Illustrators all over the world have been creating amazing work with AxoTools. You can see a sampling of them in the new AxoTools Gallery. Many thanks to all who contributed. One of the entries is shown below.
Library book shelf modules, Vladivostok, Russia
These bookshelves in the form of Cyrillic letters were designed by Egor Chistyakov. He started with the shelf front surface as a compound path, then extruded with multiple line weights and shaded color. Shadows and other details were added.
The purpose of AxoTool’s Zone tool is not intuitively obvious, and most of the time you really won’t even need it. Here’s an example of a situation, though, where it’s really helpful. Say you want to move the chimney in the isometric view away from the house, using “move by reference” where you drag in the corresponding right ortho view. This function only works when reference points are enabled (you set this in AxoTools’ preferences, or more easily with the icon in the Projection panel).
Select the Axo Tool, which is used for moving art along various axes, and for editing reference points.
With this tool selected, reference points will be visible. Note the locations of the left and right reference points (see the online docs for instructions on locating reference points). Select the chimney art that you want to move, then drag horizontally in the right view as indicated by the arrow.
But look what happens when you drag. The art moves the wrong direction!
Why is that? By default, the tool senses that the closest reference point is the left one, so it assumes that must be the view you’re dragging in. The solution is the use the Zone tool to draw rectangles around the left and right ortho views, as shown here.
After each zone is drawn, just click the button in the dialog to indicate which zone you defined.
With left and right zones defined, and the Axo tool again selected, drag in the right view and it correctly moves the art along the axis you had intended.
You don’t need to define zones for every view, only those where the problem described here is likely to happen. Leaving more space between views will also help avoid this situation, but then it’s nice to have your ortho views close enough that you can see where things line up. For best results, be sure you’re using the latest version of AxoTools, 184.108.40.206.
Sometimes we need to create a projected drawing to fit a particular space. Many of us know the sinking feeling of finding too late that our usual projection (think isometric) just doesn’t fit, and we either live with an orientation that looks like a mistake or we start over. Fortunately AxoTools makes it easy to find out ahead of time what projection is likely to work for us.
An example of dodging that bullet is a cutaway drawing of a steam locomotive I did for Trains magazine’s special publication on Union Pacific’s newly-restored “Big Boy” locomotive no. 4014.
It had to fit into a 3-page foldout, 24.5×11 inches, with room for a headline on the left side and additional information somewhere on the right. I immediately imagined the head in the upper left, with the locomotive facing the lower-left corner. Oh oh. The only detailed reference drawings we had, from the company’s Steam Locomotive Cyclopedia, showed the right side of the locomotive. The two sides are a bit different, so we can’t just reflect it.
This locomotive is a monster, so I couldn’t risk going too far down the wrong road. In addition to the company’s own previously-published scale drawings, they had some detailed shop drawings from the Union Pacific Railroad itself, so there were strong advantages to drawing it to a real scale (with CADtools) rather than just stretching one reference drawing to fit. Since any axonometric drawing will be foreshortened to some extent, I tried a scale of 3/16″ = 1 foot. For the sake of planning, I placed a rough scanned image in the artboard, then tried various projections.
As I expected, isometric wouldn’t work well at all.
Dimetric with angles of 15 and 45 degrees seemed to work better, but you’ll need to repeat these steps with the top and end views to be sure if there’s really room for them.
AxoTools offers an interactive alternative to the trial-by-error approach, which takes all three faces into account. Position placeholders for the three planes like surfaces of a cardboard box, and note the corner where they all meet.
Select the top view and, in the Transformations, panel, click “Create Transformation Object.” With the Axo (move) tool, click in the corner where the three views meet to set its anchor there. Next choose the orientation Axo Top-Left or Axo Top-Right as is appropriate for your drawing. Your art will immediately conform to your current document projection in the Projection panel.
Now do the same for the left and right views, placing the anchor in the common point and setting their orientation to Axo Left and Axo Right.
Now select the three faces and choose the menu item View > Hide Edges. In the Projection panel you can try different preset projections from the menu at the bottom of the panel, or for more fine-tuned results, change values in the axes or tilt/turn values, or drag the dial controls to find your best settings.
Now that you’ve established a projection that will fit, you can delete the placeholder art and begin drawing and projecting your final art with confidence.
First, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the AxoTools survey. The meaningful comments are already making a difference in AxoTools’ features and documentation.
The most surprising thing was the number of users who wanted to extrude horizontally for a stylized drawing such as this one by Dörte Roßmann.
That seems like a natural thing for AxoTools to do, but we can’t forget that the plugin’s core function is to help illustrators work in views like isometric, dimetric, and trimetric where we see three surfaces, not two. It has never been a design tool, although there’s nothing wrong with bending the rules a bit to accomplish some design effects as long as it doesn’t hobble the plugin’s primary purpose.
Horizontal extruding has been available using the Extrude panel. Just set the angle to 0 and leave the option to project the art unchecked. That gives you something like this:
If you projected the art with a 0° angle, you’d simply get a rectangle. The reason for this is that the Extrude panel, like the Extrude tool, work in the context of the current projection. If you drag a circle with the Extrude tool while holding the Cmd or Ctl key for a freeform angle, you’ll see that at a horizontal angle, all you see is a side view of your original shape.
To make things easier for people working with horizontal extruding, the Projection panel in the latest free update to AxoTools now supports broader Tilt and Turn values, which allows you to do a full-fledged horizontal extrusion.
