Pixel Art & Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a program used to create vector graphics, and was first developed for the Apple Macintosh in 1986. The first Windows version was released in 1997.

You won't find any pixel inside vector graphics, since vector graphics are built on mathematical descriptions of lines and curves.
The great benefit of describing an image with geometric shapes is scaling without loss of quality.
The numbers, which describe the curves, can be multiplied or divided, the characteristics of the curve don't change, only the scale changes.

In computer graphics, several different types of curves are used, each type having it's own specific benefits. Adobe Illustrator is based on so-called Bézier curves.
The French engineer Pierre Bézier invented the curves and used them to design automobiles.
Within Adobe Illustrator, there are three possible types of Bézier curves. The first type is not a real Bézier curve but a straight line. The second is a so-called quadratic Bézier curve, and the third type is a cubic Bézier curve.
More details about lines, quadratic Bézier curves, and cubic Bézier curves are to be found in the 'Postscript' chapter.

vector illustration renaissance painting the birth of venus after Sandro Botticellii
Vector illustration Renaissance painting the birth of Venus after Sandro Botticellii

Previous versions of Adobe Illustrator showed a part of Sandro Botticelli's renaissance painting, 'The Birth of Venus', as splash screen.
The renaissance painting was chosen as a metaphor for postscript, which would be the new Renaissance in publishing. The illustration of Venus was stylized over the years, but discarded in version 11.
Now a stylized flower and a colored block with the two-letter abbreviation 'Ai' is currently used as splash screen.

I personally liked the painting of Venus, so I made my own version of her.

Adobe Illustrator files - extension .ai - are exported as true postscript files, which means you can read the cryptic lines of postscript if you open an Illustrator file in a text editor.

With some effort, you can generate your own Illustrator file with code.

vector illustration 'puppeteer'; partly drawn, partly generated with code
Vector illustration 'puppeteer'; partly drawn, partly generated with code

This technique is also used to generate the shape and pattern of the lighthouse.

Lighthouse General

The initial lighthouse was drawn by hand and used as a reference to recreate the lighthouse in Adobe Illustrator.
The pattern on the lighthouse and the lighthouse construction itself have a highly mathematical shape. By using a program to generate the shapes, the end result will be perfect.
Drawing by hand is an option, but it would never be as perfect as generating the shapes.
The lighthouse could be made in a 3D program as well, but only the outline is needed; the shading is done on the fly by hand in MS Paint.

The top of the lighthouse in the sketch was to small, so it's changed into a larger, more robust version. The common lighthouse pattern is changed as well, to make it more visually interesting with respect to the original styling.
The next image shows the initial sketch on the left and the final vectorized lighthouse on the right.

sketch lighthouse and postscript version of lighthouse
Sketch lighthouse and postscript version of lighthouse

Lighthouse Cabin

For quite some time, it was not clear how the top of the lighthouse would look.
Several sketches were made.

The idea of a miniature rescue chopper as a wind vane on top of the lighthouse came quiet early.
On the corners of the sides of the roof, small nameless puppets are used as ornaments. The puppets are drawn in MS Paint; they carry a torch in one hand and extend the other hand into the darkness.

lighthouse sketches
Lighthouse sketches

After evaluating the sketches, I came up with the idea of using a six-sided platform that transforms into a twelve-sided lighthouse cabin.
The top is positioned slightly asymmetrically; this results in a more vivid illustration.

The rotating pattern on the lighthouse is repeated in the construction around the glass. The construction has an open character, so the inside - and partly the surrounding on the background behind the lighthouse - remains visible.

On the left side of the lighthouse cabin, a smaller platform is used for the radar installation. The radar has the faceted shape of a wooden shoe, the logo of the Internet Creatieven.

lighthouse top, left the vectorized, postscript version on the right the pixel art illustration
Lighthouse top, left the vectorized, postscript version on the right the pixel art illustration

The vectorized illustration is generated as a postscript file, which can be imported into Adobe Illustrator.
The curves have to be described with mathematical formulas, so the process requires precision.
Since the formulas themselves are not very easily readable, a rough sketch is made to visualize the structure of the cabin (image below). The bottom has six sides, the top twelve sides.
An extra border is added to the top. This border casts a sharp shadow in the final pixel art illustration, and increases contrast and depth in this part of the illustration.

lighthouse construction
Lighthouse construction

The construction around the glass has two colors. The front has a black color, the back a red color.
The front and back have had to be separated, so that the interior can be drawn behind the front and in front of the back.
You can find more detailed information about the combining of the lighthouse cabin with the interior in the 'Outline/Shading' chapter.


The vectorized illustration is converted into a bitmap image in Adobe Photoshop and copied to MS Paint. In MS Paint, the outline is used as a reference, just like examples one and two in the chapter 'Outline/Shading'.
Once the outline is OK, the shading starts; this is done by hand on the fly in MS Paint.