How Adobe Sensei Helps Graphic Designers Transform Book Illustrations

Image courtesy of Wesley Strickland.

by Alisha Marfatia

posted on 12-17-2019

As a graphic designer and illustrator for ForbesBooks, Wesley Strickland’s work is different every day. He might design an elaborate book cover one day—and the next, he may sketch a diagram of a tooth for a book on dental implants. The variety fires his creativity and keeps him learning. But one thing stays constant: his tools.

“For book cover designs and custom illustrations, I start in Adobe Illustrator and move the files to Adobe InDesign for layout and pre-press,” Wesley says. “I use the dynamic sketching and drawing capabilities in Illustrator every day.”

The tools make it easy for him to create versatile graphics that reproduce well in both printed books and promotional materials. That’s a plus for ForbesBooks authors, who can use the assets in their branding and marketing efforts.

“Vector graphics are easier to manage when it comes to printing,” says Wesley. “Plus, ForbesBooks authors often want to use book graphics to kickstart their brands, and the vector format can be easily resized and repurposed for promotional materials.”

As power users of Adobe Creative Cloud apps, Wesley and other designers at ForbesBooks keep up with new releases. He explains, “When Adobe Creative Cloud releases an update, the design team reserves a conference room to watch all the videos and explainers on new features.”

In particular, three Adobe Illustrator features powered by Adobe Sensei have taken the design practice at ForbesBooks to a new level, significantly enhancing quality so authors can achieve the impacts they want with their books.

Less time editing, more time creating with Global Edit

Repeating graphical elements can pull a design together and it’s a technique Wesley uses frequently, both in his professional and personal work. In the past, if he was working on an illustration that incorporated a lot of small details using geometric shapes and he decided to make a change to a recurring item, he had to use the Direct Selection tool and edit each shape individually.

Using the new Global Edit feature in Adobe Illustrator, Wesley no longer needs to edit repeating shapes separately or go out of his way to create a symbol. When he’s adding the finishing touches to an illustration, he uses Global Edit, powered by Adobe Sensei, to automatically manipulate all the fine-detail elements at the same time.

Image courtesy of Wesley Strickland.

“When it comes to objects and styles, Global Edit in Adobe Illustrator makes a world of difference in my work and saves so much time,” says Wesley. “In the past, manual editing could take anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours. Now, I spend two minutes in the dialog box, and I’m finished.”

Recently, he worked on illustrating a handful of character development designs consisting of a single full-body illustration of the character and multiple smaller illustrations of just the character’s head. Each individual illustration of the head featured a unique facial expression associated with an emotion.

“Having the Global Edit feature in Illustrator at my disposal for character development designs is invaluable,” says Wesley. “I can go in and change things—like eye color, eyebrow position, or mouth shape—for a single character expression, and Global Edit will instantly apply that change to every instance of that expression. This not only saves me time, but it also allows me to experiment more with alternate designs and illustration styles without starting over each time.”

Higher-quality illustrations with Freeform Gradients

Many ForbesBooks clients are first-time authors who don’t have the budget for full-color illustrations in their books. In those cases, Wesley creates black and white illustrations—but he never wants to settle for overly simplistic images.

“With the standard drawing tools, black and white illustrations can look cheap,” Wesley says. “I can mess around with line width, but it’s still just line art. Adding a subtle gradient can make a big difference.”

That’s why Wesley enthusiastically adopted the Freeform Gradients feature, which makes it easy to add custom shading and depth to any object. He uses pin points and control lines to manipulate subtle gradients and create stunning illustrations that go well beyond line art.

Images courtesy of Wesley Strickland and ForbesBooks.

“Freeform Gradients is my favorite new Adobe Illustrator feature because it allows me to add much more depth and value to black and white illustrations,” Wesley says. “I recently illustrated a man’s face using the feature’s laser-precise gradients and produced a drawing that was nearly photorealistic—something that was impossible before.”

Putting illustrations in motion with Puppet Warp

In creating illustrations for authors, Wesley often creates artwork from scratch, but sometimes authors have existing illustrations that they want modified. In the past, that sometimes meant Wesley had to recreate the image entirely. Now he can use the Puppet Warp feature in Illustrator to make small adjustments—simply by using automatic pins or placing pins at rotation points and dragging them into the desired position.

“A chiropractor sent me a graphic of a healthy spine and asked me to shift the spine forward to illustrate what’s called ‘text neck’—the effect of always staring down at a mobile device,” explains Wesley. “Puppet Warp in Adobe Illustrator made it easy to adjust the curvature, and even the chiropractor said it looked just like a real spine.”

ForbesBooks also offers authors additional marketing support for their books, which is often an opportunity for illustrators to extend their skills to new areas. For example, when a recent campaign called for a short animation of a character from a book, Wesley used Puppet Warp to add the subtle animated movements to a single illustration. It allowed Wesley to stretch his skills as an illustrator without spending a lot of time on frame-by-frame animations.

“In the past, if I wanted to make a human character shrug its shoulders, I would have to redraw the torso and shoulders in multiple frames, adjusting the shape just slightly each time,” Wesley says. “With Puppet Warp in Adobe Illustrator, I can use with the same illustration for 20 frames simply by dragging the pins slightly each time, which might save me three and a half hours,” he adds.

AI gives designers the freedom to create

For the design team at ForbesBooks, these Adobe Sensei powered innovations in Illustrator make a big difference in their everyday work, eliminating the tedious tasks that slow them down. Wesley sees the features as game changers for illustration, allowing him to produce much richer, more impactful graphics for ForbesBooks authors.

The designers at ForbesBooks, a Creative Cloud for teams user, use Adobe Illustrator and its AI capabilities powered by Adobe Sensei to design impactful book covers and illustrations.

Topics: Digital Transformation

Products: Illustrator, Creative Cloud