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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.
All right gang, I'm still working inside the Clipped jacket & bench.ai file. In this exercise, I'm going to use a rectangle filled with a gradient in order to create a gradient opacity mask that will enable us to fade the keyboard out of view. So, the idea is we turn the entire piano sublayer into its own gradient. It is quite the thing as you will see. All right, so the simplest way to work here, if I were to draw an object with the piano layer highlighted inside the Layers palette then that new object would appear inside the piano sublayer. Then I would have to take it out of the Piano sublayer so that we could make it into an opacity mask for that entire layer. Just sort of a little bit of mechanics inside of Illustrator.
Instead what we are going to do is we are going to click on the Vectors layer to highlight it. No need to meatball the layer, don't do that, just click on the layer. And then go ahead and get yourself the Rectangle tool right there, or you can press M key. And I'm going to draw a rectangle that completely encircles or enrectangles, if you prefer, the keyboard like so. So, the entire - oh, actually out here it would be what we need because I need to extrapolate from this diagonal edge right there. So, about this location, rectangle about this big, and then go ahead and release.
And in my case rectangle is entirely transparent. It has no Fills. It has no Stroke. We definitely don't want a Stroke so make sure the Stroke is indeed set to none. Then make the Fill active, and either click on this little tiny gradient to the bottom of toolbox or just press the keyboard shortcut which is the period key or the full stop key if you prefer like so, and you get a default black to white gradient. Now I want you to press the G key to get the Gradient tool here inside the toolbox, and I'm going to drag from about here, notice that the halfway point inside of this rectangle is right at the horizontal gradient line. So, I'm going to move my cursor about halfway up inside of the rectangle and then I'm going to drag down to nearly the bottom of the rectangle. And I'll press the Shift key in order to constrain the angle of my drag to an exactly vertical gradient like so, and then I'll release.
And that should give you white toward the top of rectangle and black at the bottom. All right, now having done that, there is your path, right there. Isn't that great? All right, now it is already meatballed, so go ahead and Shift meatball the piano sublayer like so. So, it doesn't matter that these guys are separated by quite a few objects in between here. That's fine. The path though that is going to serve is the opacity mask needs to be in front of the sublayer which it is. All right, now what I want you do is just to simplify things in order to hide this Gradient bar right there, let's switch away from the Gradient tool, but I should say there is another way to hide that bar. And that's to go to the View menu, and choose Hide Gradient Annotator. That's what that is. It is not a bar; it is an annotator. Or you can press Ctrl+Alt+G, Command+Option+G on the Mac, and that hides it. Of course then you would press Ctrl+Alt+G or Command+Option+G on the Mac and make it appear again.
Anyway, I'm going to press the V key in order to switch to the Black Arrow tool there, and it goes away in that case as well. And now I'll go over to the Transparency palette and I'll click on the fly-out menu icon and I'll choose Make Opacity Mask and we'll get this effect here. Oh my goodness! Now what we have done is we have turned the entire keyboard into a gradient that is being drawn on the fly just like so. So, everything inside the piano sublayer is subject to this opacity mask right there, and to give you a sense of what it looks like I'll Alt-click on the mask thumbnail or Option-click on the Mac. So, we are seeing a white to black gradient, white defines Opacity, black defines Transparency and because Clip is turned on, Illustrator thinks of the background as being filled with black. It doesn't show it to us that way, but that's the way it is calculating the effect.
And so if I Alt-click or Option-click on this thumbnail again, then you can see that everything outside of the rectangle is being set to transparent for this keyboard layer, for this piano layer that is. And there isn't anything out there, so it doesn't really matter. But if I were to drag the selected object over to the right like so, you can see that I would cut away the keyboard at this point. The problem is we have this other keyboard shape that is applied to the opacity mask for the jacket sublayer, you may recall and that's why we have this little wedge of orange right there. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo the movement of this larger gradient mask. And I'm going to click on this little keyboard thumbnail in order to switch back to the illustration.
So, the result of all this work is that we are seeing through the gradient keyboard to the tan floor below. We can see a little bit of the outline of the curtains but that doesn't really give us a sense of the Transparency that we have applied. What we need to do is bring back some of this piano bench so that we have a more interesting effect. And I'm going to show you how that works because that is going to be a combination of a gradient opacity mask along with the Clip check box being turned off, in the next exercise.
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