Tag Archives: illustrator

Free Downloadable Science Brushes for Adobe Illustrator

I’ve used Adobe Illustrator for years, but I didn’t use brushes very much. This weekend I watch the Lynda.com course “Creating Custom Brushes”. My library gives me free access to Lynda.com through their website; yours might too so check it out.

In my zeal, I created a few science-themed custom pattern brushes. Two of them are created from real experimental data. You can see them drawn onto paths below. If you like them, you can download the .ai files through my Creative Cloud presence at the following link: https://adobe.ly/2GpnK9Y.

If you use the files, please satisfy my curiosity, and either comment here or mention my twitter handle @Vironevaeh. I hope they are as fun to use as they were to make!

What are the paths? (counting from the top)

  1. The top path is loosely based on the body-centered cubic crystal (BCC) structure. A real BCC crystal has atoms in the middle of every cube, rather than every other. It also extends in all three dimensions. Iron and chromium form BCC crystals.
  2. This path is real experimental data from coupled Colpitts oscillators. A Colpitts oscillator is a simple electronic oscillator made from resistors, inductors, capacitors, and a transistor. Without coupling, the oscillations are simpler; the interactions cause them to make this interesting pattern.
  3. This path is the “skeletal formula” for a random organic molecule. Next time I will make some polymers, but this one was for play.
  4. A cubic molecule.
  5. More real experimental data, this time from an electrochemical experiment. This is the current produced from the dissolution of nickel oxide in acid. Here, six oscillators are locked in a pattern. (Note that this path has a lot of anchors so it’s a little slow. Maybe this one was more for my fun.)



The delightful illustrations of George Barbier

I am two years into a project of science fiction illustration inspired by Hiroshige’s 100 View of Edo. I’m working on 100 views of Vironevaeh. I’ve completed 75 line art drawings, and am satisfied with 44 of them. It’s a project that ebbs and flows, and I constantly seek new sources of inspiration. The floor of my office is littered with books tabbed with post-it notes—a photo essay of the Koreas, French war illustrations from World War I, a Western photo essay, amongst others. This weekend I found art deco master George Barbier.

I’ve written about my interest in art deco and art nouveau before. (see: Victor Horta’s architecture, Alphonse Mucha’s posters and Walter Crane’s childrens books.) When I found a book of George Barbier illustrations on my shelf, purchased over a year ago, but forgotten in a cross-country move, I found inspiration.

The book is the top Barbier hit on Amazon, though it is mostly in Japanese with some original French. Barbier was one of the top artists in France after World War I, but disappeared largely after his death in 1932, a fate that seems to happen to many of the commercial artists of this period. Blissfully, he is in ascendance, even if the most accessible manifestation at the moment is an unreadable rendition in metallic blue. The illustrations are good enough that that doesn’t matter.


The book has hundreds of illustrations from what seem like a variety of sources. The impenetrable Japanese let my imagination run wild. Below are just three.

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One inspired me rather directly. Can you tell? Time to take my scattered brain back into the world of inspiration.


Playing with Paper Cutting on a Silhouette Cameo

On Friday, my Silhouette Cameo came in the mail. This device cuts paper according to an image file; analogously, a printer lays down ink according to an image file. Until a couple of months ago, I had no idea that such a device existed, but now I am full of ideas for it.

When I researched the Cameo online, repeated complaints spoke of how useless the software was. The software that ships with it is woefully inadequate, and, from what I could see, only much good for making circles and rectangles. Silhouette has a wide variety of templates available for purchase, but I don’t want to pay for everything I print, and I want to design my own things.

Fortunately, there is a plug-in available for Adobe Illustrator that allows you to build vector graphics in Illustrator and then export them to the Silhouette Connect program. Unfortunately, this plug-in costs $40. However, to use the machine properly, this plug-in is basically a must, so I treated it as part of the purchasing cost. This plug-in only came out in December, and the previous plug-in was apparently quite out of date.

With this plug-in, I found the Cameo really easy to use. For comparison, it is much easier to work with than a basic desktop printer. You just set the blade to a height appropriate for the paper (thick card stock will obviously require a taller blade than thin printer paper), export the vector graphic to Silhouette Connect, and select the layer you want to cut based upon. You can cut around printed designs; you simply have to include some marks on the print out to help the Cameo optically align.

So, below are some of my first works. The butterfly is not my own design work, but came from a Lynda.com tutorial video; it seemed like a robust test of the Cameo’s accuracy. The second has a design printed onto a yellow background which was then cut out by the Cameo.

photo 1-1 photo 2-1


There are tons of exciting options for the future. I mentioned my enthusiasm for pop-up books many months ago, but it was too hard to reproduce the work. Now the process of making copies is easy. Additionally, I have always loved paper dolls, which seems right up the Cameo’s alley. I admire bookbinding techniques that allow interactions between the pages through cut-outs; this device is perfect to obtain the reproducible results I would want.

Final conclusion… this thing really makes me want to get a CNC machine.

Or at least a 3D printer.

Artists: Walter Crane

I love to go to art museums to new style ideas. On a recent trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), I visited the art nouveau section and saw a piece by English artist Walter Crane:

Walter Crane plate at VMFA.

The plate mentioned that Walter Crane did children’s books.

So I went home and ordered a couple of his books. A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden anthropomorphizes the flowers of the gardens in beautiful art nouveau fashion. Below is a photo of one of the pages. This page depicts bachelor’s buttons. All the little details, down to their boots, are done to match the characteristics of the plant. Another panel shows a battle between a thistle knight and a snapdragon. Walter Crane has several children’s books besides this one. Since Walter Crane died in 1915, his works have entered the creative commons, and they can be had very cheap, especially digitally.


Walter Crane also did more adult works. Neptune’s Horses reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where the elf summons up the waters to fend off the nazgul, but it was painted over a century before.