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#26 Drawing in Perspective

As with any new feature, Perspective Drawing brings with it new tools, new behaviors, and new limitations that you need to become familiar with to work effectively.

One basic challenge is keeping track of which plane you're drawing on. Fortunately, Adobe added a hard-to-ignore element—the Active Plane Widget—at the top left of the document that appears whenever the perspective grid is visible (Figure 26a). The highlighted side of the cube shown in the widget indicates the currently active plane.

Figure 26a

Figure 26a The Active Plane Widget in its various modes (top row, left to right): Left Grid, Right Grid, Horizontal Grid (or ground plane), and No Active Grid. Below each is the cursor's appearance when drawing objects on that grid.

All but one of Illustrator's object drawing tools work with the Perspective Drawing feature (Figure 26b): the Flare tool is not supported. With the perspective grid visible and the desired plane active, simply choose any other object drawing tool and start drawing. All shapes will be drawn in the perspective of the active plane.

Figure 26b

Figure 26b Rectangles, ellipses, polygons, stars, arcs, spirals, rectangular and polar grids, and live, editable type can all be drawn in perspective.

Moving or modifying objects already in perspective requires switching to the new Perspective Selection tool perspective_selection_tool.jpg (Shift-V). Use this tool to scale objects in perspective, not the Scale tool. Using Illustrator's standard selection or transformation tools will break any object's connection to the grid and expand its appearance. Fortunately, Illustrator displays a prominent warning every time you run this risk (Figure 26c).

Figure 26c

Figure 26c A useful warning dialog box prevents you from ruining your perspective drawing if you attempt to modify an object with the wrong tool.

Working Smarter in Perspective

Perspective Drawing is a great new feature that's actually easier to use and more flexible when it's combined with older Illustrator features. In the following example, we'll combine Perspective Drawing with symbols, clipping masks, and transparency to make the feature appear to do things it can't actually do.

Once an object is in perspective, it can't be removed from the grid and reverted to its flat state. Because of this it's important to work with symbols as much as possible (Figure 26d). Symbols used on the perspective grid are just placed instances, so you can modify the original symbol as flat artwork, then see all instances on the grid update in perspective.

Figure 26d

Figure 26d These three symbols were used to build the finished illustration in Figure 26i.

Figure 26e

Figure 26e The stars and stripes symbol is placed into perspective on the left plane.

Figure 26f

Figure 26f A rectangle drawn in perspective over the stars-and-stripes symbol and converted to a clipping path crops the pattern to create one side of the box.

A symbol is a single object, making it easier to select and position on a perspective grid. The stars-and-stripes pattern mapped to the left plane in Figure 26e is one symbol made up of multiple objects. Symbols can be easily contained within a clipping mask, as in Figure 26f.

By combining symbols and clipping masks, you can simulate art that wraps around an object, which is something the Perspective Drawing feature can't do (Figure 26g).

Figure 26g

Figure 26g We copied the clipped symbol to the right plane, positioning it within the clipping mask to match up with the pattern on the left plane and create a wrap-around effect. We drew a black, semi-transparent rectangle with a multiply blend mode on the left plane to create a sense of depth.

Figure 26h

Figure 26h We added the gift tag and shadow symbols from Figure 26d to the right plane, and created the ribbon by drawing rectangles on both planes.

Figure 26i

Figure 26i The finished perspective art. A gradient-filled rectangle drawn in perspective on the ground plane simulates a cast shadow. We added the bow at the top and the string on the tag off the perspective grid.

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