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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 this exercise, I am going to show you how to apply and customize a calligraphic brush inside Illustrator. I'm still working away inside Consistent pattern.ai, and I am going to select this line of live editable point type, and we're going to apply the brushstroke to it. So ultimately, brushes are just another form of dynamic effect inside of Illustrator, one that is exclusively applicable to strokes, never to fills. So if I go up to the Brushes panel and I click on any one of these calligraphic brushes, for example, it should automatically apply to the stroke.
So I will go ahead and click on 5 pt. oval, and nothing happens. So you might think I'm a big liar and you can't actually apply brushes to text. Well, the problem is, currently our individual characters are fills, we don't have a stroke, and so there's nothing for Illustrator to latch on to, because it can't apply brushes to the individual characters, just to the entire text object. So what you need to do is go over to the Appearance panel. And as with many dynamic effects inside the program, you first have to add a fill or a stroke to the entire object.
So I am going to drop down here to the Add New Stroke icon in the bottom-left corner of the panel and click on it, and now we have a black stroke, by default, that's tracing each one of letterforms. Fine! Now, if I go up to the Brushes panel, I can apply any one of these thumbnails in the first row, and then we can work from there. But I am going to start with 5 pt. Oval. Now, this is a uniform 5-point stroke. The only difference between it and your standard 5-point stroke is that it's oval. So it's thinner than it is wide, and it's also set to an angle so that the stroke appears to grow thinner and thicker as it traces the letterforms.
Now, let's say we want to customize things a bit, and there are two ways to do that. One is you can customize the brush definition, and the other option is to customize the brush as it's assigned locally to the selected object. So notice I've got the selected text, and I have this Highlight, this thick border around 5 pt. Oval. That shows that there's a link between the text and this brushstroke. So if I double-click on that Brush icon, I'll bring up the Calligraphic Brush Options dialog box, and then I can modify a variety of settings. You can, for example, drag this arrowhead in order to change the angle of the brush; you can drag these black circles to change the roundness of the brushstroke; you can change the diameter as well if you want to, I could raise it to 30 points; and then I might change the name of this brushstroke to 30 pt.
Oval, and then I'd click OK in order to apply my changes. Well, here is what's going to happen. You're going to get this alert message saying, "Hey, what do you want to do at this point? Do you want to not only modify the active brush, but also assign it to any and all objects that are linked to this brush?" So they don't have to be selected, just as long as they're linked to the brush, they will be updated if you click Apply to Strokes. If you don't want to update any of those linked objects, then you would click Leave Strokes, and you just modify the definition of this specific brush, and you would break the links as well. Or of course you can cancel out.
Now, here's a problem: none of these things is what I want to do. I want to change my selected object without modifying 5 pt. Oval. I want to leave the 5 pt. Oval brush the way it is. So assuming that's the case-- and that's generally the way you want to work by the way--then you'd cancel out of here. And then you'd drop down to this icon, the center icon at the bottom of the Brushes panel that says Options of Selected Object, click on it, brings up that same dialog box, minus the Naming option, and then you would change your settings. Now, in my case, I am going to change the Angle value to -30 degrees, let's say, and I want my brushstroke to vary randomly, in terms of its angle.
Now, you can link the variation to other settings if you want to. Pressure through Rotation, however, all rely on pressure-sensitive input. So I would have had to have drawn the path in the first place using a pressure- sensitive stylus, such as that included with a Wacom tablet. Now, whether every single one of these options has any meaning varies depending on your tablet and your stylus and so on, but you can bet that pressure is supported. However, you can bet that none of them is supported when you're working with live editable text, which I did not draw using a tablet.
