Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Achieving a graphic effect with Levels


Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced

with Deke McClelland

Video: Achieving a graphic effect with Levels

All right, here I'm back in Illustrator for a moment taking a look at the Final found inside the 20_ images folder. Notice the final effect includes a kind of line art rendering. So that we have a really super graphical treatment associated with this image and part of the way I was able to achieve that effect is by flattening out certain regions and when I say flattening out certain reasons, I mean that many neighboring pixels are exactly the same color. So for example, inside of her skin, this entire region that I'm tracing over is almost all exactly the same color, much of it is exactly the same color and then same goes for some of the areas inside of her hair and inside of her pupils and so on.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 28m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 7s
    2. Installing the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      8m 59s
    3. Resetting the Function keys on a Mac
      4m 47s
    4. Installing the CS4 color settings
      4m 20s
    5. Loading the CS4 color settings in Illustrator
      6m 3s
    6. Loading the CS4 color settings in Bridge CS4
      3m 25s
  2. 1h 53m
    1. From the simple emerges the complex
    2. Introducing Pathfinder operations
      4m 17s
    3. Editing a compound shape
      4m 39s
    4. Adding to a compound shape
      3m 11s
    5. Inserting a subpath into a compound shape
      3m 56s
    6. Expanding a compound shape
      4m 53s
    7. Assembling primitives
      4m 42s
    8. Preparing a template in Photoshop
      7m 0s
    9. Uniting paths permanently
      5m 40s
    10. Minus Front vs. Minus Back
      1m 55s
    11. Working with compound paths
      6m 49s
    12. When in doubt, divide
      3m 54s
    13. Divide and Unite
      3m 2s
    14. Open path pitfalls
      5m 35s
    15. Strokes bad, fills good
      4m 38s
    16. Advanced Divide and Unite
      8m 59s
    17. Using the Crop operation
      8m 30s
    18. Expert Divide and Unite
      8m 45s
    19. "Ghosting" shapes with Fill Opacity
      6m 45s
    20. Anticipating and troubleshooting
      8m 16s
    21. Exclude and Intersect
      7m 24s
  3. 44m 59s
    1. Familiar one moment, different the next
      1m 3s
    2. Snapping to anchor points
      5m 41s
    3. Aligning a group to the artboard
      3m 34s
    4. Distributing objects on the artboard
      4m 16s
    5. Setting the key object
      4m 54s
    6. Distributing objects by space
      3m 6s
    7. Distributing objects by selections
      3m 19s
    8. Aligning point text
      6m 7s
    9. Aligning live text vs. using outlines
      4m 58s
    10. Aligning key letters
      3m 35s
    11. Aligning to key objects
      4m 26s
  4. 1h 4m
    1. CS4’s gradient renaissance
      1m 7s
    2. Applying a gradient
      6m 0s
    3. Dragging and dropping color swatches
      2m 55s
    4. Using the Gradient palette
      6m 27s
    5. Designing a shaded gradient
      5m 9s
    6. Saving a gradient swatch and adding a texture
      4m 2s
    7. Introducing the new Gradient tool
      4m 39s
    8. Editing color stops inside a shape
      3m 26s
    9. Setting multiple gradients to the same angle
      5m 0s
    10. Adding and adjusting radial gradients
      7m 20s
    11. Making a transparent gradient
      7m 6s
    12. Adding drop shadows (a kind of gradient)
      6m 28s
    13. Blends vs. blend modes
      4m 38s
  5. 1h 17m
    1. Creating freeform color flows
      1m 0s
    2. The power of CS4's transparent gradients
      10m 25s
    3. Creating a gradient mesh
      4m 30s
    4. Expanding a gradient to a gradient mesh
      7m 40s
    5. Adding and deleting rows and columns
      6m 13s
    6. Selecting and coloring points
      6m 5s
    7. Assigning colors with the Eyedropper tool
      7m 42s
    8. Cool mesh editing techniques
      3m 56s
    9. Warping and puckering a mesh
      7m 24s
    10. Applying precise finishing touches
      5m 48s
    11. Gradient strokes
      9m 45s
    12. Gradient text
      6m 50s
  6. 55m 35s
    1. The first of the dynamic functions
      1m 4s
    2. Making a blend automatically
      5m 48s
