Spline Path Tool Dragon


dragonHands down, my favorite new feature in PI6 is the Spline Path Drawing tool. Now you can make 3D path objects in literally any shape with the Spline tool. You don't have to be a great artist, either. 

This tutorial shows you how to use an underlying image as the basis for making a fierce 3D dragon, shown left at reduced size, or check it out at full size.

I drew this dragon myself and filled it in with black. If you want to use my image to make your own dragon, download the zipped  .BMP file here. If you can't get the shapes right, download the dragon ZIP kit.

Open the dragon image up in the work space. Select the Path Drawing tool. Click on the Spline drawing tool (arrow).

select Spline Path Drawing tool

The 3D Round red metallic  preset I used for the dragon was created from the Material dialog box, as follows:

Border tab: 4 pixel border
Color/Texture tab: One color, red (RGB=196, 0, 0)
Shading tab: Metallic, Gold, Shiniess=20%, Strength=11%
Light tab: 3 lights (Direct, Spot, Spot), Ambient=30
Bump tab: Material, bumpf023.jpg, 40% Density, use bump map as reflection

Before we start drawing with the Spline tool, a few words about how it works are in order. You click to start a path, drag a short distance and your path line will look straight. However, once you click and drag again, the path will curve. Each time you click you get a square control point which can be edited. The extent of the curve will depend on how far you drag the cursor. The screen shots below illustrate this process.

how to draw a curve

You might want to practice clicking and dragging a little in an empty file to get a feel for the way the Spline tool works. You must double click to complete and close your path object.

Once you feel fairly comfortable using the Spline tool, you're ready to start the tutorial. The dragon is made as a number of different objects: head, body, two wings, two legs and an arm. While you could just go all around the edges of the dragon with the Spline tool, or even do Edit, Trace to turn it into an object, you'd get a fairly flat looking creature. 

By doing it the way I do in this tutorial, you can chunk the dragon into manageable parts and create a more natural 3D look from the overlapping objects. This will require you to visualize where the natural divisions occur for these objects, but I'll show you where they are as we go along. 

We'll make the head of the dragon first. Click to start on the dragon's snout just above eye, then drag and click around the dragon's head. Where you want sharp, pointy edges, only drag a short distance. Remember that the longer you drag, the more curved the connecting lines will be. Here's what it will look like to start with.

start spline drawing at head

Keep clicking and dragging around the head. When you get near the first control point double click to close the object. You'll see the black image  underneath here and there, but don't worry about it. Everyone's dragon will look a little different, and that's good! Yours will probably look something like this one, shown left. Notice that the head doesn't have an eye opening.

complete head

To add an eye opening, first click the Options button in the Attributes toolbar and make sure Even-Odd Fill is selected. Now click the Mode down arrow and choose Continue Draw. That will reveal the path outline again. Click and drag along the eye opening in the dragon image. Don't forget to double click to close the path.

create eye opening path

From the Mode dropdown list, select 3D Round. Because you've selected Even-Odd Fill, the eye opening remains empty, while the rest of the dragon's head object is filled. Drag the head up out of the way, away from the black outlined image.

back to 3D Round mode

Next comes a step you should take each time you complete an object. While  the object is active, drag it over to your EasyPalette and save it to a Library from the Add to EasyPalette dialog box. I make a Library for each tutorial that I do, which makes it very easy to find the objects I need to recreate complex work like this dragon. Alternatively, save the object as a UFO object to your hard drive. Why do I always nag you about this? Because if your power goes off or your computer goes down due to strained system resources, you won't have to start all over again. 

Let's make the dragon's body next. Ignore his wings, legs and feet, and just click and drag around the edges. Notice that you'll have to start up where the head is. The neck extension is going to go under the head when we change the stacking order of the objects later on. Don't forget, double click to close the path.

click and drag body and tail

Save the body object to your EasyPalette or to your hard drive. Select the Pick tool and click in the base image to deactivate the body. Return to the Spline Path Drawing tool again. 

Start by clicking and dragging on the left wing. Remember that the wing's  stacking order will be underneath the body and the right wing, which we'll make next. Double click to close the path. 

make left wing

Starting at the top of the wing, click and drag along the edges of the right wing. Remember to only drag a short distance around the pointy edges. Extend the left side of the wing so that it covers the edges of the left wing. Double click to close the path.

make right wing

Select the Pick tool. Using the Attributes toolbar's order options, send the left wing to the bottom of the stack. Bring the right wing to the top of the stack. Drag the head back onto the neck and bring it to the top of the stack. Click in the base image to deactivate objects. 

Return to the Spline Path Drawing tool. Starting along the forearm of the dragon, click and drag to create the extended "arm." Double click to close the path.

create arm object

Right click and Duplicate the arm. Select the Transform tool and rotate the arm 25 degrees counterclockwise. Use the Pick to position the arms. Send the duplicate arm to the back of the stack.

add arms

Click in the base image to deactivate objects. Select the Spline Path Drawing tool again. Starting in a black area of the left leg, click and drag around the leg. Be sure to extend it up over the top of the body. Double click to close the path. 

make left leg

Select the Spline Path Drawing tool again. Starting along a black edge, click and drag a right leg. Double click to close the path. 

make right leg

Take a good, hard look at the objects making up the dragon. If the pointy parts aren't pointy enough, or there are other flaws, click on the Edit button in the Attributes toolbar. Edit control points, or add or subtract control points and then edit, to get the shapes just the way you want them.

When you're satisfied with your dragon, right click and Select All Objects. Right click and Group. The whole group of objects will move at the same time, and you'll only see one thumbnail in the Layer Manager, if it's open. Drag the grouped objects into an empty area of the work space, where they will open in their own window. Close the black and white dragon image without saving changes. If you haven't already done so, save the Grouped dragon objects to an EasyPalette Library.

Now you can have some fun with your dragon. If you don't like red, you can change the dragon's color, bump map, reflection, etc. from the EasyPalette's Material Gallery or from the Material dialog box. Right click and Ungroup to add a small, all around black shadow to the objects at the top of the stacking order (head, and right arm, leg and wing). Choose Selection, Select Base Image. Choose Edit, Fill (or the Bucket Fill tool) and fill the base image with black or the color/texture of your choice. 

Add an object for the dragon's eye, or paint one in with Paint As Object Mode. Right click and Select All Objects, then right click and Merge As Single Object. Now you can add a Shadow in a bright color if you like, to make the dragon glow. Throw in some lightning while you're at it! This dragon would make a great splash page image, or you can make the dragon smaller and turn it into a web graphics set.

This tutorial uploaded 9/29/00

Do not duplicate, translate, copy, archive, appropriate or redistribute this document.



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