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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. Remember the custom grumpy bird that we created last week? Well, this week we are going to give him a background. Now, this is a pretty ambitious project, but it's a lot of fun. We are going to start things off with these simple objects, just three ellipses and this tall rectangle, and we are going to transform them into this radiant, cheerful cartoon background that features these rays of line at the top, as well as a couple of flowers and a shadow to go behind the bird, in order to create this final version of the artwork inside Adobe Illustrator.
Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right, here's the final version of that bird background, just so you can see what a stunner it is onscreen. We are going to start off inside of this document, and if you are working along with me, the first thing I want you to do is turn off all the layers except for the Back layer, and the easiest way to do that is to just drag along this column of eyeballs, from bacon up to face. And then go ahead and click on the Back layer to make it active. And now I am going to press Ctrl+Minus or Command+Minus on the Mac in order to zoom out, so that we can see the background from a distance. That gives us some room to work.
We are going to start things off with the grass here. So I will go ahead and click on that green grass rectangle. Just the rectangle. That's the same width as the artboard and 100 points tall. And it's filled with a solid shade of green. Then I'll go up to the Window menu and choose the Appearance command to bring up the Appearance panel. And the first thing we need to do here is lay down the various stratus of the grass, because you can see in the final version of the artwork that we have green grass progressing towards a sort of chartreuse at the top. And we're going to lay those shades of grass down as independent fills, all assigned to the same path.
With the paths selected, go ahead and drop down to the Add New Fill icon in the lower- left corner of the Appearance panel, and now grab that new fill which is appearing at the top of the stack and drag it down to the bottom of the stack, like so. You can go ahead and twirl closed the top fill and the stroke if you like, because we are not going to be using those. We are, however, going to be using this fill right there, so click on that bottom fill to make it active and then click on the color swatch. And notice inside of this document I have gone ahead and included some swatches inside of this group called Grass colors.
I will go ahead and hover over them so those of you who don't have the sample document can see him. This next shade of green R=150, G=200 and B=0, in case you feel to need to dial it in. I'll go ahead and select that color. That doesn't change the appearance of the rectangle onscreen because this fill is in the background. To make the fill larger, which is what we want to do, go ahead and make sure it's active, so click on it and then go up to the Effect menu, choose Distort & Transform, and then choose the Transform command.
Tab down to the Vertical option and change it to 120%. If you turn on the Preview checkbox, you can see, that make the fills taller in both directions. We just want to raise it upwards, so go ahead and select that bottom point in the reference point matrix right there. It's located on the right side of the dialog box in Illustrator CS5 and earlier. And then click OK. Now let's make a duplicate of that fill, and you can see, if you twirl the fill open, you should see a transform effect assigned to it. You can make a duplicate of the fill by clicking on it, in order to make sure it's selected, and then click on the little Page icon at the bottom of the Appearance panel, and that will create a duplicate, like so.
Go ahead and twirl closed the top one for now and twirl opened the bottom one. Click on this color swatch, and this time we are going to change it to the next swatch in the list here, inside of the same group, which is R=160, G=220, and B=60. So those are, by the way, the red, green, blue values. Go ahead and select that guy and then click off the panel to hide it and click on the word Transform to the bring up the Transform Effect dialog box and just change that Vertical value to 140%. Turn on the Preview checkbox and you can see that raises it incrementally, and then click OK.
Now we need to make another duplicate, so click on the Fill item to select it, click on the little Page icon at the bottom of the panel to make a copy of it, twirl closed that top fill, click on the bottom one, change its color this time to this final swatch, which is R=210, G=240, B=50, and that will go ahead and assign that chartreuse color, and then click on the word Transform, change the Vertical value, not surprisingly, to 160 this time. I just keep increasing this value by 20%. Turn on the Preview checkbox, and you will see that, comparatively, yellow fill rise up in the background, then click OK.
Now here's where things get interesting. What I want is to create these rolling hills, so I'll switch back to the final version of the Illustration. I want to raise up the grassy knoll here on the left-hand side, and on the right hand side I want it to dip down in the center, and I want it to appear rounded as well. So you might think if you have any experience in Illustrator that the way to go is to apply a Warp effect and that is where we will be starting, but there is no wrap that really gives us that effect by itself. So I am going to switch over to my Illustration in progress once again here, twirl closed that fill for now, and click on the word Path in order to make sure it's selected so that we are applying the Warp effect not to any single fill but to the entire path outline. And then go up to the Effect menu, choose Warp, and choose Arc Upper, which comes the closet to giving us what we are looking for. And you're just going to have the suspend belief for now, because it's not going to look right at all in just a moment, but choose the command.
And now I am going to change the Bend value to -90 degrees. Make sure that the horizontal radio button is selected, and then tab your way down to the vertical distortion option and change here to 50% and then turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see we end up getting this effect here. We are getting these mountain shapes because of the vertical distortion, and we are getting this bend in the center here because the Arc Upper style is set to such a ferociously negative bend value. Now I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that effect.
