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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.
In this movie I'll show you how to assemble a collection of strokes to simulate a railroad track effect that you can apply to curved path outlines here inside the Illustrator. And let me show you why we have to do this. I'll switch over to this file called One railroad path.ai. It features a collection of nineteen different strokes that does a great job of accommodating perpendicular path outlines, but that's it. For example, if I go ahead and select this path outline and then grab, say, the Rotate tool and rotate the path a little bit, then everything falls apart.
And that's because each one of the stroke effects is being rotated according to its own center, because we applied those Transform effects. What we need to do is get away from Transform, because--I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac to undo that change. If I grab my Black Arrow tool and click on this curved path outline and then go to the Window menu and choose Graphic Styles and apply that perpendicular track style right there, things get even worse when we have a curved path outline. So we've got to come out with a different approach.
Here's what we'll do. We'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change, bring up your Appearance panel. You want your Swatches panel up as well. Click on the fill in order to select it and then click on the slash in order to get rid of the fill. Now let's build up the strokes. This time we're going to need seventeen strokes, so I'll go ahead and increase the Line Weight to 130 points, and then I'll change the Color to Shadow wood this time around. Click on the word Stroke in order to bring up the Stroke panel, turn on Dashed Line. And if you're working along with me, you may get the same dash values, but this is what we want.
We want the first dashed value to be 0, then the first gap value to be 20, the second dash value needs to be 24, and the other gap value also needs to be 20. Now let's go ahead and create a copy of the stroke by selecting it and then clicking on the little page icon, and I'm going to change the color this time round to Dark wood. And I'll click inside the Line Weight value, change it to 120. And the dashes are just fine as is, so we'll just create a copy of this guy by clicking on the little page icon. Its Line Weight is fine. I'm going to change the color to Medium wood, and then I'll click on Stroke, because we need to adjust the dash values for this one.
I'm going to change the first gap to 25, the second dash to 14, and the second gap value also to 25. So we've got 0, 25, 14, and 25 this time around. And let's go ahead and add a couple of gray strokes by duplicating the one we have, and I'll click on the little page icon to do so. Then I'll change the color of this stroke to Shadow rail, and I'll change the Line Weight value to 100 points and click on the word Stroke. And the gap value this time needs to be 27. I'll change the second dash value to 10 and I'll change that other gap value to 27 as well. So 0, 27, 10, and 27 this time around.
All right, with that stroke selected, go ahead and click on little page icon to duplicate it. This stroke will remain 100 points; however, we're going to change its color to Light rail, click on Stroke, and we're going to adjust the gap and dash values once again. I'll change both of the gap values to 28, and the second dash value needs to be 8, so 0, 28, 8, and 28. Now I'll go ahead and hide the panel. Let's get rid of these lines between the ties, and we'll do that by adding a white stroke. So I'll click on little page icon once again. Let's change the stroke color to white. I'm going to increase the Line Weight value to 140 points. Then I'll click on Stroke. We can give rid of the second dash gap combo just by getting rid of the first one and pressing the Tab key, and then we'll change the dash value to 4 and the gap value to 60, and that covers up all but the very first and last of these little lines.
All right, press the Enter key in order to hide the panel. Now let's add what will be the rails, so we're not going to dash values for these guys. With that top stroke selected, I'll go ahead and duplicate it by clicking on the page icon. Then I'll click in the word Stroke, turn off the dash line value. I'm going to reduce the Line Weight to 90 points, and then I'm going to change the color to Medium rail, up here in the Swatches panel. Let's make a copy of it by clicking on the little page icon, change its color to white, change the Line Weight to 86. So these rails are pretty easy to create.
Go ahead and make a copy once again, change the Line Weight to 82, and I want the color to be Light rail up here in the Swatches panel. Next I'll create yet another copy. What a surprise! I'll go ahead and click on the little page icon. Let's change the Line Weight value to 72, and I'll select Shadow rail as my color. And we need one more rail, so I'll drop down to little page icon, click on it, change the Line Weight to 68, and then I'm going to change the color to Dark rail. And we end up getting this effect right here.
All right, now we're going to fill this area with gray in with some ties and plates, and we're going to do so by duplicating a few strokes that we've already got here. I'm going to click on the second-to- bottom stroke to select it and then Shift+Click four strokes up, so I've got a total of for stroke selected. Both are the 100 point strokes and the 120 point strokes, and I'll Alt+Drag or Option+Drag them to the top of the list, and that will duplicate every single one. Now let's change their line weights. Every single one of them wants to be 64 points, so I'll go ahead and click inside each Line Weight value like so and change it to 64.
And then once we've done that, we should fill things out nicely, with the exception of the white gaps, which we're going to have to create manually in just a moment. But first I want to fill in this middle region of tie in order to hide the plate in the center of the railroad tracks right there, and I'll do that by grabbing the tie color, which is this guy, and I'll Alt+Drag or Option+Drag him to the top of the list, then click in its Line Weight value, and change it to 54 this time around. All right, the only thing that's missing now is the area of white in between each one of the ties. And as I say, we're going to have to create that area of white manually as a stroke.
So I'll go ahead and grab my 140-point white stroke right there, Alt+Drag or Option+Drag it to the top of the list. Let's change Line Weight value to 64, just like these strokes down here, and then I need to adjust the dash values by clicking on the word Stroke and I'm going to change that dash value from 4 to 40, and then I'll change the gap value to 24, and we end up with this effect right here. All right, let's check to see if it works. I'm going to go ahead and bring back up my Graphic Styles panel, and you can see that I've already created a graphic style in advance called Round tracks. It's exactly the same thing, but if you want to create your own style, then you would presumably want to name it, and you do that by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on this little page icon. But I've already made mine in advance so it's just ready and waiting.
Let's go and zoom out and you can see that there is this big, huge ellipse around the entire art board. It's currently locked. So I'll go over to the Layers panel, twirl open that layer and click on the Lock icon to turn it off, and now I'll go ahead and click on the Ellipse to select it with my Black Arrow tool and I'll apply Round tracks to see how it works. And it ends up not working, right? Something is very much wrong here. And if I go over to the Appearance panel, I can see just by turning off the top stroke that it is the one and only stroke that's giving us problems.
We're not going to change it, because it's not going to do as any good where a closed path outline is concerned. We just don't have the positioning control we do when working with an open path outline, which is why I'm going to turn that stroke back on and we're going to open up this path the easy way. Go over to the Eraser tool, click and hold on it, and then choose the Scissors tool from the list--or you can get it by pressing the C key--and then just click on any one of the anchor points. I'm going to click on the top point and that ends up totally solving the problem, as you can see, and we now have a nice continuous railroad track that accommodates basically any form of path outline, as long as it doesn't have very sharp corners, here inside Illustrator.
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