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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 show you how to create a custom infinity character to match a specific font inside Adobe Illustrator. Now you may wonder why in the world you'd want to do such a thing. Well, for one, it's a great exercise, and I'll show you some terrific uses for the Width tool. But also, most fonts, even big whopping fonts like Adobe Caslon which ships along with most versions of the Creative Suite, don't include an infinity symbol. So we've got the usual letters and numbers and then we've got a whopping bunch of symbols here, including punctuation marks, and we've got these money things right there and then ligatures and some math stuffs and some accented characters, and just for laughs we have a bunch of ornaments as well.
But there isn't any infinity character whatsoever. Now you do have an infinity character in a font like symbol, so you can go ahead and plop that in if you want. There it is small, there it is big, and it's surrounded by Adobe Caslon Pro. Well, it's not a match at all, right? This symbol is going to match maybe Times and that's about it. Now Illustrator also lets you take a single character of type from the Character Panel and rotate it, so we could take the number 8 and rotate it 90 degrees, and it's going to look like this. But it's not quite right because the thin part should be thick and the thick part should be thin, so the solution of course is to draw our own custom infinity symbol.
Doesn't it look just absolutely great? Here, let me show you exactly how it works. Alright, here is final infinity symbol so you can see it on screen, and I would say that it's nearly a work of perfection. And we're able to achieve this effect using the Width tool. So I am going to start things off by switching back to Uniform up here in the Control Panel so we have a uniform stroke. And I'll just go ahead and reduce its line weight to 4 pt for now. We'll come back to it. So I'll switch to this document I created where I was just trying to evaluate these Adobe Caslon numbers, both small and large here. Then I grabbed an 8 and I rotated it 90 degrees.
And it doesn't look anything like an infinity symbol, right? Doesn't look like it belongs as part of this font. It just looks like an 8 that fell over. So I went ahead and converted the 8 to outlines by going up to the Type menu and choosing the Create Outlines command, and then I filled it with red in order to create this compound path. Then I went ahead and drew a single path outline that loops around like so. I did cheat a little bit in order to draw this path outline. You can just trace through the center of the character if you want to or I'll press the A key to switch to the White Arrow tool, and then I'll click on these anchor points, so I'll click on this one, and then there should be another one right about there.
I'll Shift-click on it just to give you a sense of how I was able to figure out what the placement of the final anchor point should be. I went up to the Object menu, chose the Path command, and chose Average. And then I left the Axis set to Both as by default, clicked OK, and notice that finds the location of the final anchor point for me. So I was able to do a lot of the work that way. But this technique is less about drawing the primitive infinity path outline and more about how to take that path outline and convert it into a variable weight character that's going to work with a Serif font, specifically of course, Adobe Caslon.
And that presents something of a challenge when you're working with the Width tool, because while the Width tool does a great job of accommodating open path outlines, not so great when it comes to closed path outlines. So I'll press the V key to switch to the Black Arrow, click on the path in order to select it like so, and I am going to increase the line weight up here in the Control Panel to 24 pt. And then I'll grab my Width tool, which you can get by pressing Shift+W. And the whole idea behind the Width tool, in case you don't know, is that it allows you to adjust the width on a point-by- point basis across a stroked outline.
In this case I'm making the top thin, as you can see here, because that's the way it works with Caslon. If you take a look at these numbers here, you'll see for example with a 9, that the thick portions of the path are associated with the vertical segments and the thin areas are associated with the horizontal segments, as a general rule. Obviously it varies. It's not a mechanical font after all. It's ultimately a work of art. So I want these vertical segments to be thick, so I'll go ahead and make this guy thicker, and then I want to create a thin width point right there and I want to create another thin width point at this location, but this is an example of a width point that Illustrator already created for me in advance.
So I'll just go ahead and manipulate its handles like so, and I've got another one down here that Illustrator handily created for me. And then I don't want this guy to be thick like this. I want it to be thin, so I'll go ahead and drag this in, and this time actually it worked out pretty well. Sometimes what can happen--if I go ahead and drag this guy down--is you can end up separating what are understood to be the endpoints from each other, and you end up kind of making a mess of things. If you can avoid that, just don't do it. I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac a couple of times in order to restore the thin stroke there.
And I want to create a thick stroke right there, but I already had a width point at that location, so I'll undo that change, and I'll drag these little handles. So this is part of the problem when working directly on a closed path outline. It can get pretty confusing. Alright, now I am going to make some numerical adjustments to my width points. I am going to double-click on this guy right there in order to bring up the Width Point Edit dialog box. The Total Width should be 24 pt, so I'll enter it, press the Tab key, that gives me two Sides of 12 pt each, that's exactly what I want, I'll click OK.
And then this guy right here, I'll double-click on him. He should be 10 pt and press the Tab key. That gives me 5 on each side, perfect, click OK. This guy should be 24, so I am just alternating between 24 and 10. It is all I am doing here. I'll double-click on this one and change him to 10, because you can see just by dragging with a tool I don't get exacting results. Click OK for that, double-click on this point, change it to 10, click OK, double-click on this guy. And there is two right next to each other. I hate when Illustrator does this.
