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Once you've mastered the basics of object creation in Illustrator it's very easy to quickly fill a design with many vector elements, and pattern creation is a great way of doing this. Whereas once this would have involved a lot of time consuming, precise work, Illustrator now has a number of tools and tricks that make it easy to intricate repeating patterns.

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Through the next five steps I'll run through my five essential tips and tricks that you need to know when embarking on pattern creation in Illustrator, including using the Patterns panel. This tutorial was completed in CS6, but the techniques we explore here can be applied to any version of the programme. To expand your vector skills further, take a look at these amazing Illustrator tutorials.

01. Create radial patterns

Start by creating the shape you want to duplicate

Creating radial patterns in Illustrator is quick and easy. Begin by simply creating a shape/graphic of any shape or size, in this case a simple round dot. With this selected hit 'R' for rotate and whilst holding alt+click on a point that will act as the centre of your radial pattern.

In the following dialog panel enter a fraction (e.g 360/20), preview it then hit copy. Once back on the art board hit cmd+D to repeat the pattern. Simple.

Enter a fraction into the dialog box

02. Use pattern fills

This is perhaps the simplest way to create solid patterns

One easy pattern creation technique that is often overlooked is to draw a shape and drag it into the swatches panel. You can now draw any other shape and choose this as your pattern fill, as shown above. This technique only becomes tricky if you want there to be spaces between the elements within your pattern – for solid patterns, it's perhaps the simplest approach.

03. Try the Pattern panel

The Pattern panel (found under the Window menu) is where things start to get really interesting. To quickly jump to the Pattern panel simply double click on the pattern swatch – you now have a multitude of options to choose from including the tile type, brick offset, spacing and number of copies.

Once upon a time all of this would have to have been set manually. When you're happy with your pattern you can save it or save a copy if you want to retain the original design.

04. Work with blends

This approach is ideal for creating overlapping patterns

The blend options can be used to quickly create repeating objects and can then be used within the Pattern generator. Draw two simple shapes, in this case squares. Navigate to 'Object > Blend > Blend options' and select 'Specified steps'.

Enter the number of steps you'd like your blend to be, and then navigate back to 'Object > Blend' and select 'Make'. You can then drag this into your swatches panel and use it in conjunction with the Patterns panel to create some intriguing designs.

Select the number of steps required in your pattern

05. Apply patterns to 3D objects

Your patterns don’t need to stay in two dimensions

Once you have a pattern swatch set up its very easy to apply it to a 3D object. Start by creating a pattern fill on the artboard and drag this into the Symbols panel to be used later. We're going to make a cube, so we'll start with a square. Now create a cube by drawing another square and navigating to '3D > Effect > Extrude and Bevel'.

Turn your pattern into a symbol to work with it

Hit Preview to see how the cube will look and then click 'Map art'. In the symbol drop-down, select your pattern swatch and apply it to one of the sides. Cycle through the different sides, applying your pattern until you're satisfied with the results.

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Parallax scrolling is no longer the guaranteed attention-grabber it used to be, but there are other ways of using parallax techniques to engage your visitors and enhance your user experience.

Take a look at Mr Fisk's site, designed by BMO, and you'll notice a different sort of parallax going on: its brightly-coloured main image moves in 3D, in response to your mouse movements.

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It's an impressive effect that's not too hard to implement; simply follow these steps to give your site an eye-catching sense of depth.

01. Initiate HTML

The first step is to define the HTML document, which consists of the HTML container for storing the head and body sections. While the head section is primarily responsible for loading the external CSS and JavaScript resources, the body section will store the content elements to be created in step 02.

02. Content elements

The technique will allow any content container using the data-parallax attribute to display the effect.  Each first level child element will display with the parallax presentation. This example sets three child layers for the parallax, but you can add more if you want to. You can also add content to these layers such as text or images; PNG or SVG with transparency will work best.

03. Parallax container style

Create a new file called 'styles.css'. The first set of rules in this file sets the default size of the parallax container and its position mode. It's important to use relative positioning so that the child elements can be placed in relation to wherever the container is located. The width and height are set to cover the full screen to allow for maximum interactivity.

