I tend to march to the beat of a different drummer when it comes to illustration–especially in the area of color. In this tutorial we will be shading this little drummer character. Download him here: http://www.jesterarts.net/drummer.zip
Vector work can be tedious. A lot of pointy-clickety and detail stuff…it can drive you crazy. “Actions” are like the medication built into Illustrator to stop you from going crazy (or at least crazier).
Achieving proper lighting and color in a character illustration is important. Duh. A proper use of Actions will make your color changes for lighting both easier and accurate.
I have an entire workflow built around this concept so I can crank out characters as fast as possible. See below screenshot:
Follow the steps below:
1. Create a new CMYK document.
2. Create your character complete with flat colors. (Or simply use the one I included here).
3. Open up your Actions window (just to have it ready). Window/Actions.
4. Once that window is open you will see all of your Action defaults pre-organized in little sets. You should create a new set for this one. At the bottom of the window you can see some options. Click the little icon that looks like a folder to create a new set…
4. You will be prompted to name the set. Name it something close to your heart, such as the name of your hamster, “JesterArts Rocks”, or something. In this case, I’ve called the set “Shading: Light and Dark” because I lack imagination and hamsters. In this folder we will soon be creating our shading and lightening action.
5. Now lets take a little detour and do some actual vector editing in preparation for these magical new color tricks. Working in vector, many people have different ways of altering objects for color changes. I choose to cut out parts with other shapes since this seems to be the cleanest way of working. However you wish to do it, define an area that will be shaded. For this illustration, I’ve created a circle over the head which will “cut out” an area to be darkened. I call this empty path used for cutting “the cutting path”, strangely enough.
6a. Open up your “Pathfinder” window by selecting Window/Pathfinder. You will see this little pallet here:
6b. Now select the shapes you wish to cut along with the ingeniously termed “cutting path”. It’s the typical “shift click click” operation in selecting multiple things. When you’ve selected all of your objects/paths to be used, click the “divide” option in your pathfinder pallet.
6c. By this, your objects will become sliced and you will be able to select the newly created regions to be colored. See below:
7. Back to the Actions part. With your new areas selected, we are going to create a new action used in creating shaded/darkened areas. Go to your Actions pallet and click “Create New Action” as pictured below. Be sure the right “set” folder is selected!
8. Here’s the important part. You are now creating a new action. Duh. Call it something relevant, not having anything to do with hamsters. In this situation I’ve called it “Darker”.Once you click “Record” you will not be surprised to know that your actions are being recorded. At this time, I’d avoid doing anything embarrassing that you do not want posted to YouTube. I’m just kidding…its only recording your actions in Illustrator :D.
9. Now that you know you are being recorded (I know, it feels funny) go to Edit/Edit Colors/Adjust Color Balance.
10. A window will come up called, appropriately enough, “Adjust Colors“. Click the “Preview” button and adjust the sliders in such a way that shading/darkening occurs to the desired amount. In this case, I’ve kept all the sliders at ZERO and have simply added Black (13 percent).
11. Remember, you are still recording! Now that you’ve happy with that and have pressed “OK” that will have been recorded. For this action, that is all you will have to record, so you can push the “stop” button at the bottom of your actions window. That will, surprisingly enough, stop you from recording. The Circle can be pushed if you wish to start recording again, and the Triangle to the right is the “Play” button.
11a. Experimentally, select an object that you may want darker besides the one we just altered. With the object selected, press the “play” button and watch the object become darker (regardless of its color). (If nothing happens be sure your objects colors are not Grayscale or RGB.)
12. Now cut out an area (refer to step 6) that you will want lighter. Then create a new action as previously shown. This time we will move our sliders in the opposite direction, creating lighter areas.
With that done, here is the effect:
10. Now you have two actions: A lightening and darkening action. When you select multiple areas (even of different colors or gradients) playing the action on them will always uniformly darken or lighten the areas for a professional look. Go through your illustration and mess around with it. I did this one quickly and here was the result:
(yeah, I added some eyes. Isn’t he cute!)
Here are some more examples of characters created using this method:
Do not underestimate the power of actions. Used in the right way, they can speed up and improve your work! I’ve set up my actions to produce LOTS of color versions of certain illustrations within minutes. See here: http://www.jesterartsillustrations.com/search/plans