Drawing hoses and wires.

Adobe Illustrator vector tutorial by Kevin Hulsey.

Vector samples

Vector tutorial on drawing hoses and wires.

Creating vector line art of coiled wiring and rubber hoses with the pen tool.

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All Tutorial Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

Creating wires, wiring harnesses, rubber hoses and metal tubing is an essential part of any illustration that involves vehicles, heavy machinery, mechanical devices or electronics, and is a fundamental skill for someone who is thinking about a career as a technical illustrator. Fortunately, drawing wires and tubing with a vector drawing program is a relatively easy process requiring only a few steps to achieve good results. This process will work for every type of wiring or plumbing in any gauge, thickness or diameter.

We will start this tutorial using Adobe Illustrator vector drawing software but you can also achieve very nice results from a raster program like Photoshop. This tutorial will cover both methods in detail. We will also cover final painting methods in detail using Photoshop CS5. Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: Apple Mac Pro, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet and Adobe Illustrator CS-CS5 or CorelDRAW vector drawing software.

Drawing Hoses & Wires in Illustrator Vector

Before we begin working on our automotive illustration sample we will want to zoom in to the artwork at around 400% or more, and for the tutorial you will see that we have zoomed in by 1600%. Typically, if it looks acceptable at 300 to 400% it will look great when printed at 100%. We will start out with a very thin line thickness or weight of around 0.15 pt. This thickness will need to be manually entered in the "Stroke" dialogue box as the smallest native increment is 0.25 pt or 1/4 of a point. For this demonstration I am using a slightly thicker line of 0.5 pt. Using the Pen Tool (P) we will begin to draw our rubber tubing along the center-line of the hose (below), using as few anchor-points as possible. Fewer anchor-points makes for a smoother transition from curve to curve. Make sure to extend the center-line well beyond the end-point.

Drawing hoses and wires in Illustrator vector

Next we will change the thickness of the Stroke Weight to 3 pt (3 points) to simulate the internal thickness of the hose. Don't make the hose too thick at this stage as you will need to back track several steps once you add thickness to the outside lines. Again, make sure that the hose extends well beyond its final end-point.

Drawing rubber tubing

The next step will be to outline our thicker 3 point stroke weight by going to Object>Path>Outline Stroke (Fig. 3, below). This action may make the hose much thicker but don't panic, Illustrator has just made the now outside path stroke itself at 3 points. If it does, just reset the path's stroke color to (none) in the Swatches palette window, then set the Fill (X) color to (none) as well (Fig. 4, 2 down)

Outline stroke to draw rubber tubing
Drawing rubber tubing paths

Now that we have a perfect outline to your tubing we will add color to the path's stroke and set its weight to 0.05 pt. as before (Fig. 5, below).. Now we are ready to begin cutting our paths in every location that will be hidden behind something else. Use the Scissors Tool (C) to cut the path in each location. You may want to add a rounded end to each cut in the path to create a perfect intersection between perpendicular lines. See the tutorial on Controlling Line Quality for further information on this topic.

Drawing electrical wiring paths

Once we have cut all of the pieces of tubing and removed (deleted) them we will click on each remaining piece of tubing while holding the Shift key, using the Selection Tool (V), and when they are all selected we will group them together using Command>G. Then we will lock the selection using the Command>2 key command.

Final step to drawing wires

For the final step we will begin to remove any lines that would be behind the hose. This is the reason for locking the hose BEFORE we begin cutting these other lines as the Scissors Tool has a difficult time in differentiating which path to focus on when two paths overlap. In addition, the Pen or Scissors Tool tends to favor the last path drawn (the one on top). You can also do the hose on its own layer but grouping paths then locking or unlocking them works just as well. The final version of our tubing is shown to the right (above) at 150% of the actual print size.

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