    3. Fixing problem blends
      3m 56s
    4. Making a blend with the Blend tool
      3m 6s
    5. Cloning and coloring a blended path
      4m 37s
    6. Creating a mask
      3m 53s
    7. Blending between translucent shapes
      5m 30s
    8. Blending along a curve
      4m 34s
    9. Adjusting the speed of a blend
      2m 58s
    10. Filling and stroking a mask
      4m 36s
    11. Creating a compound clipping mask
      6m 3s
    12. Nesting one clipping mask inside another
      6m 7s
    13. Ghosting nested masks and blends
      3m 23s
  7. 1h 13m
    1. Patterns that repeat forever and ever
    2. Introducing tile patterns
      6m 36s
    3. Beginning a core design
      5m 6s
    4. Building an interlocking element
      6m 25s
    5. Achieving precise radial symmetry
      4m 46s
    6. Rotating duplicates around a common center
      3m 10s
    7. Determining how a pattern repeats
      9m 54s
    8. Coloring the core objects
      5m 0s
    9. Identifying the rectangular tile
      7m 14s
    10. Saving tile patterns
      7m 19s
    11. Applying tile patterns to a shape
      3m 25s
    12. Protecting patterns from transformations
      7m 36s
    13. Moving patterns without paths
      5m 51s
  8. 1h 19m
    1. Illustrator gets natural
      1m 15s
    2. Introducing the vector painting tools
      3m 16s
    3. Calligraphic brush options
      4m 3s
    4. Pressure sensitivity
      5m 17s
    5. Editing a calligraphic brush
      5m 53s
    6. Repainting and smoothing paths
      5m 30s
    7. Making the paintbrush behave
      6m 16s
    8. Erasing stroked paths
      3m 17s
    9. Painting with the new Blob brush
      6m 24s
    10. Refining filled paths with the Eraser
      4m 14s
    11. Painting independent paths
      3m 53s
    12. The Selection Limits Merge options
      3m 20s
    13. Applying and scaling an art brush
      6m 23s
    14. Snipping a brushed path
      4m 55s
    15. Colorizing an art brush
      4m 9s
    16. Heaping a stroke on an art brush effect
      4m 32s
    17. Creating a custom art brush
      6m 51s
  9. 1h 44m
    1. The computer art world’s dynamic duo
      1m 7s
    2. Copying and pasting pixels from Photoshop
      7m 21s
    3. Linking is efficient, embedding is not
      2m 47s
    4. Editing an image in Illustrator
      7m 30s
    5. Filtering an image in Photoshop
      6m 34s
    6. Adding a filter mask in Photoshop
      6m 25s
    7. Masking a woman from the background
      3m 49s
    8. Creating a sepia effect
      6m 37s
    9. Adding a second gradient map layer
      2m 13s
    10. Achieving a graphic effect with Levels
      8m 10s
    11. Preparing an image for use in Illustrator
      5m 46s
    12. The importance of image resolution
      9m 40s
    13. Placing and linking images
      4m 43s
    14. Managing linked images
      6m 18s
    15. Integrating an image into a design
      5m 12s
    16. A better way to wrap text
      7m 28s
    17. Previewing the trim size
      4m 25s
    18. Layer comps and editable text
      8m 42s
  10. 2h 11m
    1. Transparency is safe and fun
      1m 27s
    2. Introducing the translucent composition
      4m 39s
    3. Assigning opacity to an Appearance attribute
      3m 41s
    4. Creating a knockout group
      5m 7s
    5. Defining an opacity mask
      7m 15s
    6. Using the Clip checkbox
      2m 41s
    7. Opacity mask tips and tricks
      3m 20s
    8. The Multiply blend mode
      6m 8s
    9. Adding to an existing opacity mask
      7m 53s
    10. Blending between parallel groups
      7m 27s
    11. Creating a gradient opacity mask
      4m 54s
    12. Employing an opposing gradient mask
      7m 57s
    13. Combining Multiply and Screen
      3m 49s
    14. Blend mode roundup
      5m 24s
    15. Mixing blend modes inside a single path
      3m 48s
    16. Blend mode and transparent gradient
      3m 49s
    17. Masking an entire layer
      7m 0s
    18. Combining Screen with 100K Black
      7m 43s
    19. Knocking out a drop shadow
      5m 18s
    20. But will it print?
      3m 8s
    21. Working with the Flattener preview
      8m 44s
    22. Rasterizing an illustration in Photoshop
      9m 16s
    23. Super-rich blacks and raster effects
      3m 35s
    24. Exporting TIFF artwork from Illustrator
      7m 48s
  11. 58s
    1. Until next time

