Deke’s Techniques 104: Crafting an Infinity Symbol to Match a Font in Illustrator

As I write this, I have newly returned from a ski weekend in Keystone, CO. My youngest, Sam, got barf-all-over-the-place sick and had to go home. Which really sucked. But fortunately my eldest, Max, and I missed the bug and therefore went on to have a terrific adventure. Today in particular was outstanding. We woke up, watched cartoons for two hours (in discussing why Scooby-Doo still sucks, Max assured me they’re trying to keep it consistent with the old days), and hit the slopes just a short walk from our rented condo. I let him lead while I captured our antics with my hand-held GoPro. I reckon most of the footage would be boring to anyone but us—altho I did wipe out in a hilarious 18-degree freefall because I was paying too much attention to the camera—but wow it was fun.

On the way home, Max and I discussed whether an insanely large cargo plane could carry smaller airplanes, the latter of which might subsequently take off from the innards of the former. As the rational father, I naturally argued “no, that’s insane, you silly child.” But Max had me really believing “maybe” over the course of two grueling hours because, seriously, the kid is relentless and we had nothing better to do.

Which takes me to this week’s technique: Infinity. Life-wise, infinity reminds me of how much I love my boys. (I know it’s cornball. But I’m feeling it so shut up.) Video-wise, infinity is a symbol. One that’s missing from just about every font on the market. So what do you do when you’re thinking infinity (like me) but you can’t make infinity (like right now here like me)? Answer: Draw it with the Width tool in Illustrator.

Here’s the official description from lynda.com:

In this week’s free Deke’s Technique, Deke McClelland gives you infinity. Yes, infinity. And you don’t have to settle for a one-font-fits-all symbol that doesn’t match your typeface of choice. Rather, Deke uses the Width tool and Variable Width preset feature in Adobe Illustrator to create an infinity character that honors the slopes and rhythms of a typeface that has no infinity symbol of its own—in this case Adobe Caslon Pro:

Deke begins with the trick every school-age kid knows: Just use the Type Orientation command to turn an 8 on its side: 

But that’s not quite what we’re after, because let’s face it, a sideways 8 looks like an 8 on its side. Which is why Deke uses that character to create a base outline for his new infinity symbol. After turning the sideways-8 into outlines, he uses it as a guideline to draw the primitive shape. (Check out the video to see how he cleverly uses the Path > Average command to find the right position for the anchor points.) 

 

Next Deke copies the primitive path and applies a thick 24-point stroke: 

Next, Deke uses the Width tool at each of the anchor points to create thin out and thicken up the shape in a pattern similar to the other numbers in Caslon Pro—making the horizontal segments mostly thinner and the vertical thicker.

After roughing in the general width variations, you can double-click a point with the Width tool to edit that point’s exact measurements. In this case, Deke sets the thin areas to 10 points (below) and the thick ones to 24 points.

The results are OK but, you know, a little lumpy. This is in part to the Variable Width feature’s reaction to a closed path. (It works more elegantly on an open one.) So Deke saves this pattern as a Variable Width preset, so that he can tweak it in a more friendly environment:

After applying the new custom preset to a line, he can make sure the widths are precisely in place and aligned with the exact divisions along the line.

Then he can save this new Variable Width profile and apply it to the original primitive path outline. The result is this graceful Caslon-esque infinity symbol:

And since Deke’s Photoshop and Illustrator knowledge is seemingly infinite, he’ll be back with more Deke’s Techniques next week.

I never know who’s still reading by this point. But in case that’s you, next week begins a series of Op Art experiments that I intend to revisit in 2013. C’mon, don’t even tell me something like this hasn’t crossed your twisted multi-plane mind.

Deke's Techniques 105: Op Art Experiment 1a: Inflated Checkers

Ow ow ow, my precious eyes! For more pain, return here next week.

Next entry:Martini Hour 101, In Which Deke and Colleen Have One More for the Road

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 103: Creating a Custom, Entirely Accurate New Year’s 2013 Calendar in Illustrator

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