Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to Build a "SpaceSquid" with the Von Glitschka Vector Method

Although I've been in the graphic design field for 18-plus years, I still feel I have a ways to go before reaching my full potential. Thus looking to improve my skill and technique, I recently purchased Vector Basic Training, A Systematic Creative Process for Building Precision Vector Artwork by accomplished illustrative designer Von Glitschka. The book is an easy, enjoyable read (230 pgs.), with plenty of technical know-how and inspiring images sprinkled throughout. The heart of the book is built around the detailed vector building methods perfected by Von Glitschka through years of in-the-field testing and training. This post will briefly look at these vector techniques as we build the fun and whimsical "SpaceSquid" surely destined for t-shirt greatness.

Fig. A - Old Sketch known as "Galactic Watcher".

Fig. A -  I was rummaging through some of my old sketches recently, and I came across one that caught my eye. Originally known as the "Galactic Watcher", I was intrigued by the domed saucer-helmet, and thought the idea may have some recycleability (I don't think that's a word, but you get the idea) – thus the nucleus for "SpaceSquid" was born.

Fig. B -  Original sketch of "SpaceSquid".

Fig B. - Springboarding off of the original space saucer/helmet concept, I conceived a new idea. After a few thumbnails and redraws, SpaceSquid was birthed on paper.

Fig. C - Shape-Building Vector Method in action.

Fig. C - Using my sketch as a guide, I build my vector shapes on top. As a few modifications are made along the way, as much of the image as possible is built using the "Shape-Building Method" so that vector point placement is guaranteed precise and perfect, insuring that curves are smooth and visually accurate. Only Adobe Illustrator's Rectangle Tool, Ellipse Tool and Pathfinder panel are used in the creation of these shapes.

Fig. D - The Clock Method (TCM) is used to create better organic shapes.

Fig. D - Continuing to build SpaceSquid, the more organic and freeform shapes (shown in magenta) are built using Von Glitschka's "Prime Point Placement" (PPP) and "The Clock Method" (TCM) processes.

Fig. E - Detail of The Clock Method.

Fig. E - Von Glitschka's vector The Clock Method (or TCM) utilizes an imaginary clock to help determine the best place for anchor point placement along the path – specifically at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. This close-up of the upper left side of the SpaceSquid head shows the anchor point placement and how the "clock" is used for discovering "where" along the path to best be positioned. Note that the full upper half of the SpaceSquid head will only be constructed of 8 anchor points in its final form (one at the top, one at the bottom, and six in the middle). The ultimate goal of Von Glitschka's vector-placement methodology is to minimize path anchor points, while maximizing path aesthetics and artistry.

FIg. F - Final vector-built version of SpaceSquid.

Fig. F - Here is the final vector-built version of SpaceSquid with all of his post-sketch modifications (larger claws, modified chest panel and added fish). Many of the vector shading and highlight shapes are also shown. Since much of the squid is symmetrical, only the left-side half of the vectors were built. The final left-side shapes were then duplicated, flipped horizontally and aligned to create the right-side half of SpaceSquid (Doing this helps cut vector build-time nearly in half).

Fig. G - Final full-color version of "SpaceSquid".

Fig. G - Here is the completed version of SpaceSquid in all his outer-spacey, sci-fi glory. A slight posterization effect has been added with accompanying starscape and purple backlight. I worked on SpaceSquid off and on over a period of 4 days. Total job time from concept sketching to color experimentation and selection, to job completion was approximately 20 to 24 hours. It was quite an enjoyable ride, and I got to hone my vector-building skills in the process!

Fig. H - Close-up of SpaceSquid.

Fig. H - A parting shot of SpaceSquid showing his detail. I'd like to thank Von Glitschka and his new book, Vector Basic Training, for helping to make this post possible (the very first post of Logo Planet Laboratory's Blogsite, might I add). Whether you're a veteran or a newcomer to vector-based design, I highly recommend Von Glitschka's Vector Basic Training, A Systematic Creative Process for Building Precision Vector Artwork. It can set you on the path to vector-betterment and goes into much more detail than briefly shown here.  The book also contains a 4-hour DVD to boot (a complete investment easily worth the ticket price). As illustrated here, the processes taught within will help you become a better vector craftsman, and in turn, a better artist. I know I'll be keeping my copy close by my desk for quite some time. Thanks Von! (SpaceSquid T-shirts are available in children and adult sizes).