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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final part of the comprehensive Illustrator One-on-One series, author and industry expert Deke McClelland shows how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS5. Deke explores Illustrator’s powerful Gradient Mesh feature, great for creating photorealistic airbrushing effects. He also covers graphic styles, the liquify tools, envelope-style distortions, the new Bristle Brushes, 3D text, and perspective drawing. Exercise files accompany the course.
In his final exercise, I am going to walk through the numerical settings that are associated with the bristle brush, so that you can customize a brush to get exactly the results you're looking for. And the thing to bear in mind here is you're really controlling the quality of the hair--that is, the hair that makes up that paintbrush. So with that in mind, I have saved my modified document as Round fan brushstroke.ai. It's found inside the 26_brushstrokes folder. I want you to once again press Ctrl+Shift+A, or Command+Shift+A on the Mac, to make sure nothing is selected inside of your illustration.
Then bring up the Brushes panel and go ahead and scroll your way to the very bottom here until you find your 8mm round fan brush, if you've been working along with me. Double-click on it in order to bring up the Bristle Brush Options dialog box, and notice this time you've got a Preview check box, so that you can preview the effects of your modifications out here in the larger illustration window, and Illustrator will go ahead and update all of the stroked path outlines on the fly. Now, we're going to start near the bottom, because that's the easiest way to understand things. First of all, Paint Opacity, that couldn't be easier.
I am going to go ahead and change that value to 100%, so that we get some very opaque brushstrokes. But here's the thing to bear in mind: what you're really changing is the opacity of many different brushstrokes that are being laid down at once, because each one of the hairs on this fanned brush is laying down its own independent path outline, potentially, and so those various outlines might be translucent, in which case they're going to blend in with each other, as you see here inside this little brush preview. It's not so easy to see out here in the illustration window. But once you crank it up to Opaque, it really starts looking good out here inside the larger illustration, and that's the effect I'm looking for.
All right, now I'll pop back to the top of the list. You know how Size works. You're just going to make the brush bigger or smaller using this option. Bristle Length, that's the length of the hairs--that is to say at some point the hairs are actually attached to that stick that is the brushstroke, and then how long are the hairs? Well, that's what you're controlling with this option. The question, of course, is what difference does it make if you're using short hairs or long hairs? Well, think about when you're actually painting, if you've done much of that. When you paint with a long hair brush, you're going to get big, lopy brush- strokes, so you're going to be painting with a lot of brush at the same time, and the brush isn't necessarily super carefully following your movement, so it sort of flops back and forth, almost like a mop. Think of it that way.
If you want a lot of control, then you want to back off this setting. I want a fair amount of control here. I am going to go ahead and take it down to 50%. Next, you have Bristle Density, how many bristles are packed on that brush. Are there just three or four hairs hanging off the brush, or are they super-packed in there? And if you go with a very high density, why then of course you're going to get a much thicker effect, as you see here, and you're going to get less individual hair interaction. If you want sort of spikier brush results so that you see a lot of little brush- strokes, then you want to go ahead and decrease the Bristle Density, and you'll get this kind of effect here.
The value that I am looking for for this particular illustration is 30. So I'll go ahead and change that value to 30%. Bristle Thickness, how thick are those individual hairs? And that's going to make a difference in terms of how these various bristles interact as well. If you want to see a lot of bristle action, then you want to crank down that Thickness value so you have these tiny wispy details. And then if you don't want the wispy details, well, then you want to go with some nice coarse hairs. In my case, I am going to crank that down to 10%.
And then finally, Stiffness. So think of that brush, you're pressing down on the brush. How much does it give? Is it super flexible, in which case it's going to smush back and forth. Go back to that mop metaphor and think about a floppy mop, and that's what you're creating with a very flexible-- that is a low--Stiffness value. And so your brush is going to waver back and forth and your hairs are going to mix in fairly sloppily with each other. That may be a great effect; that may be what you're looking for. If you want some very controlled results, then you want to go with a more rigid brush, that has some sort of wax built into it essentially.
I am going to crank this Rigid value all the way up to 100%, so that I end up with this effect here. So we can see the actual tendrils of that brushstroke interacting with each other. This looks absolutely great to me. But remember, that's how those values work. I don't want you to be frightened of them. They are fairly easy to modify. I think over time you will become familiar with how they work. And as long as you've got the Preview check box on and you've got something painted there in the illustration window, then you can see your changes on the fly. All right, go ahead and click OK in order to apply that modification. And of course Illustrator has got to ask us, "Do you want to apply your changes to the current strokes or leave the strokes alone?" and you know what, I am going to show you a tip. Instead of clicking apply, which you have to do every single time, because that's usually what you want do, go ahead and press the A key.
So you'd press A for apply, you'd press L if you want to for leave, and of course Escape for cancel. And we end up getting this effect here. And this is the final version of the artwork folks. I am going to go ahead and press the F key in order to switch to the Full Screen mode. Actually, I'll press the F key a couple of times, and we end up with this effect here. This is the final version of our large format garment tag, created using the dynamic--and I have to say, once again, powerful--Brushes panel, here inside Illustrator CS5.
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