The Internet has been taken over by cats and one of the Internet's famous characters and memes is Longcat. He's known for his incredibly long length and is subject to many Photoshop graphics. However don't you think, out of all the cat memes, this one should be in vector? In today's tutorial, I'm going to show you how to create a Longcat Pattern Brush in Adobe Illustrator.
1. Planning Your Pattern Brush from a Photo
Whenever you consider creating a Pattern Brush, the basic theory is to consider the subject in multiple parts. Firstly, the center of the Pattern Brush will be the repeating element. Then if you're going more in depth, consider the ends of the brush and perhaps the inner and outer corners.
For Longcat, I'm going to be breaking him down into two ends (head and feet/tail) and his abdomen center. Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to create clear boundaries which break up you subject and then Select All (Ctrl + A)and create a Compound Path (Ctrl + 8).
Draw a Rectangle (M) around the overall subject and then use your lines with the Pathfinder panel to Divide the rectangle. As all the elements which make the brush won't be central (for instance the tummy isn't central), then you'll need these three rectangles set to Opacity 0% to create invisible boundaries for your brush later on in the process. For now, they'll be acting as a guide. Take this opportunity to enable Smart Guides (Ctrl + U)to help snap your objects and lines to your brush boundaries.
So let's start breaking down Longcat into basic shapes. I've drawn three Rectangles (M) for the main sections... the head, tummy and bottom. However compared to the reference image, it's not really like this. What we're going to have to do for the time being is use our keyboard keys to nudge the shapes to the right. Allow to keep your shapes snapped to the boundary guides.
2. Drawing the Bases
Use the Pen Tool (P) to go over the basic shape of the head and feet areas. Make sure that the corners of your Pen Tool shapes meet the corners of your rectangle guides. This is to ensure a perfect alignment of your Pattern Brush later on.
Draw one line with the Line Segment Tool (\) for the abdomen and then apply a thick Stroke Weight of around 90pt. Then go to Effects > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag and add 1 Ridge to the line. Consider that this section will be repeated depending on the length of the Longcat, so the wave must meet the same places either end of the line.
With the line selected, go to Object > Expand twice to convert the line into a shape. You may need to use the Free Transform Tool (E) to modify the width of the shape to make sure the top and bottom corners snap to the original rectangle you created as a guide.
3. Adding the Shading to the Bases
Time to begin drawing your shading shapes with the Pen Tool (P). Try to keep it simple and not go over the top with the amount of anchor points, otherwise it may become memory hungry... om nom nom!
For the abdomen, I've duplicated the shape and used the Free Transform Tool (E) to reduce the width of the shape. Although your shapes are currently off center, try to estimate where the corners for the top and bottom of the shapes meet. Don't worry if you're off, as this can be rectified later on.
And here is my final shapes of shading.
4. Adding Facial Detailing
I've drawn eyes and added whiskers using the Pen Tool (P). The whiskers have a Width Profile applied to them.
When you're done, Object > Expand your lines to shapes then Group each section (Ctrl + G). If it makes things easier, put them in their own Layers.
5. Preparing the Brush Sections
Time to line up the groups. The base shape corners should allow you to snap them together, however you may notice that some of the shading isn't as aligned as you hope... who's purrfect huh? (Last pun I promise!). Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the offending point and snap it into place. You may also need to align the boundary rectangles again. As long as you don't move then up or down, it is perfectly fine to move them all together left or right to make sure that all of Longcat is within his boundaries.
I've now colored my Longcat and given it a subtle green stripe in the eyes. The green background is purely so you can see him as he's got an off white base. I've also Grouped each of the sections with it's corresponding boundary shape (Ctrl + G).
Time to turn Longcat around to make him easier to fit into the Pattern Brush format. Select all of his groups and go to Object > Transform > Rotate and enter in the Angle: 90 degrees. Click on OK once done.
Now drag and drop the head and the feet groups into the Swatches panel. These will automatically make a pattern swatch. They won't really be usable for anything other than making this Pattern Brush.
I would suggest, if you're using CS6 to avoid the urge of double clicking on each element and renaming the pattern. This will bring up the Pattern Options dialog box and although it will cure your OCD of wanting a wonderfully organized file, it may create difficulties in aligning your Pattern Brush. Take this from personal experience!
6. Creating a New Pattern Brush
Select your abdomen group and then in the Brushes panel click on New Brush > Pattern Brush. The abdomen group should automatically fill the first window, this is the main repeating element of the brush. Select the fourth window and select your head from the options below and then select the fifth and select your feet. Once you're happy, click on OK and you've gotten you Longcat Pattern Brush!
Now Your Longcat is Truly Long!
So he may not have an every day use, but he's amusing to play with. He's a cat of infinite length and can be drawn along any open ended line. Try giving him different Stroke Weights to enhance his length.
I hope you've enjoyed today's Quick Tip. What other memes do you think would be perfect for vector? Suggest them and you never know!