A man (well, woman, I guess) after my own heart!
What would you like to know first? ;-)
I assume that you already understand isometric construction as done on the board?
If so, how long, and mainly what kind of subject matter (furniture, automotive, aviation)?
Do you know how to construct simple and compound rotations with an isometric protractor?
Do you understand the geometric principles of why isometric works? (Ex: The geometric significance of the iso angle 35'16"?)
Have you ever constructed dimetric or trimetric drawings?
What is your experience (beginner, intermediate, expert) with Illustrator?
Are you married to Illustrator for this purpose?
Hi JET -
Up until about 8 years ago I would have considered myself an expert in Illustrator and almost expert in ISODraw. But then I took a job in Security at Los Alamos National Lab doing what I had done in the Air Force. Now I'm trying to get back into Technical Illustration and find I only vaguely recall how I drew my iso illustrations. Talk about embaressed. That and the fact that the software has evolved so much is really frustrating. Which is why I'm searching for anything that can help me "remember" how I did things.
I hope I'm not violating forum rules - but you can find samples of my past work in my portfolio at
http://sharepoint.sharonld.com/Technical_Illustration_Portfolio/Dufur_Portfolio.pdf. It requires Adobe Reader 9 for proper viewing. Since I started out with board, t-square, & triangle and adapted what I knew to the "new" software programes as they came out I'm really not sure I can answer your questions about the isometric protractor and the geometric principles that make iso work. I know the angles required for a proper iso but can't remember exactly how I drew them. Which is - as I said - embaressing. I know the difference between an iso projection and an iso drawing and I vaguely remember using the scale, shear, and rotation tools alot. Oh - and being able to measure lines as I drew them - or was that in ISODraw?
I'm experamenting with Illustrator CS4 now but I was really hoping for info already printed that I could work with and not have to "re-invent" the wheel so to speak. Which is why I asked in my OP if anyone knew if the Illustrator CS4 WOW Book contained the Chapter on Isometric systems someone in another thread said was in the CS3 WOW Book. I'm desperatly searching for work but full time technical illustrator jobs that don't require knowledge of CAD are few and far between. So I'm trying to get back up to speed as quickly as possible for the jobs that are available. If that makes since. While Illustrator has always been my program of choice (with ISODraw tying for first) I'm willing to learn any vector program that will get me a full time job. Even *gasp* CAD.
So - any help you can give will be greatly appreciated...
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Hi Sharon, nice stuff! if I ever needed a clean drawing, I'd hire you right away. We do some of that, but the dirty way using 3D programs with sketch shaders and vector tracing, complemented by a few additional components. A good way I found to draw at any angle is to create arbitrary guides based on a uniform angled grid. The simplest way of doing that is to use a basic hatch fill on a large object, rotate it to the desired angle using the rotate tool with fill only option, expand it and then convert it into guides. then you simply add a horizontal and vertical grid. If you work in a specific scale, this usually is enough to just let items snap to the grid while you transform them and get some halfway correct perspective. if necessary, you can even move the guides since they are all parralel to begin with. Many perspective elements can also be drawn quite well using blends with the replace spine option, where the spine would be lines and curves previously aligned with the grid. you then only need to expand them and use Pathfinder to clean the overlaps.
I have found some information on this tutorials useful, and probably could work for your projects too
About programs, personally I use still Aldus Freehand for that kind of Isometric (no kidding), but indeed you can do some cool isometric in Illustrator too.
Very nice to meet you. Yep. Your work is right up my alley. We'll probably speak the same language.
Sorry for the delay. I wanted to reply at length. (So I apologize in advance for the length. Will probably take two or three posts.)
First, you're certainly not violating any rules by posting a link to some examples of your work. (It would be great if other newcomers who come here for help were as forthcoming about their experience. Helps tremendously in knowing how--or if--to respond.)
...and find I only vaguely recall how I drew my iso illustrations....Talk about embaressed....I'm searching for anything that can help me "remember" how I did things.
Not to worry. Contrary to common misconception, we "over 40s" don't forget stuff just because we're over 40. We forget stuff because we've done and still do so many different things our brains (not to mention our bosses) "re-prioritize" on-the-fly all the time. De-prioritized stuff just has to be dusted off. It'll all come back to you quickly.
Up until about 8 years ago I would have considered myself an expert in Illustrator and almost expert in ISODraw....I'm experamenting with Illustrator CS4 now...
Good. Then I'll consider you open-minded about drawing software.
...the software has evolved so much...