04. Parallax children

Each of the first level elements inside the data-parallax container are sized and positioned to appear centrally. Along with parents relative positioning, percentage is used as the measurement unit, allowing the sizing and positioning to be placed in relation to the parallax container. For this example, a transparent red background is used to demonstrate the effect – you can replace this with PNG or SVG image of your choice using @background: url ("your image here").

05. Initiate the JavaScript

Create a new file called 'code.js'. JavaScript will be used to control responses to the user's mouse interactions. We don't want the JavaScript to run any of the JavaScript code until the page has fully loaded, hence the code for steps 06 and 07 placing a function triggered by the load event, which activates when the window has completed loading.

06. Node search

The first activity of JavaScript to execute immediately after the page is ready is to find all of the parallax layers. Firstly, the parallax containers are found, followed by their children. Each child has an index number applied to them under the 'data-index' attribute.

07. Parallax listeners

The final step is to apply an event listener for any mouse movement occurring over the parallax container. Any such actions trigger a feature to calculate the new positions of the parallax layers based on the mouse position and the data-index attribute defined in step 06 – resulting in each layer updating at different paces. The result of each calculation is applied to the layers via the style attribute.

This article was originally published in issue 272 of creative web design magazine Web Designer. Buy issue 272 here or subscribe to Web Designer here.

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You can create all manner of images and effects in Photoshop CC, and there are plenty of Photoshop tutorials, like this one, to help you do just that.

Here we'll show you how to create a single tile for a repeating pattern, then you can fill as big or as small an area as you like with it…

  • Download the example PSD here.

01. Create a document for the tile

Your new document needs to be a size that is divisible by three

Pick how thick you want each stripe to be; the only rule is that whatever you number you pick has to be divisible by three. Now you need to do some maths.

On a calculator, divide 8 by 3 (you should get 2.66666667), then multiply this by whatever number you've picked for the thickness of the stripe and create a Photoshop document with this figure as the dimension of each edge.

So for a 90px stripe, you'd create a document 240x240px. (Bonus tip: you can do maths in a Mac's Spotlight search field. Click the magnifying glass in the menu bar and then enter, in this example, '90*(8/3)' and you'll get the answer 240.)

02. Draw the first stripe

Add a black line of your desired thickness (Click the icon to enlarge the image)

Drag a guide from the ruler (cmd+R if it's not showing) and let it snap to each edge of the document (check your options in View > Snap To if they don't click to edges as if magnetically).

Fill the background with yellow and then select the line tool. Make sure your foreground colour is black, enter the thickness of your stripe into the Weight field at the top of the screen (90px in our example) and draw a line from one corner to the other.

03. Create the other stripes

Duplicate your stripe layer (Click the icon to enlarge the image)

Duplicate your stripe layer (an easy way to do this is to drag it to the new layer icon – a piece of paper with an upturned corner – at the bottom of the layer palette) then hit cmd+T to enter Free Transform mode.

Note that a crosshair icon appears in the middle of the layer; drag the duplicated stripe (not by grabbing the crosshair) so that this crosshair snaps to the top left corner of the document.

Hit Return to confirm the move. Duplicate the stripe again and drag this one to the bottom right in the same way. (Save this now as a .psd if you think you might want to change it later.)

04. Define the stripes as a pattern

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Give your pattern a name (Click the icon to enlarge the image)

Go to the Edit menu and pick Define Pattern. Give it a name and click OK.

05. Use your stripes

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Select the area you want to fill with your pattern

Select an area you want to fill with stripes and then pick Fill… from the Edit menu. From the Use menu, pick Pattern and select the warning stripe pattern you just created. Click OK.

06. Add your own effects

Create a repeating pattern in Photoshop

Add your own effects to the pattern

You're done! We've also added a soft gradient on our example. Of course, you can do anything you like to the stripes – distress them, apply bump maps, or anything else!

