10

Close the fuel tank path with the help of the Pen Tool (P), A and B points must lie on the outline of the lower part of the ellipse.

Now remove the bottom of the ellipse, it is no longer needed. Transform A, B and C points into the smooth ones.

Now, let's take a little break and have a look at some more stunning properties of the PathScribe Tool, which greatly simplifies path editing.

1. You can change the length of the handle of the point while the angle of inclination will remain unchanged. To do this, use the PathScribe Tool, while holding down the Alt.

2. You can change the length of the handle of the point of the node symmetrically, to do this select the ends of both handles of the node with PathScribe Tool and proceed to operating, the length of the handles will change simultaneously.

3. You can simultaneously edit the handles of the different points, they just need to be selected and edited.

4. You can select the handles of all nodes and edit them simultaneously; there is an appropriate button in the PathScribe palette.

Step 11

Change the curvature of the lower linear portion of the upper part of the motorcycle, manipulating the handles of nodes A and B.

Now you can proceed to the rounding of the corners. To round the corners, there is a Dynamic Corners Tool and Dynamic Corners palette.

You can round off the corners one at a time, setting radius of rounding for each one, and you can select a few or all of the angles and round them with a single radius. It's really very simple! Take the Dynamic Corners Tool, set the desired radius in the palette and move the cursor to the corner. When you hover over it, the plugin shows us how the rounded corner will look, the shape in this case can be unselected.

Click on the corner and the corner becomes the required shape. Besides this, the radius can be controlled by moving the cursor to the center of the radius of rounding.

Fantastic, I told you! So, in just a couple of seconds we rounded all the corners of the upper shape of the motorcycle.

Step 12

Proceed to the creation of the handlebar shape. We will create its shape using the Art Brush. The shape of the brush should be like a trapezoid, which you can easily make from a rectangle by moving its nodes.

I advise you to make your brush shape commensurate with the elements of your motorcycle. Save the brush as an Art Brush in the Brushes palette.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create an arc - it forms the base for the handlebar shape. Keeping the arc selected, apply the created brush to it.

After applying the brush, it is always possible to edit the shape of the curve, to which it applies, and pick the desired width in the Stroke palette. Keep the handlebar shape selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance.

As a result, we got an object with multiple extra components. This always happens in such cases. Extra points make the editing of this object seriously harder. Delete extra points by running the Smart Remove points from the PathScribe palette.

There are only 4 points, and the shape is still the same! Guys, I am so happy! As I remember, Adobe Illustrator CS3 suffers from the fact that as a result of the Expand Appearance command for the brush (besides the bunch of points), we get an open path and several overlapped points. We get the same result, if you apply the Expand Appearance command to 3D objects, which affects the Adobe Illustrator of all versions.

Previously, to fix these issues, I resorted to a variety of scripts, now we can remove them using the commands from the PathScribe panel. If your path contains overlapped points, then in the PathScribe panel appears an exclamation mark after you select it, clicking on its picture will remove all these points in one path or more.

If you have an open path, choose the Close Path command from the menu of the PathScribe palette.

Step 13

Fill the shape using different colors and place them in the right order, moving the under layers with them in the Layers palette.

Proceed with the creation of the shape of the wheels. Create two guides, passing through the center of the first wheel for the convenience of further work.

Create the front fender. Take the Dynamic Shapes Tool and choose Dynamic Donut from the Dynamic Shapes palette and create two circles at a time.

Note, that this figure represents a Compound Path. To change the diameters of these circles you need to tear out the circle node with the help of the Dynamic Shapes Tool, press the mouse button and holding it press the Command button, and while holding down the mouse button make the move. Manipulation must be done only in the sequence provided by me!

Step 14

Dynamic Shapes have another interesting feature. Can you see the tail at the bottom of the wheel? In fact, there are two of them.

Their movement helps to cut out sectors in the Dynamic Shapes.

Cut sector can be reversed.

Put new points A and B and remove the points C and D.

Do it in the traditional way with the help of the Pen Tool (P).

Using a Dynamic Donut, create a few more objects (tires, the elements of the rim) and place them in the right order in the layers palette.

