Monday, July 6, 2015

How to Recreate a Multi-colored Triangle Afghan Using Illustrator Scribble and Live Paint Bucket

I started this afghan after I did the Atlantic Triangle Waves afghan. The original afghan was done using six colors of greens and blues, and one color of white. 

Would you like to purchase the pattern for this afghan?

I had such a good time with the first afghan that I wanted to make it again in a different colorway. A year or so after I finished the first Atlantic Triangle Waves afghan, I came across the opportunity to purchase a small portion of KnitPicks 150 Palette Sampler.

According to the Knit Picks website:
"Indulge your fiber senses in a world of color with the 150 Palette Sampler! This fingering weight wool is ideal for projects that let you play and experiment with new and exciting color combinations. And with one ball of each of the 150 colors that make up the Palette yarn line, the sky is the limit for what you can create. With an updated and expanded selection of colors, the 150 Palette Sampler covers the entire range of the gradated color wheel alongside an extensive range of supporting neutrals, soft and muted pastels, and complementing heathers."
I was able to purchase this small portion of all the colors from a woman on For you non-knitters out there: Ravelry is a combination social media, e-store and self-publishing platform just for fiber enthusiasts.

So, here's how I got all the colors: some amazing woman on Ravelry purchases the entire sampler for $419, then personally winds down itty bitty little butterflies of each color, for each person, according to how many portions they purchased. So if she had ten people who wanted to split the sampler, she would wind down 1500 tiny little butterflies of yarn. She even labels each color with the color name and dye lot, and make itty bitty ball bands! I think my single portion cost around $40.

When I received my small portions of each of the colors, they came neatly wound in color-coordinated groups of about 10. I would have taken pictures of all the yarn butterflies in advance, only I didn't think about it at the time. These browns are the only Palette yarns I have left and they didn't make it into the final afghan. See how neatly they are wound?

So back to my multihued triangle afghan...

Multi-hued Afghan made in Palette Yarn

The challenge of using this yarn was the very limited amount of each color with which I had to work. I suspect it was about ten yards of each color, though I never measured.

Designing with yarn as a medium is very diferent then designing for printed piece. One of the reasons for this is because the length of yarn is finite: each ball of yarn contains only so many yards. But when designing a printed piece, you're not limited by the amount of ink you have to work with. You may be limited by the number of colors you'll be printing, but not in the volume of ink you have to work with. It's not like you'll run out mid-way through the production process.

So, I had small amounts of 150 different colors to for with. Since this afghan was based on the Atlantic Triangle Afghan, I knew that I needed a thin white yarn to use for the diagonals. While I suppose I should've used a few balls of white Palette (which is the yarn I would be using in the rest of the afghan), I was itching to get started I decided to use a hank of white sock yarn I had on hand. The weight was close enough for me.

I ended up running out of the white sock yarn a couple of strips in, and I figured I could just call up the yarn store I bought it from (four years previously) and order more. Ha! It turns out I didn't have the ball band (which contains the yarn company name, color, and dye lot number), so ordering more was impossible. Calling up a yarn store and asking for more of that "white yarn" is akin to calling up a clothing store and asking for more of those "blue jeans."

I ended up buying some Lorna's Laces natural sock yarn. The weight was close enough to the multicolored yarns, and really, who would be looking at the white stripes when they had all those beautiful colors at which to gaze?

Lorna's Laces Natural Sock Yarn
So why Lorna's Laces? Lorna's Laces is a yarn company that specializes in hand dyed yarn of interesting colorways. Her yarn is very popular and is a joy to knit with. You can find it in most every yarn store across the county. Because her hand-dyed colors are so popular, it was surprisingly difficult to find plan white Lorna's Laces sock yarn. None of the local shops I checked carried white Lorna's Laces sock yarn. The only reliable source I found online was Jimmy Bean's.

So, after purchasing a few skeins of white sock yarn, I was ready to get started. I rarely rely on formal patterns (I typically stick to knitting afghans). I usually draw a rough sketch (or sometimes not), grab some needles and yarn, and cast on! After just a couple tries, I managed to get a triangle dimension that worked with the amount of yarn I had in each color. The basic idea is the same is on the Atlantic Triangle Afghan, only that I changed colors on every triangle instead of on every strip. I also did all small triangles, instead of both small and large triangles.

Once I was done with the knitting, I wanted to figure out a way to create this design in Illustrator without having to draw dozens of little triangles by hand.

But first, let's back up and look at the completed afghan.

Multi-hued Afghan made in Palette Yarn
The design was knitted in strips, one hue at a time. I did all the pinks first, then moved onto the reds, then the yellow-oranges, etc., all the way down the color wheel.

After each strip was completed, I knitted a white strip onto the side and then grafted it to the adjoining strip. (Incidentally, there was supposed to be more blue in this afghan, but I had accidentally misplaced the entire bag of all-blue yarns until after I was done and all the rest of the strips were sewn together.)

So, back to the task at hand: how to recreate this design in graphic design software. The original Atlantic Waves afghan I designed in InDesign. That pattern was well-suited for inDesign. You see, InDesign has a great table feature that allows you to use diagonal lines in your table cells. What that means is that by adding a diagonal line to a table cell, you can take a square cell and instead turn it into two triangles that, together, for a square.

But InDesign won't work for this multi-hued version because InDesign only allows you to have one color per table cell, not two. And this colorway has requires each triangle to be a different color, so I would have to use Illustrator.

We'll create all those triangles in just a bit. But first we're going to start by extracting all these colors from the image and creating them as swatches in Illustrator.

