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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final part of the comprehensive Illustrator One-on-One series, author and industry expert Deke McClelland shows how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS5. Deke explores Illustrator’s powerful Gradient Mesh feature, great for creating photorealistic airbrushing effects. He also covers graphic styles, the liquify tools, envelope-style distortions, the new Bristle Brushes, 3D text, and perspective drawing. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this exercise, we are going to re-distort the horse, but this time instead of using Liquify, we are going to apply an envelope mesh. This mesh is identical, in terms of its construction, to the meshes that we saw in the previous chapter. The difference is that instead of distorting colors and gradients, we are distorting path outlines instead. So I have saved my progress as The grassy knolls.ai, found inside the 25_liquify expand folder. And I am going to do a couple of things here. First of all, I am going to twirl open the background layer, and I'm going to meatball that trim-sized object, because it's the full size of the artboard and I am going to need it later.
So, if you are working along with me, definitely perform the step. Go up to the Edit menu after meatballing that item and choose the Copy command, or press Ctrl+C on the PC, Command+C on the Mac. Now I am going to twirl background close again, and I'm going to lock it, and I am going to unlock the horse layer. I am also going to twirl open the guides and eye layer right there. And I am going to turn on this envelope object, which is yet another guide, and we will use this guide to define how we distort the creature. All right, now go ahead and twirl that layer closed and twirl open the horse layer.
And I want you to turn off Group, because that's that liquefied version of the horse. And I want you to turn on the tracing object once again, and then go ahead and meatball it to select it. All right, this time we're going to apply a different command. Under the Object menu, go down to Envelope Distort and choose Make with Mesh. And it's got a keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+M, Command+Option+M on the Mac. Problem is that you get an alert message, and it tells you, "The selection contains objects which cannot be distorted." Well, that doesn't really tell you what in the world the problem is, but here's the problem: you cannot distort a linked image; it has to be embedded into your illustration.
So bring up your Links palette, which you can get either by clicking on this little chain icon if you've got it, or you can go up to the Window menu and you can choose the Links command. And then, once you've done that, you should see this Horse with wings.psd file that is linked to the current illustration. I want you to click the flyout menu icon and choose Embed Image in order to embed that image into the document. Now you will get this dialog box right here. Turn on Show Preview if it's not already on. And notice that you can switch between layer comps. So you may recall from the very first exercise of this chapter that I had set up some layer comps in advance inside of that Photoshop file, and you can choose any one of them.
So you could choose to embed just the horse by itself like so and take away his wings, or you could give him just one wing like so, or you can go with both wings. Now I want wings in this case, so I will select the two wings comp. Be sure to flatten the layers into a single image; that's very important for this effect because otherwise you are really going to slow down the Envelope Distortion feature. All right, click OK in order to embed that image, and it will now appear different. You will see that little embed icon inside the Links panel. Go ahead and hide the Links panel now. Make sure your tracing object is still selected.
It is still a live trace object. So we are not going to be distorting the tracing; we are going to be distorting the underlying image, which is going to cause Illustrator to update the tracing on the fly. And as you'll see, the Envelope feature works in tandem with Live Trace pretty darn quickly. So I am now going to go back to the Object menu, choose Envelope Distort, and choose that same command, Make with Mesh, this time around. And then you just need to specify the size of the mesh you want to apply-- that is, how many rows and how many columns-- just as you would when creating a gradient mesh.
So I am going to turn on the Preview check box so I can see what I am doing. I ultimately arrived at 6 rows and 6 columns. You can go your own way if you want to, but that works out pretty well for these path outlines. Click OK and then go ahead and press the A key to switch to the White Arrow tool and go ahead and grab some of these points and drag them around, and you'll see how much better results you get from the envelope distortion than you got from Liquify, because this time we can drag these mesh points anywhere we want them to be, and so we can change our mind if we like.
Also it's nondestructive. We are not going to give the horse lips like we did last time, like at least I did. And you have an awful lot of control. You are not going to lose anchor points; you are not going to oversimplify; you are not going to add anchor points either. So just go ahead and drag as much as you like. It is a fairly sort of artistic process because you have got to make some determinations, and it's hard to decide sometimes exactly which point you should be dragging inside the grid. In my case, I'm going to grab these three and drag them way up, so that we can move the tips of those wings up to an alarming degree, actually, because now they're way too long.
And I will drag this area up--that is, that point--and I will drag this mesh point up as well, and I'll drag this one over in order to fill in that detail. This guy wants to go up, too, and so forth. You may find that you need to drag several blocks of points at a time, and that may cause problems that were not occurring before, but that's okay; you can always compensate by dragging more of these points around. I will go ahead and tuck this point in like so in order to get that effect. And I am having a fair degree of success actually matching the template here-- the guidelines, that is.
You may or may not, but if you follow what I'm doing on screen, you should meet with some success as well, I would think. I'm also going to go ahead and drag some control handles to scoot things out. So you can drag control handles or anchor points. Either one is going to work for you. I'll go ahead and grab this block of four points and tear them out. A little bit too far, although I really want that tail nudged in the place, so now I'm pressing Shift with my arrow keys in order to nudge those selected points. I will go ahead and grab this guy and tuck him back like so. I need to take out some of these legs as well. I need to take down these two points.
So I am working fairly quickly here, but I just dragging points around. No big deal. Pretty easy stuff to do. Now if at any point you feel like you're not getting sufficient control over what's going on and you'd like to gain more control over the process, you can add an anchor point along one of these mesh segments. And to do that, by the way, I am going to go ahead and tuck this control handle down a little bit. Oops! I lost my mesh. And if that happens to you, just go ahead and marquee someplace or press Ctrl+Y, Command+Y on the Mac, to switch to the Outline mode and click somewhere in the mesh to make it visible again.
Press Ctrl+Y, Command+Y on the Mac, to switch back to the Preview mode--at least that's what's I'm doing. Now I am going to drag this guy up a little bit. So again, let's say you need a little bit of additional control at some point here. Then you can select your Add Anchor Point tool. Just as you can add anchor points to a gradient mesh object, you can do the same thing with an envelope mesh. And so let's say I determined that I need a point right there, so this will be a point of control, in other words, that I'm adding. Then I would press the A key to switch back to the White Arrow tool, and I would drag that point.
But notice after you get done adding a point, Illustrator goes ahead and selects all points in the mesh, which is the problem frankly, but anyway I will press Ctrl+Z key, Command+Z key on the Mac, to undo that movement. I will click on that point to select it independently, and then I can just drag it inward. So again, you have all kinds of control over this process, as much control as you need. And once you feel like you have a halfway decent match, as I am pretty convinced what I do at this point, then just go ahead and press Ctrl+ Semicolon, or Command+Semicolon on the Mac, to go ahead and hide all the guidelines, and then you can gauge the accuracy of your distortion.
I'm pretty happy with this. The one outstanding problem that I have anyway is that this is a weak black object and it doesn't blend in well with its background, and I can't tell Live Trace, "Hey, I don't want to use standard black; I want to use rich black instead--not when I'm doing a black-and-white tracing. So what I've got to do instead is assign some transparency options, namely a blend mode and an opacity mask, and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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