Step 15

The wheel of our bike will not be regular. Turning torque on the wheel will be transmitted through a gear wheel. Creating all sorts of stars is a really strong side of the VectorScribe plugin. To create the gear, use the Dynamic Shapes Tool, the setting parameters of this tool are shown in the figure below.

A star may have sharp, rounded ends or cut along the straight line, as in my case.

Select the inner, dark-green rim and create a star, now press the Minus front button from the Pathfinder palette.

The internal gearing is ready.

Step 16

The technique of creating the rear wheel has no difference from the one of creating the front wheel, except for the setting of the star of the gear wheel.

Note, that you can easily change the size of a dynamic shape created by moving the markers of the shape or changing the set values in the Dynamic Shapes palette.

Step 17

Create the motorcycle seat. I have created a broken path with the Pen Tool (P), then converted the corner points into smooth ones with the help of the Smooth point from the PathScribe palette and rounded corners using the Dynamic Corners Tool.

The same technique was used for the creation of a trapezoidal element at the end of the motorcycle frame.

Step 18

With the help of the Ellipse Tool (L) and the Pen Tool (P) create elements of the motorcycle handlebars.

Step 19

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the inner part of the upper shape of the motorcycle.

Step 20

Now let's proceed to the creation of the engine components. Let's start with the cylinder head. This element, we will create on the side of the motorcycle, and then place it in the correct place. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create two rectangles, which I lined vertically with the help of the Align palette. I rounded the tops of the upper rectangle with the Dynamic Corners Tool.

Now, create the edge of the cylinder's air-cooler. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create two horizontal lines of equal length with a stroke of 2px width and rounded ends.

Select both lines and go to Object > Blend > Make.

Now with the help of the Pen Tool (P) create two cylinder tubes and group up all the elements of the cylinder (Command + G).

At this step the work with the cylinder is completed, return to it when working with color.

Step 21

Now create the lid of the ignition unit. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two circles under the gas tank of the motorcycle.

We need to construct two tangents to these circles. Let's review a little bit. The Dynamic Measure Tool allows you to build perpendiculars (normal lines) to any curvilinear outline. Take the Dynamic Measure Tool and drag along the contour by holding down the Alt key, and you will see how the normal changes dynamically depending on the location of the cursor. In this case, the end of the normal corresponds to the center of the circle tangent to this path.

If when you drag the mouse pointer along the path you also hold down Shift, you'll see a family of normals between adjacent nodes of the chosen area of the path.

You can turn a dynamic normal into a vector object, you just need to click in the right place of the path.

Our case is more complicated, but it can be solved easily by simply selecting two circles, and running the Common Tangents script. You can download this script here.

Delete the inner tangents and connect the external ones with the Pen Tool (P).

Select both circles and the trapezoid, now press the Unite button from the Pathfinder palette. Perfect!

Step 22

Now create a protective arc with the Pen Tool (P) and the exhaust pipe in the same way.

Step 23

Create two ellipses using the Ellipse Tool (L) or Dynamic Shapes Tool, as shown below. We will turn them into a stop sign later on.

Step 24

With the help of the Dynamic Polygon create the transmission, the setting parameters of the shape are shown in the Dynamic Shapes palette in the figure below.

Create two more circles on the transmission, the centers of the polygon and circles must match together.

Step 25

Create a decorative element in the shape of a trapezoid with the help of the Pen Tool (P) at the lower end of the bike's front fork. I rounded the corners with the Dynamic Corners Tool.

Step 26

Using the technique described in step 19 for the air-cooling edges, create a decorative element on the front fork of the motorcycle.

The basic geometry is created, now we'll proceed to coloring.

Step 27

It's very useful to create the background before color matching, if you are not making an isolated object on a white background of course. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle the size of the background and fill it with linear gradient, which consists of black and gray colors.

Step 28

We are not done with shaping when coloring the motorcycle, such is the destiny of vector artists ;-). Select the frame of the bike and go to Object > Offset Path and set the offset parameters to -5px in the dialog box.

