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In this installment of Illustrator Insider Training, Mordy Golding shows experienced Illustrator users how to create transparency effects and ensure reliable printing results. This course reviews the history of vector transparency and covers features such as knockout groups, opacity masks, and transparency flattening. Mordy also shows how to establish a safe workflow when placing Illustrator graphics containing transparency in PostScript, PDF, and InDesign files. A free worksheet is included with the course.
A lot of our discussion over the next two chapters are going to revolve around the Transparency panel inside of Illustrator. Now normally I'll just tell you that I don't have the Transparency panel always available inside of Illustrator or always visible. And that's because there are other ways to get at the Transparency panel when you need it. For example, if you look over here inside of my control panel there is the word Opacity and if I click on that the Transparency panel appears in its full expanded state. Likewise, if I look over here in my Appearance panel, which is really the core area where I always look to apply settings inside of Illustrator anyway, you can see that for any object I'm going to have a default Opacity value and if I click on the word Opacity here I actually will bring up the Transparency panel here as well.
I can also do so for each fill and for each stroke again by just clicking on the word Opacity. So I have many places to get at the Transparency panel when I need it and that's why usually I don't have it here on my screen, but for the purposes of the training that we're going to be going through now throughout this entire course, I am going to go to the Window menu here, scroll down to the bottom, and choose to open up my Transparency panel, which now appears over here on my screen. Just to get it right about over here and I'm going to leave it here visible throughout the course so that we can always reference it very easily.
Now let's start out by first exploring the panel itself. I want to completely deconstruct it so that we have all the knowledge we need about the settings that we're going to be using throughout the course itself. Now most people just look at these two settings here in the Transparency panel. We have the blend modes themselves and that we also have an opacity value. Now the reality though is that the Transparency panel has different modes or settings or views and we can toggle between the different views of that panel. If I go actually over here to the left side of the word Transparency you can see there's a little up and down arrow that kind of axis a button and if I click once on that I can toggle between the various states or views of the Transparency panel.
Now if I click a few times over here as you can see, I now see it in its fully expanded state with all of its settings. Throughout this entire course we're going to learn about all the settings that you have here inside of the Transparency panel. Now it's important to realize here that the middle area right here, this entire area which is currently grayed out right now, and that's because they don't have any artwork selected that area deal specifically with the creation of opacity masks. We're actually going to learn everything there as to know about opacity masks in the next chapter in Chapter 3. So don't really concern yourself right now with this area. We're going to get to that in just a bit.
Now at the very bottom we have these options over here, something called Isolate Blending, something called Knockout Group, and something called Opacity & Mask Define Knockout Shape. They sound very technical and in reality they are, but again we'll deal with each of these later on inside of this chapter. For now though, let's just focus on the two settings that people use most often, which are blend modes and opacity values. Now these are similar to what you might find inside of Photoshop for example. Photoshop has the blend modes that you have here just like inside of Illustrator.
In fact, Photoshop has a few newer ones so they have added over the years and then of course, you have your opacity values, which change the opacity of objects. Of course, it's important to realize that both of these settings always apply to your target. So that means if I have a group targeted, the settings that I change here apply to the group. And again you can always find out that information by taking a look at your Appearance panel here inside of Illustrator. Now let's talk about blend modes for a moment. Many people are familiar with some of these blend modes, for example things like Multiply, or maybe Screen or Overlay.
Now the purpose of this course here is not to learn what each of the nuances are for each of the blend modes. All you have to know is that a blend mode tells objects to interact differently with artwork that appears beneath it. Depending on the blend mode that you choose, you'll see a different kind of interaction going on within your artwork. Now if you want my advice, I'll tell you to take a look at another course here at the lynda.com Online Training Library, a course called Photoshop Blend Mode Magic. It's given by somebody named Michael Ninness.
It is a fantastic course and it not only shows and explains exactly what the blend modes do, but Michael also got into detail and shows you different types of techniques that you can use inside of Photoshop to take advantage of those blend modes. And you can apply all the knowledge that you learn inside of that Photoshop course right here inside of Illustrator. Now opacity itself is pretty straightforward. In fact I'm just going to take a regular rectangle here and just draw it on my screen here for a second, because before we actually start applying these transparency settings we realize that now inside of Illustrator my background is usually white, which may make it difficult for you to see exactly when transparency is applied to your artwork.
So what you may want to do when working with transparent artwork is go over here to the View menu and scroll down to the bottom over here where it says Show Transparency Grid. That's actually turns on this kind of checkerboard pattern inside of the background and again if you come from Photoshop this looks very familiar. It allows you to see exactly where transparency is inside of your file instead of seeing a white background. So for example, if I go now to my Opacity slider here and I change this to maybe around 50% and I'll hit the Tab key to accept that value, I can now start to see the checkerboard pattern here through the object itself, which again helps me understand that right now that object has transparency applied to it.
If I don't have the grid turned on, if I go to the View menu here and I choose to hide the transparency grid, I might think that that yellow that is applied to that object now has some kind of a tint value. Meaning it's just not a full strength yellow, but again when you use the transparency grid in the background here it does make it easy to see what objects are filled with transparency. So I want to go back to the View menu and turn my transparency grid back on again. So I want to show you a few pointers that you can actually apply here when you're applying opacity. Right now, I have a 50% opacity applied and you can see that right now it's highlighted in blue which means that my cursor is kind of active now inside of that value.
If I use the up arrow or the down arrow on my keyboard right now I can increase or decrease the opacity value one level at a time. So right now you go to 51%, 52%, 53% and I'm just tapping the up and down arrows on my keyboard. I can also hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and again press the up and down arrows and notice that now my opacity value is moving in increments of 10. So I'm now 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90, or 100, and I can go all the way back down, so let's set it to around 20%.
Now if I click on the slider here itself, I click on this little arrow that activates a slider, I can go ahead and now choose to move the slider back and forth or again I can use the keyboard if I do so the right and left arrows will move elements here in 1% increments and if I hold down the Shift key it will move in 10%. What's different here is that if I go to let's say 35 and now I Shift and then click on the right arrow, I now go to 45, 55, and 65. So it basically takes my existing value it either adds or removes 10%.
Now I'll just point out one more additional aspect here at the Transparency panel and that's the flyout menu. So if I go over here and I click on the flyout menu of this panel, I can see some of the options that are here. There is one option here called Make Opacity Mask. Again we'll spend an entire chapter on just that one feature alone, but basically that's going to control the whole middle part of this panel right here. In fact, the majority of these settings are specific to working with opacity masks. We have here something called Hide Thumbnails. That just hides the middle area right here. Hide Options refers to the bottom part over here.
And then we have these settings here called Page Isolated Blending and Page Knockout Group. We'll deal with those settings specifically when we talk about these settings here at the bottom of the Transparency panel. So that's a quick overview of the Transparency panel itself and we'll find that we'll actually be using this panel quite often throughout this course.
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