How to Design in Concepts 5

Getting Started with Precision, Selection and Layers

This article was adapted for Concepts 5 from our previous How to Just Design tutorial. If you are using Concepts 4, this tutorial is for you.

The world is full of design problems to conquer, like home improvements, life-simplifying gadgets, personal style and the quest for artificial intelligence. With so many solutions to design for, Concepts offers you a cache of smart tools to customize and use as you need them, when you need them.

In this tutorial, we’ll get you started using the Precision tools, Selection and Layers as we design this simple object together.

Our design problem? A not-quite-pristine workstation needs a wire hub to gather the snarls of computer cords — we aren’t entirely wireless yet — so this little guy slides unobtrusively onto the edge of the desk, hugging the cords with it.

Mostly, though, it’s a simple item to draw, made of a cube, a couple circles, and a few extra lines. Let’s get started.


Setting Up

1. The first step with any new project is to set up your workspace, so go ahead and open Concepts.

As designs often have several angles and iterations, tap the + button in the upper left corner of your gallery and create a New Project. You can add as many drawings to this project as you’d like.

2. Inside your drawing, open the Settings menu by tapping the gear in the upper right corner on the status bar. To make this object, set your options like in the image below, with Plain White paper selected, a Grid Type & Display of 10/100, an Infinite Artboard, 1:1 scale, and Units Based on Paper (pts).

3. Now let’s look at the Precision settings. Tap the Precision menu on canvas and you’ll see options appear for your Grid, Snap, Measure and Shape Guides.

Go ahead and activate the Grid (the button beside it will become filled). This grid is an underlayment to your sketching; when you zoom in or out, the grid will zoom, too.

Now activate Snap. A couple things you should know about Snap (you can find more tidbits in our manual):

  1. Snap works with selected lines (lines that are drawn and then selected afterward), not while you are drawing a line. Draw your line first, then snap it into place.
  2. Snap encourages the start and end points of a stroke to reach for and touch other nearby stroke ends. The lines may shift around as they attempt to find points to align with, but play with it and you’ll get the feel of it quickly.

Touch “Options” beside Snap and you’ll see some possibilities.

  • Snap to Key Points means your stroke end will locate and “snap” to significant points on the canvas.
  • Snap to Grid means your stroke end will align with points on your grid.
  • Snap to Sketching means your stroke will suggest auto-completion to nearby strokes as you sketch. You might see little dots appear as options for you to choose from. Only use them if they are helpful.
  • Snap to Active Layer Only keeps the search for snap points inside the current layer, so you aren’t shifting through multiple layers at once. Especially helpful in a complex drawing.

Activate your snap options so they look like this.

The third option in the Precision menu is Measure — this allows you to set accurate scale and measurements to your drawing. Even though they are key elements to design, we won’t be using them during this tutorial. If you’d like to learn how to apply them to your projects, we have a full walkthrough here.

You can see the final item in the Precision menu activates the Shape Guides. Let’s begin drawing our cube using these guides.


Drawing the Cube

1. Tap the current guide type beside the word “Guide” and find the Rectangle. Tap it to activate it.

Each of the circular handles on the perimeter can be dragged to adjust the shape. Double-tap the crosshairs in the middle of the rectangle to make it a square. (You can do this for each of the shape guides and transform them into their perfect alter-egos.)

2. Now use two fingers or use the crosshairs at the center of the guide to move the square to a corner on the grid. Then pinch or spread your fingers to make your square the same size as four large grid squares.

Now choose a pencil from the tool wheel and draw the square. You can draw anywhere on screen and it will trace the guide, as the guide is the only active canvas on screen.

Once you are done drawing, tap the circle on the Guide tab to deactivate it.

We have our square! Well drawn.

3. To draw the cube, we’ll need another square. We could pull up the guide again, move it over and draw another, but let’s take a faster route and just duplicate it.

First, let’s select the square. Selection allows you to choose anything you’ve drawn by tapping (single-selecting) or lassoing (multi-selecting) your strokes. There are several ways to activate selection — you can get comfortable with it here — but the two main ones are 1) the selection tool (selection is the only thing active when using this tool)…

… or 2) a tap+hold on the canvas. This takes a bit more coordination, as it requires you to keep one finger on the canvas while a second finger selects, but it allows you to stay in drawing flow with your drawing tool active.

Whichever you choose, you’ll see a Selection popup appear at the bottom of the screen. The first tab on the left reads Item Picker (your single select ability). If you were to tap this Item Picker tab, you would toggle it to Lasso. If you were to tap a third time, you’d find the Color Picker. Let’s stay with Item Picker for now.

Center the crosshairs on the square you’ve drawn, and tap the screen. Your square is now selected.

Do you see the popup that appeared above your selection? Tap the duplicate button.

4. Great. Now drag your duplicated square up one diagonal grid square. As the copy is already selected for you, it will snap into place.

