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PostScript Illustration Techniques, Tips & Tricks in
Creating FreeHand’s “Javelin Thrower”

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Integrating FreeHand into
Macromedia’s Existing Product Line


Macromedia’s Existing Product Line

When Macromedia acquired Altsys Corporation, and the rights to FreeHand, they wanted a redesigned package identity for the high profile introduction of the new FreeHand 5. The project required that the FreeHand software be integrated into Macromedia’s existing product line while retaining elements of FreeHand’s established identity.

Macromedia’s package design for their existing product line consisted of a few key elements:

  • The product name in a red box in the lower left corner
  • A large-scale positioning statement down the left side
  • A bold graphic figure that commands the viewer’s attention

FreeHand’s Existing Identity

Before Macromedia acquired FreeHand it was called Aldus FreeHand and already had a huge customer base. FreeHand’s previous packaging for version 4 was based on a blue & purple leaping man, drawn in a loose creative style. Macromedia had a mockup of what they had already attempted. They had placed the Aldus FreeHand 4 figure in the Macromedia layout. This was our starting point.

Not only did we have to combine the best elements from the previous packages but we also needed to show off FreeHand’s powerful illustration capabilities with a new illustration that would be a good example of what the FreeHand software was capable of producing.

To address these issues, I proposed creating a new figure that would retain some of the original elements of the leaping man, but also show the high-end illustration capabilities of FreeHand. Since the position statement emphasizes that FreeHand is “The Most Powerful Tool,” I thought the image should show a dynamic figure wielding a powerful illustration tool. The elements that I retained from the original FreeHand figure were the same basic pose with an added twist for power, some elements of the free-flowing creative drawing style and bold coloring.

FreeHand’s New Integrated Identity

After analyzing the old FreeHand and Director boxes, as well as Illustrator, FreeHand’s primary competition, I felt that they were very flat. I wanted to introduce a strong three dimensional presence. I wanted the figure to be ripping out of the package toward the viewer. I decided to use depth as the transitional element from a loose creative drawing style to a more photo-realistic, three dimensional illustration style. The image would appear to be a loose drawing on the surface of the box that was transforming and coming to life before your eyes. As it lifted off the box, it would become more solid, and when it reached the tip of the pen, it would be a photo-realistic illustration. The toughest part was to create a smooth transition from the loose style to the tight style.
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Initial Design


Page Composition & Layout

I started by designing the page based on the existing Director box. I put the program name, in the red rectangle at the bottom. I chose Garamond Book Condensed for the dominant typeface based on its style, grace and power. I added a new element, a star burst unioned with a square, for the version number to help balance the bottom of the box. Next I ran the position statement down the left side of the box in the same typeface.

Using Guides as Design Elements

I then proceeded to divide the visual space with guide lines radiating out of the corners, starting with the top left and crossing where the figure would be located. After intersecting, the guides then proceed down to the lower left, pointing to the title box. I laid out additional circular guides to help with the proportions of the figure based on the famous DaVinci drawing, “Proportions of man according to Vitruvius.” Very early on, I liked the view of the guide lines and proposed that we actually keep them in the final illustration. The guides allude to the page design aspects of FreeHand and they frame the overall design. They also help strengthen the idea that the cover is an actual FreeHand illustration coming to life.

Creating the Javelin Thrower


Varied Source Material

As source material for the illustration, I shot a video scan of a male model in the approximate pose. I then used various photographs of female body builders as guides to the muscle structures. I wanted a figure that was muscular, yet sleek. This use of varied source images enabled me to create a powerful figure without it looking too masculine or muscle bound. This also enabled us to avoid raising any politically incorrect issues. Such issues always seem to cause problems these days, since far too many people take offense at the silliest things...

Beginning with a Loose Creative Style

I used the figure’s pointing hand as the only point of contact with the surface of the package. This point of contact was where the figure drawing started. I created it with the most free flowing style of the entire illustration. This was the point where the figure got its first creative spark of life on it’s way up and out of the box. I drew the hand in the pose of Michelangelo’s God, from the “Creation of Adam.” It also echoed the pointing figure on the cover of the Director cover.