It really hasn't; not in the areas affecting axonometric drawing. I'm speaking generally here about mainstream drawing programs like Illustrator, not Illustrator alone: It's my eternal frustration that the basic drawing features are just as primitive as they were in the beginning in the mid-to-late 80s. By far, most of the developement has gone toward what I call eye-candy and "paper doily" features--artsy effects and instant-gratification one-click toys that generate complex and too-often inefficient structures.
All the while, practical and clean geometric drawing improvement and sophistication has gone unattended, with just a handful of exceptions.
This has led to a ridiculous state of affairs for mainstream vector drawing programs, all of which should consider full exploitation of geometric accuracy and full-featuredness in an efficient and intuitive interface their foundation--since that's fundamentally what vector drawing with Bezier paths is all about. Sadly, in the Illustrator community especially, you'll find a downright aversion (almost a fear) to anything remotely smacking of even moderately deliberate geometric drawing construction. (Even though Illustrator is used everywhere for techish commercial illustration.) AI-only users will even typically reply to you "It's not for technical illustration! Use a CAD program!"
That blinders-wearing mindset is not nearly so prominate in the Corel Draw, FreeHand, and Canvas communities, even though all these four programs do, for most practical purposes, the same things. A quick run-down of the traditional direct-competitors in Illustrator's general category re techish commercial illustration. (All of these programs can otherwise be used for most everything Illustrator is used for.):
FreeHand was for two decades Illustrator's primary mindshare competitor and functional superior. It was recently acquired by Adobe and killed. It has the best-of-class interface for basic Bezier path drawing and manipulation, and several pertenant geometric advantages, one key of which is a proper ellipse tool that does double-duty for arcs with user-defined start/end points. That tool can be exploited as an axonometric protractor.
Canvas is expressly marketed toward technical/commercial illustration. It's basic Bezier drawing and manipulation interface is closest to FreeHand's among those listed here; not as elegant as FreeHand's but close to it in efficiency. Includes more "CADish" treatment of some of its tools. For example, provides several tool variants to define ellipses and arcs, a proper fillet/chamfer command, etc. Greater mathematical accuracy. Even an object database feature. Understand: Despite Canvas's open inclusion of technical illustrators among the general vector drawing user base (duh!), all of Canvas's considerably more complete feature set is basic, straightforward, stuff that should be germane to all vector drawing apps. Unfortunately, it is also all oriented toward ordinary X,Y orthographic drawing (as is everything in Illustrator, FreeHand, and CorelDraw). But because at least the geometric controls and accuracy are there, they can be manipulated to serve for axonometric construction. Canvas's interactive guides feature is better than Illustrator's SmartGuides.
CorelDraw's feature set (and community) also reflects a recognition of technical-commercial illustration as among the general-purpose vector population, although its "technically" (read "basic geometry")-oriented features treatment is somewhere between that of Illustrator's and Canvas's. Draw's Dynamic Guides feature is superior to Illustrator's SmartGuides, and includes snap increments (!) along its angled construction guides.
Corel long ago acquired Micrografix Designer, and recently merged it with Draw's interface. The result was Corel Designer 12, which feels like a "version of Draw" that is specifically oriented toward technical design and drawing. It includes an actual interface for axonometric construction, which I consider a very nobel treatment despite its stopping short of full-featuredness. (You still have to construct your own workarounds for off-axis simple and compound rotations.) It's a very refreshing program to my mind, demonstrating that mainstream vector drawing interfaces could easily become "taken more seriously" by loosing their "fear" of everything remotely "technical."
Designer has been upgraded to current Corel version X4, and includes an array of CAD/CAE model improrts (and offers additional ones, like CATIA, as additional-purchase options). So essentially, you can do with Corel Designer anything you can do with Draw (which for all practical purposes means anything you can do with Illustrator, FreeHand, Canvas), plus gain an actual, expressed, intentional, believe-it-or-not (!) accommodation for at least basic axonometric construction. Designer thereby represents to my mind the first occurrance of a mainstream so-called "illustration" program having ever escaped its tyrannial orientation of every feature toward the dumb X,Y edges of its page edges. (Which is why I have long argued that all Illustrator-like programs are not illustration programs at all; they are mere graphic design programs which illustrators continually conjole into illustration purposes, for lack of the long-overdue something better.)
You mention looking for new employment: If I were looking to help establish a company's struggling effort to find an affordable and easily-trainable connection between internal working drawings/models and published technical illustration, from a purely functional standpoint I would choose Corel Designer among those above and Illustrator. Its role could be much like that of IsoDraw's at a fraction of the cost.
