I wanted to review Vector Basic Training on the reputation of its author, Von Glitschka, who is well-known in illustration circles and has produced demo illustrations for Adobe to promote its Illustrator product. The title also appealed to me because I think the art of solid vector drawing is a hard art to master and has faded a little in the years since Illustrator started making it easy to generate vectors with features like Live Trace. A “basic training” for making vector artwork is probably due.
Vector Basic Training is well-written and an enjoyable read. Von has made this book clear and organized without being dull—I’ve noticed a lot of artists and illustrators who write such books turn out to be good writers. Illustration fans will appreciate the breadth of the examples, many of them from Von’s personal sketchbooks and side projects. You get to know Von a little bit better by reading this book, and some illustration buffs will enjoy that a lot. Illustrators who are passionate about the industry and its luminaries are ideal readers of Vector Basic Training and definitely should pick it up.
Like I said, Vector Basic Training is well-organized. It covers all the right topics—Bézier curves, point placement, moving from sketch to vectors—and each chapter has a drill at the end to give the readers some practice. I’m actually least impressed by these drills, because they are not very hands-on and are more of a demo of Von’s existing work. The companion DVD helps fill the lack of hands-on material: it has hours of tutorials and native files to work with.
Surprisingly, Vector Basic Training actually has relatively little emphasis on Illustrator or other vector drawing applications. This might be a disappointment to Illustrator users wanting to learn more about Illustrator, so it is worth mentioning. I learned Von is less of an “Illustrator guy” and more of an illustrator, and he spends maybe half of the book discussing sketching, capturing ideas on paper, art direction and the refinement process. Another chapter is spent on point placement and vector drawing techniques that apply to all vector drawing programs. This was the most interesting chapter for me because it demonstrated some of Von’s own methods for drawing proper paths.
This leaves only a minority of the pages to Illustrator tips and tricks, and some of the Illustrator techniques shown in Vector Basic Training actually require Xtream Path, a third-party plugin. Fans of illustration as a craft will probably appreciate this focus on drawing and creating, while some Illustrator users who love using the technology will be disappointed. I think there are plenty of good books on Illustrator—think Classroom in a Book—so having one like Vector Basic Training on the shelf isn’t a bad thing.