Vectorize All the Things

I’ve committed to more design in 2020, and three barriers (eh, excuses) for not doing more in the past were:

  1. I don’t know my tools (e.g., Adobe Illustrator) well enough.
  2. I hate graphics manipulation with a mouse, and my old Wacom graphics tablet doesn’t work any more.
  3. I don’t have the time.

Well, I solved the third by getting laid off, so for now, time’s not an issue. I was holding out for a really high-end Wacom, but the solution to excuse #3 is a problem when it comes to solving excuse #2. I did some research, spent some Amazon credit and bought a much-cheaper XP-PEN alternative that I’m pretty happy about.

For excuse #1, I’ve spent a good chunk of the last week getting comfortable with the tablet and digging into Illustrator, as I’d only scratched the surface with vectors. I’m a photographer and video editor, so I’ve been an Adobe bundle buyer for a while. I only really cracked AI open when I got into 3D printing and laser work, and even then only to make small tweaks to things and eventually simple shapes.

The latest set of tasks I gave myself just amounts to fancy tracing, but it’s made me exercise a lot of AI’s features.

Of course, it did lead me to something I can make other stuff with, but the result is more confidence to execute my own ideas.



Sorry to hear you got laid off. But your design is fantastic!


Thank you. I’m confident I’ll find something soon. As to the design, all credit goes to the creators of the classic Rolleiflex.

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That’s a great trace job. ( Not easy to pull off without manual intervention.)


Pretty painstaking segment-by-segment stuff with the pen, but good training.


there’s no better training than a project.


I picked up my first tablet (Wacom) specifically for work like that, makes a heck of a difference for the project I am working on.


Yeah, I’ve had a Wacom of one type or another for 20+ years, but used them primarily for photo retouching in Photoshop and other tools. For a long time they were the only name that mattered, but the competition has improved.

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Great design. Mastering the pen tool is the foundation of Illustrator - after that, everything pretty much falls into place. Personally, from an Illustration perspective, I would look at going from pen to gradient meshes. It’s time consuming, but you can get photo-realistic results out of it.

I might be the only person in the world who can’t stand graphics tablets. I’ve tried and tried (For probably 15 years) and just can’t stand it. Haven’t tried one of the high-end display graphic tablets - I could probably enjoy that.


i can’t do it either. i’m so used to using the mouse with my right hand, but i write/draw with my left hand. maybe it’s just a mental block, but using the pen with my left hand just sorta screws me up. especially since i’m used to mouse right / kbd shortcuts left.


Best of luck on the job search! Now you can add one more skill to your resume. By the way, many public libraries give you full access from home to the (I guess it’s LinkedIn now) training. Mine does anyway. There are a slew of training courses for Illustrator and many other software packages at no cost to you using your library card number to access from home. It would be a great use of your off time (besides Glowforging of course).

Oh, and I love the job you did on the camera.


Thank you – things are slow around the holidays, but I’m expecting them to pick up this month. I have tried some of that training material, and it is good content. I will probably go back to it for advanced technique.

That is a very nice transformation!

If you are a stylus junkie, the stylus experience on the iPad Pro is really good. I have a 10 year old Wacom Cintiq here and it feels like it is 100 years old in comparison. (Still very handy though!)

If only the iOS design software was at the same level as the Apple Pencil itself. There are some decent apps, but nothing quite like Illustrator.

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I do have the iPAD pro and Pencil, but you’re right about the tools. I’ve been playing with Vectornator and some others, but they’re just not as capable.

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Love the design. Sorry to hear about the job troubles.
That kind of work is what I want to get better at. Do you (or anyone?) know if similar work can be accomplished using Inkscape (which I’m currently learning)? I’m using trace Bit-map function but the results I’ve been able to manage so far are hit-or-miss. Nothing as nice with what you are showing (even assuming a lot of effort on your part). Am I barking up the wrong tree and I should just take a look at Illustrator?

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Thank you. This should be doable with the pen and other tools in Inkscape. It’s all just lines and curves. There was no machine tracing done on this, all hand-work over the top of a bitmap layer. The only helpful Illustrator automation involved was with with things like the “Rotate” tool that let me place the teeth around this wheel precisely:

and the “Rectangular Grid Tool” that spit out the pattern for theis knurled knob:


I don’t know the Inkscape equivalents for those.


Inkscape has rectangular and polar arrays and a native gear maker, Also there is a object on a path if you want something like a fern leaf. There is also a trace and offset function and a lot more if you get into the weeds.


I still have my old Kurta tablet that is 18-inch square but even the plug does not match anything on a current computer :frowning:

I had always hoped that somebody could modernize it into working again but that is an ever more distant hope.

The Wacom Intuos I’d held onto finally fell to lack of support under successive revs of Mac OS. Function after function went away, and eventually the 32-bit driver was blocked completely.

Oh! I see your approach. That makes sense. I think there may be some equivalents in Inkscape, I think I’ll try may hand at that. Looks… painstaking. Something to get happily lost in for a bit.
Thanks for the clarification!