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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 to assign colors to a gradient mesh using the Eyedropper tool, and this is one of the best uses for the Eyedropper tool in all of Illustrator. I've gone ahead and saved my progress so far as A real mesh.ai. Notice these icons up here, by the way, you can see that my mesh is currently selected, but you can switch back and forth between the Clipping Path that contains the mesh which is the rectangle and the mesh itself using these two icons up here in the Control palette. So click on Edit Clipping Path to select the rectangle, and then to select the contents, which would be the mesh in our case, click on Edit Contents, and you'll gain access to the mesh. So another way to select the mesh here inside of Illustrator.
All right, I'm going to edit another row now. So I'm going to grab my Lasso tool once again and I'm going to go ahead and select this row right there like so, and now I have these points active. So how do I go about changing the color of those points using the Eyedropper? Well, there are a lot of different options available to you. For one thing, you can click on an object, just to go ahead and lift its color. For example, I could click on this frame to change all those points to brown. Of course, I don't want to do that, but I could. Now what if you want to lift the color that's already assigned inside of the Gradient Mesh? Well, you might figure that you can go ahead and click on a point or click on some other color inside of the Gradient Mesh, but you can't. Because when you click on the Gradient Mesh, Illustrator isn't just seeing one color. It's seeing a ton of colors all over the place.
So instead what you want to do is you want to press the Shift key and what the Shift key does is it isolates just that color that the Eyedropper is seeing at any given location, go ahead and Shift- click in order to assign that color to the selected points. That works not only within the gradient mesh itself, so you can lift colors from one portion of the gradient mesh and put them in a different portion of the gradient mesh, which is great. You can rob Peter to pay Paul. That's awesome. But you could also lift colors from let's say a gradient, not by clicking once again, but by Shift-clicking in order to for example, lift this color in the creature's skull here and apply it to the selected points.
Now things get a little dicer here inside of Illustrator CS4, because it's been some strange behavioral change, when you are trying to lift colors from the original background template. So I'm going to go ahead and twirl open that template for a moment and here is what we'll try. I'm going to Ctrl-click or Command-click on the eyeball from the backdrop in order to switch it to the Outline Mode so that we can see through it. What I'd like to do is, let's say, lift this red right here. But if I click on the red, notice that I just lifted sort of a pale green color and then if I Ctrl-click or Command-click on that eyeball again, sure enough I just went in and applied pale green to this row, and that's certainly not what I want.
So what in the world went wrong? Well, let's Ctrl-click or Command-click on that eyeball again. What's happening here, and incidentally I'll tell you. If you Shift-click, it doesn't get any better. So Shift- clicking, we are still getting the pale green. You can see it up here in the Color Guide palette. You can see it over here at the bottom of the toolbox as well. What Illustrator is doing is it seeing this path in the background. So it's seeing through the group to the path, so you could unlock the Paint layer, and you can turn that path off so that it's not interfering with things. Then you don't even have to Shift-click. You can just click inside of the art, and now I've gone ahead and lifted that color of red that I just clicked on there, and to confirm I'll Ctrl-click or Command- click on the eyeball and for the backdrop and you could see that I added that red color.
So that's one way to work. I'm going to Ctrl-click or Command-click again so I can see through the artwork. Here is another way to work, and it doesn't make any sense, and my apologies upfront for potentially confusing you, but I want you to know all of your options. If you want to make sure that you're still seeing this path, so you don't have to sacrifice a portion of your artwork in order to work inside of it, go ahead and turn on the eyeball for that path again, so it's visible. Then twirl open this group right here, and twirl open that group. These are the groups that contain the actual linked file, which is the imported pixel based artwork, since this was a digital photograph at one point in time. I'm going to go ahead and grab that linked file and I'm going to drag it all the way out of the group, like so.
Now the group just contains this Clipping Path. Let's go ahead and twirl the Group in the Trash. And now what you'd do is you can't click because clicking doesn't make any change at this point. Why? I have no idea. Because it just worked a moment ago when the image was inside the Clipping Path, but now it doesn't. So instead what you do is you Shift- click and you know it works, because you can keep an eye on the color that's populating the bottom of the toolbox right there. So Shift-click in order to lift a color from the painting, if you're going to work this way, if you're going to take the painting out of it's Clipping Path. Then Ctrl-click or Command-click on the eyeball once again, and you'll see that sure enough I replaced those selected colors with yellow.
Now that's not all. There is one more thing you can do. Notice that we have points, of course, that we've been modifying. We've been modifying the selected points. Well, you can also modify this interior region, which Adobe's documentation calls the Patch. A little word of warning about Adobe's documentation, which you can get by going to the Help menu and you can choose Illustrator Help and you can see the documentation. It happens to be really inaccurate were gradients are concerned. Gradient and Gradient Meshes and it doesn't really document a lot of new things.
So I'm going to tell you how it really works. They tell you something that just doesn't work frankly, and I always think it's helpful to know really what's going on. So this is other technique you can take advantage of where the Eyedropper is concerned. Notice if you press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, the Eyedropper flips, so it's pointing the other direction and it's full instead of empty. So it switches from an Eyedropper that lifts things, when you press the Alt or Option key, to a kind of syringe that's putting color into things. So the easiest way to plop a color into a patch, which is this region right here, here is what you do. Go ahead and deselect everything by pressing Ctrl+Shift+A, Command+Shift+A on the Mac, then go to one of your palettes and select a color that you want to work with. Let's go with violet once again, since we can really see it inside of this artwork.
Then you want to go ahead and show your artwork once again. So you need to make a color active. That's a big step here and that becomes a color that the Eyedropper is going to infuse, that the syringe is going to pump out. But you have to have the artwork deselected before you select the color, because otherwise you're going to modify some portion of the artwork. So having done that, now let's go ahead and twirl open backdrop, and I'm going to twirl open group, and I'm going to meatball the mesh. The easiest way to do that. Now I'm going to go ahead and press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac.
Now Adobe's documentation will tell you that you can click in the center of this patch, you can't really. What you can do is you can either click on a point, if you want to, if you just want to infuse that point with color. Or you can Alt-click or Option-click on one of the lines, like so and that will infuse that entire line there with color, line between the two anchor points. You could Alt-click or Option-click here and then you could Alt-click or Option-click there. So it doesn't matter what the angle of the line is. You can just go ahead and associate color with it. So just remember, if you want to lift the color, click with the Eyedropper and that will change the color of the selected point. If clicking doesn't work, if it doesn't produce any results, then try Shift-clicking instead. And then if you want to use the Eyedropper as a syringe and pump color into something, and this works whether you're working with a Gradient Mesh or not. It just happens to be more useful with Gradient Mesh. Then you press the Alt or Option key and click with the Eyedropper tool.
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