The ugly truth is, Illustrator is too predominate in the general vector design marketplace, simply as a result of Adobe's mindshare in the graphics world. So its innovation-choking dominance becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy, as people continue to default to it as "the safe bet." Better programs struggle as a result of the fear-to-be-different and fear-to-learn-something-new among the existing user base.
So if you're walking into a shop with an already-established workflow, you'll more likely find Illustrator than the others. But since you've got considerable experience in Illustrator, you should not balk at the prospect of lateraling that experience to another that you find more amenable to axo drawing. Your real asset here is your experience in isometric drawing.
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Illustrator's Deficiencies re Technical Illustration:
Illustrator is the only program among those listed above still lacking these very basic features:
- User-defined drawing scales. (!!)
- Connector lines.
- Reliable grid snaps. (!!)
- Live shape primitives (polygons and ellipses with adjustable geometric parameters after being created) (!!)
- A proper circular arc tool (!!)
Illustrator (and FreeHand) also lacks:
- Simple dimension tools.
- Callout tools.
(I dare say those would be in FreeHand by now, had Adobe not acquired and condemned it.)
Illustrator does have a few very basic interface elements and a few advanced features which can be exploited for axonometric drawing:
- Line Tool: Its dialog alows you to define a path segment numerically in terms of angle and length.
- SmartGuides: Although inferior to similar features in competing programs, its construction guides can be set to your drawing axes.
- Move Dialog: DoubleClicking the main selection tools (white or black pointer) presents a dialog in which you can define a movement in terms of angle and direction.
- Actions: Illustrator's macro recording/playback feature. Can be marginally useful for initially "projecting" (rotating, scaling) flat ortho objects onto the main drawing planes. (This is largely why I asked about your background; beginners commonly think that is all there is to isometric drawing, and don't understand that isometric drawing means drawing directly onto the isometric planes, not "projecting" things drawn in the flat.)
- Pattern Brushes: Can be used to store "adjustable" versions of repeating objects, such as fasteners or terminals. Suffers from some debilitating caveats that have to be worked-around (inability to disallow scaling of strokes and distortion of end tiles).
IsoDraw is still focussed on its entirely too-vertical "engineering/enterprise" marketing orientation. It doesn't even list prices on its website, and even refuses to quote prices straightforwardly over the phone. The kind of programming required for 2D axonometric drawing stopped being "rocket science" decades ago. It's a pity, but If not corrected, I expect its antequated marketing model to lead to its eventual demise. This is a day and age in which quite powerful 3D modeling programs can be had for free. It's way past time for IsoDraw to go mainstream, or give up.
That's the problem with 2D axonometric drawing these days: It's not that it isn't need; it still very much is. It's still as practical as ever. The pity is, since the beginning of the whole personal-computer "revolution" of the early 80s, technical illustration in the US seems to me to have slided continually backward. Most of what passes for product documentation these days is hideous. The infrequent occasions you see attempts at axonometric illustration for parts breakdowns or assembly instructions, they are either replete with drawing error or consist of some painfully ugly flattened view from a 3D CAD/CAE model. In today's computer-on-every-table world, common technical illustration has regressed, not advanced.
I started out with board, t-square, & triangle and adapted what I knew to the "new" software...
EXCELLENT. Because that's what you'll have to do, to varying degrees, with any of the above-mentioned programs. You can do proper axonometric drawing in any of the mainstream, general-purpose vector drawing programs, and you can even do it with reasonable efficiency. But doing so is a continual process of "clever" working-around the X,Y page-edge orientation that--with few exceptions--permeates every feature of the program.
It's far more important to understand the principles of axonometric drawing in general (which you probably do, despite what you think you've forgotten). With that background, you can figure out how to exploit the features that are provided in the program you end up using, and devise the inevitable workarounds.
I'm really not sure I can answer your questions about the isometric protractor...
It's important. Did you not, back in the day, use a plastic isometric template or mylar underlay that consisted of a large isometric ellipse marked off in rotational degrees? Or (better still) did you construct a rotation about one of the isometric axes by projecting from a cirle? For example, if the thrustline of a cylinder was not parallel to your X, Y, or Z axis, how did you determine its correctly proportioned length?
I know the difference between an iso projection and an iso drawing...
EXCELLENT. You understand, then, that you must either:
- Use true measure for the major axes of ellipses and foreshortened measure along the axes (isometric projection). Or...
- Use true measure along the axes and enlarged ellipses (isometric drawing).
If your experience parallels mine, you'll find that, when devising a consistent method in these kinds of general-purpose drawing programs, it turns out that using the first method is more efficient than the second, overall. This is probably opposite of what you did on the board, but I find that, in practice, the software lessens the tedium of scaling along the axes more than it accomodates the otherwise-necessary up-scaling of ellipses.
