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Using pressure sensitivity has made a lot of my projects much easier and I am able to get them done very quickly. In this tutorial I will show you how I use pressure sensitivity as well as other things like using symmetry in an image and a rough idea on how I separate colors.

You can find the source files in the directory labeled "source" that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.


This is all the things I use when I'm working on a design.

  • Macbook with OSX Snow Leopard
  • Adobe Illustrator CS4
  • Wacom Intuos3 Drawing Tablet<
  • Itunes (I cannot work without listening to music)

Step 1

This part is really easy, simply open Illustrator and click "Print Document."

Now pick a name for you files as well as set your dimensions. I usually work on a 15in by 22in canvas for all my designs.

Step 2

I have included a brush pack with this tutorial. To install the brush pack, locate where Illustrator is saved on your computer, click it then click on the Presets folder. Then locate the brushes folder and drag or save the brushes in that folder. I usually only use the very last 2 brushes, but have added others if you want to try them out.

Now if you don't have pressure sensitivity enabled on Illustrator, double-click the paintbrush button and then make your window look like mine.

Step 3

Now we get to the fun stuff. I usually start with the very last brush in the brush pack and then begin drawing. Draw whatever you want, for this tutorial I'm drawing some kind of image with a gorilla in it. I usually start with basic shapes to get a rough idea of the layout and where I want everything to go. This should be very basic, this will act as the sketch for this design.

Step 4

Once you have everything laid out, select everything and make it a different color besides black, I usually make this under sketch blue. Now lock the layer and create a new layer on top of this. This is the layer where we will add some details, in this layer I have added some clothing.

Step 5

Once you are done adding some basic details, select all of those lines and make them a different color. For this layer I made all the lines pink. Now lock that layer, and create yet another new layer. The main image is looking a little too human, so with this layer I am going to add some rough gorilla features to the image such as a gorilla face and hair.

Once you are done with added the features, select all those lines and make them a different color, for this layer I made them purple.

Step 6

Now those 3 layers we just made will act as your basic sketch for the whole design. Having this makes it easier when you get to actually drawing the design because pretty much all the hard decisions are already made and all you have to do next is worry about drawing.

Unlock all of the layers that were just made, select all and then change the opacity. I change the Opacity of mine to about 50, doing this makes the actual lines you will be drawing next much easier to see, and still allow you to see this under sketch.

Now what you are going to do now is create a new layer, this layer will act as your lines layer. I would rename it to "lines" to avoid confusion later, because you will eventually end up with a ton of layers and it helps to know what layer is what.

Now click the brush tool, make sure the opacity of it is set to 100%, choose a color for the stroke (I chose black) and begin drawing on Layer 4 over the under sketch.

Step 7

I can't stress enough how important line weight is when drawing. Most of my art depends on the line weight, it makes things much more interesting. It also helps out when drawing hair. With the hair, I basically just start drawing some flowing lines to give the idea of hair

And then I connect them. It is very important that before we begin coloring that you have no open paths!

Step 8

For more geometrical shapes, the pen and anchor tools can be your best friend. I want to draw a hat on the gorilla, and I want the bill to look smooth and rounded. Now if you don't have a steady hand, things will look a little bumpy, but we can fix this!

You see those dots around the rim, there are too many of them. We can get rid of them by using the Pen Tool, and clicking on each dot that isn't necessary and it will delete them.

And using the Direct Selection tool and clicking on the anchor points and changing the angles, you will be able to eventually get a smooth shape... this!

Step 9

OK, now just with these basic lines, things can begin to look very bland, we can change this. What you are going to want to do first is lock your lines layer, and then create a new layer and name it "details." This is where you will be able to give your image much more texture and depth.

On this layer I use a mixture of the brush tool and the blob brush tool. The blob brush tool is great for coloring in large black areas.

Here you can basically go crazy, adding whatever you want to the design to make it interesting!

This layer is great for adding lines in the hair too. There is no real method I have to making hair look like hair, I just add lines wherever I feel it needs it.

Like I said earlier, for filling in blacks, the blob brush is great. Look at below the shirt on the arm, I want to add some sort of shadow to give it some depth.

I begin to draw a basic shape with the blob brush where I want the black area to go...

...and then I fill it in!

This is what I have so far

This is what the lines layer looks like when it's isolated.

And here is what the details layer looks like when it's isolated.

Step 10

Now we are going to work on the background. For this, we are going to make a separate line and detail layer for the background.

Just draw one side of the background. I want the right side of the design to look exactly like the left to add some symmetry in the design. Remember to draw the "lines" on the lines layer and the "details" on the details area.

