This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

The many advantages of drawing with vectors

I've always loved to draw, ever since I was a little kid, and when I grew up I discovered vectors. Since I liked to draw comic book characters, I researched how they did it (yeah, I was a nerdy little kid). What I found out surprised me, and it's still the same technique that I use to this day, with the only difference being trading an ink pen for vector lines.

At a very early age, I started noticing that credit was given in the comic books to four people, the writer, the letterer, the inker, and the penciler. The writer I understood, and the letterer, but I was puzzled as to why there were two people who did the drawings?

What I discovered is that there are two stages to creating a drawing for a comic book - the first one was done with pencil, and the second step is to go over the pencil lines with ink. The ink made for a much sharper image that was easier to reproduce on paper, and it was done using either a very fine brush, or a pen. I could never learn to control a brush like that (it's amazing that some people can!), but I taught myself to use an ink pen. I started out with the type that you dip in ink, and eventually I graduated to a Radiograph pen (a technical pen). And then Adobe Illustrator was invented, and I discovered vectors.

The main advantage that I found to "inking" my artwork with a computer was that there was no chance of spilling ink. You could also go back and reshape the lines (can't do that with ink!). Yes, learning a vector program, like Adobe Illustrator, is very difficult, but for me it was worth it. It's still the main reason that I have a Macintosh computer, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Another major advantage to using vectors is that you never have to think of resolution. If you're working in a raster program, like Photoshop, of course you do. You need to find out, in advance, what the pixel dimensions will need to be at the largest size that it will be displayed, or printed. I can do that kind of math, but it makes my head hurt, and you don't even need to think about that with a vector program, you just start drawing. If a client needs me to save the drawing as a jpeg, I can export it to any pixel dimensions that they want, with no loss of sharpness. One of my cartoons could be printed on a skyscraper, and it would be razor-sharp, because it's created with vectors.

So, no spilled ink, easily-reshaped lines, no resolution constraints, can it get better? Yes, the color is brilliant, and it's easy to make modifications. If a client wants me to change the color of the dog from yellow to purple, I just open up the file, touch on the vector shape of that color, and click, it's done.

If you've never heard of vectors, and are tempted to learn about them, I encourage you. They sound all scientific and scary, but really, they just make drawing cartoons easier, once you learn the program.

Cartoon at the top of this post: drawn in pencil, "inked" in Adobe Illustrator. Go to my website to see more.