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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 we're going to bring together all of the learning we've done so far inside of this project file and apply it to the task of assembling this B here. This letter B in the word Boo. I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Challenge of the B.ai. If you're still working inside that original primitive.ai file, stick with it by all means. We want to take these rounded rectangles and these partial shapes and combine them into a single B, which we can see here inside the final finished Ghost robot.ai file. So that you can see that we've got a B with a larger hole downstairs and upstairs.
We also have this thick edge on right and this thick partial edge over here on the left-hand side. All right, I'm going to press Ctrl+Tab or Command+Tilde on the Mac in order to switch to the Challenge of the B.ai file right here. How do we combine all of the shapes together in order to create the B that we're looking for? Well, we're going to work through the stuff that we've learned so far. We're going to start with "strokes are bad, fills are good." So I'm going to Marquee all these shapes, with the Black Arrow tool, and make sure that I have all of them selected. In all, I believe we've got four different paths. This right edge, this inner edge of the larger hole downstairs, the central rounded rectangle, and then this left edge as well.
So those are the four paths that we're working with. Make sure that the Talk Balloon is not selected, as it is not in my case. Go up to the Object menu, choose Path and then choose Outline Stroke or if you've loaded dekeKeys, you have got my keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Backslash or Command+Backslash on the Mac. Now, you've got a series of filled shapes. So that's step one. Step two is to roughly approximate the final appearance of this letter in this case. I'm going to do that by bringing this guy right here to front. What we don't want is this area right there. That's going to all go away because this is all hole right there.
So I'm going to click off the paths in order to deselect them. Then I'm going to move my Arrow Cursor around until I get that little black square right there that tells me I've got something under my cursor. For those of you who are just joining us, who did not watch any of the fundamentals portion of this series, I want you to change this setting. This is very, very important. Press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac to bring up the Preferences dialog box. Click Next in order to switch to the next panel of options. Then there's this check box right there called Object Selection by Path Only. By default, it's off. I want you to turn it on. That way, you can select through Shapes in Illustrator, very useful when working inside of complex illustrations.
So turn it on, click OK, then move your cursor around until you see that black square that tells you there's a path outline right there. Click in order to select the whole thing and then press Ctrl+Shift+Right bracket or Command+Shift+Right bracket on the Mac to bring it to front. Now, we've got the approximate appearance that we're going for. We've got a hole upstairs. We've got the hole that will look better than this downstairs. We've got the thick right edge. We've got the thick left edge. Good, all right. Now what we need to do is we need to apply that classic divide and unite combo.
So we'll start with Divide of course. This is step three. Go ahead and Marquee your stuff there, like so. Make sure that the Talk Balloon is not selected. Then go over to the Pathfinder palette and click on Divide. Now you have divided everything. It doesn't look different. We've learned that in the past that's okay. We've come to expect that from Illustrator. Now, let's go ahead and zoom in. Now that we've divided all these intersecting paths apart from each other, we need to get rid of this junk down here that's interfering with our ability to express a hole in the downstairs region of the B because after all, you have gone ahead and grouped these shapes together now by virtue of the fact that you apply the Divide operation.
So get your White Arrow tool. This is step four by the way. Let's go ahead and click off the shapes in order to deselect them. Then Alt+Drag or Option+Drag around this region right here in order to select these shapes whatever they may be, and then press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on the Mac in order to delete them. So we end up with this weird sliver sort of going into the B. That doesn't concern us in the slightest. What does is that we've got this weird thing still left over down there. We don't want that. So go ahead and Alt or Option+Drag around it, and press the Backspace key if you're having that problem, you may or may not.
Then I'll Alt or Option+Drag around this region like so, not too far in. I don't want to go that far in because that selects some stuff we want to keep, just this far in about there in order to select these various paths and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on a Mac in order to get rid of them. Now, I've got some weird sort of blue artifacting on screen here. I'm not sure if those are real things, they don't seem to be. When I hover over them, notice that forces a refresh and makes them go away. So I just want to make sure that we're getting rid of the bad stuff. Looks good to me. All right, so step four successfully completed.
Let's go back to the Black Arrow tool. Just click anywhere on anyone of the paths because they're all grouped together. Then go over to the Pathfinder palette. Step five is to click on the Unite option in order to unite all of those paths together. Now, something went wrong. We've gotten the hole downstairs, but we lost the hole upstairs. Why is that? Well, step six is to figure it out. Press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac in order to undo that operation right there. I'm going to click off the shapes in order to deselect them. I'll go back to the White Arrow tool and I'm going to Alt or Option-click on this outline right there in order to select it.
Now, let's move that over just to see if there's something else going on here. I'll Alt or Option+Drag right there. Sure enough, I've got a path. It's not filled or stroked but it still got taken into consideration because it's a closed path, Illustrator is deciding that it is something that needs to be united with everything else, and so it becomes part of the big united object. So let's go ahead and undo the movement of that stuff that we want to keep there by pressing Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac. What I'm going to do is I'm going to click off the shape for a moment to deselect it, Alt-click or Option-click. No, the frame I'm trying to select is in back of this, so that's no good.
So I'll go ahead and Alt or Option+ Marquee this region right there. Got the Alt or Option key down, it's very important. And then Shift+Alt or Shift+Option-click on that shape in order to deselect it. Now, I've got just this area selected, just this bad path. And I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key to get rid of it. Now step seven. Now that we've solved the problem hopefully, knock on wood. Let's go back to the Black Arrow tool, click on anyone of the paths to select everything. Then let's go back to Unite and see how things fair.
So I'll click on the Unite icon, things are looking great. So now let's go ahead and make this B into a full- fledged letter by pressing the I key to get the Eyedropper and then I'll click on this neighboring O right here. We're pretty zoomed-in. So you can't see the entire O, but that's what it is, in order to lift its Fill and Stroke attributes and everything is looking totally great actually at this point right here. Now, if you happen to see any weird problems like if you zoom in on this edge, you may notice some sort of weird little fissures that are happening down here.
What you can do is you can drag with the White Arrow tool. Don't drag around this point. Notice I'm careful to avoid this point right there because it is the extreme end of this curved edge right there. We need to keep that curve. So I want to go ahead and start things at this location there. This is a point that we don't need to keep anymore. I'm dragging over to about here actually is good enough because we want to keep this anchor point that's right there. It looks like a keeper to me. I'll just Marquee around these three points. I'm not pressing the Alt or Option key by the way. I'm just marqueeing in order to select those three points.
Then I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of them and then press Ctrl+J or Command+ J on the Mac in order to fuse these two end points. What were formally end points just now with a straight segment. Then we want to repeat that same operation down here because I do have a little bit of a divot at that location there. So I'm going to click on that path just to see where the points are and I'll Marquee around these points right here, the bad points in order to select them. Press the Backspace key in order to get rid of them. That would be Delete on the Mac and then press Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac to connect those end points with a straight segment. And we have it. That's it folks.
You might say, well, gosh! Was that, that much easier than just drawing this path outline with the Pen tool? Yes, way easier. Even though that's pretty hard, what we saw was a pretty complicated combination of Pathfinder operations. It was still easier than hand drawing because we are able to achieve exacting effects here. We're able to take advantage of the geometric accuracy of the Rounded Rectangle tool, so that we get nice straight edges and nice curvature as well. Nice even and consistent curvature, which is something that you can maintain with the Geometric Shape tools. That's very difficult to maintain with something like the Pen tool.
In the next exercise, it may seem like we've seen everything where Pathfinder operations are concerned but we're going to see more, much more coming up soon.
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