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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 the McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week we are in Illustrator, and I am going to show you a great use for one of the older and definitely more obscure features inside the software, the Reshape Tool. Now even though the Reshape tool is a kind of transformation tool, we're going to use it to draw this amazingly, perfectly, sweetly spiraling S, and we will do so entirely from scratch. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right, here is the final version of the artwork opened up inside Illustrator.
I have created a kind of tracing template for you. If you're working along with me, go over to the Layers panel and you'll see this layer called Big S. Twirl it open by clicking on that little triangle, and then turn off the item called final S and turn on the one called trace me. And now I will go ahead and twirl this layer close and lock it down as well by clicking in that lock column. Now we are going to create a basic path outline on the drawing layer, so make sure you select the drawing layer so that you can draw inside the illustration. Grab the Pen tool, and we are just going to rough in a path outline here. And notice I'm going to click right here at that first point, and then I am going to click inside of this spiral area like so, in order to add some more points to this polygonal selection outline.
Now notice that I have a stroke and a white fill. I don't want that white fill. So I am going to make sure my fill is active here inside the Color panel, and then I will click on the None swatch in order to get rid of it. I will now continue to click along here, like so, in order to set some more anchor point. So you can be as thorough as you want to with the anchor points. That is, you can create as many as you like or as few as you like really. The advantage to creating a bunch of anchor points is that you're going to get more precise results. The disadvantage of creating too many anchor points is that it's going to make more work for you.
About this many anchor points is going to work out pretty good. Now, I am going to go down to my Scale tool, click and hold on it, and then select the final tool on the flyout menu, which is a Reshape tool. Now at this point, you should notice that all of your anchor points are deselected except the very last point that you drew, and that's exactly the way you want things, because what you are going to do now is you are going to add curvature to each one of these segments by dragging the middle of it, like so, using the Reshape tool. So just go ahead the center of each segment over until you get the curvature that you're looking for, and you should be able to more or less match the curvature that I've created in this S.
If you find that you can't quite match the curvature-- for example, here at this location, right there in the top central area, you can see that I've got a pretty clumsy result-- why then, you can go ahead and drag to create a few more of these reshape points inside of that segment. Now don't worry too much if you don't get super-smooth results. We will take care of that in just a moment. You are going to get pretty lumpy results as you work along here. Anyway, I'll go ahead and drag this segment over, and you may want to sort of split the difference.
In other words, you may want to make sure that you're crossing both directions on the S that I have created for you in advance. I am going to go ahead and drag this guy over. In other words, you don't want to stay utterly inside the curve or completely outside the curve. You want to kind of cross him back and forth there. This looks pretty good to me. I will go ahead and drag this guy out. As I say, don't worry about the lumpy results. You are going to get lumpy results out of this tool. It's just a simpler method of creating curvature as opposed to actually laying down one smooth point after another, using the likes of the Pen tool for example, or having to create a spiral with the Spiral tool and then join it in- to place, and so on.
You should end up with a lumpy looking curve, like so. I'm going to go ahead and zoom out by pressing Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac. Then I will all grab my Black Arrow tool, which you can get by pressing the V key, click on the path outline someplace, and notice, by the way, that I don't have any curvature at this location. I forgot to add some. So what I am going to do is I am going to switch back to my White Arrow tool, which you get by pressing A key, click off of the path outline to deselect it, and then click somewhere on a segment so that none of the anchor points are selected.
Now I will go back and grab that Reshape tool. If you have the same problem I do, you can add curvature to that one segment, like so. I will drag it down a little bit, and then I will drag it up a little bit over on this side. Now that I've got all the curvature I need, I will go ahead and switch back to the Black Arrow tool and then I will click on the path outline to select it. I want the entire path outline selected at this point. Then what you do is you go up to the Object menu, you choose the Path command, and you choose this guy, Simplify. What Simplifies does is it removes anchor points and in the process of doing so, it also smoothes out the path outline-- assuming that you have some curvature to work with in the first place.
Now what you probably want to do is crank your Curve Precision all the way up to 100%. Make sure your Angle Threshold is set to 0 degrees. That's very important. Turn on the Preview check box, make sure that both of these check boxes, these Options check boxes, are turned off. Now, with the Curve Precision value selected, let's go ahead and press Shift+Down Arrow in order to reduce that value in 10% increments. And somewhere around 60% or 50%, you are going to start seeing some nice smoothness happen without basically ruining the curvature altogether.