Obviously, this is way too spiky for what we're trying to accomplish, so we need to round off the effect, and you can do that by assigning a Round Corners effect. So go up to the Effect menu, choose Stylize, and choose Round Corners. I've found that a Radius of 300 points ended up working best. Again, you have to suspend belief at this point. I had to play around with these settings a lot in order to figure this out, because if you turn on the Preview checkbox, it's going to look totally wrong. But this is the value we want.
So go ahead and click OK in order accept that change. So here is the problem so far. We have assigned the effects in a wrong order. What needs to happen is Round Corners needs to come first and then wrap Arc Upper. And even though everything else in Illustrator works from the bottom on up--that is, this bottommost fills actually at the bottom of the stack-- where effects are concerned, the first effect is at that top and the second effect is at the bottom and so forth. So here is the easiest way to solve the problem. Go ahead and drag Wrap Arc Upper all the way to the bottom of the stack, under the fill, and do the same with the Round Corners.
Go ahead and drag it down just below the Fill and above the Warp effect. And that's not going to immediately change the appearance of the rectangle--that is, dragging Round Corners into a different location--but it will matter in just a moment. Now, the next thing I wanted to do is to inflate the size of this knoll, and I will do that using a Transform effect, by going up to the Effect menu, choosing Distort & Transform, and choosing Transform once again. Go ahead and select that bottom point in the reference point matrix and increase the Horizontal value to 150% and then take the Vertical Scale value up to 154.
Then turn on the Preview checkbox, and you will see this effect here. Now, things are still messed up, and we have a bit of a gap down here at the bottom. So to get rid of that gap, change the Vertical Move value to 10 points, like so, and then go ahead and click OK in order to apply that effect. And now, just to make sure everything reconciles the way it needs to, drag that Transform effect between Round Corners and Warp effect in order to fill things out ever so slightly. And even though that didn't make the biggest difference, it will by the time we are done.
Now, at this point it dawned on me, this knoll isn't nearly tall enough, and the only way to really fix that problem that I've found was to adjust the Position values associated with each one of the incremental fills. So I will go and start with this last fill here, the yellowish one. Twirl it open and then click on Transform in order to bring up its Transform effect. You might figure you could just go ahead and change the Vertical scale value, but that doesn't really give us the appearance we want. I will go ahead and turn on the Preview checkbox, and let's say I change that value to 250% to take it up, and that reduces the roundness of things, which is not what I want.
So I will go ahead and reset that value to 160% and instead, I will change the Vertical Move value to -50 points, which actually moves the fill upward, as you can see. And it changes the shape of the entire knoll because it's the topmost fill. That's the effect I am looking for, so now I will go ahead and click OK. And now we just need to adjust the fills in between. I will twirl this guy closed, twirl the next one open like so, click on the word Transform in order to bring up the Transform panel, change the Vertical Move value this time to -38 points, and then turn on the Preview checkbox. And so negative vertical move values move things upward; positive values move them downward.
Now I will click OK in order to accept that effect, twirl this guy closed, twirl this next one open, click on its Transform, and change the Vertical Move value for the final time to -22 points and then turn on the Preview checkbox to see our newest effect. Click OK in order to accept that change. That finishes off the grass, so I will go ahead and zoom in on my illustration. Now let's add the rays of light. But before we do, switch over to the Layers panel and twirl open the Back layer, and you can see I have a couple of other items that I have created in the background.
If you turn off the knoll for the moment, which is just called Path, which is this guy right there, turn it off, and then turn on this compound shape down here at the bottom, you can see that I have created a collection of clouds, and all they are, by the way, is a bunch of ellipses with this polygonal path outline drawn in the background, just to fill things out. And then I just went ahead and combined them all into a single compound shape from the Pathfinder panel. We saw that in previous movies, but you Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Unite icon. I will press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A on the Mac to deselect those clouds. And the same holds true, by the way, for these trees right here.
They are just a bunch of ellipses with a rectangle of the bottom. These little guys down here are independent flower shapes that will come to you in a moment. But I just want you to see what's going on. I will turn the knoll back on here, this shape near the top, and the next thing we want to do is add some rays of light in the background. We are going to do that by clicking on this rectangle right there, and I will press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac, just so that we can see the entire thing. It's this vertical bluish rectangle. And we are going to spread it out to create a couple of rays, as follows.
You start off by switching back to the Appearance panel, just so we can see the effects build up. Then go up to the Effect menu, choose the Distort & Transform, and choose the Transform command. And what we need to do here is to create a couple of rectangles on either side of this one. So change the Horizontal Move value to 200 points and then turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see that just moves it over to the side. All we need to is create one copy, and that way we have two versions of this rectangle in different locations. Now click OK. And because we want the other copy of the rectangle to be symmetrical, we might as well just take this guy and make a copy of him, so click on Transform here in the Appearance panel and then click on the little Page icon at the bottom of the panel in order to create a duplicate of it. Click on that second Transform, change the Horizontal value this time to -200 points, turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see we get another one to the left-hand side because copies is already set to 1.
