Using Adobe Shape to Create Sketch Shapes, Part II

November 07, 2014

I'm having fun creating shapes with Adobe Shape, so I thought I'd capture in a bit more detail the steps I'm taking to draw a shape, capture it, and then bring it into SimpleDiagrams.

Capturing my sketch and making it a vector shape is absurdly easy, thanks to Adobe Shape. I have a love hate relationship with Adobe, but this app is making things all new again (you know I never really left you, Adobe, just sulked a bit when we had troubles).

So first thing is to create some kind of sketch. I think it's easier for Adobe Shape to pick up stronger lines, so I did a quick "Angel Investor" in pencil, went over it in pen and then erased the pencil....

Adobe Capture on iPhone

Next, I launched Adobe Shape on my iPhone.

Initial sketch

The application immediately expects you to take a photo of your sketch. When you do this, Capture does its magic and quickly approximates your sketch with vectors. I'm not sure how it handles more complex images with color and texture, but for this quick character it does a great job.

Adobe Capture on iPhone

Adobe Shape places my transformed sketch in my Adobe Creative Cloud Library, which is directly accessible by Illustrator CC on my desktop.

Adobe Capture on iPhone

Now when I open Illustrator CC, I immediately see my shape in the "Libraries" panel. (To view the libraries panel, select Window > Libraries.)

Illustrator library

Man, that's awesome! My shape is vectorized and ready to work with. (Very smooth experience, Adobe. Thanks.) To work with the shape, you have to create a new document in Illustrator CC and then drag the shape in. You can't just double-click it.

I could export this shape as SVG as it is now and use it in SimpleDiagrams, but as I've mentioned in previous posts, you can add a bit of information to your SVG so that SimpleDiagrams knows how you want to color it.

The basic rules to remember are

  1. If you want part of your SVG shape to be colored by the "Stroke" color chip in SimpleDiagrams, when you create your SVG put those parts of the shape in a layer with the text "_stroke" in the layer name.
  2. For parts of the shape that should respond to the "Fill" color chip in SimpleDiagrams, put it in a layer with "_fill" in the name.
  3. And if you want a part of the shape to never change, put it in another layer without either of those two tokens in the name.

In this case, I'm going to keep all the black lines that Adobe Shape captured in one layer called "_stroke", then make a separate layer called "_fill" that just has fill in the areas I want colored. To make it easier to see what I've done, I've colored the fill light blue.

Drawing with fill

It's up to your own preference and imagination to decide which parts of your shape get the stroke color, which get the fill color, and which preserve their original color.

(Note that because the "strokes" in the vectorized shape created by Adobe Shape are really filled paths, SimpleDiagrams won't be able to change the stroke weight with the stroke weight control on the shape properties panel. You need to have simple strokes defining your shape for that to work.)

Now, let's resize the shape to a smaller artboard so that when we drag the shape out in SimpleDiagrams it's a reasonable size. I've found that making your SVG image 50 pixels width by 50 pixels height pretty effective. Or, if your shape is more rectangular like this one, the longer dimension should be 50 pixels.

To get the size right, let's select your whole shape (ctrl-A), use the Transform window to make the larger side (either width or height) 50 pixels, and then select Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art in the menu.

Resized artwork

Note that your x and y values should be 0, and the only way things are going to line up is if you have the upper-left box clicked in that little alignment tool on the left of your Transform panel, as seen in the screenshot above.

Ok, that's it. Save out your sketch as an svg by selecting "Save" and then picking the SVG format. You can use these settings....

Export SVG options

Now, just drag that svg file into a custom library in SimpleDiagrams. You may now create more awesomeness in your diagrams and sketches using your hand-drawn shape.

Export SVG options

So give that a whirl and see if it it works for you. Remember that this feature is enabled in the trial version of SimpleDiagrams, so you can download the trial and give this a try without purchasing the program (although I think you'll want to after you see how fun this is). 

And thanks to the simple library structure in SimpleDiagrams, you can create your own libraries of sketch shapes for different domains or communication tasks. Plus, you can export your library as an .sdlp (SimpleDiagrams Library Plugin) to share with others!

Send me a note if you get stuck, or simply want to share some of the coolness you've just created.