Deselect the square by tapping the canvas away from your selection.

5. Let’s complete our cube. In the Precision menu, find the Line guide and activate it.

You can see this line goes on forever, great for ruler-like line drawings (especially with measure active). But to draw an exact line segment, double-tap the crosshairs at the center of the guide. This will contain your line to the boundaries between the handles.

Now move your line tool so the handles snap to the corners of your squares.

Draw your line. (Remember that it’s easier to draw next to the guide so you don’t snag a handle.)

Now deactivate the Line guide and select the line you drew, just like you did with the square. Duplicate it a couple times and drag the lines to your other corners to finish off your cube.

We could finish the last left corner but as we won’t see it in the final shape, this cube works great as is. Well made!


Drawing the Inner Circles and Cuts

Let’s move on to drawing the circular shapes inside the cube.

1. Activate the Ellipse guide.

Double-tap the crosshairs for a perfect circle.

2. Drag that circle to the center of your first square. The center point will snap right onto the corner of the overlapping square.

Now use the grid to determine the the circle’s distance from the square perimeter. This circle is two grid units smaller than the square at their nearest points.

Pencil in your circle, then deactivate the guide.

3. Select your circle, duplicate it, and move the copy to the center of the second square.

Excellent. This is the main structure for our design.

4. Now take a moment to add a few more lines — using the Line guide — to cut into the shape on the right side. Use the grid to help you.

Here we have a final, underlying form for our object. You can sip a glass of your favorite victory drink to celebrate, or move on to the next step (both good options).


Inking Your Design

The next step is to ink over the shape, using Layers to separate your rough sketch from the more polished drawing. Using Layers gives you control over your design so that Selection, trying out different looks, and displaying your work is as simple as toggling a layer.

  1. Tap your Layers menu on the canvas to open it.

You’ll see you have a couple of Layer sorting options. Automatic is the default, sorting for you automatically by tool type. If you toggle this tag to Manual, you’ll have complete control over which layer you draw in, regardless of your tools. Both modes are simple to use and either works for this tutorial.

Select a Fixed Width pen on the tool wheel. You’ll notice that in Automatic layering mode, selecting the pen creates a new pen layer. While you’re at it, choose a color that allows you to easily see the line difference while tracing.

2. Trace the main lines of your penciled object using the Line and Ellipse guides.

I found it easiest to use the Line guide to trace the straight edges, as we cut the edges away on the square, but you can certainly use the square and trace only part way around the guide. For the circles, I used the Ellipse tool and did just that.

A few hints to make inking faster:

  • Use the Line guide for the first line, then deactivate the guide and duplicate, rotate, and resize each line. “Duplicate” is your friend.
  • If Snap keeps snapping to places you don’t like, turn it off for a moment.
  • If you’re getting confused by where or where not to draw, try decreasing the opacity of your layer. Tap the active layer to bring up its menu and slide along the bar. Or scrub between layers by quickly dragging your finger through them — this is called Focus Mode.
  • For a live view of layers, watch our Layers video tutorial.

Once you’re finished inking, hide the pencil layer by tapping the eye. Check out your design!


Rendering your Design

Let’s render this design into an object of beauty.

1. Select everything you’ve drawn with the Lasso.

Now tap the center of your tool wheel to bring up the color wheel and change the ink to black.

2. Choose the Filled Stroke tool. Tap+hold the Fill layer to select it, and drag it downward so it’s sitting right below the ink layer.

Fill in your shape. The Filled Stroke tool follows your finger or stylus tip and fills any positive space you leave between your start and end points, tracing your path.

We don’t have a traditional bucket fill yet, as adjusting among movable vectors can get tricky, but we’re working on it. If you go outside the lines, use the eraser as a mask to clean up the edges. For perfect lines, use the eraser with the Shape Guides.

3. Add a shadow to the inside of the circle using the Filled Stroke tool in a low-opacity (~10%) black. Draw right over the blue fill. Or, you can change to Manual layering mode (tap the Automatic tag to toggle), create a second Fill layer, and draw your shadow there.

That’s everything! Our design is ready for measurements and prototyping. Dreaming of some color options that will be available…

. . . and perhaps a logo.

This little object has a future… at least as a design tutorial. Good luck with your designs!


Here are some more excellent tutorials that will help you to get comfortable with the Precision tools and Layers, shared by our professional designers:

Create Your Own Geometric Illusions — with Mike Dearborn

The Transparency of a Glass Sphere — with Michael Fisher

How to Draw a Mandala in Concepts — with Jill Buckley

Creating Geometric Animal Art — with Cristina Marcos


If you have questions, please ask in the comments or email us at concepts@tophatch.com and we’ll be happy to answer them.

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Adapted by Kira Christensen.
Written and illustrated by Erica Christensen.