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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 demonstrate a slight difference between the way that Illustrator aligns live editable type as opposed to text that's been converted to outlines. Now in many cases the difference is extremely slight. However it's meaningful enough in general that you should be aware of it. I have gone ahead and saved my progress so far as Outlines letters.ai and what I have done is I have taken all 32 bits of point text and converted them to outlines and then I painstakingly have aligned every single one of the colored fills with its black border so that you don't have to because it is mindless grunt work after all.
Then I have also kept aside a pair of point text objects right there so that we can compare and contrast. Now I was telling you in a previous exercise you can't drag one point and snap it into alignment with another point, which is true. But you can get the letters in alignment using some of the Automatic Align functions here inside the Align palette. Now if you try out what you normally use when you are working inside this palette, which is the Align Center option. If you try out Horizontal Align Center and then Vertical Align Center you are not going to get a match as we are seeing right there.
So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+ Z. That's Command+Z twice in a row on a Mac. Instead what you want to do is you want to apply Horizontal Align Left and then go ahead and apply Vertical Align Top. For some reason that works. Now Vertical Align Bottom does not work in this case. It gives us this effect right there because it is trying to align I guess the mass of the letters or something. I'm not sure exactly what it's doing. It might be a function of how this Rosewood outlines is build. But anyway the Vertical Align Top ends up working up better for us and we do an exact alignment of baselines at this point, just something to bear in mind. Now let's take this pair of point text objects and move it up here so it's roughly aligned. It's at least inside of the top left square and then I'm going to Shift-click on that top left square and I'm going to click on it again to set it as the base object. Now let's go ahead and apply our center options right here and then I'm going to click again to make it the Key Object and Key Objects work not only for Distribution, but they work for Alignment as well.
Now I'm going to go on to the Control palette or I could work from the Align palette, doesn't matter and I'll click on Horizontal Align Center and then I'll click on Vertical Align Center and that makes the mess of things because I didn't take care to group my point text objects in advance. So, let's take care of that problem. Go ahead and undo those last two maneuvers by pressing Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac twice in a row. Then I'll Shift-click on the square to turn it off so that it's not selected any more and I'll go on to the Object menu and I'll Group or press Ctrl+G, Command+G on a Mac to group those two point text objects together.
Now Shift-click on that square and then click on it again to make it the Key Object and now click on Horizontal Align Center and then I want you to click on Vertical Align Center. Okay so that's how it looks when you align live text inside of Illustrator. Let's compare that to doing the same thing with this T that has been converted to outlines. Now currently I'll go ahead and sort of marquee around it just a little bit so I don't end up selecting this rear square right there and that selects both of the objects.
Now this text has been converted to outlines, I need to go ahead and group these letters together so that I don't end up messing up with the relative positioning of the Fill and the Border. So I'll go up to the Object menu and choose Group and that's something that I'm going to have to do for all these other letters as well and I'm going to do it for you once again so that you don't have to. I just want you to know that it is an important step. Now let's go ahead and move this guy into rough position over here and it's being covered up by the point text letter. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Shift+Right Bracket or Command+ Shift+Right Bracket on the Mac in order to bring it to the top of the stack and then I'm going to Shift-click on the rear square, right there the upper left square and I'm going to click on it again to make it the Key Object and then I'll click on Horizontal Align Center and then I'll click on Vertical Align Center and you can see how it is slightly different.
So what happens basically here is that when Illustrator is aligning text it's taking into account the baseline and the potential descenders and all sorts of other information that's going on with our text whereas when you are aligning objects it's just factoring the mass of the object. So you are typically going to get better alignment if you are working with text that's converted to outlines as opposed to live editable text and that's just the general rule of thumb. But more importantly you just need to know that you are going to get different results. In our case we are going to be working with text that is converted to outlines and we are going to be aligning according to the overall mass of the object. There you have it. So much minutia where Alignment and Distribute is concerned. Just fun, really super fun minutia of course. In the next exercise we are going to begin to solve our big word jumble.
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