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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 blend between grouped objects. Now this is a bit of a sidebar. It has nothing to do with transparency per se, and it has everything to do with how you can use blending, which we saw a few chapters back now, in order to fabricate complex objects inside of Illustrator. So I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Clipped jacket & bench.ai. Notice this keyboard right here, this keyboard that's made up of alternating white and black keys. And no matter what, there is always a black key. Every single note has flat and sharp. That's just an amazing thing here, but that's because I rough this keyboard in the shape. I didn't hand draw all of the objects.
In fact I just drew a trio, a very simple objects and then blend it between them, as you are about to see, because we are going to recreate this wonderful keyboard here. So go ahead and twirl open the piano layer and you will see inside of this layer that there is this object called Blend, I invite you to ahead and meatball it in order to make it active, then I would like you to go up to the object menu and choose Blend and choose Release or you can mash fist on the keyboard and press the B key in order to reduce the keyboard to just these objects here almost nothing. Take a look at what you have right here inside of the Piano layer. You have got three objects that are selected. Notice that once the path of the Blend, this guy right there, and you don't need that.
So what you might want to do is meatball it independently of everything else and this is the path that you can see as opposed to the path that looks white right here, which is this highlighted edge. That's that top path. Then the next path down is the one that you are seeing selected on screen right now here inside the video. I'm going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key to get rid of that path of the Blend, and now lets take a look at what's left over here. We have got one dinky little key right there. It's a grouped object, and it's actually the rear most because we want to see the other keys in front of it because it's at the back of the stack. In terms of real life, it's away from us. That is to say so the other keys would appear in front, but I'll go ahead and twirl open, so you can see there is not much to it. I'll go ahead and use the eyeballs to turn things on and off.
This path, the top path, it's just the highlight edge on this dark key, I'll turn it back on and then this guy is the dark key itself. So what is normally known as the Black key but in our case because we want it to get lighter and lighter as it goes away from us, it's a medium gray essentially. Then this line right here is the division between the white keys. All right so its just the easiest way to work, because if we really had to draw the keyboard the way it's really put together, then we would have to draw an entire octave which would be a pain in the neck, so I don't want to do that.
Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and scroll down inside of my illustration quite a ways actually, I guess down to here, yes we are so zoomed in, and notice this group that is the top group that I'm twirling open right now, this guy right there, it is the exact same group of objects. It's the highlight on top, and then it's the dark key right there so the second object, and then at the very back is the black division line between the white keys, this guy right there. So in other words each one of the groups is put together in exactly the same order and that's very important, because when you are blending between groups, you need to have the same number of paths and you don't have to. You can try out any combination of paths inside groups you want. It's just get ready to be surprised, because who knows how things are going to work out, whereas if you have taken time to structure of your groups in parallel with each other, then you are going to get predictable results. So in my case I have got one path to go with each of the paths. That creates a reciprocal, parallel arrangement, which is awesome for blending.
All right, so now I'm going to go ahead and zoom out maybe not that far, let's zoom in a little bit. Okay, now lets go ahead and twirl close the groups, if I can find them. There they are, and I'm going meatball one and Shift meatball the other, and then I'll go up to the Object menu choose Blend and choose Make or press Ctrl+Alt+B, Command+Option+B on the Mac and you make a blend. And doesn't that look awful? Yes it does. And why is that? Well we don't have enough keys and they don't decline properly, we have no sense of perspective here.
Every key is equidistant from its neighbored and because the keys are getting progressively smaller they get progressively farther away from each other because the gaps expand and as a result things look totally wrong. So there are a couple of things we need to do. First of all we need to fill in the gap between the keys with extra keys, we need more keys in this. So double click on the Blend tool icon there in the toolbox to bring up the blending options dialog box, and I'm going to switch from Smooth Color to Specified Steps. Now you might say Specified Distance but that's still going to create an equal amount of distance between each one of the keys. It's not going to create anything that's incremental like you would expect to do.
So it will not solve our perspective problem, instead we are going to do Specified Steps and I'm going to change the number of steps to 24 and click Preview and see what we got. Actually that might be a few too many, let's back it off to 22 and see what happens there, and you may, if you know keyboards you know that there is 88 keys, and of course if you multiply 22x2, we would end up with 44 keys, we would actually have 45 keys, because there is an extra white key on the side, and that's fine. In my opinion, we are inventing a new keyboard. This is wonderful! Now click OK, probably a different system of notes entirely.
All right what I would like you to do is focus your attention on the path of the blend. Because the groups are far away from each other, we have a path of blend right there. I'm going to meatball it inside of the blend object to select it, and then I'm going to switch over to the Conferred Anchor Point tool which has the keyboard shortcut, Shift+C, and then I'm going to drag from this bottom point like so, and I want to make it nice and long, so we create a slower drop off here at the beginning and then we want to fast drop off at the end, so I'll draw out a fairly short control handle at the top there. You can see now we have this nice incremental perspective effect.
Now I did give it a little bit of a bend, you don't need to, you could keep things nice and straight if you want to, if you don't want any kind of bend associated with this keyboard, but I actually quite like the bend so I'm going to move it out just a little bit, not too far, just little bit maybe move this guy back. All right so this one comes up, well I don't know, about a quarter the distance of the entire segment away from this top anchor point, and this guy comes out about half, I would say. The length of the segment may be not quite half. Anyway so that ensures that things drop off slowly at first and then quickly at the end and that creates the desired perspective effect right there, and of course it generates photo realistic keyboard. Now if you decide that you want to make changes to the number of keys, you still can. Just go ahead and double-click on the Blend tool and instead of 22, I have got may preview option turned on still, I could try out 16 steps and we would create some gaps between the keys, or if you don't want any gaps whatsoever, you could increase that value to 26 steps, what have you. I was pretty happy with 22. I think that looked pretty good, and then click OK in order to accept the effect.
So that's how you blend between whole groups of object inside of Illustrator.
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