Since I last wrote about Serif Drawplus on the blog there have been some major changes by the software company. First of all, Drawplus has been updated from X2, through X3 and now stands at version X4! Also and probably of more impact to the freebie loving computer users the downloadable free version has completely changed. Instead of making available an old version for free, Serif have decided to release a new up-to-date little brother kind of version call DrawPlus Starter Edition. I’ve seen and heard of quite a few other companies doing this recently, it seems to be a new trend for software developers.
This is bad and good news as you have probably guessed. The best things about the new Starter Edition in my opinion are;
- The new interface. It’s a lot less clunky and Windows 95 looking than the previous free version! The docked tabs seem more sensible in their layout. They are very very much like Adobe’s tabbed palettes. Some have more options and flexibility than Adobe’s, others less. The balance is good though.
- DrawPlus’s fills, transparency and brushes. All seem to have better, more accessible and immediate use than in Illustrator. Immediate because there’s so many more useful presets and when you drag the mouse you see the fill or transparency transform in real time. In Illustrator and older versions of Drawplus you could only see the reault after you let go of the mouse, so it was a guessing game with any kind of gradient.
- Effects. They work really nicely, like Adobe’s Styles but I like having material thickness and fathering right there on the palette itself. The Starter Edition has just a few of a massive range of materials and textures that is included in the full X4 version. Enough to test, quite a crafty ploy to make you feel like buying the full version!
- Tablet support. The brushes are highly configurable, and look great. I didn’t use a tablet in my test though, just the mouse.
The not so good things are of course the things that are unavailable to Starter Edition users. As well as having less fills, brushes etc available, some portions of the program are ghosted out so the options/facilities are unavailable. Notably these are;
- Export/publishing options
- 3D projections and planes
- Colour palette designer
- Flash animation
There are still lots of things available to make the program fully functional in many ways, it might be all you need! If you’ve never tried Drawplus yet love working with vector graphics it’s definately worth trying this new Starter Edition. I am really quite tempted to upgrade it to the full X4 version because other than the interface there are lots of other things in this new version of the program I would like to try out. I only own full version 6, which came out in 2001 according to Wikipedia! Also for work, it has CMYK and Pantone fill palettes now available. Mostly I’d like to try the 3D planes feature which could help create some great isometric designs and logos.
I’ll update you with my findings if I buy the X4 upgrade.
I’ve always liked pop art. And you can see some Roy Lichtenstein influenced enjoyment of halftone patterns used in illustrator in one of the previous posts here at Design Reviews. This post about pop art though is a bit of an accident. I wanted to create a logo originally, for a cafe. As everyone knows a logo should only contain very simple, minimal art or graphic symbols. It’s also best to make it work in single color or posterised. Pop art is often low in colour and detail so it can be a good inspiration for shapes in creating logotypes with the illustrator pen tool.
I wanted a great cup symbol or shape within my logo so I thought I’d take a look around the web for some simple graphical representations of cups. Looking at these I thought I would spot some shapes to complement the letter forms in the logo. But I didn’t really. I did come across a great resource site though.
Pop Art Machine is the place, I’d never been to this site before. To quote the site’s description “…collects, curates and creates pop art. Our focus is painting and printmaking using public image sources as inspiration. Here you will find over one million free source images and finished pop art posters & prints.”
Sounds good and it is good. The image on the left below is my interpretation of one of the cup images on the site. Using a not too far removed technique I drew the image on the right from an actual photograph. The technique I’m talking about it that once you’ve drawn a clear crisp precise vector shape to your liking you then use the pencil tool to ‘lasso’ the shape roughly. Then you make it the same color as the surface, changed with the HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) sliders in lightness/darkness only. Also on the cup on the right I sliced up the saucer with Beziers and the ‘divide objects below’ command. Of course anyone who’s used illustrator knows I’ve finished it off by using one of the ink brushes for the strokes around the shapes. It’s quite pleasing to the eye but would only work as a simple icon sized graphic I think.
Above is the result of this work and inspiration. The illustrator source file is here for anyone to download and use as they wish. The logo didn’t really work though…
Do you use Adobe Illustrator for all your vector artwork? I must say that I do, but I don’t always start by using Adobe Illustrator, nor Adobe anything at all.
Have you ever heard of or tried Serif Drawplus? Don’t worry, you can get a couple of earlier than current versions for FREE. But why would you look at it if you Adobe Illustrator on your machine? There are a number of reasons but the biggest reason for me is in roughing out an idea, putting your first ideas onto the screen. DrawPlus can do this very very quickly because of the number of basic shapes in it’s fly-out menu, and then also because these basic ‘primitives’ are intuitively customisable using the ‘node’ editing method. These aren’t like regular vector nodes at all (though you can edit in that way too). Just check out the screen cam video below to see how shapes are created and modified. Many of these shapes would take many many stages to make in Illustrator using the transform and pathfinder tools…
Now you can get these versions of Drawplus for FREE v4. and v6. v4 is free on the website and v6 is very frequently included on Magazine cover CDs here in the UK.
