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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.
Over the course of this chapter we are going to take this humble drawing right here, which goes by the name of the Pink-pong paddle.ai, and without adding a single path outline, we are going to transform this graphic into the rich lustrous illustration that you see before you now. This graphic incidentally is called Final gradient effect.ai. As I say, I haven't added a single path outline. All I have done is add a bunch of gradients. There is also a few Drop Shadows. We'll adding a Blend, which is another way to create a gradient inside of Illustrator, and we'll be applying some Opacity value, some blend modes, and so on, all in the name of creating what is ostensibly a photo realistic illustration.
Now, I'm not suggesting for a second that I would mistake this, even from a distance, for being a photograph. In fact, it's better then a photograph because its super sharp. It has all kinds of awesome vector detail, super smooth. But whatever you think of, it's a heck of a lot better than this cartoon graphic right here. Largely as I say a function of gradients. Now, I'll also say gradients are super powerful inside of Illustrator, and they've gotten even better. We've made a quantum leap in the gradient department here inside of Illustrator CS4. But they are not what I would call approachable. They don't make a lot of sense right up front. The most counterintuitive thing about gradients is applying a gradient to a path in the first place.
So let me show you how that works. I'll show you four ways that I don't care for, by the way, four ways to apply a gradient here inside of this exercise and then I'll show you a fifth better way in the next exercise. So working here inside Ping-pong paddle .ai, I'm going to click on the central red shape right here, which represents the paddle cushion itself. Notice that currently it's filled with a shade of red, and I want to apply a gradient instead. I want something resembling this right here, where we have darkness down in the lower right region and lightness up here in the upper left region.
So how do we go about doing that? Well, several different ways to apply a gradient, as I have said, many of which work from the Gradient palette right here. So I'm going to go ahead and click on the Gradient tab, or you can go to the Window menu and choose Gradient. You also have this altogether unmemorable keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+ F9 or Command+F9 on the Mac. So once you're seeing the gradient, even if its just this dinky little bar right there-- And what I did is I just kind of clicked below it and I assigned the gradient, the default gradient of white to black to my red paddle cushion.
So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+ Z on the Mac to undo that modification. So just click some place in this region and you will apply the gradient. Another thing you can do, you can go ahead and expand the Gradient palette by clicking in this little do hickey a couple of times, and now we're seeing the full Gradient palette in all of its splendor. You can click on this thicker bar right here, and you should now this bar can get very thick indeed. Check this out. If I drag the bottom of the palette downward, you can get a huge gradient block right there if you want. Now, I don't see why in the world you would ever want that. It's just a little gradient preview. You are going to see what the gradient actually looks like when you will apply it to the illustration, so you don't need this preview over here, especially taking up that much room.
If however it ends up taking up that much room on its own, which sometimes happens, sometimes it will just leap to the foreground and be huge as anything, just like this, then go to the bottom of the palette and just drag it upward like so, and that will give you more room for you Layers palette and your Appearance palette, and the other ones that really deserve some room on screen. So I could click there, I've already shown that. You can also click on this little guy, and that will apply the gradient to your selection. I'll go ahead and undo that one as well by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. Another thing you can do, inside of Illustrator CS4 you now have the option of bringing up a pop-up menu by clicking on this down pointing arrowhead, and then you can choose a predefined gradient that is saved along with your illustration. So these would be gradient swatches that have been saved with this illustration over time.
For example, I could say, I want rainbow. That's going to look very nice, don't you think? No. All right, so Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac once again. Finally, you have the option of applying the gradient from the bottom of the toolbox right here, this dinky little, itsy-bitsy icon right there, which is the center, its right between the Flat Fill and the None icons, and that will apply whatever gradient was last applied, which is this garish, ridiculous clown rainbow gradient. I don't like it one little bit, let's go ahead and reset it to Black White right there. That is of course not the effect that I want, but is preferable to clown stripes.
The other thing you should know is that you have keyboard shortcuts for each one of these icons down here at the bottom of the toolbox. Notice for color you have a less than sign. That would imply you have to press Shift along with the comma key on an American keyboard, and you don't have to, all you have to do is press the comma key. That will give you the Flat Fill right there. That will the last color that you had applied, which restores my red that I spend a fair amount of time on, by the way, getting this exact shade of red down. If you want to apply the gradient next door, then you press the greater than key, not really, you just press the period or full stop key, if you prefer, so that will take you to do the gradient.
Then if you want to apply None, you already know this if you watched the Fundamentals portion of the series, you press the slash key. Those three keys are right in a row to the right of the M key on an American keyboard. But what I want frankly of all the options I've seen so far, I want to restore my original red fill right here. Yes, I want a gradient, but I want it to include this exact shade of red that I spent so much time on. How can I take the color that I've already assigned to an object and integrate it into the gradient that I'm about to craft, so make this color serve as the base for a new gradient? I'll answer that question, I'll show you how to do that in the next exercise.
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