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Illustrator CS4 Folk Art Heart Motif

I have a client that wanted a series of vector artwork reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch folk art from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This type of folk art was made up of basic shapes such as hearts, flowers, birds and more. One of the most common designs is the heart motif. This is the sample from which I decided to start building my library of folk art shapes. When it comes to drawing basic shapes, AdobeR IllustratorR CS4 is one of the best software.

One of the reasons that I like computer art is that I can’t draw a straight line on my own. So drawing the heart shape freehand was probably a waste of time. I decided to copy and paste a heart shape from Photoshop’s Custom Shapes Library and use that as a guide. After pasting the heart shape on the first layer in Illustrator, I locked that layer and added a new layer for my own shapes.

  1. Using the Pen tool, I clicked along the outside of the heart. I used many points because I wanted a very smooth heart shape and this gave me more control when refining the shape. I set the Stroke to black and the Fill to null.

    Notice that I only drew one half of the heart shape. I could have drawn the complete shape, but I decided to make a mirror image and combine the two shapes into one heart shape. But first, I needed to adjust a few of the anchor points along the path.

  2. Using the Direct Selection tool, I selected one anchor point at a time and used the Direction Arrows on my keyboard to nudge the points into a smooth curve.

    Now I was ready to make a copy of the half-heart.

  3. Using the Selection tool to select the entire path, I clicked Edit – Copy and Edit – Paste. To flip the half, I used Object – Transform – Reflect – Vertical. Then I moved the half into place next to the original, making sure that only the two end points on the path overlapped.

  4. Next, I used the Direct Selection tool to select the two top end points for each of the halves. With the Pathfinder panel, I choose the first icon to unite the two points. I did the same with the bottom end points for the two paths. This gave me one complete path for my heart.

    We could use the Pen tool and the Decorative Floral brush set to draw the brush strokes for the motif. However, I wanted a little more practice with the Pen tool, so I repeated the process above to draw the traditional brush stroke. This time I drew a path over the outside of the entire shape.

  5. To complete the motif, I copied/pasted several brush strokes at the bottom of the heart.

    Now I am ready to add color and gradients to create our digital folk art heart motif.

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