I was recently contacted by Iván Gómez about doing videos on my plugins. Iván is a certified Adobe instructor in Columbia who has done many other videos on various aspects of Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, which are available on YouTube. He chose to do a video on AxoTools, which is very informative. I have an AxoTools video in progress also, but it won’t be available until after the next AxoTools update featuring a few new tools.
If you’re interested in AxoTools, please watch this as it demonstrates some important concepts:
Overview of isometric, dimetric, and trimetric projections
Setting and changing the orientation of your projection
Placing and moving common reference points
Projecting using buttons in the panel, using menus, or custom keyboard shortcuts
Moving objects in the axonometric view by dragging in an orthographic view
Using the AxoDraw tool to draw constrained lines
Using the AxoScale and AxoRotate tools to modify projected art
Viewers can also benefit from a coupon code shown in the video, good for 20% off any Graffix plugins during August 2020.
Thanks, Iván, for doing the video I must confess I should have done months ago!
The newer, larger, higher-resolution displays are certainly a wonderful development for every illustrator and designer. For plugin developers, it also means we have to create icons and images used in the UI at several sizes including 100%, 150%, 200%, 400%, etc. Unfortunately, there’s no direct support for displays running under Windows that work at 125%. The problem is that panels display at 125%, but the controls within it are still scaled at 100%.
One workaround is to simply set your display to 100% in the Windows Setting > System > Display. This makes the few problematic panels display correctly, but this probably isn’t the setting you want for everything you do on your PC.
Another option is to override the DPI setting only for Illustrator. To do this, locate the Illustrator.exe app in the Programs folder, right-click its icon, and select Properties. In the Properties window, select the Compatibility tab, then click the button to Change high DPI settings. In this window, check “Override high DPI scaling behavior.” The interface isn’t as sharp as it would otherwise be, but some users may find this an improvement until a better method is available.
A better option for many is to let Adobe Illustrator take care of it. This dialog usually has a slider for UI scaling, where the smallest setting usually works best. If yours has the two radio buttons as shown here, set Illustrator’s User Interface preference to Scale to Higher Supported Scale Factor. With this setting, you won’t have to mess with the compatibility settings or deal with a blurred interface. If you normally have your display set to 125%, this can be very helpful.
If you have any tips to share, please submit them!
Coercing one shape to fit over another is fairly simple when everything is at right angles, but too often I found that’s just not the geometry we’re dealt. For those times, I added some new functionality to the Transform tool in the ToolShed plugin collection.
Say you need to add more detail to an object and have a scanned image to trace, but the image is out of proportion and your art is at some random angle. No problem! First, move the scanned image so some point matches the art you’re aligning it with.
Rotate the scanned image so that the centerlines align, then Option- or Alt-click the anchor point to set a custom anchor for ToolShed’s Transform tool.
Holding down the Option or Alt key to force scaling to use your anchor point, adjust the bounding box’s horizontal and vertical handles so that your images align.
If the bounding box of your raster object isn’t aligned with the axis of the image itself, no problem. Hold Option or Alt and rotate the axis where you want them. Now you can size the object without the hassle of measuring the angle and setting a custom constrain angle in Illustrator’s preferences.
And it works on any Adobe Illustrator art object that can be scaled or rotated, not just images. Now it’s easier than ever to get your geometry to align! Download ToolShed and try it out with the 1,000 free trial uses. That’s right, a thousand, and they don’t expire after some too-short period that seems to expire just before you have time to really test it! It’s only $15 for more tools than you can count on both hands.
All Graffix plugins for Adobe Illustrator are now optimized for Illustrator 2020 for both Mac and Windows, and available for download, with the exception of ServerLock. That update is in progress. IsoTool is not updated, but its functions are now built into AxoTools — The drawing tool from IsoTool will continue to work for free in AxoTools without licensing.
I’m happy to report that all Graffix plugins (except for ServerLock, for now) are notarized for use with macOS 10.15 Catalina, Apple’s new all 64-bit OS. This applies only to plugins compiled for Illustrator 2019 and 2020.
In the meantime, here’s a workaround for older versions and — temporarily — for ServerLock. I won’t go so far as to say that I recommend this, but both have worked for me and for other users.
One of my favorite tools in Adobe Illustrator is the Free Transform tool, but it does have a few quirks in more recent versions of Illustrator. Say you have a shape made of two rectangles, one of which is rotated 90° from the other, and both rotated some random small amount. With one rectangle selected while using Adobe’s Free Transform Tool, all is well.
Now select the second rectangle and the bounding box is no longer rotated with the selection.
With ToolShed’s new Transform tool, the bounding box is always rotated to match the topmost object, so you can transform these rectangles as though they were one object. One way around this would be to use the Square Up plugin to square the objects along their dominant axis, but that’s now an unnecessary step.
