Vector Basic Training

Vector Basic Training

I had the good fortune of attending Von Glitschka’s Drawsigner Lecture over a year ago. In person, Von is warm, witty and informative. In addition to being an incredibly creative designer, his mastery of drawing in Adobe Illustrator is second to none. I remember watching a 10-second clip of a promo of the dvd that accompanies this book at that lecture. No joke -merely from watching that clip, my use of Adobe Illustrator improved. His work has won many design and illustration awards and has appeared in publications such as HOW Design, Print, Graphis, American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts and LogoLounge II, III, IV, V and VI. He has spoken nationally at many forums (including Adobe MAX Conference among others.)  In short, time spent with this book and accompanying DVD is time well spent.

This book doesn’t cover every possible tool in Illustrator (80% of what’s used is the pen tool and the anchor point tools.) It’s purpose is to expose the reader to a streamlined process that allows them to create quality artwork.


Drawing and sketching are one of the most important skills a designer can develop. Von relies heavily on freehand, pencil-on-paper drawing to sketch out and refine ideas before the computer is ever turned on. His work process depends on adequate preplanning and his drafting ability. Ideas are best conceived and developed outside the computer.


Von starts off with a history of the Bezier curve. While informative and interesting, it’s a chapter I mostly skipped to get at the real goods he delivers starting in chapter two.


This is where Von gets to the action: he talks about the core tools for vector building (the pen tool, anchor point tools, selection tools, shapes tools, the pathfinder and a couple of plugins that he has found invaluable (the Xtream Path plugin and the BetterHandles plugin ). It’s not a deal-breaker if you decide not to invest money in the plugins he recommends. But if one of your prime concerns is working quickly, then the plugins are worth it. Maybe Adobe will adopt their functionality into Illustrator in some future release, but until then, check out their respective websites.


This is where Von gets more into detail about the importance of analog methods of creation. Drawing, pencils, ballpoint pens, thumbnailing and refining your drawing. Although this chapter isn’t about cool plugins and esoteric secrets of AI, it’s still vitally important. Having the best possible pencil-on-paper drawing to work from saves you more time than trying to tweak things in Illustrator, no matter how good you are. Von shows off his creative process, going from thumbnail sketches to working in AI.


This is where Von starts diving into the craft of working in Adobe Illustrator. Identifying the best places to initially place points and training your eye to recognize when things aren’t looking quite right are the overall themes of this chapter.


Von goes into detail about two methods of point placement to start off roughing in the shapes in Illustrator: The Clockwork Method and Prime Point Placement. The Clockwork Method involves training your mind to envision clock faces superimposed on your artwork to help determine where to place points. It sounds weird, but it makes sense when you see his examples (or watch the accompanying dvd.) Prime Point Placement is simply refining further where existing points have been placed.


The Point-By-Point Method and the Shape-Building Method
The point-by-point method is the culmination and combination of the methods previously discussed. Roughing out the build using the Clockwork Method and Prime Point Placement. And then refining your paths using the Xtream Path plugin and Illustrator’s built-in capabilities. The Shape-Building Method utilizes the shape and pathfinder tools in Illustrator to create shapes.


This is where Von departs from purely technical matters and offers advice in keeping your creative style from being too much of the same from project to project. He shows off examples of various kinds of illustrative styles that he has used to great effect throughout the years. Lots of examples, behind-the-scenes photos and explanation show off his working methods (most of which the reader has already become familiar with from previous chapters.)


Art Directing Yourself 
This chapter is devoted to the importance of a designer’s ability and willingness to examine their own work and be willing to revise and adjust their creative process, improving with each project. Principles such as the Fresh Eyes Effect, avoiding visual tension and listening to your gut instincts to guide you when things don’t look right are discussed.


Good Creative Habits
Practical, actionable tips are laid out. Keeping sketchbooks and doodle binders, the smart way of utilizing layers in Illustrator (complete with amazing examples of his own work) and his opinion of best practices as relates to file naming conventions.

In conclusion, I have found this book and accompanying DVD to be a highly effective and practical manual for working in any vector program and for being a better designer in general.

Von’s Vector Basic Training group on Facebook is

Glitschka Studios

Title: Vector Basic Training: A Systematic Creative Process for Building Precision Vector Artwork (Voices That Matter)

Author: Von R. Glitschka
Publisher: New Riders Press
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Print: January 1, 2011
Ebook: December 22, 2010
Pages: 336
Paperback: ISBN-10: 0321749596  |  ISBN-13: 978-0321749598
Kindle: ASIN: B004K1F7IU

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  1. I came accross your weibste when I was googling adobe illustrator background [patterns on google and have a few q’s. I am VERY new to using illustrator , it basically just came along with my creative suite cs5 package. BUt I would love to learn how to use it to create posters, advertisesments, and xmas card background templates as I am a photographer. My question is::: where do I start>? Is there any good helpful weibstes I could use.. that would show a video tutorial online, as I am much better seeing it all come into place vs reading about it. Any help would be help. Katrina

    • Kelly Vaughn says:

      I highly recommend They have great videos with the best trainers in the world.i think they even have a series called Up and Running with Illustrator. They offer a one week free trial. And if you want to use AI to make patterns, you should definetly upgrade to CS6. They really improved the pattern tool in that version and it is now easy to use and very efficient (unlike previous versions).

      If you want to ask some direct questions, you can find me on twitter @documentgeek.

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