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Drawing in Flash: A Beginner's Introduction to the Flash MX 2004 Drawing Tools

Drawing in Flash: A Beginner’s Introduction to the Flash MX 2004 Drawing Tools

The purpose of this exercise is to gain a basic understanding of how to use the drawing tools in Flash MX 2004. Before proceeding, I need to define a few terms. You’ll find it much easier to understand how Flash draws if you are familiar with what Flash draws.

The drawing tools in Flash create something called vector artwork. A vector graphic is best described as a graphic made from straight or curved lines with crisp edges. A benefit to using vectors is that you can scale the illustrations you create without harming the quality of the illustration. For example, say you’re designing a logo for a client, and the client wants to see their logo on a key chain as well as on a billboard. If the logo is done using vector artwork, you can potentially scale the artwork to any size and still not lose the integrity of your original illustration.

In contrast to vector art there is something called bitmap artwork. (the words bitmap and raster are synonymous. Raster is based on a German word meaning to screen. Raster and bitmap images are made up of pixels). A very important difference between bitmap artwork and vector artwork is that bitmap is not resolution-independent. If you were to enlarge a bitmap image with a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi), the quality would deteriorate, most likely leaving the image unacceptable.

Below is a picture showing enlargements of a vector image and a bitmap image. Please note the difference between the two. The vector (shown on the left) is much smoother and more precise than the bitmap (shown on the right). The enlarged bitmap image is pixilated.

Vector vs. raster artwork

Figure 1. Vector vs. bitmap artwork

In this exercise, you’ll be dealing with only vector artwork. However, it’s important to be able to differentiate between the two.

You can use the Flash drawing tools to draw vector artwork in Flash. But first you’ll need to find them.

  • Open Flash MX 2004
  • Select File > New. The New Document dialog box appears.
  • Click Flash Document.
  • Click OK.

If you can’t see the Tools panel, look at the menu items along the top of your monitor. Select Window > Tools. The Tools Palette appears.

Opening the Tools panel

Figure 2. Opening the Tools panel

In this tutorial, you’ll focus on five of the tools in the Tools panel (see Figure 2) and the Fill and Stroke Color controls. The five tools we’ll cover are as follows:

  • The Pen tool
  • The Oval tool
  • The Rectangle tool
  • The Pencil tool
  • The Brush tool

I’ll also briefly cover the Free Transform tool. You’ll create a basic illustration using these tools.

Ready to begin? Good!

Prerequisite knowledge:

This tutorial is designed for beginners with little or no experience with Flash. What you need for this exercise is the desire to learn. And remember not to panic. The program is your friend. If you become frustrated or confused at any point, just relax and take a deep breath.