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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week I'll be respond to an actual user request--keep those coming in, by the way, because they help us out a lot! A fellow at my web site, deke.com, who goes by the name of motorheadzzz--not sure if that's his given name or not--asked how to create swirls and swooshes inside of Illustrator, and so I came up with this. It hails from the Fotolia Image Library, by this guy right here. I didn't want to botch his name, so I figured I'd print it out in a fancy script font.
We're going to zoom in on a couple of details, specifically those gray swirls right there. We're going to create them from scratch. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right, gang. Let's get to work creating swirls. Now, this is fairly labor-intensive stuff, so we are just going to create two swirls inside of this movie. I have set up a document that includes a template layer--it's called template-- and everything on that layer appears very light gray, just so that you have a sense of where we are going. You are under no obligation to exactly match that template, by the way, and it's very unlikely you will.
If you're working along with me, go ahead and click on that swirls layer inside the Layers panel and then zoom in on this upper-left region of the document. And we are going to start by tracing this larger swirl. And the tool of choice here is this guy right there, the Spiral tool, which is available from the Line Tool flyout menu. Go ahead and select it and then begin drawing your spiral. Now, in my case, Illustrator is drawing the path outline in the wrong direction, so I will press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. If you're suffering the same problem then go ahead and click in order to bring up the Spiral dialog box, and select the first Style option so that we're drawing the spiral in a counterclockwise direction. Click OK.
You will create a shape. Don't worry about that. Just press the Backspace key, or the Delete key, to get rid of it, and then begin dragging around here. It's very difficult to predict this tool, by the way. And you want to create a shape that looks something like this. In other words, I am trying to make sure that my spiral is tangent to the existing swirls inside this document. Now, the way that the spiral is being drawn is totally wrong right now. It's a function of what's known as the decay, that is, how quickly the spiral is looping inward.
And you can change the decay as you are drawing the path by pressing and holding the Ctrl key here on the PC, or the Command key on the Mac, and so we want it to decay a little more quickly there. And something along these lines is probably going to work out pretty well. So, go ahead and draw a spiral that looks something like this, I suppose, and then go ahead and release the mouse button. Assuming that you have something that roughly matches the template, as I do, the next step is to grab your Rotate tool and then click on the inside of that spiral in order to set the origin for your transformation and then drag like so, in order to rotate a copy of that shape.
And to make sure that you copy this path outline, press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, before you release. Then you will create a copy like the one I've made here. All right, I am going to go ahead and grab my White Arrow tool, which you can get by pressing the A key, and I am going to marquee these two innermost points right there, and I will press Ctrl+J, or Command+J on the Mac, in order to join them together. So, we have now a single path outline. Notice this ridiculous miter join right there. Let's get rid of that by pressing the V key to get the Black Arrow tool. Go ahead and click on the path outline to select the entire thing.
Then click on the word Stroke up here in the control panel and select the second Corner option, the Round Join, and that will get rid of that miter. All right, let's go ahead and hide that panel. We need to cut off this extra stuff at the end of the spiral. From the Eraser Tool flyout menu, I will go ahead and grab the Scissors tool and I will click here and here in order to cut that shape short. And then I will press the V key to get my Black Arrow tool, click on one path outline, Shift+Click on the other one, these fragments that are left over, and press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on the Mac, to get rid of them.
Then go ahead and select the path again. Press Ctrl+J, or Command+J on the Mac, in order to join those remaining end points. And I am going to fill the shape for now with black here in the Color panel. You can work any way you like, but just go ahead and make sure you have got a filled shape. And I am going to increase my stroke a little bit. I am going to take it up to, let's try 1.5 and see how that works. That looks pretty good to me. You just want it to look right, because now what we are going to do is trace that stroke by going up to the Object menu, choosing Path, and then choosing Outline Stroke, which will convert the stroke to a filled path outline.
Now, we need to join it with the pre-existing path, by bringing up the Pathfinder panel, which you get to from the Window menu, just go ahead and choose the Pathfinder command, and then click on that first icon, the Unite icon, in order to combine the shapes together. All right, go ahead and hide that Pathfinder panel. Let's zoom on in. Notice I don't have a terribly good match, and that's because really, drawing these swirls is a fairly artistic process, and you're always going to different results every time you approach it. But I want to create, if you can see here--I will go ahead and turn off the swirls layer for a moment--you can see that there is a little ball on the inside, and I am going to create that using the Ellipse tool.
So, I will go ahead and turn the swirls layer back on. I will select my Ellipse tool from the Rectangle Tool flyout menu, and then I will go ahead and draw a circle. And I am pressing the Shift key as I draw and I am using the spacebar in order to locate the shape. Then I will release when I am done. And just to make sure that I have decent alignment here, I will go ahead and grab my White Arrow tool, drag this guy off to the side for a moment, and drag it by its point--that is, the left-hand anchor point--until it snaps into place with one of the points in the spiral. Then I will go ahead and grab my Rotate tool once again, click at that point in order to set the origin, and drag in order to rotate that circle into place.