...vaguely remember using the scale, shear, and rotation tools alot.
Most of the piecemeal instruction you'll find for isometric "tricks" in programs like Illustrator focusses too heavily upon skewing. I consider it one of the dead givaways that the author doesn't really have much axonometric drawing experience. It's part of that "beginner's misconception" I aluded to: As an experienced isometric illustrator, you know that you don't usually draw "in the flat" and then distort it to your iso axes; you draw along your drawing's axes to begin with. In the methods that I've devised, I've found that I almost never resort to skewing. Skewing reqires too many moves, because the skew does not simultaneously scale. Rotating, followed by scaling in one direction, fits the lengths of both axes at once.
Oh - and being able to measure lines as I drew them - or was that in ISODraw?
Probably IsoDraw, if you're otherwise thinking only of Illustrator. The dialog of Illustrator's Line Tool lets you define a single-segment path in terms of angle and length; but unlike other programs, Illustrator's lame Info Palette does not display length/angle as you drag with with the Line Tool. The Info Palette does provide live distance/angle feedback when you drag with the Measure Tool, but that, of course, doesn't create a path. (It's another example of the very poor feature integration and resulting over-complication-to-no-benefit of this program that I'm always raving about.)
Unlike Draw and Designer, Illustrator's SmartGuides feature does not provide distance increment snaps for its angled construction guides. Illustrator's grid feature is limited to square increments; it doesn't provide for defining angled grids. (Turning on Snap To Grid disables SmartGuides anyway.) You can resort to drawing a grid with the Grid Tool and then turning that into pathGuides, or locking it. But in practice, I find it just as efficient (meaning just as inefficient) to rely on the LineTool dialog to establish measures along axes. A one-click Action button can then scale the resulting line to 81.64% (cosine of the iso angle). Once you have the line, you can just drag it about to use it elsewhere as a "measuring stick" when you need to.
- I'm not one for memorizing too much esoterica, probably being discouraged by all of Illustrator's too-numerous keyboard shortcuts. But it's hugely beneficial to memorize a few key measures for isometric drawing:
- 30, 150, 270 degrees (Angles of iso axes.)
- 120 degrees (Separation angle between iso axes.)
- 35.27 (Iso angle--the "tilt" of the isometric cube--as decimal, rather than degrees/seconds; for entering in calc fields.)
- 57.74 (Sine of iso angle, as percentage; therefore the vertical scale factor of a circle on top plane of the iso cube.)
- 81.64 (Cosine of iso angle, as percentage; therefore the scale factor of the front corner edge of the iso cube; therefore the foreshortened measuring scale along all three iso axes.)
- .5 (Sine of 30 degrees; therefore the scale factor for the "rise" of any length along the left and right iso axes [which I call Z and X, respectively]; therefore the half-diagonal of an iso square. It's easy to remember, and sometimes comes in handy).
...but I was really hoping for info already printed that I could work with and not have to "re-invent" the wheel so to speak.
I have yet to see a book or other resource that does an adequately thorough job of explaining axonomentric constuction in the context of Illustrator and similar programs. I have a couple of excellent pre-computer texts on isometric drawing (you may also), but they, of course, don't put things in the software context, don't leverage the few, but significant advantages the software provides, and are generally written in "textbook styles" that make a relatively subject sound more complicated than it is.
Still, for someone with your background, an old textbook may be all you need to refresh your memory; you may find one on Amazon. Once you refresh your memory of the principles, you can most likely recongnize how they can be deployed as you learn the features of whatever drawing software you are using.
Which is why I asked in my OP if anyone knew if the Illustrator CS4 WOW Book contained the Chapter on Isometric systems someone in another thread said was in the CS3 WOW Book.
I've only momentarily thumbed through earlier editions of that book in the bookstore, so am only somewhat familiar with it. As I recall, it's focus is general; a collection of effects and tricks. I'll make a point to take a look at the chapter mentioned next time I have opportunity. It's probably a fine book, so don't take this as a slur; but since axonometric drawing is not the main subject, (though I'd love to discover otherwise) I rather expect a few basic tricks with grids and skew/rotate/scale transforms like those mentioned elsewhere in this thread. That kind of stuff can be found online.
I'm desperatly searching for work but full time technical illustrator jobs that don't require knowledge of CAD are few and far between.
By way of encouragement, I don't really think so. Most every company that builds a product needs to be able to support it with proper end-user-oriented technical documentation. That's everything from parts explosions for carburetors to step-by-step instructions for Lego kits. Both can be done with ordinary 2D mainstream drawing programs, and without any CAD software experience whatsoever. What's commonly missing is the understanding of axonometric drawing itself--which you already posess.
