Saturday, January 24, 2015

Using Illustrator to Make Patterned Stamps for Engineering Drawings

I was recently asked an excellent question by my neighbor, a nuclear engineer:
"I am marking up a drawing and created an octagon shape. I wanted to fill it in with a pattern – where can I find patterns? I thought I used this before but can’t seem to find it.
While Acrobat does indeed have some built-in stamps, they're very generic, and not appropriate for what my neighbor needed to accomplish.

Standard Business Stamps
Sign Here Stamps
Dynamic Stamps
After a little discussion, I decided to go ahead and make him a pattern-filled object in Illustrator, which he could then import into Acrobat as a custom PDF stamp. While this was a good short-term solution, I thought it would good to figure out a solution that would let him make his own custom stamps, in whatever shape and color he needed.

But first let me show you how I made him the stamps in Illustrator. Start with a new document in Illustrator.

1. First, start with some pattern swatches. Unbeknownst to many Illustrator users, Illustrator has a bunch of built-in patterns. You can find them with the swatches here:
Windows> Swatches > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Lines

Basic Graphics: Lines
Side note: by clicking on the little triangles at the bottom left of the panel, you can easily move from one built-in swatch library to another.

Basic Graphics: Dots
Basic Graphics: Textures
But I digress, let's go back to making our pattern-filled Octagon.

2. Next, make an octagon and give it a stroke and a pattern fill. I chose one of Illustrator's built-in pattern swatches from Basic Graphics_Lines. 

3. Make the lines go diagonal. Now, you'll notice that the lines in Illustrator's default Lines swatches are all either going horizontal or vertical. But my engineer friend wanted the lines to be going diagonally. To do this, go to Window > Transform to bring up the Transform Panel. On the panel flyout menu, choose Transform Pattern Only.

Transform Pattern Only

Now, the "Transform Pattern Only" command is confusing because there are a couple of things they don't tell you in that little panel flyout menu. The first can be seen when you hover over the little yellow warning triangle that now appears in the Transom panel: "Transformations will only be applied to the pattern fill of the selected object(s)."

We only see that warning by hovering over the little yellow triangle. Now, if you go and try to then transform the pattern, as I did, using the rotate tool, both the object and the pattern are transformed. That's not what I wanted!

Both Object and Pattern have been rotated

After a little experimentation I figured out that the only way to get just the pattern to rotate is by using the Rotate and Shear fields within the Transform Panel.

4. Make your artboard the same size as your object. Go to Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art. This will make the stamp import properly into Acrobat's Custom Stamp created.

5. Save as an Illustrator PDF.

6. Go to Acrobat and open a PDF.

7. Create a Custom Stamp. Go to Comments > Annotations > Click on the Stamp tool > Custom Stamps > Create Custom Stamp.

8. Select Image for Custom Stamp. Navigate to the PDF you just made.

9. Give the stamp a category and a name. Now your stamps ready for use.

10. To use the stamp, click not the stamp tool and choose your new stamp from the list.

11. To use the stamp repeatedly, right-click on the stamp tool ann choose "Keep Tool Selected."

12. Now start stamping. You can stamp at different sizes. Acrobat does not allow for disproportionate resizing of stamps, so you can click and drag without fear of changing the proportions of your stamp. If you like, you can even change the opacity of your stamp using the Properties toolbar (Cmd+E).

13. Make some more options. I figured since one texture is good, more textures would be even better. So I went back to Illustrator and made a few more artboards and applied different patterns. You can download the patterned octagons here.

To learn how to make these damps in Powerpoint, see part 2 of this series: Use Powerpoint to Make Patterned Stamps for Engineering Drawings.