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A Scrutinizing Eye

You’ll need to pay close attention to your anchor points and paths throughout the vector build process to ensure that you’re creating quality. That said, no one is perfect; you’ll make mistakes as you create your vector art, so it’s important to train yourself to spot potential problems as you review.

It may seem like I’m asking you to micromanage your vector art, and in part that’s true. But over time it will become second nature, to the point that you won’t even consciously think about which anchor points to place or handles to pull. You will, however, notice the steady improvement in your vector shapes because of your due diligence.

The Vector No-Fly List

Be on the lookout for the following common vector building mistakes:

  • Incorrect anchor point: If you’re creating a Bézier curve that bends smoothly from one side of an anchor point into the opposite side, as shown in FIGURE 4.5, use a smooth anchor point rather than a corner anchor point. If the curve looks pointed, then you’re using an incorrect anchor point in the path.

    FIGURE 4.5

    FIGURE 4.5 The correct use of a smooth anchor point (top) and an incorrect corner anchor point, which causes a pointed look (bottom). In a design that contains thousands of anchor points, it’s important to scrutinize as you build or you can easily overlook a problematic anchor point.

    To convert a corner anchor point to a smooth anchor point (and vice versa), select the problem anchor point and click the “Convert selected anchor points to smooth” button in the Control panel (Figure 4.5). The opposite option will appear if the point is already smooth. (Unfortunately, there’s no keyboard command for this, nor is it recordable via actions.)

  • Flat curves: If you pull out your anchor point handles too far on a Bézier curve that bends smoothly from one side of an anchor point to the opposite side (FIGURE 4.6), the curve will lose its roundness and begin to appear flat. Flatness in a curve is a telltale sign of overextended handles.

    FIGURE 4.6

    FIGURE 4.6 Properly extended anchor point handles (top) and a curve with overextended anchor point handles, which cause a flat appearance (bottom).

  • Parallels: When you create shapes that contain corresponding Bézier curves that bend smoothly from one side of an anchor point to the opposite side (FIGURE 4.7), make sure the extended handles at the apex of the curve are parallel with one another. If the end vector shape doesn’t have a graceful flow, it’s a good bet some of the handles aren’t parallel.

    FIGURE 4.7

    FIGURE 4.7 Parallel handles shown (top) and nonparallel handles, which cause an uneven result (bottom). This won’t apply to every arch, but it will apply to most curved vector shapes.

  • Overextended handles: This is the result of trying to span the distance between two anchor points using one anchor point handle instead of both. Much like the flat curve problem, it will result in a shape that is flat, awkward, and clunky. It also can cause mitering problems on severe angles, if you use a heavier stroke (FIGURE 4.8).

    FIGURE 4.8

    FIGURE 4.8 Both handles of each path properly pulled out to form Bézier curves (top); trying to achieve the same curve using only one overextended handle causes flatness, resulting in a clunky shape and mitering problems (bottom).

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