After this command, we have a new outline, the shape of what needs to be edited. This outline contains a large amount of extra points. This is another case where you want to use the Smart Remove point from the PathScribe palette.

After the removal of the extra points the outline can easily be edited.

Step 29

Fill the upper outline with a linear gradient that goes from orange to yellow and light yellow.

Fill the bottom outline with a linear gradient that goes from dark orange to orange.

In these two gradients, I used basic colors that will be used for the motorcycle parts, painted in orange. The figure below shows the values of these colors in the RGB color mode.

To get the shades from the basic colors just slightly move your slider in the Color palette, while holding down Shift at the same time. To obtain light shades, move the slider to the right, and to get dark shade, move it to the left. I will give one more bit of advice, often the selection interferes when choosing the right color, turn it off when choosing a color for various elements (Command + H will enable/disable the selection of objects). Knowing this, you will no longer suffer when selecting color.

Step 30

Before coloring you definitely have to determine the position of the light source. The locations of glares, shadows, and gradient direction depend on it. In my case, the light source is located up and to the right of the viewer. There are many methods to add volume to the picture, we will deal with some of them in this work.

The first method involves creating a series of vector objects that are very close in shade (certainly, except for areas of glares), the shape of which reproduces the location of light and shadow. We have already started to apply this method to the frame of the bike. Select the upper object and again go to Object > Offset Path and set the offset parameters to -2px in the dialog box, remove extra points with the Smart Remove point, edit the shape and fill it with a linear gradient that reproduces the light distribution.

Step 31

Create another shape on the frame, take the Pen Tool (P) and create an object, as shown in the figure below.

Select the upper object and the created shape, take the Shape Builder Tool and holding down the Alt key, delete the part of the red figure behind the intersection of shapes.

Edit the obtained shape (try to make the lines balanced and elegant) and fill with a linear gradient.

In this way, the light distribution can be reproduced on smooth surfaces, the reflection of light has clear boundaries, usually those are flat spots of the object.

Step 32

The second technique consists in using the Blend to create highlights and shadows on the surface of objects. Create a light highlight on the front part of the frame. Take the Pen Tool (P) and build two shapes, as shown in the figure below.

The upper shape has a solid yellow fill, the lower one has a solid orange fill with 0% Opacity. Select both shapes and go to Object > Blend > Make.

Do not despair if it does not come out good the first time the way you want it to be, which is normal. Edit the shapes included in the Blend with the Direct Selection Tool (A), color, of course, can be edited as well.

Step 33

When you create highlights and shadows by this method you can go beyond the edges of objects. The spots of the highlights and shadows that go beyond should be covered with the help of a Clipping Mask.

Step 34

Now let's look at the third technique. There are cases when it's very hard to choose the shape of the original objects for the blend. Usually this happens on the surfaces with curves. In such cases, I use the Art Brushes. These are created from blend objects, which are based on simple geometric shapes.

The picture below shows the shapes of brushes and the point of use. The lower shapes of blend objects have 0% Opacity. There is shown the Brushes palette next to it, so that you do not think that I get the desired result from the first attempt. Yes, it is tedious work, but the result is worth it.

Step 35

Now we'll look at the fourth technique. Also, create highlights that have sharp boundaries. On the figure below you can see such a highlight created with the help of the Pen Tool (P). The stroke width of this outline was changed with the help of the Width Tool.

Step 36

Now we'll look at the fifth technique. To create the highlight, use a simple mesh objects created based on the rectangle transformation. Extra grids of such objects are manageable, and the direction of the newly created lines are predictable.

To achieve a smooth transition change the opacity of mesh nodes.

The elements that go beyond the mesh object should be covered with a Clipping Mask.

That's about it. Let's take a look where I applied them.

Step 37

Well, apply a linear gradient at the bike section for mounting the handlebar at the front fork of the motorcycle.

The new shape was achieved as a result of the intersection, and linear gradient again.

The highlight and brush that was applied to the outline was created with the help of the Pen Tool (P).

Now for one more brush (new outline). The brush width is adjusted with the help of the Stroke Palette, the part that goes beyond is covered with the help of a Clipping Mask.