I am going to select the top one and then press the Backspace key or the Delete key on a Mac in order to get rid of it. And then I'll double-click on this guy, I'll change it to a Total Width value of 24 pt, and it ends up looking like that. And then I'll double-click on this guy and change it to 10 and click OK. I've got another duplicate right there, I don't want that. Which one is the right one? Let's double-click, not that guy, so he is selected. I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key on a Mac to get rid of it, then I'll press the V key to switch away from the Width tool, and I'll click off my path in order to deselect it.
And that looks pretty good, but it's a little lumpy in places, and I think we can do better. But it does provide me with the basics of what I need to achieve here, but I can make it better, and here's how. I'll go ahead and click on the path once again to select it. Then I'll go up to this Variable Width Profile option in the Control Panel, click on it, and click on this little Add to Profiles icon, and I'll call this guy, let's say Roughly infinite, because I guess that's what it is so far, and click OK.
Where you're going to have better luck is taking this profile and then applying it to an open path outline, like this guy right here, and that way you can get a sense of what it really looks like. So I'll click on this open path and then I'll go up to the Variable Width Profile option in the Control Panel, scroll down to the one I just created, and it looks like three lumps. Okay, that's something now, I know that. I'll go ahead and click on it in order to apply it, doesn't look like anything applied to the line, and that's because the Stroke Weight is set to 1 pt. That would be the maximum thickness of the stroke.
So I'm going to change it to 24 pt and press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac. And now I can see that we've got some regular placement of these lumps right here. And it looks like they are associated with the half point and the quarter points, so why don't we add those points just so we know exactly where things should be? By going up to the Object menu, choosing Path, and then choosing the Add Anchor Points command, which will add a point right to the center there. And now we want two more points on either side, so go up to the Object menu, choose Path, and choose Add Anchor Points again. And let's do it a third time.
Go to the Object menu, choose Path, and then choose Add Anchor Points. And now that we have points at every significant location, I'll press Shift+W to switch back to my Width tool. Turns out that width point was exactly where it needs to be. Notice you can drag them back and forth. This guy is a little bit off, so I'll drag him into alignment. This guy is just a tiny bit off, so I'll go ahead and drag him to this location. Let's make sure that guy is the right width, 10 pt, it is okay, Cancel out. Is this guy in the right location, he's not.
So drag him over, and he looks like he's dead on. He needs a little bit of adjustment like so. And then we've got an extra one right here, press the Backspace key or the Delete key on a Mac to get rid of it after clicking on it, of course. Here's one of our problems, even though we're working on a closed path outline, the Width tool always sees things in terms of endpoints. There is a point at which the variable width stroke starts and a point at which it ends, and we weren't able to gain control over those points. So I'll double-click on that first endpoint and increase the Total Width value to 10 pt, click OK, and then do the same thing on final width point, which is also off, so I'll change its Total Width value to 10 pt.
And now notice that we have this little bit of a flare right here, we need to address that. So I'll double-click more or less right there in the center in order to set another point and bring up the dialog box and change the Total Width value to 10 pt, click OK, do the same thing over here on the other side, change its value to 10 pt. See how precise and exacting we can be more when we're working on an open flat path outline like this right here? We still have a little bit of bending, so I am going to double-click right there in order to set another point, come back up to 10 and click OK, and let's set one right about there too and bring him up to 10 pt as well.
Let's go ahead and save that off as a Variable Width Profile by clicking on the option up there in the Control Panel, clicking on the little Add To Profiles icon, and we'll go ahead and name this More infinite, because I think I've done a better job this time. Now I'll click OK in order to accept that change. Let's go ahead and scroll back up to my infinity symbol that I was working on, and I'll press the V key in order to switch to the Black Arrow tool. I'll go ahead and select the path by clicking on it, then I will assign my most recent Variable Width Profile which is More infinite.
Click More infinite to assign him and you can see it's a subtle difference, but it does make a difference, and we do have a much smoother result. If I press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on a Mac in order to zoom out, you can see that this infinity symbol better matches the other numerals inside Adobe Caslon. I'll finish things off by switching back to that large version of the infinity symbol, click on it to select it. I'll go ahead and apply that same profile More infinite. You can see that these profiles are saved as preference settings along with Illustrator so they translate between different documents.
They are not saved along with a document, in other words. That's way too thin, so I'll take the Line Weight value up to 76 pt, and I end up with this final nearer perfect infinity symbol thanks to my ability to modify and assign Variable Width Profiles here inside Illustrator. Alright, next week we're in Photoshop, though it's not necessarily going to look like it because we're going to be creating works of op art from scratch, including this one right here.
It hurts to look at it and then this more subdued sort of building-scape or whatever. Deke's Techniques each and every week, from scratch I tell you. Keep watching.
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