Other advantages of Serif DrawPlus; font selection/preview, colour schemes, gradient types & presets, interactive fill, transparency & perspective tools.
Then why choose Illustrator at all? For me, compared to these free versions of DrawPlus, Illustrator has;
- Dependable/predictable output files. I’ve worked in the printing industry for years and no-glitch postscript output is a must, Illustrator has always proved to be most compliant/reliable.
- Pantone colours. And correctly producing one or two colour and spot colour artwork.
- Accuracy. (and the smart guides)
- I like the pen tool better (long-term experience).
- Other tools not available in DrawPlus; scatter brushes, symbol sprayer, plugin filters
Looking at things another way; For me Illustrator is the best but that doesn’t mean other tools are not useful. A new art program can provide a little bit of inspiration in itself. In music it’s the same: So I have a selection of guitars! Specifically I have two electrics and two acoustics. All of them are great in their own way. (Les Paul, Strat, Acoustic & Spanish style). Picking up one or another gets your fingers working in a different way and, with the electric, using the amplifier in a different way.
If I can get my hands on a newer or the newest version I will be updating this blog with a review. The newest version at the time of writing is Serif DrawPlus X2. DrawPlus X2 from Serif, the vector-drawing and graphics software that puts the power of a professional design studio on your PC
Have you tried DrawPlus, what do you think? Leave a comment or two.
The song ‘Russian Skidoo’ has been recorded since summer 2005, now I’ve only just got around to making the CD cover for it. I drew all the trees and snow textures on a background layer in Illustrator. Also in separate layers I drew the guy and the skidoo. That look a while, balancing the amount of detail to be sketched with what I wanted the finished article to be like.
Illustrating the shapes of the skidoo was no problem but it took three revisions to draw the helmet! The picture I was looking at had a guy with lots and lots of stickers on the helmet and I got too involved working close up and made something far too detailed, twice. This picture is of a guy speeding through the night in a snow storm so it’s not necessary at all to have that detail. Then when I finished I fired up Photoshop and used a combination of the motion blur and the wind tools. The snow wasn’t so tricky, inserting a new layer in Photoshop using the noise filter and distort filters to make it wavy, then altering the opacity of that layer.
I’m quite happy with the result, from the ingredients I started with. If I were to do it again I would focus on a detail of the skidoo, coming almost straight towards the viewer, perhaps looking like it’s about to run into the camera. Could do that for the back cover though… If it’s better it can be swapped with the front image! Sound clip here; The Ebbs (UK) – Russian Skidoo.
My first review here on Design Reviews is of a FREE graphics utility (for Windows only, sorry Mac users). It might be free but it’s fantastic and fills a gap not addressed in any of the Adobe suite such as Flash, Illustrator or Photoshop.
Do you like sometimes to use halftone patterns as fills? It’s quite easy to do solid colour (same size dot) patterns but what about variable dot sizes corresponding to lightness and darkness of the images you want to create.
The program in question is called Raster, it creates dot or square halftone patterns in a vector format which can then be used in your favourite design programs with all the advantages of a vector file (mainly scalability and editability). Now I know there is a Halftone Pattern filter in Photoshop but it’s not at all the same as this. The Photoshop filter doesn’t create vector output, also the dot or line styles are uniform. In Raster the dots size vary with intensity or depth of colour. So for instance with a simple linear gradient the dots will fade from large to small where the gradient would fade from dark to light. Before this program I used to try and do the effect ‘by hand’ which was neither convenient or satisfactory.
I had call to make a logo for a client today, but rather than wanting a nice shiny new logo this client requested something that looked aged, corroded and distressed – a little!
What to do? Illustrator has a couple of likely tools – roughen and scribble. They don’t really provide any kind of corrosion. In the old days this is what we would have done to age some text; print it on the laser and blow it up on the photocopier a few times at max magnification. Between copies you could rough up the sheets of paper a bit, crinkle it a bit, depends what you wanted.
Anyway that was a long time ago. Now it’s easier to use Photoshop and some spatter brushing, the photocopy and stamp and threshold controls, a bit of the dodge tool perhaps. Then you can bring that into Illustrator and vectorise it if you wish to use it in a logo. That’s what I did and I’m pleased with the subtle and realistic results.
What do you think? Do you know a better or faster way to make distressed effects?