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While the style and finish of manga art is relatively minimalist in comparison to other types of comics, this apparent simplicity is deceptive. Every line is a choice made by the artist – the thinking is to never use 10 strokes to depict something if just a single, well-placed line would suffice. 

This principle of concentrating on the essentials permeates throughout manga art creation. Every panel is an exercise in choice: size, zoom, camera angle, speech bubble positioning, and type of background. Every page works as a whole to control the reader’s experience, particularly in pacing.

Read on for 15 tips to help you create an authentic manga comic strip…

01. Pace yourself

Aim for fewer panels spread over more pages

When you’re writing for manga, remember it flows faster and sparser than other types of comics. It spreads across more pages with fewer panels per page. There is variation between the types of manga; Seinen manga, aimed at adult males, will be more densely packed than Shoujo manga, which is usually read by young girls. But as a guide, aim for a maximum of three speech bubbles per panel, an average of five panels per page, and around four pages per scene.

02. Consider your reading direction

Traditionally, manga is read from the top right to bottom left

Manga originates from Japan, and Japanese traditionally reads vertically from top-to-bottom before going right-to-left. So for any manga originally published in Japanese, you start reading from the top right corner and finish in the bottom left. If it’s been translated into English, you’ll often find it remains this way. But if you’re writing in English from the start, there’s no need to do this, so it’s up to you! Decide on your reading direction and stick to it.

03. Group your panels

Use gutters to link certain panels

Most manga comics have panels of different sizes and shapes that change from page to page. There are no arrows or numbering to guide the reader, so you must group the panels clearly to make it obvious they must read one bunch of panels before moving on. Separate one group from another by increasing the space between the panels (the panel gutter). Then make sure that any small panel gutters inside a group don’t line up with any panel gutters in another group.

04. Explore abstract layouts

Characters don’t need to be confined to their panels

Manga doesn’t just stick to traditional boxes in rows. It often employs dynamic panel layouts that stretch across the height or width of the whole page, along with diagonal lines and irregular shapes. Sometimes boxes aren’t even used at all, with hazy patterns used as outlines, or the character breaks out of the panel. Panels can even fade in and out as part of the storytelling. 

The difficulty is ensuring that regardless of layout, the panel order remains clear. Try reading some manga to find lots more examples to play with.

05. Showcase different viewpoints

Showcase different angles and zoom levels

Manga is known for its cinematic feel. Every panel is like an action movie, where the camera cuts from a close-up of eyes, to a two-shot profile of a conversation, to a bird’s-eye view of the characters, then a low-to-high angle as a stiletto heel clicks onto the floor. Really make an effort to showcase different camera angles and zooms in your story.

06. Make it dynamic

Manga often features blurred limbs and background speedlines

Manga is a dynamic form of storytelling; when a character is in a full-blown fight, they really look like as though they’re moving, even flying out of the page. Unlike superhero comics that have fully inked characters and points of impact, manga favours limbs that blur with motion, backgrounds that become speedlines, channelling and enhancing the direction of the motion and highlighting the point of impact with emphasis lines originating from it. Most of this is done through inking, but can be done with screentone, too.

07. Match background to mood

These background flowers hint at a budding romance

One key difference between manga and other types of comic is the use of abstract backgrounds to match the atmosphere and the emotions of the characters. Once the scene has had an establishing shot of the physical surroundings, the backgrounds can be anything: lacework and flowers to signify a budding romance; flames if someone is full of burning rage; black shadows and swirling knots to convey inner turmoil; or cookies and cakes when a character is irresistibly cute! This is particularly popular in Shoujo and Josei manga, which is aimed at girls and women.

08. Don't rely on speech bubble tails

Speech bubble placement is used to indicate who is speaking

Japanese people traditionally read top-to-bottom and then right-to-left. To accommodate this, manga speech bubbles are much taller than in Western comics. They’re also roomy, with lots of space around the lettering. Another key feature is the tails denoting the speaker – these are either very small or non-existent. Rather than relying on tails, the speech bubbles are positioned near the speaker’s head – use those camera angles wisely! Japanese dialogue also tends to make it clear who’s speaking, due to special verb endings and slang.

