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Railroad line style in Illustrator

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#1
Claude

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I feel silly asking about this because it seems like it must be a totally obvious thing but since i'm not making progresson my own...
I am trying to figure out how to create a brush stroke that handles the squiggly lines of a railroad in Illustrator. Can someone who's done this offer me some advice or would maybe even be willing to share the style so i can see how it was built? My problem is that I create a pattern brush with a line segment w/cross hatch for the side tile (i haven't created any other tiles) but when i apply it to a squiggly line it looks like a big stack of cross-hatch segments in areas with a lot of angles or tight curves. I just want it to look evenly spaced as the lines look in a GIS.

when i look online i see examples where people have applied these brushes to very softly rounded paths that don't reflect the reality of railroad paths.
Platts, a div. of McGraw-Hill
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#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I feel silly asking about this because it seems like it must be a totally obvious thing but since i'm not making progresson my own...
I am trying to figure out how to create a brush stroke that handles the squiggly lines of a railroad in Illustrator. Can someone who's done this offer me some advice or would maybe even be willing to share the style so i can see how it was built? My problem is that I create a pattern brush with a line segment w/cross hatch for the side tile (i haven't created any other tiles) but when i apply it to a squiggly line it looks like a big stack of cross-hatch segments in areas with a lot of angles or tight curves. I just want it to look evenly spaced as the lines look in a GIS.

when i look online i see examples where people have applied these brushes to very softly rounded paths that don't reflect the reality of railroad paths.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I've never used a brush for this, always done it manually. Try this:
- Give your lines a small, black stroke.
- Make a copy of the original lines and paste them in front of the original
- Set the width to be 4-5 times wider than your original line
- Set the dashes/spaces so that there's a short dash followed by a long, open space. The dash should be about the same length as the width of your original line.

Hope this helps.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#3
Claude

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Cool trick! Thanks Hans. I'm still eager to see how others would use a brush stroke for this so if you have a method, I'm all ears.
Platts, a div. of McGraw-Hill
www.maps.platts.com


#4
Matthew Hampton

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Depending on what version of Illustrator you have - you have several choices. You can take Hans's excellent advice, but when you want to change the alignment later you have to move multiple lines.

To ameliorate that problem (with later versions of AI) you can use the "Appearance palette" and stack multiple-stoke representations for a single line - try a 3 pt black bottom, a 2 pt white middle and a 5 pt black-dashed line. The 2 pt white stroke knocks out the black and gives you two rails.

Alternatively, if you want more stylized tracks you can use the pre-manufactured Train Tracks brush that is shipped with Illustrator. It ends-up in slightly different places for different versions of Illustrator. In CS2 it's in Window/Brush Library/Borders_Novelty, in Illustrator 10 it's in Window/Brush Library/Border Sample.

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#5
Claude

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Thanks for the advice Cartomat. I like the idea of using Hans' idea in the appearance palette. another big advantage to this way i also don't duplicate the rr tracks layer and it's 20k worth of nodes.

Cheers,
Claude
Platts, a div. of McGraw-Hill
www.maps.platts.com


#6
David Medeiros

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I've never used a brush for this, always done it manually. Try this:
- Give your lines a small, black stroke.
- Make a copy of the original lines and paste them in front of the original
- Set the width to be 4-5 times wider than your original line
- Set the dashes/spaces so that there's a short dash followed by a long, open space. The dash should be about the same length as the width of your original line.

Hope this helps.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


That's more or less how we do it at CSAA. Though we have it automated through an "actions" pallete.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

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#7
Mike H

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You can draw a simple cross-tie and make that a brush. Then the brush can be controlled by line weight. Martin (Alpine Mapping Guild) taught me that approach. But the cloned line/dashed line works well too.

Here is what I don't understand: if the rr track line is node intensive, like an Arc export, either approach produces a miserable mess. Why does the number of nodes affect a brush that way? Or is it not specifically the node count, but rather the angles between nodes that corrupts the appearence... even after using Illy's simplify cmd I still get a mixed appearance.

Either way, I usually redraw the rr track and then use one of the approaches. If there is overlap, of multiple rr tracks, you get a glob of tracks depending on scale. So you often have to delete and simplify anyway.

the Freehand PS code worked well, I miss that in Illy.

m.
Michael Hermann
mike [at] purplelizard.com


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