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Mar 26

Spraying Symbols in Adobe Illustrator

2007 at 08.49 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Say, you want to draw a tree in full Spring, a very green one. Not just an outline you want details too so that you actually see the leafs. Unless you have a ton of time on your hands or you’re paid by the hour, it would be a hell of a job to draw each leaf one by one. This would be one of the many situations where the Symbol Spaying Tool can be of assistance.

Step 1 - Create a few symbols to spray with

First of all you need to create a few symbols to have a bit of variation to work with. Instead of creating a symbol of only one leaf, I suggest to draw groups of leaves and make them separate symbols. To do this, just select the group of leaves and drag & drop them in the Symbols palette. I've used different shades of green for my leafs.

Step 1 - Create a few symbols to spray with

Step 2 - Set the Symbol Sprayer Tool

The second step is to double click the Symbol Sprayer Tool in the Toolbox and adjust the settings to your wishes. This can be a bit tricky and you might need to experiment a bit to find the setting that fits your purpose. I've used an intensity of 7 and a Symbol Set Density of 5. Furthermore I've changed all dropdown menus to "User Defined".

Step 2 - Set the Symbol Sprayer Tool

Step 3 - Let the fun begin and spray like you've never sprayed before

Once you've discovered the desired setting you can start spraying around. Oh and you don't have to worry about damaging the ozone layer here, you can spray like a madman :) Just click and drag, release the mouse when you think that there are enough leaves. I usually deselect each time I've released the mouse. This way you have all separate sprayings, so you can move them around and rearrange them a bit if needed.

Step 3 - Let the fun begin and spray like you've never sprayed before

Step 3 - Let the fun begin and spray like you've never sprayed before

Don't stop experimenting

Spraying Symbols in Illustrator If you're still not satisfied with the result, you can also tweak a bit by using the Symbol Shifter, Cruncher, Sizer, Spinner, Stainer, Screener or Styler Tool. These tools are hidden under the Symbol Sprayer Tool when you select and hold down the mouse. Think about the possibilities here in this tool and the amount of time you can save: a field full of flowers, a sky full of birds,... Ah Spring, can't wait till it's here. The weather forecast isn't looking that bad for this week.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.




permalink this comment Achtentachtig Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 10.08 am

Great, didn’t know about this! Thanks a lot!



permalink this comment Alex Buga Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 10.11 am

I used this tool for multiplying a tomato in a tomatoes basket :D, but your illustration is as beautiful as simple it is. Congrats !



permalink this comment Dylan Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 12.28 pm

Thanks Veerle, this will definitely come in handy.



permalink this comment Dan Braghis Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 01.23 pm

absolutely wonderful. My girlfriend will be delighted to have yet another simple “tool” for getting things done.



permalink this comment Greg Ferrell Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 03.16 pm

Wow! I have always wondered how this was done on large scale. Thanks Veerle!



permalink this comment DesignerJosh Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 04.50 pm

Thanks for the tips - these come in very handy.  Keep up the good work, and keep ‘em comin’!  Thanks again.



permalink this comment Reese Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 06.18 pm

You know, I’ve kind of known that I could do more with brushes and spray in AI, but this tutorial really gives me something I can sink my teeth into immediately. In the past, I have found them a bit daunting and difficult to wrangle. You help simplify it. thank you!



permalink this comment MattLat Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 06.41 pm

I painstakingly created a panorama of a forest for my website a couple months back.  I made a bunch of branches and then made some leaves and a flower symbol.  Spraying them onto the branches was so much easier than placing them… It saved me hours!

