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Sketching on the Go: Fluid Freehand Sketching with Adobe Illustrator Draw

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Artists are always thinking about their work. If you have the kinds of portable tools suggested by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis, author of The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book: Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad, Second Edition, you can jump from inspiration to sketch in an instant, with all the possibilities of your Adobe drawing tools readily at hand.
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A versatile vector application for inking sketches and drawings on the go, Adobe Illustrator Draw lets you create freeform vector artwork using a brush, pens, and more. Layers provide flexibility. Via Creative Cloud, images created in Adobe Illustrator Draw can be exported to Adobe Illustrator CC .1.0 and later as vector files, with editable paths.

With Adobe Illustrator Draw, you can sketch using your finger, a passive stylus like the Wacom Bamboo Stylus Solo, or the pressure-sensitive Adobe Ink stylus.

In this project, we'll focus on getting acquainted with Adobe Illustrator Draw and sketching freehand. I drew the Plumerias sketch shown in Figure 1 from my imagination.

Figure 1 The Plumerias drawing shows sensitive thick to thin lines.

Setting Up Your Preferences

Tap the Pen icon in the upper left of your screen to access Settings. In Settings > Preferences, you can orient the Toolbar for right-handed or left-handed use. I am right-handed and set up the Toolbar on the left side of the canvas. So that you can preview strokes as you draw them, choose Stroke Smoothing > While Drawing, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Setting up the preferences for right-handed drawing.

Setting Up and Exploring the Interface

Setting Up and Exploring the Interface

Let's get started with an overview of the interface.

When you launch Adobe Illustrator Draw, a series of project panels opens, as shown in Figure 3. Tap on a project panel to open a canvas. A menu appears along the top of the screen and the Toolbar. On the Toolbar are mark-making and coloring tools such as the Pencil and Brush. When a canvas is active, the top menu contains the share, pen (Hold Pen to Connect), shapes library, target (activate virtual slide ruler and shapes), and full-screen view icons.

Figure 3 A project with its individual canvas panels. The menu icons at upper right allow you to share, add a new canvas to the project, use the trash, or edit the project.

Figure 4 shows the Adobe Illustrator Draw interface with a project canvas open. The Brush tool is chosen. Clicking on the Brush icon reveals the Size, Color, and Opacity icons. The Layers icon is nested below in the Toolbar, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 4 The open canvas with the toolbar on the left, with the Brush tool chosen. The menu at the top allows you to share, connect a stylus (Ink), access the shapes library, access virtual ruler mode, and enter full-screen mode.

Figure 5 When the Brush is selected, you can adjust both the size of the brush and the opacity of the paint.

Trying Out Drawing Tools

Trying Out Drawing Tools

To warm up for sketching, we'll choose a color and try out the drawing tools. Adobe Illustrator Draw features a selection of sketching tools, including a pencil, brush, markers, pens, and an eraser. Of the drawing tools, the Brush and Pens are my favorites, because they can create expressive thick-to-thin lines.

Choose a color by clicking the Color icon and then selecting a color from the Color Themes, as shown in Figure 6. Have fun making expressive marks while trying out the drawing tools.

Figure 6 Choosing a color from the Color Themes.

Figure 7 Practice marks drawn with the Pencil, Brush, Markers, and Pens.

Adobe Ink is a beautifully designed fine-tip, pressure-sensitive pen for the iPad and CC that gives you great control and precision when working in Adobe Illustrator Draw. To use Ink, you'll need an iPad (4th generation), iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina display, or the new iPad Mini 3 or iPad Air 2. For this drawing, I used an iPad Air 2.

To connect the Ink pen, begin by opening a project in Draw. In the menu bar at the top of the screen, tap the pen icon. When the dialog appears, press and hold down Ink's button until the LED on the top of the pen cycles through the color spectrum. Next, press and hold the pen tip to the pen target in the pen dialog until the pen connects, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8 Connecting Adobe Ink with Sketch.

Drawing with the Brush Tool

Drawing with the Brush Tool

The Brush is my favorite sketching tool in Adobe Illustrator Draw. Drawing from my imagination, I used the Brush tool to create the freehand sketch of plumerias shown in Figure 1 at the beginning of this article. The Brush tool allows you to draw with expressive thick-to-thin lines. If you have Apply Smoothing While Drawing chosen in Preferences, Adobe Illustrator Draw applies smoothing to the vector strokes as you draw.

For this line drawing, I used the Brush tool and black color. Choose the Brush tool in the toolbar and then tap the Color icon to open the Color Themes. Choose black for the color, at 100% opacity. Practice drawing graceful curves with the Brush tool.

You can adjust the width of the brush by tapping the Size icon in the toolbar, and dragging up to increase the size and down to decrease the size, as shown in Figure 9. While making this drawing, I sized the Brush to 15–20 pixels.

Figure 9 Using the Brush to draw the first flower.

If you're using your finger or a passive stylus, the width of the strokes will change with velocity as you draw. If you're using Adobe Ink, the width of the strokes will change with velocity and the pressure that you apply to the pen.

You can see the completed Adobe Illustrator Draw black-and-white sketch of the plumerias in Figure 10.

Figure 10 The brush drawing of the three plumeria flowers.

Adding a New Layer and a Spot of Color

Adding a New Layer and a Spot of Color

Next, I set off the black-and-white sketch with a patch of color on a layer behind the flowers. To add a new layer, click the Layers icon (near the bottom of the toolbar). When the Layers panel appears, press the plus (+) icon to add a new layer. To arrange the layer hierarchy, click and hold on the new layer, and drag it below the original Draw layer with your black-and-white artwork. Figure 11 shows the Layers panel open, with the new Draw layer in position under the black-and-white brush drawing.

Figure 11 The new Draw layer is selected and ready to accept color.

To add color to my image, I used the wide-tipped marker and a rose color to paint a smooth rounded shape behind and along the edge of the flowers. Using the marker, paint the colored area that you desire. The eraser tool can be used to touch up edges, if needed. Figure 12 shows the rose color on the drawing under the brush drawing. The Layers panel is open.

Figure 12 The patch of rose color is painted on the layer.

To finish the color, I used the Brush tool to paint touches of golden yellow on the center of the flowers, as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13 Press the share icon to open the menu of export choices.

Exporting a Vector Sketch from Adobe Illustrator Draw

Exporting a Vector Sketch from Adobe Illustrator Draw

When you're pleased with your finished sketch, you can export the sketch to Adobe Illustrator CC for finishing on your desktop computer if you have Illustrator 2014.1.1 (18.1.0) or later. Click the Share icon on the top menu to open its panel, displaying several choices. To export your vector sketch to Adobe Illustrator CC, tap on AI (Send to Illustrator), as shown in Figure 11. Your file will automatically open in Illustrator CC. To view the vector paths, as I did in Figure 14, choose the Selection tool in the Toolbox and click on a path to select it. Now you're ready to complete your illustration in Illustrator CC. Have fun!

Figure 14 The sketch open in Adobe Illustrator CC, showing a selected path.

Good work! You have completed this project with Adobe Illustrator Draw.

For more creative projects for sketching and painting on your iPad and desktop, check out my book The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book: Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad, Second Edition.

What else can you explore? For a drawing project from the Artist Tablet Book that features Photoshop and its erodible brushes, check out "Drawing Rounded Forms Using Wacom and the iPad." Additionally, "Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad: Enhancing the Focal Point" features a creative painting composition using the Wacom tablet and Painter.

Stay tuned for future articles on topics including oil painting, art with the exciting Particles brushes, and sketching on the iPad.

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