Home > Articles

Ready, Set, Draw!

  • Print
  • + Share This

Ready, Set, Draw!

In This Chapter

  • Drawing lines
  • Changing how lines look
  • Curves and zigzag lines
  • Drawing Bèzier curves
  • Creating ovals and rectangles

Drawing lines and shapes for your Flash movie is kind of like hiring actors for a regular movie. Except that you get to create these actors.

Much of the content of your animated movie will consist of moving shapes, lines, and text. In this chapter, you'll learn to use Flash's line and shape tools to create and manipulate the objects that will be flying around Web sites to present your message.

Let's break down exactly how to use the stroke (line) and shape tools in Flash.

Lines? Or Strokes?

Flash calls 'em strokes; most of us call 'em lines. Well, different strokes for different folks, as Sly and the Family Stone used to sing. I'll call them both strokes and lines in this section just to keep everyone happy.

Get It Straight

Two bits of advice on drawing lines in Flash:

  • Drawing in Flash is fun, whether you can draw or not.

  • Flash gives you a LOT of help!

If you're a talented sketch artist (like my artist, Paul), you'll find Flash's drawing tools give you the freedom to create some really cool stuff. If you're a drawing klutz (like me), you can still have a lot of fun, and Flash will help cover up your lack of drawing skill by rounding, smoothing, straightening, and adding effects to your drawings.

Where Do Drawings Come From?

Fact is, most artists don't create complex drawings in Flash. Instead, really complex illustrations are often created by modifying images from Flash's Library or other sources. The Flash Drawing tools are often used for basic drawings, shapes, and enhancing imported artwork.

Flash provides two main ways to draw lines–the Line tool and the Pencil tool. You can choose them from the Drawing toolbar (on the left of the Stage), or you can pick the Pencil tool by pressing P on the keyboard, and the Line tool by pressing N on the Toolbox.

Figure 3.1 Before you begin to draw with lines in Flash, you'll want to define line options like line color, width and type. These options are set in the Options area that appears at the bottom of the toolbar when you select the Line or Pencil tools.

The Line, Pen, and Pencil tools allow you to use options to change line color, thickness and style. The Pencil tool also allows you to modify how you want curves handled, but we'll get that a little later in the chapter.

That Pen Tool

Later in this chapter we'll explore a third way to draw special curves using the Pen tool. It's a bit tricky and specialized, so we'll focus on lines first.

Setting Stroke Color

Clicking on the Stroke Color button in the Color area of the Toolbox opens a palette of colors. The color you choose defines the color for strokes you draw with the Pencil, Line, and Pen tools option. From now on, any line you draw will appear with that color.

Figure 3.2 You can modify the stroke colorfor lines in the Colors area of the Toolbox. Default color settings draw a black line.

Figure 3.3 Picking a color for a line from the color palette.

Don't like any of the colors in the color palette? You can mix up your own color by clicking on the Color wheel button in the upper right corner of the Color Palette. This opens the Color dialog box. The Solid tab of the dialog box allows you to define colors not available from the default Flash color palette. You can mix up a custom color by entering values in the R (Red), G (Green), B (Blue) fields. Or you can choose a color from the Color space on the right side of the dialog box.

We'll examine colors in more detail in Chapter 5.

Pick Line Color First

Can you change the color of a line after you draw it? Yes, and we'll explore that process in Chapter 5, when we look at assigning fill colors. But for now all you need to know is that it's easier to assign a line color before you draw. One reason for that is that lines you draw in Flash are often converted to more than one line after they're drawn, meaning that you have to recolor several different line objects. In short, it usually helps to figure out your line color in advance.

Browser-Safe Colors

The default set of colors in Flash are "browser safe," meaning that they are compatible with the colors which Web browsers like Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer can interpret. We'll explore color palettes and browser-safe colors in more detail in "Protecting Your Colors," Chapter 5. For now, it's a good idea to just stick with the default palette–if you want the colors you choose in Flash to show up precisely in a Web browser.

Setting Stroke Thickness and Style

The option Stroke Panel allows you to choose line style, line thickness, and line color. Choose Window, Panels, Stroke to open the Stroke Panel.

Use the Stroke Style drop-down list to choose from a nice variety of line types. Use the Stroke Height slider (as shown in Figure 3.4) to choose a line thickness (or type a value in the box).

Figure 3.4 Changing line thickness with the Stroke slider. As you define stroke (line) height, style and color, the Preview area of the Stroke panel shows you how your line will appear.

Thick or Thin? It's Up to You!

Custom lines are great because they give you more control over your drawings by allowing you to set the line thickness to whatever you want–within parameters. Line thicknesses are defined in points. There are 72 points per inch. Line thicknesses can range from .10 points to 10 points, and can be set as precisely as a one-hundredth of a point.

The Stroke Panel also provides an alternate way to choose stroke color–you can click on the Stroke Color swatch to open the color palette and choose a new line color.

Lines with Custom Style

The Stroke Style option drop-down list in the Stroke panel allows you to choose from pre-set line styles. The preset options–hairline, solid, dashed, dotted, ragged, stippled, and hatched–are illustrated when you click on the dropdown list, as shown in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5 You can choose from preset line styles–or define your own.

For more detailed control over line style (and more fun), choose Custom from the flyout menu on the right of the Stroke panel, as shown in Figure 3.6.

Figure 3.6 Choosing the Custom option for Stroke style.

When you define a custom stroke style in the Line Style dialog box, you get a whole bunch of detailed options that you can use to define the line style.

Stroke Style Controversy

There's controversy in the Flash community over whether wild stroke styles work well in Web sites. Some experts say getting tricky with line styles is a no-no, and that the subtlety of line styles get lost by the time they arrive in a Web browser. Maybe so, but there is definitely a time and place for some cool line styles–especially with large, not too detailed graphics like the ones Paul contributed in Figure 3.7.

In Figure 3.7, Paul has gone to town with line styles. For the figure on the left, he tweaked the Stipple line style by assigning

  • Dot Size: Large
  • Dot Variation: Random
  • Density: Very Sparse
  • 4pt with sharp corners

For the figure on the right, Paul used the Simple pattern, and selected these options in the Line Style dialog box:

  • Wave Height: Wild
  • Wave Length: Very Short
  • 4pt with sharp corners

Figure 3.7 You can fine tune different attributes of the Stroke styles.

Drawing Straight Lines and Angles

After you define your stroke color, thickness, and style, it's time to draw! If you're drawing with the Line tool, your lines are gonna be straight, no matter how shaky your drawing hand.

With the Line tool selected, just click and drag to draw a line. Only when you release the mouse button does the line actually appear.

Drawing Angles

As you draw a line, you'll notice a magnetic pull to draw your line at a 90° angle–up, down, right, or left. That's handy, unless you want to draw a line that is almost straight up and down (or sideways), but not completely. In that case, from the View menu, deselect the default Snap on setting, and your lines will no longer "snap" to 90° angles. Even with Snap turned off, holding down the Shift key as you draw constrains your lines to 45° angles.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Related Resources

There are currently no related titles. Please check back later.