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Adobe Illustrator has long been the most popular and viable vector-drawing program on the market but, for many, the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials , author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland teaches the key features of Illustrator in a way that anyone can understand. He also goes beyond that, showing users how to get into the Illustrator "mindset" to make mastering Illustrator simple and easy. The training covers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text and gradients, and color management and printing features. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this time it is going to make sense. Exercise files accompany the training.
In this exercise I'm going to show you how to round off the corners in this straight-sided path that represents the canoe full of brave warriors that are pursuing this underwater panther creature over here. It's an Ojibwe thing. Notice by the way, when I'm doing these big scrolls like this, when I scroll a path completely off screen and then back on screen using the Hand Tool, that Illustrator shows the path that had been off screen as being very jagged when it comes back on. That's just to make things quicker, that's just a quick previewing function.
As soon as you release your mouse button, everything gets better. Anyway, I happen to be in the Outline mode, and I'm working inside of a catch up document called Straight -sided canoe.ai that's found inside the 07_path_tool folder for those of you are just joining me. And you can tell that this straight angular path here does need to be rounded off because the background image, the image inside the tracing template here isn't nearly that angular. So go ahead and click on the shape in order to select it with the black arrow tool.
And then I'm going to go up to the Effect menu, and I'm going to choose Stylize and I'm going to choose the Round Corners command and that brings up this dialog box here. It's set to a Radius value of 12 points, for me anyway. Let's say I go ahead and, well I'll leave it at 12 points, because I'm not really sure what that's going to give me. What it means by the way, 12 point radius means that it's really assigning circles with a radius of 12 point to each one of these corner points. It's really, they're really quarter circles for what it's worth. But it's difficult to know whether you've got the value right or wrong without previewing it. So what you probably want to do is turn on the Preview checkbox, but imagine your disappointment when you see that nothing happens on screen whatsoever. Is that because the value is way too low? No, because we chose Round Corners from the Effect menu, we are applying a live effect. That means that Illustrator is not harming the original path outline one iota.
It's only applying the effect in the Preview mode and when you print the document, and that's a pretty big deal of course, because it affects how the document really looks, but you're not going to see the results of the Round Corner effect in the Outline mode. So for now, you might as well just click OK because you're working blind. In order to see what you're doing, go ahead and press Control+Y or Command+Y on a Mac or choose the Preview command from the View menu in order to switch to the preview mode as we've done here. Now we can see the round corners, you can see the black stroke with the white fill that represents what the shape is going to look like on screen and in print, but meanwhile we're seeing the original angular path as well, because the path remains the same path it ever was.
The question becomes how in the heck do you modify it? Now that you can see what you're doing, how do you modify your rounded corner settings because you probably do want to change them? Well the first thing I'm going to do is switch my fill to transparent. Fill is active inside the toolbar so I'll just go ahead and press the / key to make it transparent and the reason I'm doing that is so that I can see through to my underlying template even in the |Preview mode. This when I would expect that I go up to the Effects menu and choose one of these round corner functions that are at the top of the Effect menu, like I could choose this command right here, Round Corners or I could go to my original Stylize - Round Corners command down here. Either one is going to give you the same results, which is this: A warning. Illustrator is saying to you, Hey you're not editing the effect, you're applying a new heaping helping of this effect. Is that what you really want to do? Goodness no, is your answer. No, no, no, I want to edit the effect, so just cancel out. What do you do? Well what you do is you go over to the Appearance palette.
So with the path still selected as it is, you go to the Appearance palette, if you don't see the Appearance palette, go to the Window menu, choose the Appearance command, and then you'll notice this item right at the top of the list here called Round Corners. Double-click on it. That is the rounded corners effect that's applied to my path. Now if you click on Preview and let's lower this value precipitously down to 3 points, let's say and then press the Tab key in order to invoke the Preview function. Now you can see it happen real time live in front of you.
I'm going to suggest we take this value up to 14 point. I'll press Tab to accept. Now it may surprise you, because you might think these guys, these warriors, the brave warriors, they're way too rounded, they look peculiar. The reason, not that they looked all that realistic in the first place, but we don't want them looking like that. The reason I'm going with 14 point is because that suits the underside of the canoe very nicely. In order to reinstate some of my corners, some of my angularity associated with my warriors, I've got to revisit the path with the Pen Tool. So go ahead and click OK in order to accept your new round corner setting, then get the Pen Tool.
Let's go ahead and zoom in even farther on this canoe, why don't we. And here's what you do. You've got to add points, like so and don't click directly on the point because if you do that you'll delete it. You need to click just close to the point like this in order to add a new point. Notice that makes things more angular because the Round Corner function has less room in order to round things off between those two anchor points, and what we're taking advantage of here is the spline curve mode. Now Illustrator's widely known as a Bezier drawing application, you may have heard that before and it's so named after this fellow named Pierre Bezier, this French man who was a car designer, still around, I believe, still with us, I think.
And he invented this awesome Bezier drawing system, and it is the better drawing system, but it's also the more difficult drawing system. What we're seeing here is an older drawing method known as spline curves, that will keep things nice and round except where you have points clustered together, and then it'll try to keep things more angular. It does tend to be pretty easy to work with because you just add points where you want corners, but it makes editing a little more difficult as we'll see. So now that we've added a sufficient number of points to sort of angle things off, as you saw me do on screen just now, you can then switch your white arrow tool and drag those points where you want them to be. Don't go ahead and drag them directly on top of each other. Just move them very close to each other.
You can play around with these some more if you want to. I'm pretty happy with what I've got, because after all, I don't need this to be exactly right because the original petroglyph that I'm working from, that photograph of that petroglyph, wasn't all that super accurate as well. It was pretty stylized, I dare say. But yet I still seem to be working, what's that about? I believe you spell it with a C, as in compulsive. I can't stop. Stop me, stop me from editing. I can't stop reshaping. I must go on. Anyway you can drag these things where you want them to be and notice that the path is never quite hitting the points. So the anchor points are always tugging at the path as they are here. Now if you click off the path, that means it can be difficult to locate your anchor point, you can't just click on this stroke because the path's not really there. What you have to do instead is marquee around an area and say, Oh there is, and now continue to drag your points to the places that you want them to be. This is pretty good.
And you know what? This is good enough. I'm left-handed, so I'm going to start using my right hand to slap my left hand in a second. I must stop, must stop editing. This is good enough. Looks really great actually. I'll click off of it. This is my final version, for real. My final version of the brave warriors inside of the canoe. In next exercise we will begin to see how you really to go about creating real curves with the Pen Tool as we explore the real Bezier curve model.
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