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced
12h 54m Intermediate Jul 09, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Knowing the fundamentals of drawing and reshaping paths is only part of the story. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second of the popular One-on-One series, computer graphics expert Deke McClelland covers some of Illustrator's most powerful and least understood features. He shows how to merge simple shapes to create complex ones with the Pathfinder palette, as well as align paths to create schematic illustrations. Deke explains how to paint fluid, multicolor fills with blends, and the new and improved gradient tool. He explores seamlessly repeating tile patterns, blobs and brushes, and imported images. He also dives into one of the deepest features in all of Illustrator, transparency. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.

Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.

Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.

Topics include:
  • Working with compound shapes in the Pathfinder palette
  • Ghosting shapes with Fill Opacity
  • Understanding gradients and the gradient tools
  • Cloning and coloring a blended path
  • Saving tile patterns and applying them to a shape
  • Importing and linking images from other applications
Deke McClelland

Achieving a graphic effect with Levels

All right, here I'm back in Illustrator for a moment taking a look at the Final found inside the 20_ images folder. Notice the final effect includes a kind of line art rendering. So that we have a really super graphical treatment associated with this image and part of the way I was able to achieve that effect is by flattening out certain regions and when I say flattening out certain reasons, I mean that many neighboring pixels are exactly the same color. So for example, inside of her skin, this entire region that I'm tracing over is almost all exactly the same color, much of it is exactly the same color and then same goes for some of the areas inside of her hair and inside of her pupils and so on.

Now the reason that this is so necessary is because it makes for a more flattering effect for one thing because we are getting rid of some of the fractal in her skins, so we are not calling quite so much attention to the pigment variations and we are not calling attention to the micro wrinkles either and also it just happens to give the image a more graphical effect and of course, it just happens to give our photograph a more graphical appearance, which is what I'm looking for for my final advertisement. So how do we achieve that? Well we convert many of the Luminance Level to black and white using a Levels adjustment layer and let me show you how that works. I'm going to Alt+Tab or Command+Tab on the Mac back to Photoshop and you can see what I'm talking about. I have exaggerated all kinds of stuff inside of her skin tones and normally it's great that we have all of these volumetric detail. Meaning that we have these nice shadows transitioning evenly into the highlights continuous tone variations. However, if we are trying to achieve a graphical effect, that's not what we want. We want a flatten areas away.

All right, now if we are going to apply a levels adjustment layer, which we are, we need to apply it underneath the Gradient Map layers because the Gradient Map layers are responsible for assigning color to the luminance variations. We need to define those luminance variations before they occur and everything in Photoshop occurs from the bottom up and especially where adjustment layers are concerned. All right, so I'm going to click on the smart object layer right there and by the way, I'm working inside of a progress document. It's called Gradient map layers.psd found inside the 20_images folder.

All right, now having selected this layer, I'm going to go ahead and press the Alt key or the Option on a Mac and click on this little Levels icon. So Alt-click or Option-click brings up the New Layer dialog box. I'm going to call this B or W because I'm changing many of the Shadows to black and many of the Highlights to white and then I'll click OK. That brings up this tiny little Histogram right there inside the Levels panel of the Adjustments palette and actually you know what, just for a moment I'm going to switch back to the smart object layer, so I can show you something.

Notice here inside my Adjustments palette, if I go up to the fly-out menu, I have turned off this function right there, Add Mask by Default and I recommend that you turn this off because it just gives you more flexibility inside the program but you may have had it turned on, which it is by default and I'm going to go and switch back to the Levels Adjustment layer now. If you had it turned on then you will see a little blank layer mask sitting right next to B or W. All right, I want it to appear though. We do wanted there. So go ahead and add it if it's not already there. If it's already there, don't worry about it but if it's not there, click on Add Layer Mask to add that guy like so.

