It's been a while since I've seen a TIPS thread (the word 'tips' is used to help people when using the search function as the word 'help' has been used so much by people wanting to buy t-shirts that have had their day).

I'll break this into a number of posts (the site times out your login after a while, and I don't want to lose where I was). In 34 pictures, I'll take a section of art and convert it into vectors. This gives a cleaner look, and can be scaled up without those jagged lines you get with a rastered (JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, etc.) image.

I'll be using Inkscape. It's open source, free, there are great tutorials for it online, and I feel comfortable with it (and that's half the battle won: feeling comfortable with your tools).

And for myself: the images are at ...that's in case I lose power or something freakish, and can't find where I just uploaded the images to.
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    57 weeks ago

    For this demo, I'm using Zombi by jessetattoo with his permission. I'm not doing an exact job. In fact, I use a duplicate tool to speed things up at one point. But that could come in handy one day as a tool, so I'm glad I did use it.

    Soon, a section of his art blown up. It's the version he posted on this site, so it's going to be pixelated. First I need to import it into Inkscape. Let's do that.


    The program asks if you want to link, or embed. If you're going to keep that art in the same folder on your computer, just link it. I like to embed it, so it's always there in the vector file (until I delete it).

    Here it is. Pixels and all.


    On the left of this screen is the tool I will use. Bezier Curve (Shift + F6 is the shortcut). It's between the pencil and the calligraphy tools. It looks like a 0.3mm graphics pen.


    As with other programs, you can use Layers. So let's call up the layers.


    I'm going to call it bunny foot, and set the opacity to 100%.


    And I'm going to set the main image on Layer 1 at 50%, so if I work on a layer below it I will still see what I'm doing.


    We're all set. Next post: simple shapes begin to form the foot...
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    57 weeks ago
    Using the Bezier Curve pen, I draw a rough hexagon around one of the pads of the foot. And VERY IMPORTANTLY, I make sure I join the shape. The last place I click is in the area of the place I started the hexagon. Under my arrow, the square glows red to show I'm making a joined shape.


    As a default, shapes are set to "fill me with black, but don't use an outside stroke". This is what it looks like.


    Fortunately, I can change the inside color (or 'X' it out so it's transparent), choose whether I want a stroke or not, even choose the thickness of the stroke. I'm going to select the shape using the Black Arrow.


    Double-clicking on the shape lets me change its inner Fill color. Notice the 'X', and the squares to the right of it. We could use a gradient if I wanted to (but for this quick demo, we'll just stick to solid hues)...


    Now to change the Stroke...


    ...and the width can be changed in Stroke Style.


    We have the simple shape, but it's too angular. Next post: we're going to smooth it out, and make some more just like it.
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    57 weeks ago

    The tool we use to smooth the curves is the Edit Paths By Node arrow. You can toggle between the Black (select) arrow and Edit Paths arrow by pressing F1 and F2 on your keyboard.


    Clicking on the shape shows those nodes. They're the points I clicked when I was making the rough shape.


    Let's see what happens when we select a node and delete it fact, let's delete all but two of them. The beginning / end node at the top, and a node near the bottom.


    The computer does its best to approximate what the original line was. But without an intermediate node, it draws a curved line. Perfect, it's exactly what we want it to do.

    You'll notice the blue lines and circles: they tell the curve how far to bulge out, and how steeply to curve. Simply by manually adjusting the position of the circles (click on one, and drag) you change the curve. And as seen here: the 'straighter' you make those lines in relation to each other (both on either side of its node, and at either side of the shape), the better the curve.


    When we click away from the shape, it just shows itself. Perfect.


    There are three other pads. Rather than draw each one, I'm going to cheat and duplicate the first one.


    The second pad is immediately above the original one, but still on the 'bunny foot' layer. IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER - you can have more than one shape on a layer. And you can shuffle their orders around (more of that in a little while). We can drag that duplicate pad up to where t needs to be. Notice the arrows at the side of the pad that allow me to shrink and grow the size of the shape.


