Yogesh Sharma's passion for engineering is rivaled by his passion for motorcycles. As a lead engineer on the Adobe® Illustrator® Quality Engineering team, Sharma is intimately familiar with all the power and flexibility Illustrator has to offer. In fact, he often uses his extensive understanding of Adobe software as a jumping off point for his creativity, letting him express the inspiration he derives from motorcycles in new and varied ways.
"I'm a huge fan of Royal Enfield motorcycles," says Sharma. "Their inventive designs are unparalleled. The lines of the bike — the look, the outstanding craftsmanship. Each motorcycle really is a work of art. As I was working on Adobe Illustrator CS6, I realized that there would be no better way for me to test some of the latest features than to use one of my own motorcycles as my muse." For Sharma, that muse turned out to be a Royal Enfield Classic 500.
A Royal Enfield is a rare breed in an age of mass-produced, user-friendly predictability. This is a mechanical motorcycle, handcrafted with love, engineered with purpose, and designed in a way that gives each machine its own character. Armed with a potent fuel-injected 500cc engine and clothed in a disarmingly appealing post-war styling, the Classic 500 promises to be the most coveted Royal Enfield in history.
To get started, Sharma snapped a photo of his Royal Enfield Classic 500. He then took the image into Adobe Photoshop® and adjusted some of the colors — for instance, modifying the image to have the chrome parts of the motorcycle convey more golden and brownish hues. He also played with the lighting, changing the direction of light shining on the motorcycle and giving the light a warmer feel overall.
With Illustrator CS6, Sharma wanted to explore two newer features in depth: gradients on strokes and variable-width strokes. Gradients on strokes expands creative possibilities for users by letting them create the beautiful, smooth shading of colors similar to Gradient Mesh in a fast and simple way. Gradients can be applied along the length, across the width, or within strokes, providing rich options as gradients can be controlled to flow naturally on curved paths. When combined with variable-width options, the appearance of each stroke can be adjusted and perfected, with the stroke's gradient spreading according to the width profile.
In the following narrative, Sharma outlines how these key Illustrator CS6 features enabled him to quickly and easily express his unique vision of his Royal Enfield Classic 500 motorcycle.
I started working on the exhaust pipe and silencer, which have different widths at different points. I opted to apply a gradient across the stroke so that the colors of the gradient bend along with the stroke.
Before Illustrator CS6, creating the same artwork would have meant creating several shapes, filling them with linear gradients for straight segments and Gradient Mesh for curved ones. Instead of going through the time-consuming process of creating Gradient Mesh objects and adjusting mesh points, I can now simply create curved paths and apply gradients across them.
As I worked, I also realized that I could use the variable-width stroke feature in combination with gradients on strokes so that the colors would flow according to the width at a given section of the stroke. For example, variable-width strokes came in handy for modeling the shape of the thickest part of the exhaust pipe, giving it roundness at the end points, while the gradient near those end points converged in the same manner.
“Using Illustrator CS6, I can
easily create artwork that looks complicated but has a simple underlying structure that is
easy to edit.”
I then moved on to the fenders. The entire green shape of the front and rear fenders is really just a single Illustrator path.
Using variable-width strokes, I could address the fact that the back of the rear fender is wider than the part of the fender closest to the seat. To create the darker shading at the back of the fender, I overlaid the gradient stroke with an object containing a linear gradient that fades from rich black to fully transparent. To get the highlights on the fender, I drew several paths filled with a white-to-gray gradient stroke and applied one of Illustrator’s default variable-width profiles to them.
“Achieving the desired effects would have taken an hour or more if I tried to create and fine-tune them using Gradient Mesh. Now I can do the same thing in five minutes with gradients on strokes.”
Another interesting part for me was creating the springs under the rider's seat. These turned out to be really easy to create. I drew a curved path with only two anchor points and duplicated it.
I then created a gradient that I applied within the stroke, and along the way, efficiently edited my work. For instance, after adjusting the gradient stops, I had to tweak each curved line slightly. If I had created these paths as filled objects, then adjusting the shape and gradient at the same time would have been a lot more time consuming.
To create the look of the top two "springs" being in the shadow of the seat, I simply lowered the opacity of the top two strokes.
For the black lines on the tank pads, I drew the strokes using the Pen tool and adjusted the width on parts of the stroke using the Width tool to give an illusion of depth. I then applied a gradient on these strokes that fades to transparent to further refine the look.
“I used to struggle with creating complex shapes with lighting effects, but Illustrator CS6 has removed a lot of the complexity for me. I no longer have to worry about the directions from which colors are flowing or manage a lot of other complex details. Using gradients on strokes, I can quickly make my ideas come alive.”