So then your options are either Fixed, which assigns no variation whatsoever. Notice when you set this option to Fixed, Variation becomes dimmed. Or you can switch to Random. I am going to switch to Random, and I am going to take this value up to 90 degrees. Now, what am I saying? I am saying that the angle of this brush can vary from -30 -90, which is -120, to -30 +90, which is 60. And if you want to see what that means, go ahead and increase your Diameter value to something ridiculous for now. Don't look at the illustration window in the background; just look at these little dollops of paint. The center dollop shows you your three numerical options right here: -30 for Angle, in my case Roundness of 50%, and Diameter 58 points. And that's what the brush is going to look like.
However, it can also vary to this extreme on the left-hand side or this other extreme on the right-hand side. So this would be the lowest Angle value, and this would be the highest Angle value. Well, you might look at these and say, "Well, that's not really the difference. One looks like a pancake and the other looks like the moon," or something along those lines, and that's because we're also seeing the variations in Roundness, which can vary from 50 -40 to 10 or 50 + 40 to 90. Well, let's say what I want is 25%. But if I dial in 25%, then the Variation is going to have to decline with it, because Variation, for both Roundness and Diameter, cannot be any larger than the core Roundness or Diameter value.
So I'll go ahead and enter 25%, press the Tab key, and notice that Variation drops to 25%. That becomes its maximum as well. So now the thinnest brushstroke is just a line, and the thickest brushstroke has a Roundness of 50%. All right, now let's mess with the Diameter value. I'm going to take that core Diameter value down to 10, and I don't want it to be fixed. I want it to get thicker or thinner. So I am going to switch it to Random, and here's where I cross my fingers and hope things are going to work, because there is a bug associated with this Variation value. I am going to crank it up to 10, and I see my calligraphic brushstrokes just get thicker; they don't get any thinner ever.
They're just getting thicker. So I should see the brushstrokes decline to 10 -10, which would be a 0 point brushstroke, and grow as thick as 10 +10, but in my case they're just growing thicker. Notice the difference. This is a Variation of 0, which is thinner, and here's a Variation of 10, which is thicker. So there's two ways of working. One is to try to get to the bottom of it. And what I've found to work--although I'm never so sure if this is going to pay off or not--if you really want to solve the problem, you can cancel out here and then you can go ahead and click on this flyout menu in the Appearance panel and choose Clear Appearance, and essentially start over again.
Click on the Stroke icon once again to make it active. Let's go ahead and switch to a light stroke, so we can see what in the world we're doing against these dark letterforms. So I went ahead and selected, by the way, OW yellow. And in case you're wondering what's with that naming convention, well, I've got this tile that's called Orange wedges, and it's the yellow that's found inside that tile pattern, so that we get a match between the Stroke and the background pattern. All right! Now, I will go ahead and apply 5 pt. Oval. I have no assurance this is going to work, by the way. And then I'll drop down to the Options of Selected Object, and the first thing I am going to change is that Diameter value.
I am going to change it to 10, and then I'm going to change Fixed to Random, and then I am going to crank up the Variation value, and it gets thinner this time, yay, it worked. Now, it's not necessarily going to work for you. I have beat my head against the monitor over this one. I am actually extremely excited it worked this time. Can you tell? But if it doesn't for you, you might just want to look at this and say, okay, so 10-7 would be 3, so maybe I will start with a 3-point diameter, and I'll give it a variation of about 2 points and try to see if that comes up with a reasonable match.
But anyway, these are the settings I'd like to use and they are working for me. So I'll change the Angle now to 30 degrees, and the Variation value to 90 degrees, and the Roundness value to 25%, and leave Variation set to 25%, and this is it folks. Click OK in order to accept that effect, and then I am going to click on Fill, because when I added the stroke, I got a fill as well. I am going to click on this Fill item in the Appearance panel. I am going to click on the down-pointing arrowhead, and I am going to change the fill to this dark green, which is C=90 M=30 Y=95 K=30, one of the default swatches included with Illustrator, and I get this effect here.
But that's not nearly enough, of course, I figure we ought to add an art brush and a scatter brush and more, and I'll show you how those work starting in the next exercise.
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