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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 translucent objects and even though Illustrator CS4 now enables you to add transparency to gradients, the power of translucent blending is still a more powerful feature. So we are talking about a function folks that is more than 20-years-old and it's still better in many ways than anything we have seen so far in this series. And so I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Cropped universe.ai and I'm going to lock down the Back drop layer and unlock the Shoot star layer right there. And I'm going to twirl it open as well. You can see that we have got a number of items, there is burst 1 and there is burst 2 and those are these circles right here in the middle of the star burst and then we have the stars themselves which are the spiky star shapes. And then we have got a couple of circles. So there are four circles in all actually. The items that are labeled circles are circle in the center of the star burst and another one that's over here on the right side of the illustration.
All right, so let's start with burst 1 and burst 2. So I'm going to meatball one and Shift meatball the other and I'm going to zoom in on this object right there, so that we can see it up close and personal. And well we have got, burst 1 is an opaque small circle and it's filled with white and then burst 2 is another white circle except its Opacity is 0%. So that it is completely translucent and it's much larger as well. Just to show you, you might as well see this one by itself. I'll go ahead and Shift-click on the smaller circle to deselect it for a moment. You can see that its Opacity is set to 0% but it is filled with white and this is very important. You don't want to fill it with none because that's not going to work for you. It needs to be filled with the same color as the shape that you are blending from, if you want a same color blend. If you want the colors to shift, then you will try a different color and then an Opacity value of what have you, but in our case if we want transparency it's got to be 0%.
All right, so now I'm going to Shift- click on this circle and we'll go ahead and blend between the two shapes by pressing Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac in order to invoke that Make Blend command under the Object menu. Now, notice that we only get a couple of steps and that's because once again Illustrator is sitting here scratching its head going, you are blending between two shapes with exactly the same color. What do you want from me? Here is a couple of steps in between beyond your way. Anyway, that's not enough obviously. It's just counting the fact that there is transparency. So we need to modify the number of steps and as opposed to change the color, which works. That would give us more steps as well. We are going to manually request more steps and we are going to do that by either there is two ways to work. One is to go up to the Object menu and choose Blend and then choose this command right there Blend Options which notice does not have a keyboard shortcut but it does have a shortcut. I'll show you that what the shortcut is. You go over to the Blend tool and you double-click on it and that brings up the Blend Option Dialog box. It's got a Preview. Make sure it's turned on. Switch from Smooth Color to Specified Steps and I'm going to enter a value of 30 and press the Tab key and notice we now get a smooth transition.
Then I'll click OK. Now, at this point you might think, well all right you know that's cool but what's so great about it Deke. I mean honestly, all of this is a Radial Gradient and it goes from white in the center to transparent at the outside and you can do that inside of Illustrator CS4. So why would you resort to a blend? Well I'll show you. Let's go ahead and get the White Arrow tool. I'll click off the shape for a moment and then once I figure out where that outer circle is I'll Alt-click or Option-click on it to select the entire thing. And now I'm going up to the Effect menu, choose Distort & Transform and then I'll choose Pucker & Bloat. I'll make sure that the Preview checkbox is turned on so I can see what I'm doing and I'm going to reduce this Pucker value down here. Notice what's happening on screen as I do that. We are puckering the shape creating a kind of a four-pointed star. And I'm going to take this value down to -60 actually and then I'll click OK.
What we are creating is a shape blend and you can't do that otherwise inside of Illustrator. You don't have the option to make shape blends inside the program, you have got Linear Gradients and you have got Radial Gradients that can be circular or elliptical and that's all she wrote. That's all there is to it. Let's go ahead and zoom out to click here, just to show you how much more fantastic it can be, I'm going to switch over to the Scale tool and I'm going to drag outward like so in order to make that star burst even bigger and then check this out, this is just playing wacky. I'm going to go ahead and grab the Rotate tool and I'm going to drag from here. Do what I'm doing if you are working along with me. Drag from here and then drag down like this and press the Shift key.
So just drag down- what would that be? That's one-and-a-half hours down the clock right there. So 1:30 down and from the position of 9 o'clock to 7:30 here and make sure the Shift key is down, then release and check that out. It turned into an eight-pointed star just because of the nature of how Illustrator is trying to blend between the two circles and you end up getting an effect like that. Try to get that using your fancy Illustrator CS4 Gradient tool and yet a function as old as 1988. That's how old this feature is. It's capable of handling it. Of course we didn't have transparency back in 1988, but still we had this.
In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to blend between translucent objects that are on different sides of the illustration, join me.
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