Saturday, February 3, 2018

Drawing Things Out

Animate, as mentioned earlier, is a vector based drawing and animation tool. All drawing in Animate is built around shapes. Shapes are made up of a series of connected lines and curves. You create the shapes by using basic building blocks such as lines, rectangles and ovals. You also have text, which can be treated as text or converted into a shape so that you can modify the shape. By breaking apart text twice you are given the vector shape of each character and can then use the arrow manipulation tools to alter the letters which can be great for creating title text quickly.

Shapes can have an outline and a fill, or can be just one of the two. The outline has a color, a thickness, and a pattern associated with it. One of the most unique thicknesses is the hairline. This is a special thickness as it will always be drawn as thinly as possible.

The fill of a shape can be a solid color, a gradient, or a bitmap fill. Gradients are a series of colors that gradually change from one color to the next color in the series. You may have as many colors in a series as you desire and can vary where in the gradient range the colors will change. Gradients can be linear or radial and the orientation, scale, and center spot can be adjusted. A bitmap fill is a bitmap image that is used to fill the shape. Bitmap fills are tiled, though you can adjust the orientation, scale, skew, and center spot.

For more complex shapes you can use a pencil tool. The pencil tool takes whatever shape you draw and turns it into a series of lines and curves. You can control how close to what you draw the pencil will be, with the more accurate the representation, the more anchor points in the object. The pencil tool is supposed to be intelligent, so it will try to figure out the shape you are drawing picking the most appropriate approximation it can come up with. The pen tool is just like the pencil tool except instead of lines it deals with fills.

The fountain pen tool lets you build a spline shape. The mathematics and techniques behind splines are interesting but way beyond this book so I will try to explain in simplified terms. A shape is made up of several points that define the basic shape. These points are connected via lines which can each be edited separately. For shapes made of straight lines this is fine, but for curved shapes, splines are used. Each line has additional points (weights) that control how much the line curves between two points. Curves can be controlled by adjusting the weight points for that line segment. You can adjust these points by using the sub-selection tool which looks like a white pointer.  While editing a shape this way can be painful, it gives you extreme control of the resulting shape.

The basic drawing tools within Animate are enough to do quite a bit and may be all that an artist needs. If better tools are needed, a vector package like Illustrator can be used. It is even possible to import a bitmap image and use a tracing tool that will convert the image into a vector shape.

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