Step 1: Make a new document in Illustrator and place the image of the afghan into it. Now (for you knitters out there) I need to give a disclaimer: you'll likely notice pretty quickly that I did not block this afghan before I photographed it. So there are all kinds of lumpy-bumpies and weird shadows. Sorry. But keep in mind that this is a graphic design blog, not a knitting blog.

Step 2: Get out your trusty eye-dropper tool. But before you start eye-droppering, double click on the eye-dropper tool in the tools panel. Have you ever done that before? No? Well, you're in for a treat! The top-most setting for the eye-dropper tool is Raster Sample Size, and incidentally this is the only setting with a drop-down menu. The default setting is Point Sample. But you're may have gotten changed to one of the other options in that drop down. So just verify that it is set to point sample and not 3x3 Average or 5x5 Average.  For our purposes today, nothing else in that dialog box matters. Click OK.

Step 3: Zoom in nice and close on the first triangle and then click the New Swatch button at the bottom of the Swatches panel. Be sure to click on one of the lighter areas. You'll get the following dialog box.

But what if you want to just eye-drop your colors and create swatches without having to click OK through that dialog box 70 times? You're in luck!

Step 4: Click on the lightest part of the next triangle. The Opt+Click on the New Swatch button. See how the swatch automatically gets added to the Swatches panel without you having to click through that dialog box? It's like magic!

Step 5: Repeat Step 4 for the remaining  colors in the first strip.
Step 6: Select all the 10 swatches you just made and click the New Color Group button.

Give the Color Group a name.

See how all 10 swatches have moved into the new color group? Nifty!

Step 7: Repeat Steps 4-6 for the remaining triangle colors in the design. Ooh! Pretty! You may want to rearrange the colors a bit in the color group to get them in the correct tonal order.

Now it's time to make the triangles!

Step 8: Be sure that your document units are set to points. I like to work in inches when I am laying out a page, but when I am dealing with effects, I really prefer working in points, as it gives me greater control.

Step 9: Create a rectangle the same proportions as one of the strips. You can fill it with whatever color you want, as we're going to change it later. For now we just need a color that will stand out nicely against the colors of the triangles.

Step 10: Effects > Scribble. Now I've seen the scribble effect misused quite a bit, especially right after it was introduced. But when you customize the settings, and use Scribble in conjunction with other effects, it's pretty powerful.

The Scribble dialog box has 11 different built-in settings, but you can customize the settings however you want. Don't just settle for the default Scribble settings. Customize them!

But so you have an idea of the default settings, here they are used on my peach colored rectangle.
Default Scribble Settings

Okay, so now that you have an idea of how the scribble effect can be customized, let's customize it! I added a little variation to my scribble so that it would more closely resemble the original knitted afghan.

Custom Scribble Settings

Step 11: Transform Effect. Since the original afghan has seven strips, I went to Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform... That brought up this dialog box, where I made six copies of my scribble shape, with an 82 pt horizontal move.

Note: Apparently, my original photo was taken at a slight perspective, so they strips aren't perfectly rectangular in the photo. So I moved the photo up above my scribble drawing, so that I can see they both, and I'm not worried about trying to exactly line up the drawing to the photo, but instead, just using the photo for reference.

Step 12: Click on the Live Paint Bucket Tool. The Live Paint Bucket Tool is hidden under the Shape Builder tool. Note: The next couple of paragraphs I got from the Adobe website.

  • Select the Live Paint Bucket tool . Click and hold the Shape builder tool to see and select the Live Paint bucket tool. See Select a tool to learn other methods for selecting tools. See Tools panel overview to locate all the tools.
    Live Paint Bucket Tool

    Specify the fill color or stroke color and size you want.
  • Note:
    If you select a color from a the Swatches panel, the pointer changes to display three colors . The selected color is in the middle, and the two adjacent colors are on either side. To use an adjacent color, click the left or right arrow key.

  • Thanks to the helpful writeup from the Adobe website, we know that that the cursor will give us an indication how the colors in the swatches panel. So it becomes easy to paint in the colors into the correct triangle, by arrowing through the swatches in the swatches panel as we click into each triangle.

    Step 13: Start live painting! But wait! What is this error message?

    Step 14: Object > Expand Appearance. This step will allow you to start filling all the triangles with color. Now, resume painting!

    Step 15: Start Live Painting! Next I I chose the Live Paint Bucket Tool, and then clicked on the object to make it a Live Paint Group. then started clicking inside each one of the triangles, while at the same time, using my arrow keys to cursor through the swatches. Pressing the right arrow will fill your Live paint Bucket with the next swatch on the left. Likewise, pressing the up arrow will fill the Live Paint Bucket tool with the next swatch up. 

    Watch this video to see how I painted in all the triangles. 

    After the triangles were filled with the appropriate colors, I then selected the peach strokes and changed them to white.
    After painting all the triangles
    Strokes changed to white

    Step 16: Flip every other rows of triangles. After I stepped back from the design and compared the original photo to the scribble illustration, I realized that I forgot to flip every other row of triangles. So I expanded the live paint group and selected every other row and flipped them.

    Right Click > Transform > Transform Each...

    Reflect X
    Step 16: Adjust the white and add a filter. Since the original white yarn was not put white, I added a little under color to it to. Then I experimented with raster effects from the Filter Gallery.

    Step 17: Finish it off with a drop shadow, just to set it off from the rest of the page. 
    Multi-Hued Afghan, Recreated in Illustrator

    And for reference, here is the original afghan.
    Multi-hued Afghan made in Palette Yarn

    If you'd like to learn more about this history of this design, read about my Atlantic Triangle Waves afghan. Happy knitting!

    Would you like to purchase the pattern for the Atlantic Waves Triangle Afghan?