Step 11

OK now what we are going to do is duplicate the left side of the background and move it to the right side. What you are going to want to do is make copies of both background layers.

Lock the original background layers. Then select all the lines on the background copy layers and then reflect them...

When you click reflect, this window will pop up, make it look like this.

And then move everything to the right.

But now we have a problem, there are some blank areas in the design.

What you are going to want to do, is fill those in with lines and blacks, still remembering that you put the "lines" on the lines layer and the "details" on the details layer. It should end up looking like this.

And now you want to condense your layers, just to clean things up a bit. Merge you Background lines layer with your Original lines layer, and do the same with the details.

And to clean things up even more, merge your Background lines with the Regular lines layer, and then do the same for the details.

Step 12

Now, I have already covered how I color in my last tutorial, "The Creation of a Winged Vector Monster," but I will go over it a little bit again here. Select the Live Paint Bucket from the tool area.

Lock all your layers besides your line layer and make a duplicate of it. Name that duplicate "base" and then lock your "lines" layer.

While on your unlocked "base" layer, select all and then with the live paint bucket selected, click on your image. This window might pop up, and if it does, just go ahead and click ok.

With everything still selected, grab your Selection Tool and then move up to the top menu bar and make your colors go from this... this.

This layer will act as a template for all your color layers. For each color you want, you are going to want to duplicate your "base" layer, and then rename it to either a color, a body part or really whatever you want to call it.

Step 13

Alright, so now we finally actually get to the coloring! While on the duplicated layer, I've named my "hair," choose the Live Paint Bucket again.

Now choose your color, from either a swatch...

...or make your own

I've chosen purple, just for now, but I end up changing it shortly.

Here are my basic flat colors.

I don't really like how it looks on white, so I am going to make a new layer below the "base layer" and draw a black square to act as the image's background color.

This is what my layer window looks like once I have chosen all my basic flat colors.

If you want to add some added depth with shadows or highlights to the image, just add a new layer (not with the "base" layer) and put it on top of the layer you are drawing on.

Then select the Pen Tool...

...draw a shape and fill it in with color.

I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I can always take it out later.

Step 14

I want to mess around with the colors a bit more. There is an easy way to do this. First, unlock all the color layers and then select all.

Click the Recolor Artwork button. It's that weird looking circle button!

This window will pop up. It shows all the colors that are currently in your image, to change the colors, click the edit tab.

This is what will show up, and then just move the little circles around and it will change the colors on the image right before your eyes.

These are the colors I finally settled on. I wanted to use fewer colors to make it look a little bit retro. As you can see I took out the shadows and highlights, but that is just personal preference and really matters on what kind of design you are trying to do.

Once all that is figured out, if you want to, you can add some background elements. I added this splatter in the back to make the image a bit more interesting.

Once you are done, save it. Hopefully you have been saving it throughout the whole design process...I myself am very bad at that!

Step 15

Now in this section, I'm going to show you a little bit about how I color separate. What you are going to want to do first, is Save As and name it something different than your original. I name all my separated files with an "_ex" at the end, "ex" being short for expanded.

Now what you are going to want to do to each layer separately (making sure all the layer are locked besides the on you are changing) is Expand each layer. This is very important, especially when you are sending files to a client. The client you are sending your files to might not have the same brushes that you have on your computer, and by expanding, it makes each line its own object.

Now select all the layers (besides the black background).

Click that button on the right corner of the layers window, and select Merge Selected.

It will merge every layer into one layer. To merge it even more, open the Pathfinder window and select Merge.

Now duplicate the layer for as many colors that you have in the piece. I like to duplicate a couple more just in case I missed a color or screw up.

Now isolate each layer by locking it, but leaving one open. Using the Direct Selection Tool select a color from the design (I usually start with black) and then select the same fill color.

Then select the inverse of that, and then hit delete.

What this did was delete everything that wasn't black in the piece. Now move on to the next layer, selecting a different color and repeating the previous few steps. Eventually you will have a separate color on each layer (delete any duplicate layers that you don't need). Save the file and you are done!

Once again this is what the final image will look like, click the image for a bigger size.


Once everything is done, you are ready to send the file off. If the client wants to see it mocked on a shirt, open it up in Photoshop and throw it on a shirt.

Now you are done, Unless you want to add some funky font or something to the design. Also, with each color on it's own layer, it makes it that much easier to change the color of the design if you or the client wants to. I hope you learned a little bit more with this tutorial, I tried to cover a few different things that I didn't in my last tutorial as well as show you how I use pressure sensitivity in Illustrator. I hope you enjoyed it, now go make some crazy designs!

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