09. Get creative with your speech bubbles

Don’t confine yourself to a bubble shape

Speech bubbles in manga are a lot more organic than in other types of comics. They’re almost always hand-drawn and slightly irregular in shape. Joined speech bubbles are combined rather than linked by a thin line. When one character talks over another, it’s depicted literally, with each speech bubble overlapping. While shouting is depicted with a more conventional spiky outline, thought bubbles aren’t drawn as clouds; more often they’re surrounded by a haze, either drawn or made out of screen tone.

10. Apply screentone

Simply screentone on top of your lines and then cut away the excess

Manga uses screentone as its black and white. To do this, start by preparing your line art – it has to be in pure black and white without any greys, so scan at a minimum of 600dpi. Then threshold-to-convert every pixel into either black or white. The same must apply to your desired screentone: each pixel must be black or white/transparent.

Copy then paste the screentone on a layer above the line art, enough to cover the lines and more. If your screentone isn’t transparent, for example, on a white background, then set the layer to Multiply so you can see the lines underneath.

Finally, remove unwanted areas of the screentone. There are many ways to do this: you can select with a Lasso/Magic Wand tool and cut, use the Eraser in Pencil mode, or use a Layer Mask with a hard-edged brush so that no greys are introduced.

Next page: 5 more tips for creating an authentic manga comic strip

11. Explore screentone effects

Screentone is not just for shading

There are many things you can do with screentone besides just sticking it down for shading. Add white pencil over both lines and screentone for traditional white painted highlights. Try soft, burnished highlights by using an Eraser set to Dissolve. Use screentone just over the lines to give the art a blurry feeling. You can increase the contrast in your shadows by layering different screentones on top of each other, but be careful: you may get moiré if you use different densities or if you align them incorrectly.

12. Use Japanese sound effects

Onomatopoeia is different (and often more realistic) in Japanese

Japanese sound effects are incredibly diverse, using all manner of consonant and vowel combinations to describe crashes, thumps and slices. Pronunciations often more realistic than in English like 'roar' (GA-O-!) or 'slam' (pa-tan!). What’s unique to Japanese onomatopoeia are sound effects for abstract concepts ('shiiin' for a stare, or silence), facial expressions ('niko' for a smile) or even temperature ('poka poka' for warmth). They are an integral part of the artwork, so are hand-drawn at the point of inking, in an appropriate style.

13. Add visual grammar

Background sparks or sweat drops indicate the character’s mood

Many symbols are used in comics to enhance the viewer’s understanding of what the characters are feeling, like punctuation marks for pictures. Perhaps a love heart to show romantic intentions, or a light bulb when someone has a bright idea. 

Manga has some unique examples: a drop of sweat for nervousness or embarrassment, a hash mark on the forehead when someone is angry (mimicking raised veins), and little spirit wisps gathering when someone is feeling depressed.

14. Try out chibi

Chibi figures are cute, squashed down versions of a character

A chibi is a cute, squishy, mini-version of a person, squished down to just three to four head lengths tall, with a large head and a chubby body. Shoulders are rounded off, hips are wider, hands and feet become stubby. 

Although these characteristics are childlike, remember that you’re not actually drawing a child! An adult chibi should still look like an adult, just highly stylised. In manga, characters are often portrayed as chibis when the story takes a lighthearted turn, for comic effect. Spot all the examples throughout this article!

15. Emphasise emotion with anthropomorphism

Cat-like features indicate this character is being sly

Another popular technique used in manga is ‘kemonomimi’, which literally means animal ears. For instance, if someone is being as sly as a cat, you can draw them with feline features like cat ears and a tail. You can even go further with cat eyes that have slit-pupils, and using the shape of cat’s mouth. Why not draw a disappointed guy as a sad puppy dog? A fierce mother as a dragon? Like chibi, kemonomimi can be used for effect in specific scenes, but it’s also popular as a character design technique for fantasy stories.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Subscribe here.

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