Make Your Own Clip Art  E-mail
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Written by Craig Watkins   
Save yourself some time and money and create your own custom clip art!

Have you ever needed a small graphic to use in a project and you are not able to find exactly what you need?

Or, have you ever found what you need, but are not in the position to be able to purchase the artwork? Not enough time to wait for purchased clip art to arrive if you purchased a disk?

I say, save yourself time and money and make it yourself!




For this example, I am going to create a simple graphic of a martini glass that I might use for something like a party invitation.

This tip may seem kind of long, but it is really fairly simple and will form the foundation for many things you may want to draw in Illustrator.

The first step is to locate a suitable image.






If you have access to a camera, by all means use it! A digital camera is best because it will save you a little time, but if you only have a regular camera, that will work too. You will just have to scan the image to make it digital.

If you do not have access to a camera, you can sketch out an image on paper and scan it or perhaps find a suitable image by doing a Google image search or finding a web site that offers free images.

NOTE: The larger the image you create or find, the better!

NOTE: Please keep in mind that you may run into rights issues using images created by others. If at all possible, use a camera. You won't have to worry about using the image, you can be more creative and you have more control over how your graphic turns out. The important thing is to have some sort of digital reference to use while creating your graphic.

If possible, first take your image into Photoshop and set it to the desired color mode (CMYK for printing/RGB for web) that you need your final product to be. This is not crucial, because you can set the mode of your final product in Illustrator, but you will have an easier time matching colors if the image is in the correct color mode. I find I get the best results by saving images from Photoshop as .TIFFs before placing them into Illustrator.

After opening Illustrator, create a new blank document, and then select FILE>PLACE in your menu and browse your computer to find your image.

Your image will be "placed" into the Illustrator document.






In your LAYERS PALETTE, click on the fly-out menu (small circle with the arrowhead in it) and a menu will appear. Choose TEMPLATE.






This will cause the image to be set at a lower opacity, which will help you to see what you are doing, and will LOCK the layer.






Create a NEW LAYER, by clicking on the CREATE NEW LAYER icon at the bottom of the LAYERS PALETTE. This is the layer you will create your artwork on.






We will use the PEN TOOLImagefrom the TOOLBAR to create the new graphic.

If you have a FILL color, turn it off and set the STROKE color to black.






Begin drawing on the new layer you created following the major lines of the TEMPLATE image.

Think of drawing with the PEN TOOL like playing connect-the-dots when you were a kid and trace the major components of the image.

Think of the shapes the image forms and use the CONVERT ANCHOR POINT TOOLImageto shape your paths.






Continue this process. Concentrate on the major shapes and make complete closed paths wherever possible.

At this point, don't worry too much if your paths overlap one another. You can fix this later by adding FILL colors and letting the objects overlap and cover one another where you need to. I generally tend to work on one layer and arrange the stacking order of objects using the arrangement options under OBJECT>ARRANGE>... You can also create layers for each of the objects and arrange them that way.

TIP: Don't be afraid to simplify! You are creating your own artwork and often times a simpler drawing will communicate much better.

Here's my example after I have drawn all of the shapes in the glass and clicked on the "eyeball" in the TEMPLATE layer to turn the layer off:






Now begin to FILL each shape with color, gradients, etc... based on the TEMPLATE.

Here's my rough finished art.






Here's the art work with a more stylized look based on some of the tips on this site!






TIP: Notice on the insides of the glass that I just used shapes for the shadows and highlights and removed the strokes.

TIP: While you are filling your objects with color, you can switch to OUTLINE MODE by selecting VIEW>OUTLINE (make a note of the KEY COMMAND in the menu to toggle between views) and you will see lines that represent your paths and you will be able to see the template so you can match colors.

Remember, you are creating your OWN artwork with these techniques and you can make your artwork as simple, complex, realistic or artistic as you desire.

Start out simple and artistic like the example below and work your way into more complex drawings!







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