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Refining tab and flap shapes

From: Print Production Essentials: Packaging

Video: Refining tab and flap shapes

Now that I've created the basic shapes for my main panels and for the little flaps that are going to fold over and tuck in, I need to combine some shapes, and I need to modify some shapes. So for example, here on the upper left, I used two rectangles, but really, this is going to be one shape. It's going to be one sort of interesting shaped flap. And I could have drawn it with the Pen tool, but this is a little easier and it also ensures precision. So I'm just going to select both of these shapes and combine them. Now I could use the path finder to combine them, but I'm a big fan of using the Shape Builder tool.

Refining tab and flap shapes

Now that I've created the basic shapes for my main panels and for the little flaps that are going to fold over and tuck in, I need to combine some shapes, and I need to modify some shapes. So for example, here on the upper left, I used two rectangles, but really, this is going to be one shape. It's going to be one sort of interesting shaped flap. And I could have drawn it with the Pen tool, but this is a little easier and it also ensures precision. So I'm just going to select both of these shapes and combine them. Now I could use the path finder to combine them, but I'm a big fan of using the Shape Builder tool.

I'll achieve exactly the same results, but frankly I think the Shape Nuilder's a little more fun. So I'm going to choose the Shape Builder tool, and you see that sort of screen wire appearance. It's just telling you that it's paying attention, and notice that there's a plus by the cursor. So, it's natural mode is to melt things together, so as I drag across, it's taking those two shapes and turning them into one shape. You have to admit that's kind of fun. And then I'm going to come over here. Again, I'm going to get my Selection tool, select both of these shapes. And they don't have to be grouped or anything.

You just basically have to get their attention, and then just drag across, and there we go. Now, if you're having to do a lot of Shape Builder modification, it behooves you to learn one little keyboard shortcut. I want to select these two shapes so I can operate on them with the shape builder, but I don't want to change tools, so if I hold down the Command key on the Mac, or Control on Windows, that momentarily gives me the black arrow, and I can drag across. Now, when I release that Command or Control key, I'm back to using my Shape Builder tool because I never let go of it.

Now I just drag across and combine those and there we go. Now I need to make some further modifications. There are little notches in these small tabs and that's to facilitate the folding process. That helps the machine that folds this package up push that into the right position. So I'm going to zoom in and the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to unlock my guides. I'm going to go to View > Guides, you can see the check mark, they're locked. We're going to drag in a guide line here.

And while it's still live, and you can tell because there's still a number here in the y field, I want to duplicate it because I know that the little notch that I'm going to create starts an eighth of an inch north of here. So I'm going to click in the y field, and just type minus 0.125. And I'd probably be okay if I just moved this guide but just to be cautious I'm going to hold down Option or Alt while I hit Return and that lets me duplicate that guide. So now I have one at sort of my base position and then this other one where I'm going to begin creating this notch, and then for safety's sake I'm going to go back and re-lock my guides.

So there we go. Now what I want to do is I want to add a little pinpoint here and here, two little anchor points that are going to let me create this notched effect. Now I found that these little guys will kind of fight you unless their the top most object, so click on that shape and then Object > Arrange > Bring To front. Didn't look any different but it will behave a little bit better, so I am going to zoom in so you can tell what I am going to do here. I want to add an anchor point here and here so I'm going to get my Pen tool and you get a lot of visual feedback with your cursor appearance in Illustrator.

And its a good idea to pay attention to that. That little asterisk that you see next to it means that if I were to click now, I'm going to start making a new shape. But I don't want to do that, I want to modify an existing shape. So as I hover, hopefully, this will turn into a plus, and that's what we're looking for. See that little plus? That means I'm going to add to an existing shape. So when I click don't really see anything change, but now I've put a little pivot point there. And I come over here to this other little point, and I'm going to click cause I see the plus, and again you don't see a change yet.

I want a clear shot of the size of this without messing up something else. So here's what I want to do. I want to either lock or hide the adjacent panels just so I can't mess them up. So I'll show you two methods to lock or hide. I'm just going to drag a little marquee over here that selects this adjacent panel. I could go up to Object > Hide Selection. Alright that's one way to do it. I am going to undo with a Command or Control Z. I could also say Object > Lock Selection, and then I don't run the risk of accidentally selecting it.

I'm a fan of doing this in the Layers panel. So I'm going to select the adjacent panel. Now, I know I'm zoomed way in. But you know that that's an adjacent rectangle. In the Layers panel, if I click the little triangle to the left of that layer. And I'm going to pull this loose, so you can see what's going on. There's a lot of stuff and Illustrator names every object that you make. But, it names it path, path, path, path, path. So, if you're building something really messy in the future you might want to name them something you'd recognize. Not necessary for this. But, sometimes that can be helpful. But, I know what I have selected because I see this little double target circle and this little red guy.

I can hide it by hitting that little eyeball icon. I can lock it by doing this. And you notice, I locked that other little panel earlier. See the little lock mark? Just going to double click to sort of snug that up and get it out of the way. And, I'll get it back when I need it. Now that those two adjacent panels are locked, I can't mess them up. now I have a clear shot at the sides of this little flap that I want to modify. So I am just going to take my wide arrow, drag a little marquee down here. And its a little hard to tell but I now have two points selected. I'm going to use my left arrow key, and you can see them start to move.

I'm going to do the same thing on the other side. There, I now have the beginning of something that's going to do the right thing when its folded. I'm going to click on the little two double arrows here at the top of the Layers panel to bring that back. And I'll unlock those adjacent panels when I'm through with this. But I have one more thing I need to do. I need to bevel this. So, just being smaller isn't enough. It also needs a bit of a bevel. So I'm going to click on this corner. And I am just going to use Shift and my arrow key.

Shift and my arrow key, there we go. Deselect, always a good idea so you don't hurt yourself and now you are back in the Layers panel. I can unlock those adjacent panels in case I need to do something to them, and I can clean house here by going up to reset essentials. That seems like an awful lot of work. It might be fun the first time but you probably don't look forward to doing it to the other tabs. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to hide my guides just to kind of get them out of the way and I'm going to get rid of these that I haven't worked on yet because this guy's going to work for all of them.

So I just select him and I want to make sure I do it with the black arrow so. With the black arrow Select, remember that Option or Alt lets you do, Shift lets you constrain. So, I'm just going to Option or Alt, Shift, drag, and smart guides will tell me when it snaps. Gosh, how do you live without smart guide? Now that I have these two, Select one, Shift click the other. Again, Option or Alt Shift to drag down, and get them in the right position, except they need to flip over. And then in my Transform panel, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to pin down the bottom edge.

So that they're going to pivot off what's now their bottom edge. And then flip them vertically, and there we go. So now I have the beginnings of much better little panels. And of course, I would finish up by beveling my little glue flap here. And I go around and fix all my other little flaps. I'm not going to take your time doing that, but you get the idea that this is pretty easy, and it's helpful, particularly in packaging, but just as a general guideline in Illustrator, you can start with simple shapes and then use the powerful tools of Illustrator, and build complex shapes without driving yourself crazy.

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Print Production Essentials: Packaging

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Claudia McCue
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