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I am trying to trace lines over a photograph using the Paintbrush tool. However, no matter what settings I put in the Paintbrush options, the lines I draw are distorted beyond recognition. I am using a Wacom ET-04-5-U, if that has anything to do with it.

Here is an example with maximum possible fidelity and smallest smoothness:

enter image description here

The Settings

https://imgur.com/a/PZu4BfK

The Result

And the results are just as bad with the Pencil tool.

What am I doing wrong, and how can I create more precise strokes when drawing in Illustrator?

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  • I could not replicate your issue with similar brush/ pencil settings. Paths were exactly what I drew. Maybe try it with a mouse instead of the wacom and see if the difficulty persists. – Kyle Oct 2 '20 at 4:20
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My guess would be that whopper of a Fidelity setting.

From AI help:

Fidelity can range from 0.5 to 20 pixels; the higher the value, the smoother and less complex the path. Controls the amount of smoothing that Illustrator applies when you use the tool.
(emphasis mine)

I absolutely understand the confusion and why a high Fidelity setting may seem advantageous, but it's not. The way the setting works is counter-intuitive . The higher the Fidelity setting the less Fidelity (adherence) to the original path there is. You should expect more smoothing the higher the Fidelity value.

An easy way to remember is More Fidelity = More Smoothing.

Of course, this depends upon how fast you draw, the scale you draw at, and how detailed you are trying to create paths.

All I see in your videos is the extreme Fidelity being applied when you stop drawing. i.e. path smoothing.

I always set Fidelity to 1 and Smoothness to 1%. Smoothness at 0 tends to be a bit too accurate where the small hiccups and twitches are concerned. 1% helps reduce those a bit. Not implying these settings will work for you, merely what I have preferred for years.

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  • Ah, I see! So, "1% Fidelity" actually translates into proper English to "A lot of Fidelity" and "100% Fidelity" translates into "No Fidelity as all"! Who am I, to think people at Adobe speak proper English... Hopefully they're not telling promising "100% Fidelity" to their life partners... – MicroMachine Oct 5 '20 at 18:08
  • @MicroMachine yeah it's backwards to most. But then I think of "flatness" which controls how smooth an arc is. Flatness works similarly... more flatness means a less flat curve, not more flat... so it may be a math or engineering thing. – Scott Oct 5 '20 at 18:14
  • Hahah, it’s definitely not a semantics thing! ;) – MicroMachine Oct 5 '20 at 18:16

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