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Adobe Illustrator has long been a popular vector–based drawing program, but for many the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals, author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland shows users how to get in to the Illustrator mindset and overcome this learning curve. He covers the application's key features in a new way, making it simple and easy to master Illustrator. Deke teaches viewers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text, and the Pen tool. He also explains how to export and print. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this training can help make sense of it. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this exercise I'm going to show you how to make a special hybrid between a smooth point and a corner point called a Cusp. A Cusp resembles corner points, in that they generally indicate corners in your path outline, but they are very much like smooth points, in that they have control handles associated with them. The difference is that rather than having two control handles that are locked into alignment with each other as with a smooth point, you have either one or two control handles that are permitted to move independently of each other. To get a sense of how they work, I'm going to continue tracing the head of the Mishipizheu here.
I am still working inside that document Finished spline.ai. I'm going to go ahead and grab my Pen tool. Notice now that my Pen tool cursor has an X next to it indicating that were I to start dragging some place inside of this illustration, I would begin creating a new path. I do not want to do that so I'll press the Backspace key a couple of times, the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of that path. If you want to go ahead and reactivate the path, then what you want to do is move your cursor, your Pen tool cursor over that point right there. Instead of clicking to activate the path the way we did it with the corner point, we need to drag in order to make sure that we still have that control handle right there. Because if I were to just click at this point, I'm going sever that control handle off, like so, which would create a variety of a Cusp point actually as we see. But that is not what I want here. I want to keep this a smooth point.
I am now active as you can see, so I press Ctrl+Z by the way, Command+Z on the Mac to bring that control handle back. I do have now an active path, which I could tell because there is nothing next to my Pen tool cursor, just pure and simple cursor at this point. All right, I'm going to go ahead and zoom in and I'm going to drag at this location right there in order to create a little bit of flop to my ears, so it sort of tucks downward like so. If I decide at any point that some point in my path is not exactly where I wanted to be, I can just press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac to get the last used Arrow tool. I still have the key down while I'm dragging the point around and dragging the control handles to where I want them to be. So I can see here and change my mind with that Arrow tool and then as soon as I release the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac. I'm back in business. I'm back to my Pen tool cursor. The path is still live.
And now what I want to do is I want to send this control handle instead of having it go down this direction I wanted to sweep up this direction so I can create a nice Cusp or corner if you prefer at the end of the ear. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag away from that point like so. Now I have two control handles. Notice, this one is still here and this one is now here going off in this different direction, so that I have established a corner at this location. Now I'll drag here, you can see that we have now in the case of a cusp point, two curving segments meeting at a corner. So that is the only difference between a Corner point and a Cusp point is that a Cusp point can accommodate curving segments and a Corner point can just accommodate straight segments.
All right. So I'm going to go ahead and drag from this location in order to create a smooth point. So you start with a smooth point when you are making a cusp point and then you Alt+Drag from it or Option+Drag from it on the Mac in order to set that control handle in a new direction. Now I'll drag from here. Now here is another way to work, couple of different things that you should know when you are working with points in general, these smooth points or cusp points inside of Illustrator. You can move the point on the fly while you are dragging the control handle as you see me doing here by pressing the Spacebar and continuing to drag.
So notice you will move not only the control handle but also the opposite control handle and the active anchor point, all will move together. Then when you get that anchor point where you want it to be, that is what you care most about is that anchor point. That is the thing that is anchoring down the path. Once you get it in place, then you release the Spacebar and position the control handles like so. Then if you want to break the alignment between the two control handles, press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Now these two points are allowed to move freely of each other. If you release that Alt or Option key while you are dragging things around like so, then it snaps back into alignment. The two control handles snap back into alignment and you go back to drawing a smooth point. So you have to keep that Alt or Option key down if you want the Cusp point.
All right. So I'll go ahead and show you that again because I have got some more drawing to do here. I'm dragging for starters to create the smooth point, then I press the Alt or Option key when I get this control handle on the place, the one that I'm pointing to there. When I get in that place, then I press and hold Alt or Option key to move the other one. So you are concerned initially about the anchor point when you start dragging, then you are concerned about the position of the opposite control handle that you see me wiggling around the top there. Then when you get it in the place, you press and hold the Alt or Option key and you move the other control handle.
So it is all about those three pieces there. Click and hold for the anchor point, drag for the opposite control handle, press and hold the Alt or Option key in order to move the active control handle right there. You just keep doing that over and over again, got a little bit of an auto scroll. That is nice! I will move that over there and then I'll drag from here and down and I might create a little bit of an extra arc right there for fun. Then I'll drag there and Alt+Drag or Option+Drag upward and then I'll drag from this location and then I'll do this number as well. All right. So once you get the hang of it, it is not terribly difficult work.
It could be a little time-consuming, a little mind numbing if you've got a big path that you are trying to create. But you will get the swing of it, and I definitely encourage you to trace as much of this animal as you can to get a real feel for how the tool is put together. Now if you are looking at these spikes coming off the animal's back and you are thinking, Gosh! These look pretty unfluid. Actually they look horrendous. Then you would go ahead and press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on one of these points to make it active. Then just drag these items around in order to get more smoothly fluid curves, something that looks more organic and more natural and more nice.
All right. So I might take this guy down there, go ahead and drag this control handle like so. It really is a matter of experimentation to find out what combination of anchor point position and control handle positions are going to give you the most smooth curves. Now you are not always looking for smooth curves. Sometimes you want something that looks more jagged. It depends on the artwork that you are trying to create, of course. But in this case I want to just keep things smooth just for the sake of doing it just to get us in the habit you want to know how to make a smooth curve before you go creating unsmooth curves because they are much easier to create.
In the next exercise I'm going to show you how to adjust handles inside of your path outline and how to convert anchor points to different varieties, to convert a smooth point to a cusp point or a cusp point to a corner point, that kind of thing. Join me please!
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