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Designs dekeConstructed, featuring best-selling author Deke McClelland, is a new series in which Deke breaks down the creation of cool designs so you can create them on your own. In this installment, Deke shows you how to make a custom gradient dot pattern with Adobe Illustrator. He begins by showing you how to load, apply, and scale the preset patterns that ship with Illustrator, and then demonstrates how to make your own gradient patterns with round and square dots. Last, he shows how to infuse your designs with energy using dynamic rotations that make your own specialized pattern wave.
In this movie, we're going to take the three columns of squares that we have so far, and we are going to transform them into the final effect. And we are going to do so with a fairly terrifying degree of precision. So I'll go ahead and switch over to my documents so far, and I'll press Ctrl+A or Cmd+A on the Mac in order to select all three columns. Now bear in mind, each one of the columns is an independent group. That's very important. And as a result, it's very easy to create the intermediate dots by going up to the Object menu, choosing Blend, and then choosing Make.
And that's all it takes. And you end up getting this amazing effect right here. And you might think it's absolutely perfect, which is amazing because Illustrator rarely gets a blend right the first time. But let's check out if it's really done such a swell job. I'm going to press Ctrl+H or Cmd+H on the Mac in order to hide my edges. Then I'm going to zoom on in to my squares here. Over on here on the left hand side, I'm pressing the Ctrl+spacebar keys, or Cmd+spacebar on a Mac, in order to get the zoom tool on the fly, and then clicking, of course.
But notice things are not entirely accurate. We have a larger vertical gap than we do a horizontal gap right here at this location. And to get a sense for what's going on, you want to go up to the Object menu, choose Blend, and then choose Blend Options. Now, that'll bring up this dialog box right here. And by default, the spacing value is set to Smooth Color. If you want to see exactly how many steps are involved, then go ahead and switch from Smooth Color to Specified Steps, and Illustrator will show you exactly what it's up to.
So it's creating 30 steps. Now when it says 30 steps, it means 30 steps from the left hand column to the middle column, and then another 30 steps from the middle column to the right hand column. And those are intermediate steps between the columns. This value is actually wrong. Now, if it's good enough for you, that's great. Just leave it the way it is and don't worry about it. Or, you could just nudge this value down in order to increase the size of this horizontal gap right there. We're not seeing the result though, because the Preview checkbox is turned off.
So I'll go ahead and turn it on. And notice that that makes thing better, and then if I press the down arrow key again in order to nudge the value down to 28, it makes things best. We now have exactly the results that we're looking for. The vertical gap and the horizontal gaps are exactly what they're supposed to be. Now, how do I know for certain that's accurate? Well, we'll go ahead and click OK. Some of you may not care about this. If so, then just go ahead and move on to the next movie. We know we have the right results, because we can see that on-screen.
But let me show you why that's right. And this involves, I'm afraid, a little bit of math. It's just minus signs. It's not terribly difficult math, but here's what it looks like. I'll go ahead and switch over to this file here. Recall that we originally had 59 squares wide. So remember how we had 39 squares tall by 50 squares wide. You want to take the wide value and subtract 3. Why 3? Because of the three columns, the three original columns. The left hand column, the middle one, and the right hand.
And that gives you 56. That's how many steps we need all together. But we need half of those steps on one side and half on the other, so you take 56 divide it by 2, and you get 28. And that's why having 28 steps between these various columns of squares ends up giving us the exact effect we're looking for. And now at this point, you can play with it if you'd like. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+H, or Cmd+H on the Mac, in order to bring back my selection edges. And I'll switch to the white arrow tool, which I can also get by pressing the A key.
And then I'll click off the shapes and deselect them. Then I'll Alt+click twice on this square right there, on the center of the square, in order to select that entire column independently from the rest of the blend. And now, if I drag it over to the right while pressing the Shift key, then I can loosen the blend over here on the left hand side and tighten it over here on the right hand side. So, that's one option available to you. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, or Cmd+Z on a Mac, to undo that change. Another thing you can do is adjust the color.
So for example, I can go up here to the fill swatch on the left side of the control panel and I can click on it, and I can change the color to let's say, this shade of red. That's sort of magenta right there. And I end up blending the colors as well. So you have a lot of options available to you thanks to the fact that you're dynamically blending between entire groups of shapes here inside Illustrator.
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