All right, we'll be painting in it in just moment is the idea. All right I want to be able to see at full version of my Histogram. So I'm going to click on this little folder icon to expand my view like so. It does mean that the Adjustments palette grows and crushes the Layers palette below it, in the case of my dinky little screen but it's all for the larger cause don't you know. All right, I'm going to change a bunch of colors to black. So all the Shadows over here on the left-hand-side of the Histogram and this is the bar graph of the luminance information inside the image. So we have got quite a big lump of Shadows over here and this stuff over here is the Highlights and we do have some just straight-out whites. That's what this lines means and those are the whites inside of the eyes but really those are inside the lips and then we have all these mid-tones in between.

So black fading over toward white, just a distribution graph, nothing to be frightened of. Now here is how this works, if drag this black slider triangle over to the right, to say 25, then I'm saying anything with the Luminance Level of 25 or darker becomes black and you can see how the image just darkened up on screen. Now I'm going to drag the white slider handle over to 205 like that, notice that she brighten ups dramatically and this means that anything with the Luminance Level of 205 or brighter becomes white and that succeeds in flattening out these regions inside of her skin.

Now the reason they are quite flattening out like this, let's go ahead and collapse the Adjustments palette so that we can focus in on the Layers palette so it's not so squished, is because of these Gradient Map layers right there. If I turn those layers off, you can see that I have made a mess of this woman for all intents and purposes, thanks to this Levels command right there, we now have some very hot Highlights which we wouldn't want. It looks like she is like three feet from the surface of the sun here and she is just being blasted away and we have some ultra dark Shadows. So that makes for a less flattering effect of anything but then we follow it up with Sepia #1 which goes ahead and calms down those Highlights dramatically same with the Shadows and then when we add in Sepia #2, we get very nice effect indeed.

All right, so then one thing I don't like is how bright the lips are getting. So with my layer mask active and you can see it's active because it kind of has a double box around it, then I want you to go ahead and get your Paint Brush. It's your plain old Brush tool here, you can get it by pressing the B key if you want and I'm going to switch the foreground color to black by clicking on this little swap icon right there. So you want that first swatch there to be black and the second one to be white. That's fine. Or you can click on this little black/white but if you click on little black/white icon then you are going to have to follow up with the X.

Anyway, that's because we are working inside of a mask and that is by the way for this little guy, you can press the X key if you want to, swap your colors back and forth just as it if you are swapping your Fill and Stroke colors inside of Illustrator and now I'm going to reduce the size of my brush. I want to go ahead and paint with something like a Master Diameter of let's say 150 pixels. So I'll nudge that down a little bit. It's not necessary you get the exact value. I just want you to be able to follow along and I got to this little drop-down palette by clicking on this down pointing arrowhead and then my Hardness value is set to 75%. That's fine, you would have to adjust yours because that's not the default.

Then I want you to paint over the lips in order to paint away the effect in the lips and notice you are going to get a very bad effect if you are painting the way I'm painting. So I'm basically painting some clown lips on her at this point but you will see the black appear here inside of the little layer mask and just remember what this looks like because this is going to remind you so much. There is going to be a sense of deja vu when we take a look at opacity masks in the very next chapter. Anyway, so black is painting the effect away, white is leaving the effect intact. Now I want you to click on that little swap icon and let's paint away the bad portion of the clown lips like so, because it's easier to paint these away then to paint them in the first place in order to really do a good job of painting in the lips, you would need like a pressure sensitive stylish and Wacom tablet or something along those lines but if you are just using mouse, the way I am, then it's easier to just paint in that black and then paint it in away with white and now we have this effect here. So this is looking pretty nice.

So this is what would happen if you Shift-click on this layer mask icon right there, this is the effect we got with the lips originally so you can see there are a little too harsh. Then Shift- click again to mask them back and they look quite a bit better. That is the effect my friends. However, we have some additional preparation to do. So far, we have just seen a bunch of effect work inside of Photoshop, how we achieve this very specific graphical Sepia tone effect. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to now prepare this image for import into Illustrator.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced .

Expand all | Collapse all
please wait ...
Q: In the lesson on pressure sensitivity, exactly what kind of Wacom tablet is the instructor using?
A: The instructor is using a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.