I think I need to rotate it just a little bit more like so, and I might even want to increase its size. So, I could get the Scale tool, my transformation point, my origin point remains in place, and I will drag from a 45-degree position outward. I am also pressing the Shift Key, by the way, in order to expand the size of the circle. Now, I will go ahead and grab my Black Arrow tool once again, marquee these two shapes in order to select them, and you can repeat the last Pathfinder operation, Unite in our case, by pressing Ctrl+4, or Command+4 on the Mac.
Sort of a strange keyboard shortcut, but it works. It's very handy. All right, let's go ahead and drag this guy up a little bit so it's not interfering with the other swirls. All right, this second swirl--I am going to go ahead and zoom in on it--requires a slightly different approach. We are still going to use the Spiral tool, so go ahead and grab it, and then drag with the tool from wherever-- hard to predict where you need to start. And I am going to go ahead and move that guy into place by pressing the spacebar. Now, notice it has an extra segment dangling on the inside. I can't really point to it because it's there on the inside of the path.
But you can add segments by pressing the up arrow key, or you can delete segments by pressing the down arrow key, and you might need to press the down arrow key a few times in a row. This happens while you have the mouse button down, by the way, while you're drawing the path outline, and you will eventually get rid of that extra segment. And then I will try that Ctrl-keys technique again to see if I can get this guy where I need him to be. I just can't. So, that would be the Command key of course on the Mac. But the tool just isn't really working with me, so here's what I've got to do.
I'm going to make this path a little bit too big, just a hair bit too big. Actually, that's too, too big. About this big should do. And then I'll go ahead and release. And now I am going to take advantage of a tool that we haven't seen so far. It's available from the Scale Tool flyout menu, and that's this guy right there, the Reshape tool. Now, normally, this is a very odd transformation tool. It happens to work beautifully along with spirals. It really ought to be called the Spiral Transformation tool because that's what it was designed to do in the first place. It came out at the exact same time as the Spiral tool.
And it looks like I have a couple of path outlines selected here, so you know what, I am going to press the V key in order to switch back to the Black Arrow tool, click off that path outline, marquee it to select it. And we've lost its stroke, so I am going to go up to the control panel and I'm going to change that stroke to black like so, just so I can see what I'm doing. All right, now I will return back to that Reshape tool and I will drag from the innermost point to move that spiral down, as you see me doing here. And then I might drag up in this region and drag this area up as well.
Note that you have to drag on the path outline in order to successfully use this tool. Now, I will go ahead and drag up from the bottom. You want to use the Reshape tool sparingly because it has a habit of messing up the anchor points. First of all, it tends to add anchor points, which can really mess up the smoothness of your path outline. And secondly, it has a habit, a very irritating habit, of converting smooth points to corner points, which can make the path outline very difficult to edit in the long run. All right, now as opposed to rotating the shape in order to create its other side, I'm going to just draw a new spiral.
So, I will grab that Spiral tool, begin dragging at some arbitrary location, take it in like so, move the shape by pressing the spacebar on the fly here, and basically great something that looks more or less like this, let's say. This is going to work out good enough, I think, and release, and then I will grab my White Arrow tool, which I can get by pressing the A key incidentally. Click off those path outlines in order to deselect them. Alt+Click, or Option+Click, on the innermost path outline to select that whole path outline. Then drag it by its innermost anchor point until it snaps into alignment with the beginning of the outer spiral.
And just to line things up slightly better here, I will go ahead and grab my Reshape tool and I'll drag this portion of the spiral up and this portion of the spiral out, and that looks pretty good to me. I will grab the White Arrow tool once again. I will marquee these two innermost points. Press Ctrl+J, Command+J on the Mac in order to join the points together. I end up with this ridiculous miter, so I will switch to the Black Arrow tool by pressing the V key. I will go ahead and marquee both shapes. I will go up to the word Stroke, click on it up here in the control panel, and switch to the second Corner option in order to create a round joint.
All right, now what I need to do is grab my Scissors tool once again, and I will click, about there should work out for me. Grab my Black Arrow tool, click on this little path fragment that's left over. Press the Backspace key in order to get rid of it. That's the Delete key on the Mac. Click on the path outline in order to select the whole thing. Press Ctrl+J, or Command+J on the Mac, in order to finish off that path outline. Let's go ahead and fill the path with black. Then we will go up to the Object menu, choose Path, and then choose Outline Stroke in order to draw a filled path outline around what was formerly the stroke there.
And press Ctrl+4, or Command+4 on the Mac, in order to repeat that last Pathfinder operation, which goes ahead and unites all those paths together. All right, let's go ahead and zoom out. I will grab my Black Arrow tool, Shift+Click on our first spiral in order to select it, so both path outlines are selected. And then I will grab my Eyedropper tool, which you can get by pressing the I key, and I will click inside one of the other swirls to properly color the paths. And that, my friends, is how you draw trendy swirls here inside Illustrator.
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