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Defining masks with soft edges


Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

with Mordy Golding

Video: Defining masks with soft edges

So we've explored, inside of Illustrator, how to create things like clipping masks, which allow you to hide portions of a piece of artwork. However, in all these cases, the masks themselves have hard, or sharp edges just like vectors do. However, there may be plenty of times when you want a mask to have a soft edge, something like a feather that you might be able to apply, for example, in Photoshop. Well, you can actually use those kinds of soft objects here inside of Illustrator as a mask. But you have to apply them somewhat differently using a different type of a mask called an Opacity mask.
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  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 1s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 24s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 25m 52s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 18s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
10h 37m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Setting up a new document based on the output destination
  • Using rules, guides, and grids
  • Making detailed selections
  • Drawing and editing paths with the Pen and Pencil tools
  • Creating compound vector shapes
  • Understanding the difference between point and area text
  • Applying live effects
  • Creating color swatches
  • Transforming artwork with Rotation, Scale, and Transform effects
  • Placing images
  • Working with masks
  • Printing, saving, and exporting artwork
Mordy Golding

Defining masks with soft edges

So we've explored, inside of Illustrator, how to create things like clipping masks, which allow you to hide portions of a piece of artwork. However, in all these cases, the masks themselves have hard, or sharp edges just like vectors do. However, there may be plenty of times when you want a mask to have a soft edge, something like a feather that you might be able to apply, for example, in Photoshop. Well, you can actually use those kinds of soft objects here inside of Illustrator as a mask. But you have to apply them somewhat differently using a different type of a mask called an Opacity mask.

Let's take a quick look at two examples of how Opacity masks can be valuable inside of Illustrator. Let's begin by first creating some kind of a circle here, and rather than just mask this in a regular circle, we want to create some kind of a vignette effect where the circle has a soft edge, and the photo slowly fades out over time. I'll start by creating a circle here. I am going to use my Ellipse tool. I'll hold down my Option+Shift keys or Alt+Shift on Windows. I'll draw a nice circle here, and I don't need the stroke weight here. So I am going to change the Stroke to none.

So it's simply filled with white, and I'm now going to go to the Effect menu, I am going to choose Blur and then Gaussian Blur, and I want to soften up the edges of the circle. So I am going to increase the Radius to around maybe 35 pixels, and click OK. Now, I have a nice soft edge on that shape. I am going to switch to my Selection tool, and I am now going to click and drag to select both the circle that has the Gaussian Blur applied to it and also the photograph beneath it. Remember that when I define Masks, the topmost object becomes the Mask. Whatever is on the bottom of the stacking order gets clipped inside of that mask.

Now if I were to actually create a clipping mask right now, the path itself would become that clipping area. So I would still have a hard edge on my mask. Instead, I am going to open up my Transparency panel right over here. In fact, I am going to bring that out onto the art board here so we could take a better look at it. You can see that I now have this thumbnail that appears in this section right over here. It's giving me a preview of my artwork. By the way, on your screen if you don't see this area, you might need to come to the Transparency panel and double-click on the tab to expand it so that you see all of its settings.

At this point, I want to apply an Opacity mask. It's an incredibly powerful mask. In fact, so powerful that Adobe seems to hide it in a very hard place to find. You won't find it in the menu item, and you won't find it as one of the tools. Instead, inside of the Transparency panel, in the flyout menu, there is a setting here called Make Opacity mask. I am going to choose that option, and I can now see that the photograph fades out. It's basically using the Gaussian Blur to define the mask for the shape and not the path itself.

Now, that we know how to apply an Opacity mask, let's use it to create a different type of an effect. For example, come down to the gift card. You know the latest look right now out there is that you have all these cool reflections. Well, let's say I want to create a reflection of this card right here on the bottom, and I want it to fade out into that black background. I can't use a gradient for that because, after all, this art is made up of many different objects. So instead I'm going to use an Opacity mask to help me create this really cool reflection. The first thing that I want to do is come over here to the Gift Card layer.

I am going to deselect any artwork right now. I'm going to highlight the Gift Card layer, and I am going to turn on the layer Clipping Mask for this layer, so that all I see is the card itself. Next, I am going to close the layer here. I need to make a duplicate of this layer. After all in order to make your reflection I need to now have a copy of that gift card. A really easy way to do that is directly inside of the Layers panel. Simply take the entire Gift Card layer and drag it onto this new layer icon. This actually creates an entire copy of not just the layer, but all the artwork inside of it.