The right hand and left foot were the parts closest to the level of the box surface, so I drew them in the loosest style. I used a pressure sensitive stylus and the freehand tool to paint in these areas in broad, loose, flat strokes. This style helps strengthen the idea that the figure is a drawing coming to life before your eyes. This was also similar to the style that was used for the old Aldus FreeHand 4 illustration.

Adding a Shaded Graphic Style

As I proceeded up the arm and leg to the torso, I gradually introduced broader shapes with graduated fills to help create a more solid feeling. These shapes I drew with the pen tool as outlines that I then filled them in with graduated fills of color. The right leg is at the same level as the torso, so both are drawn in the same semisolid manner with broad, shaded shapes. I added additional free-flowing brush strokes to the torso and leg areas to help tie the entire figure together, bringing the loose creative style up into the more solidly styled areas.

Getting Real with PostScript Photo-Realism


Three Dimensional Blends

As the figure twists, its left shoulder rises up off the surface as a transition to the left arm and pen which will be the most three dimensional. The left pectoral is where I add the first two-way blend for three dimensional modeling. A two-way blend consists of two elements filled with gradations that are then blended together. This allows the color to change in two different directions creating a highly three dimensional effect. I typically create these two-way blends in multiple sections as well. In the pectoral, you can see that there are four main shapes, each pair is blended together creating three blends that flow together. This allows flowing through many intermediate colors, rather than simply blending between only two flat colors. I added highlights to the left shoulder to help make the transition to the chrome of the left hand and the high-tech illustration pen.

Polished Chrome

The toughest part of the illustration was the chrome arm. I created this section using the same technique of blended graduated fills, but this time needed to orchestrate many more blends to simulate the reflections in the chrome surface. First I worked on the shape of the arm itself. Once I was satisfied with the overall shape, I added new blends to simulate the spaces between the fingers and the multicolored highlights. This is where FreeHand really shines. When modeling a blended shape in FreeHand you can option click on one of the two ends of the blend, modify the shape and the group will automatically reblend itself on the fly. When editing these shapes I’ll typically lower the blend steps to 2 or 3 for faster redraw, then when I’m done, I’ll crank them up to 20 or 30 steps per blend.

Achieving Photo-Realism

The illustration of the pen itself was more time consuming, but not as tough as the chrome arm because all the shapes are geometric which makes them easier to work with. I used many of the same techniques of blended gradations to create the photo-realistic image. I wanted the tip of the pen to look as realistic as possible, so I used many more subtle blends to help give it a sense of depth and realism. Notice the reflections of the chrome cylinders of the tip in the black disks. These small, subtle touches take time, but add dramatically to the overall effect.

Notice that in the keyline view, all you see are the basic shapes. Most of the shapes have details pasted inside them. This is another area where FreeHand really excels. In some programs the keyline would look like a dense mess, you would be unable to distinguish anything because there would be far too many lines. FreeHand hides the contents of each shape to reduce screen clutter, which helps dramatically in complex illustrations.

Casting Shadows in PostScript


To create the shadows, I auto-traced the figure first. I skewed and scaled portions of the resulting shape, keeping the tip of the finger and the tip of the toe, close to their starting points. The portions of the figure that were further above the plane were skewed further. Then I auto-traced the pen and skewed and scaled it as well. I finally used the union tool to tie the two shadows together.

The final step of the illustration was to create the shadow of the pen that falls across the body. I first drew one large shape where the shadow would fall. Then I cloned all the shapes of the body that are under the shadow and darkened each of them. These new darker shapes I then paste inside the shadow shape. I set this shape to have no stroke or fill. This results in a single shadow with edges that I can interactively edit, effectively changing the area of the body that is in shadow. This effect can be quite convincing to simulate shadows, or with lighter shapes it can be used to simulate lighting effects.

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