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Up and Running with Illustrator

Combining paths


From:

Up and Running with Illustrator

with Deke McClelland

Video: Combining paths

A lot of folks when they first start using Illustrator anticipate that they'll be spending most of their time with the Pen tool. And if you've never heard of that tool, it allows you to draw any path outline you can imagine, one anchor point at a time. It's a great tool; we'll be seeing it in the future exercise, but it's quite labor-intensive which is why much of Illustrator is devoted to the task of helping you find a simpler approach. In this exercise, we're going to draw this sign from scratch using nothing more than ellipses and rectangles.

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Up and Running with Illustrator
2h 52m Appropriate for all Jul 19, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

This course is a streamlined introduction to Adobe's popular vector drawing application. Expert Deke McClelland shows how to create professional-quality illustrations for print and electronic output, in the shortest time possible. The course covers the basics of setting up artboards, formatting type, drawing and combing path outlines, and applying dynamic effects.

Topics include:
  • Getting around an illustration
  • Drawing shapes and brushstrokes
  • Applying fills and strokes
  • Designing custom gradients
  • Creating type on a path
  • Working with the Layers panel
  • Scaling and rotating artwork
  • Drawing with the pen tool
  • Saving and exporting artwork
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Deke McClelland

Combining paths

A lot of folks when they first start using Illustrator anticipate that they'll be spending most of their time with the Pen tool. And if you've never heard of that tool, it allows you to draw any path outline you can imagine, one anchor point at a time. It's a great tool; we'll be seeing it in the future exercise, but it's quite labor-intensive which is why much of Illustrator is devoted to the task of helping you find a simpler approach. In this exercise, we're going to draw this sign from scratch using nothing more than ellipses and rectangles.

I'm working inside a file called CA surf sign.ai found inside the Exercise Files folder and we're going to start things off in the Layers panel. So go to the Windows menu and choose the layers command, or press the F7 key in order to bring up that panel. Notice that I've created a couple of layers, I want you to take this bottom layer Template and convert it into a kind of tracing template by clicking on the circle to the right of the word Template which goes ahead and targets that entire layer and selects it as a single object.

Now go up to the Control panel and change the Opacity value to 25%. Then I want you to lock down this layer by clicking in the column next to the Eyeball in front of Template, notice that adds a Lock Icon. And then click on the Drawing layer to make it active. Now hide the Layers panel and we're ready to go. I want you to go ahead and select the Ellipse tool from the Shape tool flyout menu. You can get to the tool by pressing the L key, and we're going to draw a very large ellipse like so and notice that I'm trying to match the right edge of that sign.

As you're drawling an ellipse, you can move it on the fly, so I still have my mouse button down. You can move that ellipse by pressing the spacebar; notice that. And then as soon as you release the spacebar, you go back to drawing the ellipse. And that looks pretty good to me, I've nicely traced the right-hand edge, so I'll go ahead and release to create that shape. I can't see through to the template any longer, so I'm going to get rid of my fill by going up to the Fill Icon up here in the Control panel and then selecting None.

Next I'm going to draw another ellipse along the top half of this right edge. So I'll press the Escape key in order to hide that panel, then I'll draw my ellipse like so, snapping it into alignment; you may need to press the spacebar in order to get that shape properly positioned. But I like to have got it right where I wanted it. All right! Now we're going to take this smaller ellipse and cut it away from the larger one by returning to the Selection tool, Shift +Clicking on that larger ellipse, like so. Then I want you to select this tool, the Shape Builder tool, which allows you to combine paths together.

Now there's a few different ways to use this tool. For one, you can just drag across your selected shapes in order to merge all of them together, but that's not the effect we're looking for; we want to subtract the smaller ellipse from the larger one. So I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. Notice that by default, my Cursor has a little Plus sign next to it. If I press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, it gets a Minus sign. Alt+Drag through these two sub-shapes, or Option+Drag on the Mac in order to subtract them from the larger ellipse. So far so good.

