The (slow) progress of the folk art tree!

November 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Tree sketch

My pencil sketch of half of the tree

I’m just reporting back on the progress of the folk art tree I was talking about in the last post. It has felt very slow, although I actually only started it during the middle of last week! Some of it has been a bit tedious…

I started with a pencil sketch of the basic tree shape. I only drew half of it because I wanted it to be symmetrical, and I knew that once I had imported it into Illustrator I could easily copy and reflect it to make it a symmetrical tree.

Once I had drawn it I outlined it in pen and rubbed out the pencil lines to make a clearer scan. I scanned it and took it into Illustrator. I’m fairly new to Illustrator, although I’ve been using vector software of various types for a long time. I bought it for my birthday and am loving it! I’m still finding my way around a little bit though.

I used the ‘live trace’ feature to convert the scanned outline into vector lines. Up to now I’ve been using live trace to scan hand drawn artwork because I wanted to keep the irregular hand-drawn quality of the images. Live tracing using the ‘fill’ option gives you lots of filled in shapes which maintain the irregularities but this time I wanted to trace the line accurately. Tracing using the ‘stroke’ option gives you a single line and a much smoother result.

Tweaking live trace paths

Tweaking live trace paths

Once I had the outline shape I needed to mess around with it a bit to make sure all the lines were smooth and all the anchor points were in the right place.

Tree outline

Tree outline

Up to this point I still only had half a tree, so I copied the shape, reflected it and merged them together to create the tree. Don’t ask me why it’s pink – I was anxious to fill it quickly to see what it looked like so I just chose the first colour that I landed on!

Adding the details

Adding the details

Now I could start adding some of the details. I drew some other small shapes that I knew I wanted to use and scanned and traced those too. I started adding some of them to the trunk of the tree.


Filling out the tree

Filling out the tree

The next step was to fill out the branches of the tree with some other details. Again I started by adding them to only one side of the tree so that I could copy and reflect them onto the other side later. At this point I was wondering how I was going to reproduce the final image. Originally I had planned to print it, but I thought it might be good to fire up the Craft Robo again and try cutting it out of card to mount as a silhouette, as the traditional papercutters would have done. The trouble with this is that you have to pay attention to the formation of the image so that all the pieces are joined together, and also technically it’s a a lot more work because all of the individual shapes have to be merged into one so that there is a single outline for the cutter to trace.

The framed tree

The framed tree

I’m at the point where it has taken a long time already and I now have to decide whether to persevere and cut it out. I’ve added a frame which would be needed if I did cut it out, but I still have to merge all the shapes together in Illustrator if I want to do that. Watch this space!


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