by infinite_resolution


May 13, 2009

Live Paint — Making things out of thin air

Contributed by Brenda Sutherland, Illustrator Team Geologist
Isn’t it a great feeling when you set out to do something and find that it’s already been done? I’ve got that feeling now thanks to Mordy Golding’s instructional video’s currently being offered for FREE on

You see today was the day I was planning on wrapping up my series on Pathfinder and all the great features that use it with an article on Live Paint. But it turns out Mordy has just completed a series of 10 videos that go into depth describing the benefits of Live Paint and how to use it. Whew, my job is done!

Well, almost. . .

While I don’t want to spend too much time covering the nuts and bolts of Live Paint, as you can get that from watching the video’s, I’ll spend a little time talking about the development of the feature, since many of you have told us that you enjoy hearing the behind the scenes stories of how features evolve.

The motivation behind Live Paint was to create a more intuitive drawing and coloring environment in Illustrator. While Ai is the industry leader in vector graphic programs, the learning curve is pretty high, and it pains us to see new users create shapes by overlapping strokes then struggle to find a way to fill the object they’ve created with color. This is something that is easy for them to do in pixel based painting programs, even the educational software for children makes it easy to draw and paint this way, so it’s understandable that new users would expect to find a method of working like this in Illustrator.


But vector paths don’t work that way. The paint attributes are part of the geometry of the original objects. Spaces between these objects are just that, spaces, empty spaces, negative space . . . It’s kind of like holding your hands up and making a rectangle with your fingers. You can see the shape of the rectangle, but you know it’s not a real object, it’s more of an optical illusion. Well that’s the problem we had to solve in Illustrator. Objects can be close together and the spaces between them can look like objects, but there is no object there. So how can a user fill it with paint?

Thankfully we have some really brilliant people here at Adobe who weren’t afraid to think about this and come up with a solution. Paul Asente, Teri Pettit and Steve Schiller developed a new planar map implementation that not only could recognize these spaces as shapes, but could do it while retaining the original geometry so when the objects are moved around, the objects that have been defined by the edges of the objects update as well.Of course, Pathfinder is used in these operations, but without permanently breaking up your objects. When you are working with Live Paint, you can still move the original objects (geometry) around, and the transformed shapes will automatically repaint!livePaintExampe.jpgIn order to do this we had to put the objects together in a group. So anytime you convert an object to Live Paint you are creating a Live Paint group. Because it can be tricky to edit objects in a group, and we wanted to make Live Paint easy to use, we implemented Isolation Edit Mode, which makes working with groups so much easier we’ve since gone on to implementing it for symbols, clipping paths etc. . . (I’ll cover this more in a future blog post)So much for thinking that this would be a short post. I hope that if you haven’t tried Live Paint yet (it was implemented in CS2) that you’ll take the time to watch some of Mordy’s demos and try it out. It’s a whole new way to work in Illustrator that will save you time and help you expand your creativity.

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