AxoTools now includes an Axo Shear tool that will allow you to shear artwork that’s already been projected onto an axonometric plane. It functions similar to Adobe’s Shear tool in that its default anchor point is the center of the selection, but you can click to place the anchor anywhere you’d like.
The plugin will display a cube annotation with one of the three axonometric faces highlighted. Simply tap the Alt/Option key to choose the plane you’re working on. Drag to shear the art, and the current shear angle will be shown near the cursor. Press the Shift key while dragging to constrain the shear to increments of 15°.
To shear art numerically on a projected plane, Alt/Option click on a location for the anchor point of the operation. In the dialog box that appears, fill in the shear amount, the axis angle to shear on, and the face upon which to shear.
The new tool is available in the current version of AxoTools for Adobe Illustrator 2019 – 2022. You can download it here for either Mac or Windows.
Measuring and then entering distances and angles can be a lot of busywork, which AxoTools Measure tool can help streamline. Just click and drag with the Measure tool. These values are entered into the AxoTools Information panel as measured on your artboard in orthographic projection, as well as the three axonometric planes of your current document projection, plus the depth axis of any currently-defined auxiliary projection.
In addition, many of the text fields in AxoTools panels have shortcuts to import values from that panel. For example, you can drag the tool along an edge of an extrude art object to measure its length and angle. Then in the Extrude panel, double-click the Distance and Angle field labels to automatically enter the last-measured values, then simply click the Extrude button. It’s so fast and easy, it almost feels like we’re cheating!
The double-click trick also works for the Projection panel’s X and Z axis fields and the Transformation panel’s Extrude distance field. To auto-enter values into the Transformation’s Move/Rotate field, just type an “a” for angle or “d” for distance as appropriate for your current operation. In the transformation panel’s two fields, you can also type “=” to toggle the value between positive and negative.
You may want to measure the difference between two angles on an axonometric drawing. Using Illustrator’s built-in Measure tool, you would measure one angle, write down the result, measure another angle, write down that result, then do the math to find the difference, and it would still only be accurate for the flattened view. AxoTools’ Measure tool can work as an axonometric protractor — just click on an anchor point, then drag between two points. You’ll see the corresponding angle from your axonometric plane.
Now you can also now do simple math operations in many of AxoTools’ panels’ fields. For example, you can enter “.25 in + 2mm” and the Extrude panel will calculate the equivalent distance in your current document ruler units (e.g., 23.6693 pt). You can also do math on angles, such as “90 – 32.48” for “57.52°.” Division is done with a “/” character and multiplication with a “*” character.
You can download AxoTools and try it out with 1,000 trial operations. It’s on sale for 1/3 off through May 2022, with annual subscriptions 1/2 off, starting as low as $5!
Wrangling those oddball oblique angles just got a lot easier!
If you do technical illustrations or just work in isometric, you’ve probably struggled with surfaces that don’t lie on any of the isometric planes. AxoTools’ Transformations panel helps coerce orthographic art into any series of known rotations, but now you have a tool to help place your flat art onto surfaces at oddball angles. Tame those angled walls and tilted panels!
The new Auxiliary Projection panel helps you determine the projection of a path that’s been twisted into something resembling a parallelogram at any angle. With it, you can flatten the oblique art back to an orthographic view, project orthographic art to fit the oblique projection, extrude and move art along the projection’s axes, and draw new matching art following the auxiliary projection’s axis angles.
AxoTools comes with a thousand free trial uses that you can use at your leisure to download and try it out.
For current users, this is a free update. Through May 2022, regular licenses are 1/3 off and annual licenses 1/2 off, starting at only $5.00!
Available for Adobe Illustrator CC 2019 through 2022, Mac or Windows.
AxoTools 23.0.2 adds a new tool that acts as both an axonometric ruler as well as a protractor. It allows you to measure distances and angles in any of the three axonometric axes, scaled for the foreshortening factor of that plane, whether its projection is isometric, dimetric, or trimetric. Measurements are displayed for all axo planes as well as orthographic.
The tool is automatically constrained along your current axonometric axes, or press Shift to constrain to the nearest 45°, or press Alt/Option for no constraints at all.
In the Info panel, choose a set of measurements to display, or choose “Auto” to let the tool guess what you’re measuring based on the direction you drag the mouse. Choose “All” to see all results in fields where you can copy values to paste elsewhere.
To use the tool, simply click and drag to measure a distance and an angle. To measure the difference between two angles on an axonometric plane, click once to set an anchor point, then drag an arc from one point to another.
The free update is available for Adobe Illustrator CC 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.
With the latest update to AxoTools, you can enter measurements in whatever units you’re comfortable with. Here’s an example:
Say your document ruler units is set to inches, but you need to extrude something to a distance you have in mm. Illustrator supports that within the app, but it’s not automatically there for plugins. Measurement fields in AxoTools now do that conversion for you. I really hadn’t planned at first on adding that — there’s a back story here.