    If you click on the shape again using the Black Arrow, those resize arrows turn to rotation arrows. I can spin the shape, resize it, get it just right.


    You'll remember I said the duplicated shape sits above the original? On the design, I need the pads to look like the one on the right is in front of the middle one, and the one on the left is behind those two. When you have a shape selected sing the Black Arrow, and there is more than one object on a layer, you can shuffle their order using the four icons shown on the top left here.


    There are keyboard shortcuts for that too. Page Up / Page Down shuffles the selected object one place up / down like taking a card out of a deck and putting it one card higher. The Home and End buttons put that object right at the top or bottom of the deck.

    Here is it done with the left pad on Thumper's foot...


    ...and here are all the pads in the right order


    Next post: you may have noticed the green line in the image above. I've started to complete the foot. In the final post, I'll use one of the pads to remind me of Thumper's fur color, and draw a shape that doesn't join.
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    57 weeks ago
    I'm still on the layer called 'bunny foot', and now I'm going to (literally) flesh it out. You saw the green line for the foot... but if you look at the lie again...


    ...the square isn't glowing red. We're not going to join the shape. We're just going to double-click using the mouse, and the computer will join the start and end points.

    Why is this a good thing? To the computer, anything we drew can have a Stroke if we want it to. And we're telling the computer we do NOT want a stroke for part of the shape.

    Let's see how that came out.


    It's still the same color as the pads. It's above the pads when it should be below them. And the line is too angular.

    But we know we can shuffle its order to the bottom; we can select the Node (F2 key) pen to select nodes / delete them / tweak the curve; and we know we can double-click using the Black Arrow (F1) tool on the foot to change the fill color / stroke color / stroke width.


    If we want to see what the vector lines look like, we can press Ctrl and the F5 key to cycle through the view options. Or select the Display Mode manually as shown here.


    Right about now, we're feeling rather happy because it's all beginning to come together faster and faster. Let's add the rest of the curves to the foot. Same technique as before. Bezier Curve Pen the points on the curve we want, delete and tweak nodes to get a smooth line, change the color and stroke as we need, jockey that shape like placing cards in a deck.


    Now to keep going with Thumper's body. I created a new layer, called it 'bunny body', and placed it under the 'bunny foot' layer. Anything that happens on 'bunny body' will be under anything on 'bunny foot'. And if we remind ourselves of that Layers box...


    ...we see arrows that allow us to move layers up and down; padlocks to lock layers in (we should lock the foot, it's done now); and eyes to see / hide layers from view.

    Oh no! We forgot to note down the color of the pads because it's the same as his fur. No problem: select one of the pads and its info shows bottom-left of the screen.


    The stroke has changed from 0.3 to 0.323 because we tweaked the shape (it's a duplicate of the original pad). We can manually change the width in Stroke Style for all the shapes if we want. Choose the Node pen (F2), select the line, switch to Black Arrow (F1), bring up that Fill & Stroke box (which also has a keyboard shortcut... Shift + Ctrl + F) and change the stroke to 0.3 again.

    The color was #ACACAC, with an opacity of FF (255 out of 255, no transparency at all), so the full number is ACACACFF. Copy that string of hexidecimal, we cn paste it in when we draw the body.


    We're going to do an incomplete shape again, but this time the unbordered part isn't hidden by foot pads. We're deliberately choosing a shape that will draw a line, but not all around its visible circumference.


    This is how we get shapes with border lines that end where we want them to!


    We keep going. More lines, hide the parts under the parts above them. Create a new layer for the tail, which is above the body. A chest hair layer will be above the body, but below the foot. The head layer will be below both the chest hair and the body, and so on.

    Eventually, you're turning this...


    ...slowly into line art...


    ...which could be enlarged to fill the side of a skyscraper, the lines would still be pin sharp.


    For shading, draw shapes with fill but 'X' out the stroke. Or export your pin sharp vector art to a PNG file and add Halftone shading in the Photoshop / GIMP program you use.

    And that's how you turn your scanned rasterized, bitmapped images into the clean lines of vector art. I'm Jackpot777, and I hope these TIPS have helped some of you.

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