Working on a steampunk design for a helicopter, I have struggled the last few days to get a look that will translate to plywood. The devil really is in the detail. My plywood laser-cut toys are plain and unadorned but steampunk is not about clean lines.
I spent a while this morning drawing this window in the style of an old diving helmet, here as a .png file (WordPress won’t allow vector files, if anyone wants a copy let me know and I will send).
Affinity Designer is perfectly adequate for 2D drawing like this.
I have been using Affinity Designer (AD) to correct and amend five files – plywood model boats and helicopter, which means opening the Adobe Illustrator .ai file, working on it then ‘Exporting‘ it in .svg format, AD can only Save in it’s own format, .afdesign. This is a weakness in the AD setup and doesn’t make much sense, to me. Files can be exported – just another way of saving – in a wide range of formats, so why not put that function under the Save drop-down? Also, files cannot be saved as .ai – Adobe Illustrator, which is after all the most common low-end vector app.
Those are minor niggles and don’t affect functionality. The lack of a Trace function is a serious issue and a quick check on the Affinity forums shows no signs of any upgrade in the near future. The AD support forums suggest using Inkscape, which is freeware and works pretty well, but has a rather awkward user interface, and this suggestion merely shows the weakness of AD in this important area.
The ability to Trace the outline of a bitmap – raster – object, and then convert it to a vector is one I frequently used in Illustrator and which was high on the agenda at college, it’s an an essential tool. The whole point of apps like these is to use vectors rather than rasters; accuracy, ease of scaling, small file size are among the advantages. AD has plenty of strengths, the user interface is second to none and the assistant, which runs quietly in the background is excellent. I hope Trace gets added soon.
I have been using Affinity Designer to draw the re-modeled plywood ‘copter, no problems at all although I am still finding my way around. One tool it does not have is 3D view or the ability to move objects around all three planes. This is a useful feature of Illustrator although it can be frustratingly difficult to use. Still, as I don’t subscribe to Adobe products any longer I must find another way.
There are some pretty good 3D apps around, Tinkercad is an on-line one that uses ‘primitives’, basic shapes which you can use to build up complex models; Mesh Mixer and Autodesk 123D are both free and powerful. But sometimes it is just quicker and easier to sketch by hand and colour with watercolours.
So having completed the 2D drawing and checked until my eyes were sore for errors, I sent it to Cut & Burn, laser cutters in East Devon.
On those occasions when I need cheering up – such as after reading the news each morning – I don’t have to look far. These images are by or of my granddaughter Evie, now aged 7, dating from two or three years ago.