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Adobe Illustrator is defined as a vector-based drawing application. Now unlike its sister application Adobe Photoshop, which is a pixel-based graphics application, Illustrator allows you to create artwork by first drawing specific objects or shapes and then applying attributes like colors to those particular shapes. At a core level of understanding, think about it in this way. Inside of Photoshop you could take your Paintbrush and apply paint directly to the canvas. However, in Illustrator you're one step removed from the canvas because what you need to do is first create objects like paths and Bezier curves, so on and so forth and then you can apply color to those objects. So you are not applying attributes directly to the canvas; you are applying them to objects that sit on top of the canvas.
Now of course there are pros and cons to each of these applications. But at the core I do believe that the rules of vector graphics lead to one of their problems or the barriers that designer face when trying to draw inside of Illustrator. Let me illustrate exactly what I mean. When I go here inside of Illustrator. I'm just going to create a regular plain print document. I'm going to use the regular default settings and I'll give you the disclaimer up front over here. I apologize for not using any pretty artwork for these examples but I really want you to understand the core of what's happening here inside of Illustrator. So I'm going to be drawing some very simple shapes.
Let's start by talking directly about the artboard here inside of Illustrator. Now if I wanted to have a yellow background in my image, I can't apply a yellow color to this artboard itself. I need to first create a shape that I can apply a color to that shape. You see inside of Illustrator you can't apply color to just any arbitrary area. You can only apply color to a specific shape and you apply color by adding either fill or stroke attributes to a shape. So now that we understand that let's actually draw a shape here inside of Illustrator. I'm just going to take a regular rectangle right here on my page and I'm going to set its fill over here to None. I'll leave the stroke set to black at one point.
Now as you know inside of Illustrator because I have drawn a rectangle here, I could simply go ahead and apply another color to the shape. But I'm going to go draw a second rectangle that's going to overlap that rectangle. So now I'm going to use my regular Selection tool here. Let's take a look what I'm seeing on my screen. I have two rectangles, which means that I could simply select one of those rectangle and apply a color and I could select the other rectangle and I can apply a color. But if I'm just looking at my artwork right now my eye does kind of see three rectangles. I do see one rectangle over here, one that's over here, but there is also a shape that's created by the overlapping rectangles. The problem that exists inside of Illustrator is that I cannot apply a fill color to just this region.
That's because the shape over here, a physical object, does not exist. This is simply an area that looks like it's another rectangle, but all that rectangle is, is simply another shape that looks like it's created because these two rectangles overlap in a certain area. So in order for me to fill this particular region I would need to physically turn that into a distinct object. Now Illustrator has several tools to do that. For example there is the Pathfinder functions. I could go over here, go to the Window menu and I could choose Pathfinder and there is an option here called Divide. That would allow me to select these two shapes, click on the Divide button, and end up with three distinct areas. So if I choose one over here and then one over here and now that I have three distinct shapes I would be able to apply a color to this particular region, but I would need to first apply that Pathfinder Divide function. It also means that I would not be able to edit the original rectangles anymore because those have been chopped up into pieces.
So let's go ahead and apply some color to these regions. I'll select this first shape right here. Let's give that one yellow. I'll take this middle region over here. I'll give that one, let's say a blue color. And I'll take the one over here and let's apply that one, say maybe some red. So now what I have is three distinct objects and I have applied a separate color to each of those objects. So we already know that one of the limitations of working with vector objects is that I need to have an object in order to apply a color. Well, there is another issue that designers sometimes encounter with Illustrator as well that also speaks to the core of what vector graphics are.
As you notice here, this particular shape has yellow fill and the yellow fill comes exactly up to the edge. It doesn't overlap the edge in anyway. Notice it falls short of what the edge is. It's precise. It's exact. In fact, I sometimes refer to Illustrator as being too perfect because sometimes in a design you do want to fill to somehow overlap the stroke. I find that sometimes designers jump through hoops just to make it appear as if artwork is less than perfect inside of Illustrator. Now that we have an understanding of what these limitations are inside of Illustrator, we can begin to start peeling away some of the layers that are inside of Illustrator and see how we might get around some of these issues.
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