Line Art Basics
Create the outlines with the Bezier tool.Follow the contours closely, but don't worry about imperfections. These are easily corrected afterwards with the Node tool. Zoom in closely and move every node that is astray to its correct position.
You should have no open shapes in your vector drawings. If you want to create professional illustrations, you must check your work for open paths. Just line shapes are OK, but make sure that no fill is assigned then. Some vector stock sites will reject vector illustrations that contain open paths if there is a fill assigned.
The weight of a stroke determines the thickness of the line art. For dynamic looking artwork the outline is drawn with variations in weight. However, in this illustration I want clean lines and I use a standard stroke weight. There are 2 ways to do the outlines:
- draw a shape and give it both stroke and fill
- draw the shape, duplicate it (Ctrl + D), give one object just a fill, the other just a stroke and arrange them in the right order via menu Object > Raise | Lower | Raise to Top | Lower to Bottom (or use the following keys: Page Up | Page Down | Home | End).
It really depends on the type of illustration that you try to create which method is most suitable. The 2nd method allows to create a single outline at the top layer, by combining the seperate paths into one (menu Path > Combine). Please keep in mind that open paths should NOT have a fill. In this tutorial I will mix both methods, as I want different outline colours for my shapes.
There is another benefit of having the outline on a seperate layer, especially if the stroke has some weight: there is no reason to be very accurate with the fills, as the outline will hide any imperfections.
There are a few ways to make your shapes exactly to fit. An example: the shading on the arms is not to go outside of the the arms. It would involve quite some work to redraw the shape to follow the contour of the arm exactly again. But this is exactly where we can use boolean operations:
- draw the shape for shading, no need to be accurate near the outline
- make a duplicate of the shape that will receive the shading (Ctrl+D)
- select both the duplicate and the shading. Select "Intersection" from the Path menu. The shading will be cut exactly to follow the outline of the shape.
An alternative is to use a top object as a clipping path. Use the same technique as described above to create a duplicate of the object that determines the resulting shape. Select all objects that need to be clipped, as well as the duplicated shape. Use Object > Clip > Set to clip to shape. Note: a clipping path is applied to the object, and this may cause unexpected results when further path operations are applied, but it is a very quick way to clip multiple objects to shape.
Organise your work in Layers
Organise your work in layers. In general, my coloured line art illustrations have a minimum of 3 layers: background, colour, lineart. But more layers may be added, depending on complexity of the work. Give your layers logical names. Check on which layer you are working, the active layer is displayed in the status bar at the bottom of the screen.
Move object across layers
Note if you have objects on different layers, you can arrange them across layers through the Layer menu:
- Move selection to Layer Above (Shift + Page Up)
- Move selection to Layer Below (Shift + Page Down)
You can prevent accidental move / selection of objects in layers by locking the layer. Just click the small lock that that is shown next to a layer's name in the layer manger to lock / unlock a layer.