V is for Vector

My “Shield of Captain America”

Program: Adobe Illustrator (Vector). Tutorial by Andrei Marius on TutsPlus, found here.


Typically I scour the web looking for interesting tutorials to learn and do myself, then subsequently share with my students. I look for an end-product that catches the eye, then make sure it has a well made tutorial that is at my students level of understanding. Both of my Digital Art classes have done the “Ninja Gang” and “Retro Fox” illustrations with great success (samples below).

I didn’t have my students do the Captain America Shield above because it’s pretty advanced for where they are at.  One student, however, wanted the challenge of trying to make the shield above. He had previously been unengaged in the course so I figured  there was nothing to lose by him trying. He seemed intent on doing it faster than me, and yes, a bet was made. Although he didn’t win the “free time” for his class – failing to complete the illustration in 3 classes – he surprised me by committing to the process and he completed the project anyways. His product was about 95% accurate (if I had to put a number on it, which I just did), but he did many of the advanced things required and demonstrated his digital art skills. Also, since he knew that I had done it previously, he was asking for my help, and our student-teacher relationship benefitted. Win-win for both of us.

Overall, I love how in Illustrator I can adjust paths and strokes, group and resize elements, create interesting shapes using a variety of tools, and generally, just create cool graphics to be proud of. My students have also been enjoying it a lot.  Even as a beginner, Illustrator allows students to create a professional looking graphic without having to have an extensive knowledge of art concepts. Just by following tutorials they have become way more comfortable with the interface and a large array of tools.

The student work below demonstrates some interesting things. One, how shapes can be similar, but unique (fox shapes). Secondly, even when following a tutorial, students may assemble and design their graphics with their own stamp of personalization. Finally, students have been engaged, actively problem solving when things don’t go right, asking questions, and collaborating together to help each other out. It’s been a great creative, learning experience.

Fox by Feven
Ninjas by Mallory
Ninjas by Mallory


Ninjas by Jake
Ninjas by Jake
Fox by Matthew
Fox by Matthew

Rules of Composition: Repeating Elements

Repeating elements in a photograph can make for interesting compositions because of the unity throughout the photo.

In this photo there are two contrasting elements at work.

  1. Vertical elements (railings and supports)
  2. Horizontal elements (stairs). Also, the two stairways double the effect.

Using photoshop I applied some adjustment layers to “cool” off the photo and make the dark steel elements pop. This photo was also cropped to make the stairways the subject, as well as have the stairs move through the corners of the photo.

*Make a photograph of two complementary objects arranged to show their relationship to each other. #ds586*


Here we have my latest Illustrator creation. Something most of us see everyday…a hot and bubbly cup of joe.

Found this tutorial here.


Program: Adobe Illustrator (Vector)

Skills Learned/Used:

  1. Pen tool to create objects (cup, saucer, coffee)
  2. 3D effects (cup, saucer, handle) to reduce time spent on drawing the entire image.
  3. Gradient fills (coffee, bubbles, background)
  4. Shading effects (much more difficult using CS3 compared to CS5 in the tutorial)

Reflection: The main thing I learned on this piece was the power of 3D effects (and how they bog down this older iMac). It allows one to turn simple shapes (drawn with the pen tool) into a 3D image with a lighting effect. This useful tool could be utilized in a variety of way to cut down on “drawing” time.

From this:

*Apply revolve effect*

To this:

Summary: I was really happy with the way this turned out. Especially since I am working with software that is almost outdated. Some of the tools mentioned in the tutorial (which used CS5) were not available to me, so I had to improvise and explore to create similar effects. Good learning experience.

I have a few projects on the go. So we’ll see what I post next. I’m thinking the stylized portrait of my wife 🙂

Landscape Scene

As I delve further into Adobe’s Creative Suite, and experiment with my own creations, I will periodically post some of the work on my blogs for everyone to scrutinize behold. My hope is that as I create and practice, I will gather a wide array of skills and the pieces will become more refined with each post (this is what we teachers call “learning”). Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or tips for me as I explore the world of Digital Art.

First up: Landscape.

Program: Adobe Illustrator (Vector)

Skills Learned/Used:

  1. Pencil tool to create objects (clouds and mountains)
  2. Gradient fill (clouds and mountains)
  3. Create symbols and brushes (leaves and grass)
  4. Symbol splatter tool (leaves)
  5. Using different brush strokes for texture (tree trunk and mountain)
  6. Placing one Illustrator file into another.

Reflection: Overall a simple task, but it helped that I had a tutorial video (thanks Zig). During this task the main thing I learned was how to create custom brush strokes and symbols. Also, this task allowed me to better understand how vector programs (such as Illustrator) are different than raster programs (such as Photoshop).

Overall this was a good exercise to do after toying around with Illustrator. It is simple to do, yet it has an overall aesthetically pleasing finish.

My next Vector project is making a cup of hot coffee where I’ll be exploring and using the pen tool.

Rules of Composition: Leading Lines


The lines of the bard wire have a direction that moves from one corner of the photo to the other.

What is Digital Art?

Digital Art is an expression like any other art, however, it is created using a medium that is “new” in historical terms. In Digital Art, the artist uses various simple or advanced software and hardware to create their message, as opposed to the more traditional art tools such as paints, canvas, paper, pencil, clay, etc.

Art does not simply refer to the tools used to create it. Art is about the vision, message, and emotion conveyed by the artist through any medium. Painting on a canvas is a medium through which artists may create art. Likewise, a computer is just a medium, or tool, through which an artist can express his vision of line, form, color, composition, and rhythm.

When the digital artist has mastery over the available tools and technologies (software, equipment, etc.) they can go beyond “taking a digital picture” or “applying an effect” and create art – an individual expression of their vision.