This site was last updated 29/8/17
This tutorial is based around the Pen tool in Serif DrawPlus. It follows on from the explanatory tutorial “Bitmaps and Vectors” – if you have not read this yet, please do before continuing, as it provides the foundation to what is being discussed here.
Basing this tutorial partly on personal preference and style of working, it is subjective. It may not suit everyone; however, some may find it provides a new direction for creating images in DrawPlus. Let’s face it, drawing is a fundamental part of DrawPlus, anything that makes drawing easier to understand and do, whether it’s tracing around an outline or drawing something from scratch, can only be a good thing. Basing this on the pen tool found in DrawPlus, its’ principles however, carry over to the pen tool found in Serif PhotoPlus (and any vector based tool in image creating software). If you have the privilege or opportunity to attend any computer aided drawing course, this is also the method taught when creating vector lines in other programs.
One important principle about working with vector lines that will be brought up repeatedly: the vector lines created are bézier curves, they run from one point (called a node – they will be referred to as ‘nodes’ from now on) to the next; try to keep the nodes as far apart as possible while retaining a smooth, accurate line. Fewer nodes create a more elegant line and a smaller file size. This will become clearer as we progress through the tutorial.
DrawPlus has three tools for creating lines: the Pencil, the Pen and the Straight-line tool. Each has their good points.
The pencil tool:
While the pencil tool is a good flexible tool for some freehand drawing, it lacks the precision control needed for quick, accurate work, for example, drawing a freehand rectangular sausage shape I get an ellipse or the pencil adds nodes where it ‘thinks’ you want them and the lines wobble terribly. There is the ‘smoothness’ box to help adjust how closely the line follows what has been drawn, but takes too long playing with to get the line reasonably correct (with as few nodes as possible). Also there is no fine adjustment of the nodes on the fly (it is possible but not as precise as it is with the pen).
The straight line tool:
The straight-line tool is good too; it provides the precision required for exact node placement when this is required, but lacks flexibility while working with an object. To create a curved line either you need to add many nodes to the line, but this still leaves a series of straight lines that require a lot of tweaking in order to create some resemblance to smooth curves. Or, you add the minimum of nodes and need to retrace every step to set each nodes individual property. Again, this tool will eat up project time.
The pen tool:
With the pen tool there is both the flexibility of curves (pencil tool) and the precision of straight lines (straight-line tool) present in the one tool. We can create sharp corners and flowing curves with very few nodes, quickly and easily – a boon for any project. For example, an ellipse can be made from just two nodes! As we move through the tutorials all will become clear.
We will break the tutorial up into three sections:
1. Doodling: We become friends with the pen tool by creating lines and shapes.
2. Tracing: Putting section one into practice by using a simple piece of clip-art included in the DrawPlus Gallery, we see how easy it is to modify the pen tool’s shapes and attributes.
3. Drawing: Putting section two into practice we create our own clip-art.
To help build on using the pen tool, there will be two or three projects, one of which will re-use the clip-art we make here. Nothing too difficult and I will try to estimate the time each project should take to complete.
Thanks for sticking with it during this preamble, now, time to fire up DrawPlus!
61% smoothing 14 nodes
A Bézier curve snake showing the vector line in red with the white squares showing individual nodes. Notice how few nodes there are making up each smooth curve.