First, all art in Adobe Illustrator is measured internally in points. Fortunately, Adobe’s interface for plugins includes a function that takes measurements from text typed by the user in the current ruler units and converts it to a numeric value calculated as points. Then another function converts numeric point values used within the plugin to text that plugins can give back to the user, calculated and formatted using their current ruler units. That’s great, but there are a lot of users in other parts of the world that use a comma as a decimal separator. Fortunately, Adobe added a variation of these functions that support international number formats. Unfortunately, the one that parses text with commas in decimals doesn’t see the commas, and the values get multiplied by ten, a hundred, or a thousand! Adobe’s bug became my bug.
To support my European customers, I wrote a function that parses the numbers typed, and honors commas as decimal separators, and wondered “Why not look at the units specified, as well?” All values need to be converted to points anyway for the plugin to work with, so it wasn’t a great leap code-wise.
As an extension of that, I wrote a function to convert values back to text with a caveat of my own. In AxoTools’ Draw Settings panel, users can specify standard stroke weights, but we don’t all use points for strokes — many use mm. Stroke measurements have little to do with our current ruler units, so the plugin lets you specify pt or mm, does the math when needed, then remembers your preference to always display it your way.
It can be frustrating dealing with bugs, but sometimes bugs can become butterflies!
If you do much freehand drawing with the pencil tool, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the Illustrator 25.3 update with the new canvas rotation feature. In preliminary testing, most Graffix plugins seem to work fine, with one notable exception.
In AxoTools under macOS Mojave, some panel controls such as dials, the Projection panel’s proxy cube, and the list in the Transformations panel appear blank. I’ll address these as soon as possible, but it will likely have to wait an update to the CORE libraries these plugins are based on. If this affects you, you may want to either update your OS or hold off on updating to AI 25.3, or also keep a second older version of Illustrator on your hard drive for when you need to use those AxoTools controls.
Compatibility with Apple’s new M1 processors is also expected in a new CORE update, but no availability date is available.
AxoTools is not a 3D application, but tries to assist illustrators in achieving a 3D look the best it can. Simple shapes are pretty straightforward, but complicated shapes can wind over and under each other like an Escher drawing. In that case, AxoTools evaluates the paths and makes its best guess on correctly stacking the pieces.
When a path is extruded, AxoTools creates closed paths for fillable areas and open paths of multiple stroke weights. To make things more easily edited, the pieces are organized into groups. In the Layers panel, you can expand these groups to find the pieces you may want to edit. Compound paths contain elements nested inside of other elements, so things get a bit more complex.
The front surface is named as a “cap,” and is placed above all of the edge pieces. The edges, which give it depth, are divided into surfaces. Each surface is composed of fillable “panels,” stroked “paths” that follow the original path’s shape, and “connector” pieces for corners that connect the front cap to the rear cap (the rear cap and hidden surfaces may or may not be drawn depending on your Extrude panel settings).
This is not an animation, but a screen recording right out of Adobe Illustrator! Each face of this dodecahedron is a live Transformation object created from the same pentagon shape, with movements and rotations added in the AxoTools Transformations panel.
Sure, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need a shape like this, but we often need art rotated away from our usual three planes. This demonstrates how, whether it’s a skylight, an instrument panel, or graphics on a milk carton, that task is now a whole lot easier!
You can download this file from the link at the end of this post and with AxoTools installed, even in demo mode, examine how this crazy “disco ball” was built.
Each facet is made from a pentagonal path, turned into a live object that specifies its movements and rotations. The orientation is set relative to the current AxoTools projection, so in the AxoTools Projection panel you can adjust the settings with the dial controls to see the dodecahedron rotate as a unit in real time!
When Ron Kempke built this, he used his math superpowers to determine the angles and offsets.
But fear not! For those who would rather not break out a scientific calculator, it’s possible to let Illustrator do most of the heavy lifting. First, make a copy of your base pentagon to create some guide art. Imagine the dodecahedron as two “tulip” shapes placed face-to-face. We know that the shape across the “shoulders” of the tulip would be equal to five segments equal to the width across the base pentagon. That will allow us to draw a top view of the shape.
The offset from the base pentagon to the section at the shoulders tell us the foreshortening of the slope of each “pedal.” Draw vertical guides this distance apart. Draw a vertical line from the base of the pentagon to the height of its shoulders. Rotate this line until its width matches the offset distance in the top view. Measure the angle of this line (26.56° in this case) for use in the Transformation objects later. Draw a horizontal guide at the top of this rotated line.
Copy the pentagon and rotate the copy 180°, then position it so each pentagon’s tip and shoulders match as shown below. Select the pentagons and scale them vertically, using the foreshortened height of the rotated line as a guide.
This art, of course, isn’t a real side view, since the upper and lower pieces would be horizontally scaled and sheared differently. We’re only interested in finding the foreshortened vertical dimensions in order to create our Transformation objects.
With these principles in mind, click the link below to download Ron’s file and examine the settings in each piece.