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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 this exercise I'm going to introduce you to masking inside of Illustrator. Now, masking is much older than the Crop function that we saw when we discussed pathfinders a few chapters ago. However, it's more powerful feature than Crop as well because Crop is the static function and masking is a dynamic function as you will see. And we are going to get to compare and contrast them in this very exercise. So I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Four-shape blend.ai and I'm going go ahead and twirl close my Blend right there. And I'm going get my rectangle. Now let's say we decided that we are going to use the rectangle to crop the Blend.
That is theoretically an option. I'll just grab this Blend guy and move it outside of object so we just get rid of the objects group there. And then I move rectangle in front of Blend because anytime that you are cropping or masking, the thing that's serving as the crop boundary needs to be in front of the stuff that it's cropping. All right now I'll go ahead and meatball the rectangle and Shift meatball the Blend like so and then I'll go to the Pathfinder palette and if you can't find it, go to Window menu and you can choose the Pathfinder command and then you will click on this Crop option right.
Problem is when you click on Crop you just goof everything up. Notice that you do get this path that is no longer filled or stroked. It's all empty. But it didn't manage to crop the Blend at all and that's because the Crop Pathfinder function is not compatible with Blends inside of Illustrator. But that's actually for the best because masking is better. Go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification and what you are going to do instead is with these two items selected just as they are, so meatball one, Shift meatball the other rectangle in front of Blend just as we see it here. I want you to go up to the Object menu, I want you to choose Clipping Mask and then choose Make or you have a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+7, Command+7 on the Mac.
Now it's an arbitrary keyboard shortcut but if you can remember it, it's a great one because you are going to be masking a lot one would presume inside of Illustrator and we'll throughout future chapters. All right, so I'm going go ahead and choose this command and just like that we put the Blend inside of the mask. We now have this group. Illustrator automatically puts the mask and its contents inside of a group. I'm going to twirl open the group, you can see there is the rectangle and you'll notice it's a mask because it shows up as white against gray very much like a vector mask inside of Photoshop.
And what that means is anywhere we are seeing white then we are seeing through to the contents of the mask to the Blend and back of it, and anywhere where we see gray, the Blend is being hidden. But the whole thing is completely dynamic and editable. So I have got my White Arrow tool selected here, I'm going to click off the shape, then I click on this bottom right corner again just by way of demonstration and if I move this out I'm revealing more of the Blend. Now, if I go too far I'll see a weird reddy (ph ) edge of the Blend, which of course I could solve lickety-split if I wanted to, just by clicking on that blended path and then I could drag it down too if I wanted to in order to give myself some more room so that I'm not reveling any bad stuff here inside of this mask.
So it's all dynamic. I can modify it as much as I want to just a terrific feature. Anyway, I'm going ahead and take that bottom right corner and move it back up there, so it snaps into alignment with the bottom right corner of the artboard and we have this shape right there. So that's all there is to masking inside of Illustrator. The main thing to remember is that you have to put the mask on top of the stuff that it's masking. That's the part that I think is really counterintuitive. Otherwise it's very easy, very straightforward and extraordinary flexible.
In the next exercise, I'll show you how to blend between translucent shapes.
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