And finally, blend-object which has two ellipses in its base, the lower (bigger) ellipse has 0% Opacity.

I guess you got the point.

Step 38

The principle of creating chrome-plated parts is the same as described above. You only have to pay attention to colors and highlights of the adjacent elements, as they will be reflected on the chrome parts.

I will show you the stages of creation of one tube to give you an example to follow, and so that you can see that there is nothing supernatural about making this. You just need to learn to separate anything you need to create into simple objects. This approach is put up in all fine arts. "Divide and rule," is known from ancient times.

Step 39

Now let's proceed to the work on the engine cylinder and placing it on the right place. Just to remind you, the cylinder was created in step 20. Fill the lower rectangle with a linear gradient, gradient colors should reproduce the shadow from the cylinder, lid, and color distribution from top to bottom. It's not difficult.

Fill the cylinder lid with a linear gradient consisting of the shades of gray color, the upper color is dark orange (the reflection from the orange fuel tank on the cylinder lid).

Step 40

Select the cylinder tubes and go to Object > Expand.

Fill the tubes with a linear gradient consisting of shades of gray color in order to show the play of light on their cylinder surface.

Step 41

Get down to the air-cooling edges of the radiator. Now they represent a blend-object that has 13 steps.

Select this blend object and go to Object > Blend > Release and then go to Object > Expand.

Fill the top and bottom edges with a linear gradient consisting of the shades of gray and reproducing the play of light on these elements.

Step 42

Create a shape similar to that shown in the figure below – that is a highlight on the upper edge of the cylinder and fill it with a linear gradient.

Duplicate this shape and drag it straight down to the lower edge. Make the central color the darker one in the linear gradient.

Group up the elements of the upper and lower edges and restore the blend (Object > Blend > Make).

Step 43

Copy the created blend object and paste it back, then go Object > Blend > Release, set the dark brown color for new elements, and shift them down a little bit.

Step 44

Create a shadow on the tubes using the same technique, .

I decorated the cover of the cylinder with one more element.

Now select and group up all the elements of the cylinder (Command + G).

Step 45

Proceed to the installation of the cylinder on its place. Place the cylinder behind all the objects of the motorcycle and turn its axis so that it can pass through the center of the transmission.

Step 46

Now let's create the second cylinder. Take the Rotate Tool (R) and set the center of rotation to the center of the transmission box, and turn the cylinder, while holding down the Alt key.

Place the second cylinder lower than the first one, and edit the colors of the gradient fills of its elements, moving them to the dark side. The second cylinder is located further away from the light source, than the first one.

Step 47

Below you'll see how to create the elements of the transmission box.

Step 48

Fill the inner hollow of the upper part of the motorcycle with a radial gradient.

With the help of Pen Tool (P) create the shadow of the pipe.

Now create a glare of light with an Art Brush made from a blend (the technique of creating such elements is described above).

Step 49

The figure below shows the steps for creating the shield of the rear wheel.

As you can see there is nothing new in the techniques that I use. Try to color the rest of the elements on your own, mastering the techniques described above.

Step 50

With the help of the Pen Tool (P) and the Ellipses Tool (L) create a shadow of a motorcycle. Fill the shadow with a linear gradient, as shown in the figure below.

Step 51

Once all the elements of the motorcycle are ready, group them up. Now proceed to the creation of the reflection of a motorcycle. Select the bike and go to Object > Transform > Reflect (Horizontal) and click on the Copy button in the dialog box.

Move the reflection of a motorcycle down horizontally, as shown in the figure below.

Now take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle so that it covers all the reflection of the motorcycle. Fill the rectangle with a black to white, vertical, linear gradient.

Select the reflection of the motorcycle and the upper rectangle and choose the Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency palette menu.

Well that's all, the bike is ready.


I admit that technically it is a difficult work, but it would be even more difficult if I did not have VectorScribe plugin. You know, you quickly get used to good things, I do not even know how I managed to be without this excellent complement to Adobe Illustrator before working with this new tool. Try it and you'll understand what I mean.

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