Previously, values of 0 or 90 were not allowed for Tilt or Turn because they essentially hid one or even two of the three axonometric planes. Now, using a Tilt value of 0, or Turn value of 0 or 90, will disable the X and Z axis fields because there must be an incline on both axes in order to calculate the tilt and turn — in a case like this, the turn value is ambiguous. A Tilt value of 90 is essentially a top axo view, so Tilt is limited to 89°.
It’s important to understand, too, that at projections where the X and Z axes overlap, horizontal extruding is always on the X axis, so using the Extrude tool, the edges always drag out to the left. Can that be “fixed” to allow horizontal extruding to the right? Well, yes, if we add complications to an interface that some people say is already way too complicated. A workaround is that, with a Tilt value of 0, the Extrude panel extends your path to the left, while with other Tilt values, the panel extends it to the right.
In response to user requests, you can now press Shift when dragging with the Extrude tool to constrain to right angles. That won’t give you the above effect, though, because it’s constraining a freeform extrude. That is, it’s calculating what that shape looks like within your current projection, not a shadow effect.
If you truly want to go completely independent of the document’s current projection, you can always use the Transformations panel, which allows you to rotate and extrude your art in any orientation you like, be it upside-down or even backward.
You may have seen a recent video summarizing methods to use multiple line weights in your illustrations.
It’s probably helpful to go into a bit more detail and show more examples.
Using a single line weight (or “stroke width” as it applies to Illustrator’s path art property) is a simple and efficient way to work.
By using more than one line weight, however, your illustrations can have more interest and suggest form.
One method assumes a light source in the upper left. Here edges facing away from the light are given a heavier weight. This was the standard where I worked at Kalmbach Publishing Co. in the 1970s. My mentors there told me it was adopted from a standard for US Patent Office drawings. It was easy to apply using pen and ink, but when they switched from Rapidograph pen to Adobe Illustrator in the 1990s, they switched to a single line weight. Adobe Illustrator, unfortunately, doesn’t lend itself well to multiple line weights, especially if the path is filled.
Here’s an example of an illustration I did using the “Kalmbach” method, drawn in ink at 1.5 times reproduction size. Detail lines were drawn with a 4×0 Rapidograph pen, and the heavy lines were probably a no. 0 or 1 pen. In those days, we typically cut an Amberlith overlay to add a flat tint to the background, which helped separate the subject from the background.
A more common method called “line contrast shading” used in exploded-view parts drawings uses heavier lines on all outside edges of objects. In this example, the bottom of the cube and cylinder are thin lines because they represent the joint between two surfaces. A heavy line would suggest the objects float above the other art. In the case of the round hole, a varied line width makes a smooth transition between the front- and rear-facing edges. Complex illustrations can use three or four line weights. Standards are more like guidelines, actually, that vary between people and between businesses, often based largely on the personal preference of someone with experience and/or influence.
Greg Maxson drew these filter illustrations with pen-and-ink on Mylar for Hyster Co. back in the late 80’s. He explained, “You could really get lost in the detail with pen-and-ink. Lines within an object are thin, exterior object lines are heavier, and exterior object lines that are down and away from the light source are heavier and darker still. The heavying up of the lines down and away from the light source was typically used when illustrating larger equipment, machinery, etc. to give those objects more visual weight. Appropriate for rendering a bulldozer, but less appropriate for rendering the exploded illustration of an ink pen, for example. Of course, super thin interior object lines were/are common when used to represent less than 90 degree radii, and thin broken lines to represent a highlight along an edge, knurling, screening, etc.”
Greg used a three weight treatment on this Raptor suspension illustrations for Car and Driver magazine.
One more piece by Greg Maxson shows his skill at technical illustration using a variety of software, often including SketchUp, Illustrator, and others. Here he adds clarity to the subject with varied line weights, line colors, sometimes sketchy line treatments, and meaningful shading and textures in filled areas.
When AxoTools adds add multiple line weights, it places stroked paths above non-stroked filled paths so weights can change as needed anywhere along the object without affecting the fill. With a simple click of the Axo Line tool, you can toggle weights between thick and thin as necessary. In the coming months, users can expect to see more refinements in AxoTools handling of stroke properties. Please contact me if you have ideas that can make your work faster or easier.
The technique highlights AxoTools’ project-in-place functionality using reference points for quick, accurate placement, ad well as extruding in an axonometric view, measured from a corresponding distance dragged in a flat ortho view.
This visual approach eliminates tedious measuring or counting of isometric grid units. Try it! If you don’t have AxoTools, you can download it here.
Today I released the first in a series of short videos covering topics relating to AxoTools, both using the plugin and doing technical illustration in general. The first video briefly describes different types of projections for the benefit of those who don’t come from a technical illustration background.
The next in the series will cover how to begin an isometric drawing in AxoTools. Other possible topics may include:
Using multiple line weights (including dashed break lines for curved surfaces) to suggest form and mass
Filling art with white to overlap parts
Using flow lines
Fill modes and other Draw panel options
What is that option to rotate ellipses when projecting?
Using the line tool to draw straight lines and to toggle line weights
Entering simple equations in text fields, plus auto-entry of measurements
Use the Extrude tool to draw a drop shadow (but never for an oblique projection!)
What’s the difference between the Transformations panel and Auxiliary projection panel?
Using the Measure tool
How does Project-in-Place work?
What are the Axo Zone tool and Projection Zones for?
If you have other suggestions for short video subjects, please leave a comment below!
AxoTools Qukck Tip: Projections
I’d like to thank Ron Kempke, AxoTools’ co-author, as well as Matt Jennings of Industrial Artworks, and Greg Maxson of Greg Maxson Illustration for the use of their illustrations and advice in getting this video series started.