Now we need to carve away some more stuff using rectangles. So return to the Shape tool flyout menu there and select the Rectangle tool. And then go ahead and draw a couple of rectangles that snap into alignment with those guides that I've created for you in advance. So notice that this rectangle starts off with a horizontal guide and goes ahead and includes the sort of wave thing at the top of the shape. And now I'm going to draw another rectangle, this one quite a bit larger, and I'm going to snap it into alignment with the vertical guide so that I'm enclosing the left half of this large circular shape.

Then I'll go ahead and return to my Selection tool, I'll Shift+Click on the first rectangle so that both of the rectangles are selected. You don't want the other shape to be selected at this point, just the rectangles. Now go ahead and grab your Shape Builder tool once again and drag across both of those rectangles to merge them together. Finally, I want you to return to the Selection tool, Shift+Click on that large background path, and then grab the Shape Builder tool once again, and I want you to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag like this in order to subtract that big area away from this small sign wedge right there, so we're left with just half a sign. All right! I need to take what is currently a close path outline and open it up.

And I'm going to of that using the Direct Selection tool. So go ahead and grab that White Arrow, and then click off the path outline to deselect it and click on this vertical segment right there, not the text, but the vertical segment in order to select it. It might not look like it's terribly selected but it I, and then press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of that segment. And now we have, if you check this out, we now have an open path outline. All right! I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to undo that movement.

Now we need to copy that path and flip it. So go up to the Edit menu, choose the Copy command, now to paste a duplicate of that path at the exact same position, go up to the Edit menu and choose Paste in Front. Now we have one path outline sitting directly on top of the other, go up to the Transform panel. You get to it by clicking the word Transform over here on the right side of the Control panel. We're going to want to flip the shape across its left side, so go ahead and click on the left point inside this little reference point matrix.

Then click the Fly-Out menu Icon and choose Flip Horizontal in order to flip that shape. All right! Hide the Transform panel, let's go ahead and grab the Selection tool once again, I'm going to Shift+Click on the right-hand path to select it. We now have both the left path and the right path ready to go. Go to the Object menu, choose Path, and choose Join, or press Ctrl+J, Command+J on the Mac to fuse those two paths together. And you can confirm that they are indeed joined by clicking off the path outline, clicking on it again, and dragging it around.

And if it drags as one unit, then you know it is a single path outline. All right! I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. The next step is to create the red and blue shapes on the inside of this path outline, and you do that using a command called Offset. So with this larger path selected, I'll go up to the Object menu, choose Path, and choose Offset Path. And I've already figured out the values I need, I'm going to turn on the Preview check box. You can see that with an Offset value of -12, I end up moving the path inward.

But I could try out different values, I could nudge that value from the keyboard, for example, by pressing the Up Arrow key or the Down Arrow key until I get the exact result I'm looking for which happens to be as they say, -12; we don't care about the Joins, we don't care about the Miter limit. Notice an Offset value -12 is all we need, so I'll go ahead and click the OK button. Notice that Offset Path automatically creates a duplicate of the other path. Now we need to split that path in two; I'll go ahead and grab my Rectangle tool once again and I'll draw a path outline through the upper middle, like so.

Now we need to subtract that rectangle from the interior shape, so I'll switch to my Black Arrow Selection tool, I'll Shift+Click on that interior shape so both the rectangle and that are selected. And then I will once again grab my Shape Builder tool and I will press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag through all portions of that rectangle like so, and I have now severed that inner shape in two. All right! Let's go ahead and change a few attributes here. We have to switch back to the Selection tool, by the way, before these attributes will stick.

Now go up to the Control panel, click on the Stroke swatch, and change it to None, and then click on the Fill swatch and change it to red. Now I'll click off the path outlines in order to deselect them, click on the lower one to select it independently of the upper one, click on the Fill swatch once again up here in the Control panel, and change the color to blue. Just one last step, we need to send these objects behind this text that I've created for you in advance. So go ahead and Shift+Click on the red path in order to select it.

Then right-click inside of the document window, choose the Arrange command, and choose this command right there Send to Back to send those shapes all the way to the back of this layer, and that's it. We have now managed to create this sign using nothing more than ellipses and rectangles. Thanks to our ability to combine path outlines here inside Illustrator.

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