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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 these next two exercises, I'm going to show you two different ways to create a Gradient Mesh. One of which is really easy but doesn't do you much good and the other of which takes a little more work up front but produces much better results and get you way farther into the process way faster in my humble opinion. I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Plain background.ai found inside of the 16 Gradient Mesh folder and the only difference between this illustration and the Mish Again illustration that we opened in the previous exercise is that here inside of the backdrop layer, I have thrown away the final gradient mesh effect just so that it's not cluttering up our illustration.
Okay so here is what we are going to do. We are going to take this rectangle right there, go ahead and meatball it in order to make it active. This yellow rectangle, it's a stand-in for our final Gradient Mesh that we'll be creating. So we are actually going to be filling this rectangle with the gradient mesh. All right, so the easy way, so darn easy but as I said not terribly useful, go up to the Object menu and choose Gradient Mesh, there it is, right there. How much easier could it be? You choose a command, you get a dialog box. Make sure to turn on the preview checkbox so you can see what you're doing, and you will see that you have these points that are breaking the rectangle into a series of rows and columns, and so a mesh in Illustrator and there is different kinds of meshes. There is meshes that allow you to distort objects. There is meshes that allow you to apply gradients like this one here.
A mesh is essentially a matrix that divides a shape into a bunch of rows and columns as we are seeing right there and you can choose how many rows and columns you want to apply. So if you want more control, you can say something like gosh, I want 6 rows and I want 8 columns like so, so that I have a bunch of little squares all over the place. Now you also have these Appearance and Highlight options. I need to tell you something about them. I think very little of them. At any rate, what they allow you to do is add a little bit of radial gradient color. So you could say, for example, that you want to highlight in the center of your rectangle like so, and the amount of highlight you apply is that right here inside this highlight option.
So if you want white, which is what we have, then you want 100% highlight. If you want something less than that then you'd take the highlight value down like so. Gosh! Maybe you wanted to go out to the edge, maybe you want the center dark and the edges to be light, then you choose two edge instead. Just whatever, so it gives you a radial gradient to start with. It's basically what's going on. Which is great if you want a radial gradient. I don't really want anything at this point. I'm just going to click Flat. And then I'm going to click OK. Now that we have established these rows and columns and by the way, you can always add more points later. You have an unbelievable amount of control over these mesh points. Thanks to this guy right here, the Mesh tool, which allows you to create mesh points all over the place. But then what you'd do presumably at this point is you would get your White Arrow tool because all these points really behave very much like standard anchor points in the path outline. So you go get your White Arrow tool and you click off the mesh because by default all the points are selected.
So you don't want all the points selected, you just want a few, and then you'd just marquee those points you want to modify like so. And then you change your colors, right here like so. And you can even change the color of an interior areas, we'll see, have lots of control. Problem is, well, two problems at this point. We are going to have a hard time selecting these points without also selecting parts of the creature itself and we don't want to edit the beast at this points, you might want to lock down the beast layer and the accents layer and just make it so that only the mesh object right there is available to you, which would mean locking down this background path as well, here inside the backdrop layer.
Now I just have this row of points selected here and then I could change it to some other color as well. Let's say it's sort of a bright green like this and then you start editing away. Thing is you're starting entirely from scratch this way. You don't have any colors sort of just thrown in there to start with. I'll just say this. Wouldn't it be better if you could throw together a gradient, a fairly complex gradient let's say, and then you could base the mesh on that gradient, so it wasn't just straight up and down? It was maybe at an angle and you could choose between radial and linear and all that jazz. Well that is the way to work and in my opinion, it's a much better way to work and I'm going to show you how to do it in the next exercise.
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