Now I'll go ahead and click OK. Next, what we want to do, turn these rectangles into rays that are going out in different directions, and that means applying a vertical distortion, which you can apply using any one of the warp effects; doesn't matter which one you apply. So go up to the Effect menu, choose Warp, and then choose anything--it really doesn't matter. I will just go ahead and choose Arc, since it's the first command. Turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see this is not the effect we want at all; this is the last effect we applied.
Regardless of what style you are using, you want to change the Bend value to 0%. Then you want to tab your way down to the Vertical Value and change it to -100, which is as low as you can go, and you will end up with this effect here, which is wrong, but we are going to take care of that in just a moment. The problem is that instead of all the rays bending outward, they are bending independently, and that's because the warp got positioned in the wrong location. Illustrator does this sometimes; it doesn't always apply effects sequentially.
So what you need to do is grab that Warp effect to drag it to the bottom of the stack in order to create this effect here. And you can see that these rays are now bending dramatically outward. That's too much, so we need to once again transform the shapes by going up to the Effect menu, choosing Distort & Transform, and choosing Transform. Most likely, Illustrator will ask you if you really want to apply a new effect, since we already have two transforms at work here, but we do, so go ahead and click on the Apply New Effect button and then change the Horizontal Scale value to 45%.
That's all we need. And then turn on the Preview checkbox and you can see that ends up tidying things up nicely. Now click OK. The final thing to do is to click on the word Opacity down here at the bottom of the stack. Change the blend mode from Normal to Overlay, so we end up getting a little bit of interaction up here at the top of the gradient, and then change the Opacity value to 50% in order to create this effect here. Now I will press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac to zoom in, and I will press Ctrl+Shift+A, Command+Shift+A on the Mac in order to deselect my artwork.
Now, the final thing we want to do is create these little flowers right here, and you may figure the best way to do that is to draw a star shape and then somehow make it bulbous. But the easier way to approach these kinds of shapes is to draw a single ellipse and then transform it. So you'd rotate it a total of six times in this case. Let me show you what that looks like. I will go ahead and select this right-hand ellipse for starters here, and then I will go up to the Effect menu, and this time I might as well just choose that second Transform command there, the one with the ... so that we can easily access the command.
And you want to change both the scale values back to 100%. You want the Move Values to be 0 apiece. Go ahead and select the bottom point in the reference point matrix, change the Rotate value to 60 degrees. Now turn on the Preview checkbox, and you can see that goes ahead and rotates the ellipse to the left there. Now click in the Copies option and press the up arrow key until you fill up the flowers, which happens at a value of 5. Now click OK. Now I want the flower to appear at a kind of jaunty angle.
So I will return to the Effect menu, choose Transform again. Illustrator is going to grump at me. I will just go ahead and click on Apply New Effect. I will change the Rotate value this time to -15 degrees. I will change the Vertical Scale Value to 90%. You want to go ahead and click inside the center point of the reference point matrix, change the Number of Copies to 0, and then turn on the Preview checkbox and you end up with this effect here. Now click OK. Now we want to turn the other ellipse into a flower as well, and it would be nice if I could just go ahead and copy the effects that I have already assigned to this flower over to this guy, which I can, and you do that from the Layers panel.
So switch back to the Layers panel, go ahead and scroll down the list here inside the Back layer, and notice that the selected path, the one over here on the left, is just called Path. It appears at the top of the stack. And the other one, this guy right here, is the next path down. Notice it has a kind of volumetric meatball, which means it has dynamic effects assigned to it. And you want to go ahead and copy those effects over to this one, and you do that by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and dragging from this location to here, and then releasing. And notice that goes ahead and copies all those effects over.
Now I'll switch back to the Appearance panel, and the great thing is, the first Transform effect is exactly right, because the six-petal flower is going to be the same regardless of its angle. So all we need to do is change the second transform by clicking on it, and I will change Vertical Scale value this time to 80%, and I will Rotate value to 30 degrees. And if you turn on the Preview checkbox, you will see that we end up getting a kind of skewed flower this time around. I will click OK, switch back to the Layers panel, assuming you're working along with me, and go ahead and turn on all those layers once again, except for the top text layer.
The last thing we need to do is establish this ellipse right here is the shadow under the bird. Currently it's too dark, and because it's filled with black, all we need to do is change its Opacity value. We don't have to change the Blend mode to Multiple. So just go ahead and change the Opacity value to 50% up here in the center of the Control panel. And I will press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A on the Mac in order to deselect the artwork. And that, friends, is a long, but comprehensive look, how you create a dramatic cartoon background here inside Illustrator.
If you're a member of the lynda.com online training library, I have a follow-up movie in which I show you how to stroke live editable text inside of Illustrator, and notice that the black stroke appears in back of the white letters, to create this final version of the artwork. I know, it seems like it'd be an obvious operation, but it's not. If you are waiting for next week's free movie, I will show you how to take this generic wood photograph and we will dress it up with some synthetic water droplets created entirely from scratch, inside Photoshop.
Deke's Techniques, each and every week. You don't want to make me angry, bud, so keep watching.
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