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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final part of the comprehensive Illustrator One-on-One series, author and industry expert Deke McClelland shows how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS5. Deke explores Illustrator’s powerful Gradient Mesh feature, great for creating photorealistic airbrushing effects. He also covers graphic styles, the liquify tools, envelope-style distortions, the new Bristle Brushes, 3D text, and perspective drawing. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this exercise, I am going to show you how to modify the core path definitions associated specifically with an art brush, although this technique works just as well for scatter brushes. I've saved my progress as Minion Pro letters.ai, and I don't need those guidelines anymore, so I am going to press Ctrl+Semicolon, or Command+Semicolon on the Mac, to hide them. Now you may recall our big problem here is that this chalk brush traces unevenly around the letter, so sometimes it's quite heavy and other times it's so light as to be invisible. I can't see the chalk stroke in the top left corner of the U or the H and so on, so I need a more uniformly constructed stroke.
I am going to go ahead and scroll my way to the top of the illustration--that is, above the top of the illustration, into the pasteboard--and I am going to turn on this patterns layer, just so that you can see that this is where I defined my tile patterns. So altogether there's four tile patterns in the Swatches panel: beige wedges, orange wedges, red wedges, and violet wedges. And I created them in the opposite order up here in the pasteboard. Well, I want to do the same kind of work with my brushes, but I want to work on a separate layer just to keep things tidy. So I'll go ahead and click on that cap layer to make it active, the very top layer in the stack, and I'll press Ctrl +Alt+L, Command+Option+L on a Mac, to bring up the Layer Options dialog box.
I am going to call this guy "chalk alts" because these will be alternatives to the chalk brush, which is the brush that's currently failing me where these letters are concerned. And I'll change the color from magenta to lest say violet and then I'll click OK in order to create that new layer. Now with that layer active, I'll bring up the Brushes panel and I am going to grab Chalk-Round, which is the brush that I assigned to the letters, and I am going to drag it and drop it into the pasteboard, so that we can work away with it. All right, now I'll go ahead and hide the Brushes panel, and I am going to zoom in by Ctrl+Spacebar+Dragging around this brush; that would be a Command+Spacebar+Drag on the Mac.
Actually, let's zoom in even further. What we have here is a compound path, so I'll twirl open my chalk alts layer and then I'll twirl open this group, and I'll twirl open that group. Actually, you know what? Let's go ahead and cheat and make this a lot tidier by dragging those guys out of that nested group. Now, the group contains a bunch of different paths and there might be a compound path or two, but the idea is we have a have a bunch of random edges, and it may not be a particularly good-looking path, but it ends up creating a very naturalistic brushstroke. A word to the wise, by the way: if you are going to create your own custom brushstrokes then bear in mind that random is good if you're trying to simulate a real-world tool such as chalk.
This larger outline, this item that's called "path" here inside the panel, that's your clipping path, so that defines the actual size to which the brush is clipped. All right, so we are not really interested in that guy, so I am going to go ahead and meatball this group inside the group, which contains all of the path outlines there, and then, just so I can see what I am doing, I'll press Ctrl+Y, or Command+Y on the Mac. That way I can see that rectangle in the Outline mode as I work away. And you know what I am going to do, because I want to smush this stuff outward and I don't want to redraw it or anything like that, I am going to take advantage of the Warp tool, that really great liquify tool that we saw on our previous chapter.
So, I'll get to it by switching from the Width tool to the Warp tool. And of course, by the way, its way too big; I've got it set back to its default settings here. I am going to double-click on the Warp Tool option here inside the toolbox and I'm to reduce the Width and Height values to 20 points; Angle and Intensity are fine as is; Simplify, off. You do not want to simplify an art brush; that's very bad. So turn the check box off, click OK, and now check this out. I can just start dragging this guy all over the place like so and it stays nice and random, and I get these wacky edges.
And I want to make sure not to push the edges too far out of the rectangle; I want to keep them more or less in the rectangle. And also, I don't want too much variation around the edges of the rectangle. That's why I am sort of dragging the tall edges down and then dragging the short edges back up. And you might need to reduce the size of your cursor by Shift+Alt+Dragging, or Shift+Option+Dragging, down left like so, and then you can make more nuanced adjustments like so. Because this guy in particular, this little thing that's sort of stabbing up into the air, if you leave it alone, you're going to end up with these weird juts that are coming out of the top of the U and the H and everywhere else, and they look terrible; they look absolutely ridiculous actually.
All right, now that I've gotten this guy out of the way--he is the biggest problem area-- I am going to Shift+Alt+Drag up-right, or Shift+Option+Drag, in order to increase the size of my brush, and then I'll drag this up and this down and drag this up and drag this up, too, and drag this back down and drag this area up and drag this area down and so forth. It's fairly tedious work. Well, you know what? It's not tedious, I'm enjoying every moment of it, I tell you. But it does take a little bit of effort and a little bit of manual effort, by which I mean it's entirely manual effort, isn't it? And I'll go ahead and drag these guys down like so.
Now, you may look at this and think, well gosh, it's getting kind of uniform, Deke. We're losing some of those choppy edges, which really make the effect work; otherwise, if we have this kind log shaped brush, it's going to look like a log shaped brushstroke, which is going to look fairly uniform. Well, check this out. Let's go ahead and switch over to our friend, the Crystallize tool. And I am going to double-click on it, too, in order to bring up the Crystallize Tool Options dialog box and take the Intensity down to 5. Then let's just click, and then you might just want to do a few long clicks here and there in order to add some random elements and things, and then you can click inside as well, and so you can do little bit of back-and-forthing, and you can see what kind of random edges you get.
But I find that Crystallize tool-- Scallop tool as well--can deliver some very nice random edges that are indicative of traditional brushstrokes. All right, so that's one way to modify the core path outline that's associated with an art brush. In the nice exercise, I am going to show you how to take this modified path outline and reintroduce it as an art brush inside the Brushes panel.
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