I work in this field, managing a department which produces end-use technical documents. What I find is that almost all applicants with working knowledge of mainstream publishing software have no clue about technical drawing; many downright fear it. It's that drawing software cultural thing, stemming from the nearly utter disregard of axonometric drawing in the software marketing.
Nor would I have you be intimidated by CAD software. Using it is not rocket science either. (Doing true mechanical engineering work is another thing altogether. The CAD software is just a tool. Remember, an engineering department uses Word and Excel, too; just because CAD software resides in an engineering department doesn't mean it's unapproachable. I don't know didly about accounting, but I can work Excel. Heck, if you can sort out the convoluted, confused, and scattered interface of Illustrator, with all its tedious workarounds and behavioral caveats, you can learn a CAD program; at least they're organized for efficiency.)
Also, truth be told, many companies that have a group using Illustrator or something similar to produce illustrations for parts breakdowns or service manuals or whatever, seldom really use it for original illustration; they use Illustrator to "clean up" CAD exports of 3D models flattened to 2D views and exprorted as DXFs. The so-called "illustrators" are just removing extraneous internal notes, hidden lines, etc., etc. and otherwise prepping the result for import to a page layout program or some such. Someone with actual experience doing axonometric drawings from scratch can bring alot of new capability to the table in such an environment, and can thereby improve the output quality and versatility of the whole group. So by all means, don't toss out that drawn-on-the-board and drawn-in-IsoDraw portfolio, and don't hesitate to take it with you on interviews.
Also, have you considered freelancing? Self-employment certainly has its upside and downside, but many, many small-to-medium manufacturing and fabrication concerns have absolutely no internal staffpower (let alone expertise) for product documentation, and love to have a reliable outsource for such.
So I'm trying to get back up to speed as quickly as possible for the jobs that are available. If that makes since. While Illustrator has always been my program of choice (with ISODraw tying for first) I'm willing to learn any vector program that will get me a full time job.
Real-world story: I grew up in, and still live near, an "Air Force base town." That town has a plethora of so-called "technical illustration" houses doing contract work for the base. The people who work in those shops rather optimistically call themselves "technical illustrators." They're not paid much. Know what they do, all day, every day? They open scans of axonometric line drawings in Photoshop and touch up unwanted trash pixels. No kidding. Imagine what someone who actually knows something about axonometric illustration might bring to that kind of organization.
So I'm just saying; don't sell yourself short just because you don't know Illustrator or some CAD program like the back of your hand (yet).
> So - any help you can give will be greatly appreciated...
Sharon, you and your subject made my day. (And I'm on vacation.)
Again, sorry for "pontificating." It's just one of my favorite subjects.
I want to thank everyone for your replies to my OP, I got what I asked for. Actually I can truthfully say I got more then I asked for.
@ Javier - thank you. The two tutorials you pointed me to were just what I needed to get the memory cells working.
@ Mylenium - thank you. I found your info very interesting and plan to try your suggestions.
@ JET - what can I say. You pretty much covered it. And yes, once you started describing the use of an iso protractor I started remembering my "board" days. So I can safely say that I did use them. Thank you for the measuring "tips". I'm writing them down and will keep them handy. Sad to say though - while I fully agree with you about actually "drawing in the iso planes" vs projecting a flat drawing - for me anyway - the latter method was always faster. Huh - I learned very early on that the bossess prefered "faster". So scale, shear/skew, rotate was the in-house mantra - especially when you could program keys to do the steps for you. I am curious to learn more about the methods you've devised that get rid of the shear/skew part of the mantra. Just once I'd like to do a true isometric drawing on a computer. It is what got me into drafting and technical illustration in the first place. The shear magic of drawing lines and ellipses that became - on paper - the 3D image I saw in my head when I looked at the orthos. Hmmm....by the by - if you ever find your department needing a technical illustrator......
Again, thank you all for your help -
This has got to be one of the best threads in a long while - thanks to everyone (especially JET) for sharing their expertise!
I don't have much to contribute with more than one can peek a bit into the CS4 wow book here: http://books.google.com/books?id=kfAnlc6SmHcC&dq=illustrator+cs4+wow&num=50&source=gbs_nav links_s
...and it doesn't look like it contains a chapter on iso drawing. But if the CS3 book does, why not get that? The books are not overly expensive, and they would certainly be useful at some point anyways?
I have the CS2 wow book somewhere, and I haven't read it that closely, but it seemed ok.
Yupp, James should write a book. I'd gladly buy it. He's such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to AI and working around its deficiencies.