Now what I need to do is flip that entire layer upside down so it looks like a reflected copy. I'll select the entire layer by just clicking on this blank area inside of the Layers panel, and then I'll tap the O key on my keyboard to switch to the Reflect tool. Now I want it to reflect from the bottom part of the card itself, so I am going to move my cursor down to right at the base of the card, and I am going to Option+Click. Remember, when I Option+Click, it allows me to define the origin point for that reflection, and it brings up the Reflect dialog box. I'll make sure the Horizontal Axis option is chosen, and I'll click OK.

So far, I have exactly what I need. If I deselect this right now, so I am going to switch back to my Selection tool, I'll see that I now have a copy of this card that is now flipped upside down. At this point, we're ready to start working on the Opacity mask. I am going to switch to my Regular Rectangle tool, and I am going to click and drag to draw a rectangle over this shape right now. Then I am going to change its Fill color to a gradient instead of white. I can do that right over here just by clicking on this Fill indicator and choosing the regular black to white gradient.

Now I need the gradient to travel in a different direction. To make it easy to do that, I'm simply going to go right to the Gradient panel with that object still selected, and I am going to type in a value here of -90. I am going to hit the Tab key to accept that value, and you can see that right now my gradient starts from white at the top and then fades down to black. Basically, any part of my mask that's white will mean that the artwork underneath it will be visible. Any area that's black will be invisible. However, any gray areas will become partially visible.

So if you look at it right now, if I were to create a mask, my card would really be visible for most of it here. I only want to create a small reflection. So I am going to modify this gradient. I am going to take the black color stop right here, and drag it in. So basically the black starts a lot earlier. I also want the reflection to fade out a little bit more smoothly, so I am going to take the midpoint indicator, and drag that towards the white side. So now basically I am going to have a very strong part of the image right here, but it's going to quickly fade into nothing. So all I've done right now is I've taken a regular object, and I filled it with a gradient.

But now I am going to use the appearance of that gradient, even more specifically, the Luminance values of that gradient, and that's now going to become a mask for all the artwork inside of that layer. I am going to take my Regular Selection tool. I am going to click and drag to select both the artwork and the mask, which is currently on top. And then in my Transparency panel here, I'm going to click on the flyout menu and choose Make Opacity mask. If I deselect my art, I see that I've now created a really cool reflection for this card.

Now if I am not really so happy with the way that gradient looks, I can always edit it. I am going to click over here on this artwork, and in the Transparency panel, I now see two thumbnails. Currently, there is a thick black line around the thumbnail on the left. That means that right now my artwork is currently selected. However, if I click on the Mask icon, now Illustrator switches me to the mask. Here I can go back to my Gradient panel and continue to modify the gradient and how it looks. So I can get exactly just the right results for my reflection, maybe I'll kind of increase it just a little bit more this way, and maybe spread it out just a little bit further like that, or maybe even go just a bit further here to make it more dramatic.

Then I'll come back to the Transparency panel, and make sure that I click back on the artwork over here to stop editing the mask. It's important to realize if I don't come back and click on this icon, I will still be editing only the mask itself. Illustrator basically puts me in one of either two modes: either I am editing the Opacity mask or the artwork inside of my document. I just want to show you one other interesting thing about how the Layers panel works with this type of feature. Remember, how we discussed it when I create a mask inside of Illustrator, the mask is identified inside of the Layers panel by an underline.

Well, if I take a look over here at the Gift Card copy layer, you can see that right now the Group has a dashed underline underneath it. That means that that object has an Opacity mask applied to it. So Regular Masks have a solid line, and Opacity masks have a dash line.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS5 Essential Training .

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Q: Despite clicking the rectangle icon on the toolbar, as shown in the video, the other tool shapes are not accessible in Illustrator. The rectangle is usable, but the star, ellipse, etc. are not, and do not appear anywhere in the toolbar. What is causing this problem?
A: These tools are grouped together, so to access them, click and hold the mouse for a second until the other tools appear. If that isn't happening, reset the Illustrator preferences file. To do so, quit Illustrator and then relaunch the application while pressing and holding the Ctrl+Alt+Shift keys. Once the Illustrator splash screen appears, release the keys and that will reset the preferences file.
Q: In the video “What are vector graphics,” the author states that if he creates a 1 inch x 1 inch Photoshop file at 300ppi image, there are 300 pixels in that image. Is that correct?
A: This statement is by the author was not totally correct. If the resolution is 300ppi, it means that there are 300 pixels across one inch, both vertically and horizontally. That would mean you'd have 90,000 pixels in a 1 inch x 1 inch image at 300 ppi.
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