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It was my privilege recently to go and see American illustrative designer Von Glitschka (one of my design heroes) speaking on his successful Vector Basic Training process as he was flown over to speak at the London International Technology Show.

Having read Von’s Vector Basic Training book, it was great to hear the author present a workshop/seminar on the subject and refresh my memory, ask questions and notice the little details that only reveal themselves in these situations.

Von has very kindly agreed to write an original article here, outlining some of the key points in creating his vector artwork from start to finish! So I’ll hand over to the expert…

Building precise vector graphics can be a sustainable creative habit if one approaches it with a systematic process. This is the premise of my book Vector Basic Training.

This post takes a truncated glimpse into this methodology by highlighting key stages in the creative process. For the complete intel on all the various methods I cover in my book and the video screencasts that go with them just visit Vonsterbooks.com.

No. 1. Drawing is Required

Drawing is requiredSuffice it to say that drawing is a requirement. So if you don’t make drawing a regular part of your creative process as a designer (whether or not you ever want to be a full-blown illustrator is besides the point) you’ll struggle to build elegant vector graphics for your work and limit your creative potential through out your career.

That may seem a bit blunt but it’s true. Drawing improves design – it’s that simple. If you don’t draw then just start; if you feel like you suck, you’ll only get better. Nothing enables taking the intangible ideas we can all think of and fleshing them out and refining them more than drawing does.

Our industry may be digitally driven but ideas are still best formed in analog.

This shows the rough sketch for one of my Monzturs. It’s good to work out your idea loosely, but this is too rough to build from for our vectors. It leaves too much guess-work as to what the final vector shapes will be so we need to refine it.
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No. 2. Refining Your Design

Refining Your DesignDrawing out your initial design is great to loosen up those creative muscles and work out ideas. But you’ll need to re-draw your art with vector building in mind now. Literally drawing out the forms you’ll need to create with your vector drawing application.

Think of this as a road map. You’ll simply be following what you’ve already worked out. It’ll decrease your build time and remove guess-work as to how something should look. This isn’t to say you won’t make improvements as you create your vector art but it gives you a solid creative foundation to build upon.
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No. 3. Prime Point Placement (PPP)

Building Vector ShapesThe Clockwork Method (TCM) shown in this image is a simple mental trick you can use to discern where to place your anchor points in order to form the shapes you need accurately as you build your vectors. Of course I cover this extensively in my book but you can get more information about TCM in a recent tutorial I posted (ironically another monster) at my site Illustrationclass.com.
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No. 4. Base Vector Shapes

Base ShapesVector art is all about form and shape. What makes good vector art is essentially the shapes. A great idea could be executed poorly in vector form and come off as clunky, and crude and thus degrade the final artwork and concept.

So working out all your vector shapes using methods like TCM, point by point and the shape building method (also covered in my book) along with extremely useful plugins that make vector creation a breeze like VectorScribe Studio all balances together to form a well crafted vector shapes.

I create all my base shapes before I ever think about color. In general form and shape should be resolved before color is explored. This of course isn’t an ironclad rule but in general tends to be the norm on most of my projects.

Remember, building on top of a refined drawing makes the whole build process go faster and produces better results.
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No. 5. Borrowing Vector Equity

Borrowing Vector EquityThe best part of working digitally is you don’t always have to recreate the wheel when it comes to certain aspects of vector creation. In this case I’ve already created a cool eye for another design and I’ve copied it into this designs file and using the eyedropper tool I’m sampling from it.

All I did is create the base shapes and now I’m pulling in the exact attributes from another piece of art I created to save me some time. I do this for other things too as I work, including established color palettes, blend mode settings, and transparency effects. Once you discover methods of your own that give good results it’s just smart to reuse them when the need arises. It’s a good creative habit to get into.
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No. 6. Color Balancing

ColouringColoring is hard to explain in a distinct step-by-step method. That’s because coloring is so exploratory in nature. You’re not locking anything in until it aesthetically looks good so that entails a lot of three steps forward and two steps back to achieve a result you like. And that said you may like it but someone else won’t, it’s very subjective.

So for this design I wanted the creature to be fundamentally red. Notice all the shapes that overlap this base colored shape. I purposely built my base shapes knowing I’d have to color them in specific ways to push and pull content in my design to give it depth.

In my book I provide a lot of source vector art files you can open up and deconstruct to see how I pull off this type of project.
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No. 7. Final Artwork

Final vector artworkA systematic creative process like this may seem laborious, but over time you’ll see your vector build times and precision increase. A good process will always entail both analog and digital components to pull it off. So if you don’t draw, just start making it something you do even if it’s just doodling. Anything done well takes a lot of hard work but the satisfaction of seeing the benefit to your design is well worth the creative investment.

So pick up a pencil and start drawing and you’ll be able to create monztur vectors sooner than you think.

You can see more of Von’s work at vonglitschka.com and don’t forget to try out some of his excellent tutorials at illustrationclass.com