Vector Basic Training: Getting to the Points
- A Bézier curve or path is only as elegant, graceful, or accurate as the anchor points that control and shape it. To better control and edit anchor points, you first need to understand and recognize what qualifies as a good anchor point and path, a bad anchor point and path, and an ugly anchor point and path.
A vector design can easily have hundreds of paths and thousands of anchor points within it. Each point that’s incorrectly used or sloppily handled will just add to the overall degradation of your visual aesthetic.
Anyone can learn to use a digital tool; that’s merely a skill set. I want you to become a vector craftsman, someone who can handle the basic tools and create professional results. You may conceive of a brilliant idea, but if your vector craftsmanship is weak, it doesn’t matter how well thought out the idea is. It will suffer from poor execution when you build the vector artwork.
On Prime Point Placement
There’s one key question to ask before you can determine whether an anchor point is good, bad, or ugly: is it in the correct position within your design? That is, is the Prime Point Placement (PPP) of your anchor point correct? Chapter 5, “Shape Surveillance,” covers placing and removing anchor points, as well as PPP, in more detail. But suffice it to say for now that if an anchor point isn’t positioned ideally as you build your vector shape, it will make controlling the path so that it matches your drawing far more difficult and possibly inaccurate.
For the sake of demonstration, all the vector art in FIGURES 4.1–4.3 contains identical PPP. That is, the anchor points are in the ideal locations. The only difference among the figures is in the specific problematic characteristics associated with the individual anchor points themselves.
FIGURE 4.1 Elegant results come from correct use of corner and smooth anchor points and handles. The anchor point positions and the paths they create are on the left; the resulting final shape is on the right.
FIGURE 4.2 The anchor points in this vector ornament design are the correct type; the problem lies with their handles. Again, the anchor point positions and paths are on the left, and the resulting shape is on the right.
FIGURE 4.3 This is what happens when anchor points are the wrong type. As usual, the anchor point positions and paths are on the left, and the resulting less-than-ideal shape is on the right.
With that graphic caveat in mind, let’s take a closer look.