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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.
One of the exciting new features added to Illustrator CS5 is something called perspective drawing. It basically gives you the ability to define a Perspective Grid in your document and then draw artwork in perspective and also take two-dimensional art and map those to these perspective planes. However, before we start drawing in perspective, let's take a look at how these Perspective Grids work inside of Illustrator CS5. I'll get started by creating a new document. In this case, I'll just choose a Print Document profile. I'll also make sure right now that my Orientation is set to wide, only because it will give us more room to take a look at our Perspective Grid.
Let me click OK to create this new document. Now every document that you have inside of Illustrator has the capability of containing one, single Perspective Grid. You can't have multiple grids, just one at a time, and the way that you actually create this grid, or should I say actually turn on the grid, is to come over here to your Tool panel and click on the Perspective Grid tool. The keyboard shortcut for that is Shift+P. But I am going to go ahead and click on this, and instantly you'll see now a Perspective Grid appears on my document. Now, what you see here is a standard two-point perspective.
Illustrator actually supports one- point, two-point, or three-point perspectives, but for now the first thing we want to do is make sure that our perspective is set up correctly. In order to do that, there are many settings that are found on the actual grid itself. These appear as little widgets, like little diamond shapes or little circles, and let's take a moment to explore what each of these settings actually do. I am actually going to come down here to the bottom and change my Zoom setting to 90%, which will allow us to get a total look of all the settings available inside of this Perspective Grid.
When defining your Perspective Grid, two of the most important settings are the Ground Line and the Horizon Line. The horizon line is sometimes also referred to as the eye level. You can control the position of these settings by clicking on any of these diamond shapes on those lines and move your grid around. For example, I can reposition the ground line by clicking on this diamond and moving it up and down or left and right. You can adjust the horizon line or the eye level by clicking on these diamonds and moving this up or down.
Notice that as I do so, the Smart Guides, which are currently active in my document, show me HH, which stands for the Horizon Height, the distance between this diamond right here and this diamond right here as I make these adjustments. To give you an example, if I were standing in front of building, the eye level would be how I'd actually be looking at that particular building. A very low eye level would basically have me standing right in front of the building staring up at it. However, should I have a very high eye level, it would be as if I were standing maybe on a building across the street at the roof and staring down towards that building.
I'll bring the Horizon Level back down to where it was around before, and let's take a look at some of the other important parts of a Perspective Grid. You'll notice that certain parts of the grid appear in different colors. For example, the side over here on the left is colored blue, the side on the right here it's colored red, and on the bottom here it's colored green. These colored areas identify the different planes that I'm working with inside of my Perspective Grid. As you'll see when we start drawing in perspective, I will choose which plane I want my artwork to be attached to.
For example, I can have artwork snapped to the left pane, the right pane, or the floor or the ground. You can make adjustments to any of these planes simply by using these widgets, which appear as these little circles with dots inside of them, which appear at the bottom of the grid. For example, this widget over here, which appears on the right side, actually controls the left pane of my grid. As I click and drag on this widget, I can adjust the left pane of the Perspective Grid. Likewise, I can use the other widgets to control the right pane, and also the ground level as well.
Of course, one of the key features found in any Perspective Grid is the vanishing point. In this example, since we are dealing with the two-point perspective, we have two vanishing points, which appear as these little circles on both the left and right sides of my grid. Vanishing points are, of course, always tied to the horizon. So when I click on them, I can drag them left or right to adjust them. With regard to actually defining the perspective for this document, we're already done. However, there are a few additional settings that pertain to the grid itself, in other words the appearance of the grid, and how I might work with that grid here inside of Illustrator.
As we'll soon see, when I'm drawing inside of Illustrator, these actual gridlines here act as guides, meaning that objects will snap to them when I am either drawing or dragging them around on the Perspective Grid. I can use the little diamond widgets that appear on the grid to control the size of the grid, and also the actual appearance of that grid. Let's take a closer look. The diamond that appears here towards the center of the ground here allows me to click and drag upwards, to increase the size of the grid, or downwards to make the grid much, much smaller.
The widgets that appear towards the top of the grid allow me to determine how high or how low that grid appears. The widgets that appear towards the bottom over here, allow me to define how far back that particular grid goes and how shallow it will be, the same thing applies in the right side as well. It's important to realize that we're just dealing right now with the visibility of the grid itself. But in reality, as I am working inside of Illustrator, since I've defined this perspective, my entire document lives in this world of perspective, meaning that if I start dragging a shape even somewhere over here, but I mapped over here towards the plane on the right side, that object will still snap and live in that world of perspective.
Speaking of the appearance of the grid, it's important to realize that we are inside of Illustrator and while we've been eyeballing all these settings here for the Perspective Grid, we can handle all these numerically through some of the settings for the Perspective Grid. In fact, almost all the settings for the grid itself can be found by going to the View menu, scrolling over here to the bottom where it says Perspective Grid, then choosing this option called Define Grid. In doing so, the Define Perspective Grid dialog box appears where you can see all the settings for the grid itself. Unfortunately, there is no Preview button.
So when you make these changes, you are going to have to click OK and see how those changes have been applied to your grid. But one of the settings that I use most often is the Opacity setting because as I'm drawing inside of Illustrator, I really don't want the grid itself to get in the way of my artwork. In fact, I prefer an Opacity level somewhere in the area of 25% instead of 50%. Notice when I click OK right now, the grid itself is not as prominent in my document, so I can focus more on the artwork that I am dealing with. Let's take a closer look at some of the other settings that appear inside of this View menu. I am going to go to View > Perspective Grid.
You can see that I have the option to hide my grid. I can Show Rulers, which display values that appear next to each of the lines inside of the grid. To make sure that I don't mess up any settings that I've worked very hard to put in place, I can go back to the View menu, choose Perspective Grid, and choose to lock my grid. In this menu, you'll also find one of the most powerful aspects of working with Perspective Grids, which is the ability to define grids as a preset. That means if you actually get a particular perspective that you like, and you want to use that for many different projects, you can save or capture the settings for that grid and then easily apply those to other documents as well.
In fact, you'll see here that I have some already defined inside of Illustrator where it says One Point Perspective, Illustrator ships with a default setting for One Point Perspective normal view. There is also a default view for Two Point and Three Point Perspective as well. You can also right now save this grid as a preset, and give it a name and then apply it to any another document as well. For now though, I'll choose to set my grid back to the default Two Point Perspective grid, and now that you're familiar with setting up the grid itself, you're ready to start drawing art in perspective.
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