Simple Shapes and Items Flash

To learn Flash, it’s essential to know how to create simple shapes and items with the drawing tools, as described in Part I, “Mastering the Flash Environment.” Drawing simple shapes with Flash has always been easy, but with the addition of the Pen Tool in Flash 5, drawing has become even easier. Individually, these basic drawing tools are quite powerful, but when used in combination, they enable you to create an endless variety of complex shapes.

Creating shapes
In Flash, it takes little effort to draw most primitive shapes such as circles or rectangles. But what happened to the Triangle Tool? And how do you create irregular shapes? Creating complex shapes requires adding or removing parts. If you’ve already been playing around with shapes, you may have noticed that by joining or overlapping two shapes of the same color on the same layer, a brand new shape is created. (To pull the pieces apart you need to use the Undo [Edit➪ Undo] command a few times.) This feature is used to create irregular and complex shapes.

Creating shape combinations
Add a rectangle to a circle of the same color (on the same layer) and you’ll combine them into a new shape. This can be accomplished by either drawing the second shape directly over the first, or by selecting the second shape elsewhere on the stage and then dropping it over the first shape. If you find that this doesn’t seem to work, be sure that you aren’t trying to combine shapes that have been grouped. Remember that even single shapes can be grouped, and thereby protected from shape combination.

Using shape combinations to generate a complex shape from primitive shapes.

Using shape combinations to generate a complex shape  from primitive shapes.

Creating shape cutouts
Another effect that can be created by playing around with shapes is a cutout, by combining shapes of different fill colors. For example, add the same circle to a rectangle of a different color, and the circle acts like a cookie cutter, creating another brand new shape. A similar result is obtained by drawing a shape of a different color directly over the top of an existing shape: the one drawn last (or dropped) acts as the cutter. Drop a collection of selected lines on a rectangle, then deselect, and then reselect and move them away and you’ll create a filigree knockout.

As shown below, a moon shape is achieved by drawing the cutout shape, then dragging it over the top of the background shape, and then deleting the cutout, as follows:

  1. Let’s begin with a black background, as if it were the night sky. This is accomplished by using Movie Properties (Modify➪Movie Properties).
  2. Select the Oval Tool, change the fill color to white for the moon, set the stroke color to transparent, and then hold down the Shift key and draw a perfect circle.
  3. Now, copy the original circle as follows: Select the circle with the Arrow Tool, and then hold down the Alt/Option key while dragging a copy of the circle off to the side. This second circle will be the shape cutter.
  4. Next, with the new circle still selected, change its fill color by choosing a new color (gray) from the Fill Color control of the Toolbox . If you don’t change the fill color for this secondary circle, it will merge and become part of the original circle shape (as in the preceding example) in our next step.
  5. The full moon and the shape cutter

    The full moon and the shape cutter

  6. Use the Arrow Tool to drag the gray circle over the top of the original white circle and position it so that it reveals a sliver of crescent-shaped white . After the gray circle is positioned appropriately, deselect it by clicking off the circle at the edge of the stage.
  7. Dragging the shape cutter over the full moon

    Dragging the shape cutter over the full moon

  8. Use the Arrow Tool to click the gray shape-cutter circle to select it and drag it away . Then delete the gray circle. What remains? You should now have a sliver of white in the shape of a crescent moon. You can apply this technique to any number of shapes, limited only by your ingenuity and patience.

Here’s how to use grouping so that items won’t cut out the shapes that occur beneath them. In the previous example, cutting into the full-moon shape with the gray shape cutter created a sliver of moon. In such cases, there’s always a potential for problems if the shape cutter is accidentally deselected. The potential for problems is increased if more than one shape is being used as a cutter. However, if the cutter shape (or shapes) is grouped before it is placed over the shape that’s being cut, the problem is eliminated. Furthermore, the group enables you to nudge and align until the cutter is precisely where you want it. And you don’t have to decide immediately, either. If you choose the appropriate color for the cutter shape(s), you can wait until later to commit to the cut. When you’re ready to make the final cut, simply ungroup the cutter shape(s), and then deselect before selecting and finally deleting them.

With the shape-cutter circle dragged away, the original circle is cut, leaving a crescent moon shape.

With the shape-cutter circle dragged away, the original circle is cut, leaving a crescent moon shape.

Drawing a triangle
The easiest way to create a triangle is to take the Pencil, draw three lines to outline the shape, and then fill it in. However, you might be interested in drawing a more precise triangle, as follows:

  1. Select the Rectangle Tool. Set your Line Color to No Color, and select a fill color. Press the Rounded Rectangle modifier to open the Rectangle Settings dialog, and make sure that the Corner Radius is set to 0 points.
  2. Draw a rectangle that’s about twice the size of the triangle that you want to create.
  3. Choose View➪Snap to Objects to turn on object snapping.
  4. Use the Line Tool to draw a line from the top-left corner of the rectangle to the bottom-right corner as shown below.
  5. Draw a line from the top-left corner of the rectangle to the bottom-right corner.

    Draw a line from the top-left corner of the rectangle to the bottom-right corner.

  6. The line has bisected the rectangle into two triangular filled areas. Use the Arrow Tool to select one of the triangular filled areas and drag it away from the rest of the shape. Then select the rest of the shape (the remaining triangle and bisecting line) and delete it. The finished triangle is resting on its side; we discuss how to change that later.

Here’s how to draw a similar triangle using the Line Tool and the Grid with Snap enabled:

  1. From the View Menu, enable both View➪Grid➪Show Grid and View➪Grid➪ Snap to Grid.
  2. Select the Line Tool from the Drawing Toolbox. Choose your line color using the Stroke Color control, and then choose a Stroke Height and Weight from the Stroke Panel.
  3. Beginning at one intersection of the Grid, draw a baseline for the triangle, and then draw one of the sides, either by eyeballing the center point above the base line, or by quickly counting grid spaces.
  4. Finally, as shown below, draw the final side of the triangle; the Line Tool will snap to close the shape. When drawing with Snap enabled, a small circle appears adjacent to the cursor whenever snap is active.
  5. This triangle was created with the Line Tool, using Snap to Grid, with the Grid’s visibility enabled with View➪Grid➪Show Grid.


Drawing a polygon
A polygon is a flat shape with four or more sides. Polygons are more complicated to make than triangles, but they’re not difficult. A five-sided polygon, drawn directly in Flash shows below.

This polygon was created with the Line Tool, and is about to be filled with the Paint Bucket.

polygon was created with the Line Tool, and is about to be filled with the Paint Bucket.

The simplest way to draw a polygon is to use the Line Tool to draw an outline, and then fill it in with the Paint Bucket Tool. Another method is to draw several rectangles, rotate and adjust themn using the Scale and Rotate Tools and then place them on top of each other. Yet another method is to draw a rectangle and then chop its corners off by drawing intersecting lines, as demonstrated in the earlier section on Drawing a Triangle. Furthermore, the shape of any polygon can be modified and perfected using:

  • The Line Processing and Shape Recognition techniques .
  • The Pen Tool and Subselect Tool techniques.
  • The Arrow Tool .

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