Threading Objects with Live Paint in Illustrator

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Threading Objects with Live Paint in Illustrator

In the previous post we looked at using Shape Builder to control how 2D vector objects overlap. We used a Celtic Knot design where two different motifs were ‘threaded’ to give the impression of passing in front of and behind one another. Now lets look at a similar concept using Live Paint.

To start with I’ve drawn rectangle with rounded corners, a kind of running track shape. Now create a second, larger, parallel path using the Offset Path function (Object>Path>Offset Path...)

offset path in Illustrator

With both paths selected go to Window>Pathfinder and use the second Shape Mode (Minus Front) to punch the centre path out of the larger one.

shape mode minus front in Illustrator

Now create a duplicate and overlap the two shapes with an offset as below.

overlap shapes in Illustrator

Select both shapes then choose the Live Paint Bucket Tool. Double-click the tool to call up the settings and click the checkbox for ‘Paint Strokes’ – you don’t have to change this but it does make it easier to colour strokes as we go without having to use modifier keys.

Live Paint bucket tool in Illustrator

Now we can use Live Paint to colour the sections as needed – the effect I’m after is to have a red shape ‘linking’ into a yellow one. The red shape needs to pass in front of the yellow on the first overlap and behind on the second.

recolouring with Live Paint in Illustrator

For the graphic to look correct you will need to change the Strokes so the fill colours are correctly contained – set the verticals to Black and horizontals to None.

changing strokes in Illustrator

The finished graphic should look like the example below with one object linking with the other. Whilst this may not look particularly special the way Live Paint handles the colours is.

final image in illustrator

If we move and/or rotate the objects the colouring applied through Live Paint is retained so the foreground/background relationship between each section is intact.

rotate afetr live paint in illustrator

This allows us to move, size and edit the shapes yet still retain the concept of ‘overlapping’ or ‘threading’. If we move one shape too far and they no longer overlap then the Live Paint colouring for the overlaps will be lost – equally, if we move or rotate to a degree where different sections come into contact this will interrupt the colouring. That said, this still an immensely powerful way to colour and edit objects and allows us to achieve an effect which is technically impossible in vector graphics where one object can be both in front of and behind another.