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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.
In this exercise, I'm going to show you how you can use control handles to adjust the speed of the blend. That is the rate at which the blend progresses from one shape to another. I'm still working inside this document called Cropped universe.ai. I have gone ahead and adjusted the path of the blend here. I made it all curvy as our comet speeds across the sky. Now notice that I can go ahead and change these control handles if like to change the speed at which the blend progresses. So for example, if I make one of the handles very short and actually you know what? I'll move it down here and I'll move this guy down as well so that we can see more of these comet trails. If I make this one very short, you will see that the blend progresses very, very quickly at first, and then if I make this one very long, the blend slows down as it comes into the comet, and you can tell it's slowing down because we are seeing sort of a lumpier transition right there at this point.
To make my point even more clearly, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to reduce the number of steps in between these two shapes by double-clicking on the Blend tool icon here in the toolbox and let's go ahead and take this value down to something like 20 for a moment, and you can see that we have a lot of steps at the beginning, so we are going bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam and it's slowing down quite a bit as we get to the comet. So a long control handle slows things down, a short control handle speeds things up. Now in our case, because I'm slowing down so much toward the comet, if I want a smooth effect, I'm going to have to increase the number of specified steps because you can see 100 steps, I'll press the Tab key there, results in sort of reticulated outline right there.
We are getting some intestinal scalloping that I don't think we want. So I'll go ahead and increase this value to 200 and press the Tab key and now it's nice and smooth, and I'll click OK. Now this works not only when you are working with a curved path like this one but you can use it with a straight path as well. I'll show you what I mean. I am going to press the A key to switch back to the White Arrow tool, and I'll move these control handles into alignment with the path itself like so, so that they follow the path. This way we are getting something that very nearly resembles an exactly straight path, and we are simply using the control handles to adjust the speed of the blend like so.
So now, it's going very quickly here and very slowly as it reaches the comet, and you can change things around if you want to. I could make this portion very, very fast and I could slow down this portion if I wanted to as well so that it's barely fading into view at the beginning. So, it's, to some extent, similar to the midpoint skew control that you have with the standard gradient except it's more powerful because not only are you setting the middle point but you are setting what's happening on either side of that midpoint skew as well. All right, so if nothing else, just remember that you can use control handles along with the path of the blend to control not only curvature, but also speed.
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