Advanced graphics for Inform 7

I have been working a bit on the illustration for Kerkerkruip’s swarm of daggers, a collection of airborne daggers animated by some vile intelligence and able to act in concert to shred wayward adventurers.

Animated by some dark magic, a swarm of small daggers is flying through the air like a flock of birds, their sharp points eagerly seeking your flesh.

The game’s description of the daggers mentions only an implied uniformity–they are all “small”–but I have decided to depict them as a widely varied collection, perhaps found in some hoard and only then ensorceled. This makes them far more interesting to draw! Here are some of the daggers I’ve done so far (I’ve also put up a few photos for inspiration at Pinterest):

Some of the daggers I've done for Kerkerkruip

Since every dagger can be different, it also gives me an opportunity to invite your participation: Please contribute a dagger for me to include in the swarm! This would be a quick, low-commitment way to try your hand at type collage. If you like the technique, maybe you’ll go on to provide some larger illustrations for Kerkerkruip!

How to go about creating your dagger(s)? Well, the font to use is ITC Galliard. I’m using the roman, bolditalic, and bold italic weights. Having the bold weight available makes it possible to balance “color” even when you have to scale some elements down much smaller than others. If you make the smaller elements bold, the apparent weight will match the larger but not-bold elements.

I use Adobe Illustrator to compose these, and it probably is the easiest program for this kind of thing. There is a 30-day free trial available, or you could use comparable alternatives such as the open-source Inkscape or Xara Xtreme (Corel Draw might also work if you happen to have access to that). You could use Photoshop or Gimp, but the vector editors I’ve mentioned are likely to be a lot more convenient! If you’re new to the software you choose, try googling “introduction to adobe illustrator” (or whatever) to find a selection of getting-started tutorials.

I like to start by creating a palette to refer to. I type out all of the most important characters in the roman and italic weights, also included useful symbols such as the integral sign (used quite a few times in the examples above), the pound currency sign, ampersands, non-English letters such as the cedilla or the thorn, and so on.

I look over these palettes to decide what to place next. Maybe I see a letter that will help limn a real-life object, or maybe I get an idea for a neat pattern for something more fanciful–or maybe I’m just experimenting. Then I just build things up, letter by letter, using the tools provided by Illustrator to scale and rotate the individual elements. Another useful tool, particularly for these daggers, is the “reflect” tool, which mirrors a symbol across a given axis. This allows for the kinds of symmetrical oppositions that you see in the handguards of the bottom five daggers on the left from the image above.

If you like, you can place a photo or other image in your working document (locking it on its own layer is a good idea, so that it doesn’t get in your way) and use it as a guide for placing your type elements.

You may notice that some of the daggers in my selection above are pretty complex, while others are more simple (one of them is just three characters). This is because I plan to have three levels of depth in the illustration, with more detailed daggers in front and less detailed ones in the back. Feel free to submit whatever level of detail you like!

I’ll set the window for contributions for about two weeks, trying to wrap things up by November 4. This is an informal thing, though, so there’s nothing ironclad about that date. To submit your dagger(s), send me your Illustrator (.ai), PDF, or SVG file via email, ek dot temple (funny at sign) gmail dot com. Contributions will be credited, of course!

Looking forward to seeing some daggers!

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Comments on: "Contribute a dagger!" (3)

  1. Sam Kabo Ashwell said:

    To confirm: you’re preserving proportion when you scale, correct? So, for instance, it would not be okay to stretch out a capital A into a long stiletto blade.

  2. Er, well… That is my ideal, yes. But I’ve decided that the palette of possibilities is opened up very nicely by allowing a moderate amount of nonproportional scaling. So my rule of thumb now is: scale proportionally whenever possible, and when nonproportional scaling is desirable, be sure that the letterform is still readily recognizable.

    You’ll see a few uses of nonproportional scaling in the selection of daggers I posted. For example, the blade of the third dagger from the bottom, right side, is made of two capital J’s, elongated.

    So, sure, try the capital A stiletto!

  3. […] appears, highlighting a typographically constructed dagger (see other examples of such daggers here). The main menu options appear as well, and for players who have not yet defeated any of […]

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