Basic Fontwiz-manship Tutorial ~ How to Create & Import an AI File

By Jeff Cantin [TinCan] on IRC

What is it? and what can I use it for? FontWiz is a utility wizard for A:M 8.5 (and up) created by Howard Trickey and can be downloaded here FontWiz. It now has two parts, one part closes fonts and can extrude & bevel them, the other part can import, close & bevel AI files with certain limitations. The limitations are: shapes should be closed and not overlapping.

This tutorial is intended to explore the AI creation and import and may not cover every case you can think of, but should be enough data to get your creative juices flowing in the right direction.

I have found Corel Draw with it's weld & trim tools to be extremely easy for generating items to import into AM, so that's what I will use in this tutorial. I think any version of Draw from version 6 up works basically the same, I happen to be using version 8. What we call CPs in AM, I will call "nodes" in the vector program.

Let's Begin with Something Simple
Simple is good... it let's us get a feel of what's happening and generally let's us get a success right away. So, open your vector program and I'll open Corel Draw 8. The figure below shows the same shape selected two different ways in Draw, on the left the selection is via the edit nodes and the center is via the normal shape pick tool, while the resulting AM import is on the right. In both selections you can see the nodes, the current FontWiz converts those nodes to AM CPs. It tries to retain the bezier curve from the AI file. If you selected a bevel in FontWiz it will auto-bevel the edge and close the shape.

So, from what we have explored already, what do you think would happen to a shape that had only 3 nodes? If you guessed "not very good," then we are already tracking...

Outside to Inside
Now we will experiment with cutting one shape from another (kinda like a Boolean hole). Again we will pay attention to the nodes generated by the trim tool as can be seen in the image below.

Here's what we get in AM from the above shape... Pretty kewl, huh?

Upon further trial & error, I've found you don't have to use the trim tool at all for this particular set of shapes. Why? Because Howard's AI closer assumes the inner closed shape will be a hole.

If your results don't close well on the first attempt, try changing the bevel value in the FontWiz panel, also Howard included a new feature to subdivide the edges, so try that. If your still not getting a good close, then you have to go back and examine your AI drawing. I mentioned earlier you should pay attention to the "nodes," there may be times when you have to add an extra node to help the closer. That's why I'm suggesting you start simple, and as you see how it works, you can start being really creative.

Quicky wrench, took all of five minutes....

Slight Difference in Creating AI in Flash
Flash treats the shapes and their outlines as two separate pieces, so I have found it effective to delete the color fills in flash before you export to AI. In this case the red circle and it's black outline are both generating splines on top of each other so you get double geometry and a mess in AM.

I'm not sure, but I haven't found a method to see all the nodes in Flash, so you'll just have to wing it.

If you learned something from this tutorial, please drop me an E-mail at Jeff Cantin
This is an important step, I track the number of visits to "thank you" notes, I need to know my time and my web space is well spent.

I have other tutorials linked from my hobby homepage. Give those a try too when you are ready.