The result is really nice, too

The other seasons:



permalink this comment Julian Schrader Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 08.19 pm

Hi Veerle, thank you for this great tip! I already know how I’ll use this…



permalink this comment Markus Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 04.31 pm

Your illustrator tips are always useful. thx



permalink this comment Ash Haque Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 09.32 pm

Wow, your end result looks amazing



permalink this comment Roni Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 11.09 pm

Very cool! Thanks for all you Illustrator tutorials!



permalink this comment Jason Beaird Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 01.32 pm

Thanks Veerle, I didn’t know you could do that in Illustrator.  It sounds like it’s similar to the “Image Hose” in Corel Painter…which I haven’t played with since 2003 or so.  I think it’s time I go download the 30 day trial of Painter X and start spraying symbols like a madman - or I guess I could just open Illustrator.



permalink this comment Sheree Parish Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 06.57 pm

Another great tutorial.  I learn so much from reading your articles and tutorials.  Thank you for sharing.



permalink this comment Tapety Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 09.48 am

Wow, very useful tutorial. I think I’m going to use is in my next project. Thanks!



permalink this comment Jaime Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 09.55 am

Great tutorial, very helpful;
by the way, do you use genius tablet or wacom pad or something like that?



permalink this comment Veerle Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 01.16 pm

Jaime said:

Do you use genius tablet or wacom pad or something like that?

No, I just use the mouse. I tried a wacom a few years ago since it came for free with a subscription of a magazine, but I couldn’t get used to it. The problem is I’m left-handed when it comes to drawing but I use the mouse with my right hand. I tried using the pen with my left hand to select menus etc. but I struggled too much in trying. Then I tried both mouse (right hand) and wacom (left hand) but that didn’t work for me either, it was too confusing for me to switch all the time between the 2 :) In the end it got me so frustrated, so I gave it up all together. I think it’s a personal preference and it’s less complicated if you are complete left or right handed. I’m more of a mix: I write and use scissors or a knife with my right hand, but draw, use a spoon or play tennis with my left hand :S I’m born left-handed but people taught me to do certain things with my right hand. Some things I can do with both hands… No wonder I confuse left with right all the time or sometimes have trouble opening a jar. I always have to think for a sec. :)



permalink this comment humberto Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 02.40 pm

Veerle nice… :)



permalink this comment Link33 Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 04.37 pm

I hadn’t thought of deselecting after spraying. I often get annoyed with the behavior of symbol art in Illustrator. I can’t tell when I have the right collection selected when I modify it with the other symbol tools. Your piece is lovely by the way :)



permalink this comment Bubs Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 05.13 pm

I’m totally new to illustrator, so I always come to your site for the best tutorials!  I have your ‘Illustration, from sketch to finish’ video tutorial downloaded on my computer :3 Thanks for all you do!



permalink this comment Wolf Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 05.50 pm

I would definitely try picking up the Wacom again, the low-end tablets are kind of silly; however, the Intuos A6 wide for example works perfectly.



permalink this comment *|~Eva~|* Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 11.46 pm

wow this tutorial is so helpful! Thank you!



permalink this comment Mike Cherim Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 05.56 am

That’s very cool. Thanks for the tips.



permalink this comment Martin Hellendoorn Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 08.13 pm

Its a nice way of doings thing fast and still quite good!



permalink this comment Alex Mos Sat Mar 31, 2007 at 02.13 pm

Interesting technique… I think I will start and try it myself… will play a little :)



permalink this comment trevor Sun Apr 1, 2007 at 03.16 am

off topic.  but one of the main reasons that left-handers have to stop and think for a second about what is “left” and what is “right” is because the linguistic analysis protion of he brain lies in the less domainant side for lefty’s.  for righties, the word “left” or “right” is instantly associated with it’s meaning.  for lefties, the word must be pulled from linguistics, over to the other half of the brain, and processed.  a slower procedure.

lefties think that it implies that their memory is unteachable for these fast responses, but this is not the case.




permalink this comment deviantmonk Sun Apr 1, 2007 at 04.22 am

Great tutorial!

Also, I think this site is a great resource- whenever I am looking how to do something sweet in Illustrator, this is one of the first places I check.

Keep up the good work!



permalink this comment Jeff Brown Mon Apr 2, 2007 at 09.41 am

Excellent!  Now I can execute vector based paintbrush beauty.




permalink this comment Jane Gross Mon Apr 2, 2007 at 09.28 pm

I have just switched from PC Illustrator 10 to Macbook Pro with Illustrator CS2 and have had a problem with the program shutting down everytime I use the symbol sprayer. Has anyone else had this? Any suggestions to work around it? The second and subsequent times I tried it I made sure nothing else was running.

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