Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Pattern is a Pattern is a Pattern

This is the illustration I did for Electric Keychain’s A Pattern is a Pattern is a Pattern project.

I seem to have committed Sherlock Holmes art again. I should be stopped.

My idea was based mostly on items that clearly identify Sherlock Holmes: his magnifying glass, pipe, violin, and hat. And the less concrete things: danger, addiction, and music. I didn’t want to use the deerstalker because it’s so silly, and looked really strange with a gun and a skull.

I work in Illustrator, but don’t let that daunt you if you're a beginner. It’s pretty easy; you just need a few specific tools. They are called Pathfinder and Align, and they are my best friends. We braid each other's hair, and they sleep over sometimes.

Read more under the cut.

Firstly! Making symmetrical objects!

I started with the right half of each object, if it was on the center line. I would then copy it, paste it in place, flip it, move it over (making sure to hold shift so it stays on the same plane), and then merge them into one object using my BFF Pathfinder Palette.

This is three objects, so they need to be combined with their other halves separately

Nextly! Align!

I made sure to group all of my complex shapes, like the skull and the syringe so that when I align them, I don't get a mess.

ALIGN! This is only for your objects on the centerline, your outside shapes are next. The align button is on the Align Pallete and you can do all sorts of fun stuff with it. We're using the vertical centered one so you get completely straight, symmetrical object. I do so love the align button. <3

Outside Objects!

Copy, paste, flip, and arrange your outside objects.  Just eyeball it, so that it's close to where you want it. Group each pair, the pipe to the pipe, the flourish to the flourish.

Align again. If they're grouped right, it should align each group along the vertical axis.

Up until this point, I had been using a dark color to represent where the background would show through, because moving stuff around is easier than adjusting the edges of a shape. Here I used them to cut holes in the light red shapes with the (you got it) Pathfinder Palette. This isn't really necessary, but it ends up more elegant, and makes it REALLY easy to change colors, which I had to do later (because a certain social networking site doesn't like to compress the color burgundy).

I moved to a new file, just in case I messed up my image. I grouped my middle shape in one group and my viloin into a separate group.

Then I copy pasta-ed both groups several times, trying to get it close enough to where I wanted it, until I felt my pattern was wide enough. (I actually came back to this point once because I had set my pieces too wide and there was too much dead space.)

Once you've got the width of your pattern, select the whole row and Distribute! The Distribute buttons are on the Align Palette and they space objects or groups evenly.

I grouped my row, and then copy pasta, then I moved it down and to the side.

There is probably a really good way to get these in line. You can't center them without losing your ability to continue the pattern if you choose, you can't start aligning all the stuff, because sometimes it moves things you don't want moved, and you can't line up their sides. If you know a way, let me know in the comments! 

So what I did was get it really effing close. I just looked at two things that are supposed to be vertically lined up, and zoomed in until I could see up their nose. Then I nudged them.

I then copied both rows, pasted them in place, moved them down holding shift to keep it in line. Again, I was only trying to get it close to the distance I wanted. I did this as many times as I needed to (you can do it infinitely). Then select all your rows and BAM! Distribute those horizontally! (found in the Align palette)

Don't be afraid of going back and fixing stuff. The last few steps don't take that long. Mess with it til it's right.


Hold option (on a mac) after you've selected what you want to copy. Your cursor turns into a double arrow. Drag your item and it copies automatically.

Hold shift when you're moving anything and it keeps it either vertically or horizontally aligned (depending on the direction you are moving it) with it's starting place.

Happy Patterning!

My frist foray into expressing my love of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson visually.

Go look at some of the other patterns over on Electric Keychain!

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