When you go too far, for example, I have taken a Curve Precision value down to 30%, then I end up with some very lopsided curves, and I don't want that. So I will go ahead and take this value up to 60%. You could even try something like 70. The problem with 70%, even though that does do a better job of matching our original curvature, our original curvature wasn't any good, so we end up with some pretty bad lumps there. So I am going to try 60% to see how that looks. Click OK in order to accept that value. Now let's add a little bit of additional curvature at some points here.
Go ahead and zoom in on my S, like so. I'm going to grab my Reshape tool. Now the entire path outline is selected, which means that the behavior of this tool is going to be a little different. So if you start dragging anywhere inside of the curve, for example like that, if you start dragging at one of the anchor points, you're going to move the neighboring anchor points relative to the one that you are dragging. And that's not really what we're looking for. So I will press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change. Now I will switch back to my Direct Selection tool, that is, the White Arrow Tool, click off the path outline to deselect it, click anywhere on a segment to select the path without selecting any of the anchor points, and then let's try again with the Reshape tool here.
I will go ahead and grab that tool and drag some of the segments around to the extent that I need to. So I will go ahead and drag this guy down here. You can work as hard as you want to. You don't have to get it exactly right. I don't expect you to get the same results that I got. This is just one way of approaching such a path outline without spending a ton of time obviously. Now right there, I seem to have a problem. There seem to have a couple of anchor points that are right next to each other, or I just created to reshape point right next to an anchor point, which is what I think I did. I ended up now, because I pressed Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change, I ended up selecting the entire path outlined, which changes the behavior of the tool in a way that I've don't need right now.
So I press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to deselect the image. I am going to press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac to temporarily get the last arrow tool I had selected, which is the White Arrow tool. I will click off the path outline. I still have the Ctrl key or Command key down. I will click on the path outline again. Now I will release the key and we go back to the Reshape tool, and I will try to click on that anchor point instead of very close to it. Let's go ahead and drag this guy out some more, and so on. Take as much time as you like. Do a great job, don't do a great job, totally up to you.
I am going to take a little more time to try to get these guys more or less into position. And then if you find that you're still getting lumpy results out of the tool, you can follow up with another application of this Simplify command. I'm going to go and take this guy in a little bit. This is looking pretty good to me. The final thing I am going to do, press Ctrl+0, Command+0 on the Mac to zoom out, zoom back in a little bit as well. Now I am going to go ahead and stroke this path outline, but first I'm going to turn off this Big S layer here so that we were just seeing the S that we are working on.
I am going to go ahead and grab my Black Arrow Tool, click on the path outline to select the entire thing, like so. Let's go ahead and change the Stroke value to 1.5. I am also going to bring up the Brushes panel by going to the Window menu and choosing the Brushes command. I have a brush that I have already added to this list here called Tapered Stroke. If you don't find it, by the way, or if you're working on your own, then you can get to it by going to this Brush Libraries menu and choosing Artistic and then bringing up this library right here, Artistic_Ink.
Anyway, I am going to escape out. What I'm looking for is a white stroke, so I will go ahead and hide the Brushes panel, I will click on my Stroke icon there in the Color panel, and I'm going to click on white to make that stroke white. And I am going to make one more modification. This tool, the Width tool is only available in the Illustrator CS5 and later. So I am going to go ahead and click on it to select it, and then I'm going to drag at this location right there along the side of the S and pull it out in order to thicken up the S a little bit. Not quite that much. I think I will take it back to about there. And we need to drop shadow as well, so I will go up to the Effect menu, choose Stylize, and then choose the Drop Shadow command.
These are the settings I am looking for, Mode set to Multiply, which is the default, the Opacity should be 50%, both X and Y Offset should be set to 4 points a piece, the Blur value is 5 points-- again, if you want to get the same results I have. Turn on the Preview check box to see what's going on. It looks great. Click OK in order to accept that modification and then click off the path outline to deselect it. Things are still looking a little bit lumpy for me. If they are for you, click on it again to select it, go to the Object menu, choose Path, once again choose Simplify, and let's try a higher value, something like, let's start with 99 for starters here.
Then I will press the Tab key to see what it does, and I will just take that value down by pressing the Down Arrow key after I reselect the value. If I take the value down to about 90%, it looks like we're getting pretty darn smooth results without losing the accuracy of the curves. Then click OK in order to accept that change and that, friends, is how you go about drawing smooth organic path outlines using the Reshape tool inside Illustrator.
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