If you press the shift key while rotating, ToolShed’s Transform tool will rotate only the bounding box, which makes it easy to stretch your art along any angle you wish!
Using Adobe’s Free Transform tool, I often grab the handle on a side to stretch it a bit taller or wider, but then it goes all cattywompus. Using the Free Transform tool on more recent versions of Illustrator requires us to first lock proportions by clicking an icon in another tiny palette that, it seems, is always hidden behind other panels. In addition, grabbing a corner to rescale it often seems to rotate the art instead of scaling it. Ain’t nobody got time for that! ToolShed’s Transform tool doesn’t skew and doesn’t rotate from a corner, so for most purposes, you can work more quickly and with fewer surprises.
Remember, you can download ToolShed and try it out with a thousand trial uses that don’t expire before you have a chance to seriously test it. They don’t expire at all!
ToolShed has a new function to fade the fill and/or stroke of a path object. Its appearance would be similar to an object whose opacity has been changed except that the opacity remains unchanged. Only the colors are lightened.
If the object had previously been faded, you can check “Invert fade” to darken the colors , equivalent to undoing a previous fade long after Undo no longer appeared in the Edit menu. Fade is added to the FREE functions of the plugin, and will continue to work even if the plugin is never activated.
This function can be called by selecting Fade… from the Object menu.
You can download it here. Each trial period includes 1,000 free uses of all features which you can use at your leisure, with no time constraints.
If you create technical illustrations, you probably use CADtools. I use it, and wouldn’t consider doing the work that I do without it. There are times, however, when I wish I had tools that are a little less technical and let me work more visually. Then again, I still need precision, especially when it comes to getting the pieces of a technical drawing correctly oriented to each other. I have drawings, of course, that show these spatial relationships in top and side views, but how does one translate that to Illustrator artwork?
I established a couple of rules for my plan. OK, guidelines, but firm guidelines. I really don’t want to measure things and type numbers into dialogs. Even worse, I don’t want to then have to do math on those measurements to account for foreshortening and other factors. Over time, a method of achieving this slowly took shape.
It all hit critical mass when I met Ron Kempke. Actually, he found me, asking if I could write a plugin that simplified entering into Illustrator the equations he’d worked out over decades of doing technical drawings. His samples were definitely cool, but it was a real stretch for me to grasp the meaning of Sigma, Psi, Beta, Gamma, and an assortment of Greek characters he used to define these concepts. After a few conversations and exchanges of annotated diagrams, it looked pretty hopeful for translating those equations into C++ code, then wrapping a user interface around it to let illustrators like lazy me use the math without having to think about it. And not just for isometric, but for any off-axis view one may want.
The gist of the idea is that illustrators identify common reference points in each view of their drawings that refer to the same point in 3D space as well as a point in the axonometric view that’s comprised of those drawings. As a result, we can make some otherwise cumbersome things happen quite easily.
Artwork projected to a corresponding plane can be created in place so that the adjoining surfaces automatically meet where they should.
Artwork can be created wherever it’s convenient, then moved or modified by dragging a tool a corresponding distance and direction on an ortho view.
When one reference point is moved, all other reference points are automatically moved accordingly so relationships between them last.
A few other tools are included to round out the package:
Axo Rotate tool allows you to rotate an object within the axonometric plane it’s in. The tool displays a protractor for that plane, and allows you to press Shift to constrain the rotation to increments of 15 degrees.
Axo Scale tool can scale an object along the X, Y, or Z axis.
Axo Draw tool draws lines constrained to the current axes, automatically concatenating them as you go.
The Axo Tool that defines and moves reference points also moves selected art or individual anchor points constrained to the nearest axis.
I have too many panels hogging my screen space, so I don’t want to add still more. No problem, you can collapse the panel to just the projection options and do your projections with menu commands.
Navigating menus is too slow, and I want to work quickly. No problem, part of the purpose of having menu counterparts is to enable keyboard shortcuts. This makes the process very quick!
Scrolling around a large artboard between the various views is cumbersome with or without AxoTools. No problem, AxoTools adds menus for quickly going to any of your defined views, and using keyboard shortcuts, that’s now very fast.
Can I define my axonometric view in CADtools and use AxoTools to project and position my art? Yes, AxoTools can import the axonometric settings from CADtools 11.01 or later. AxoTools was designed to complement CADtools by providing a more fluid way to work, alongside the precision of CADtools.
Can AxoTools export my projected art to a 3D file format? Sorry, no, AxoTools is not real 3D for Adobe Illustrator, but its tools for projecting and moving art make it a lot easier for technical illustrators who need to think 3D in a 2D environment.
AxoTools is now available on the plugin download page, available for Illustrator CS6 and CC for Mac and Windows. I hope you find it as indispensable in your workflow as I find it in mine!