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Knowing the fundamentals of drawing and reshaping paths is only part of the story. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second of the popular One-on-One series, computer graphics expert Deke McClelland covers some of Illustrator's most powerful and least understood features. He shows how to merge simple shapes to create complex ones with the Pathfinder palette, as well as align paths to create schematic illustrations. Deke explains how to paint fluid, multicolor fills with blends, and the new and improved gradient tool. He explores seamlessly repeating tile patterns, blobs and brushes, and imported images. He also dives into one of the deepest features in all of Illustrator, transparency. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.
I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Faded keyboard.ai, so called because the keyboard is fading out of view as it comes forward. Now the problem with this effect is that it's impact is mitigated by the fact that we are not revealing anything truly interesting below the keyboard, all we are revealing is this plain tan floor with a little bit of curtain action and some Drop Shadow. But what we need is something like, some background stuff going on. Now we can't reveal Sammy's legs because they don't exist, but we can reveal the bench and that's what we are going to do. So in this exercise, we are going to bring the bench back out of this jacket sublayer here, and we are also going to assign it a separate but equal gradient opacity mask.
All right, so here is what I want you to do. A little bit of sort of architectural nonsense inside of Illustrator, I just want you to get a sense of what's going on. This is a little bit mind-numbing but here we go. Make sure to twirl open your jacket sublayer as I have and then I want you to get this bench object right there, which is a layer itself, so it's yet another nested sublayer. And I want you to move it outside the jacket layer but now notice, if you take it and you drag it downward like so, if you just drag it ever so slightly downward, you will eventually get this horizontal bar that takes up the entire width of the Layers palette. And that tells you that you are going to move the bench out of not only the jacket sublayer, but out of the larger Vectors layer as well.
So if I scroll up and I twirl close Vectors, see how the bench is no longer inside Vectors? That's a problem because I'll go ahead and twirl Vectors back open. We have got this boundary object right there. We are not using it right now, but eventually it's going to turn into a clipping mask for the entire Vectors layer, which will cut through the bench as well if the bench is inside of that Vectors layer. So we need to keep the bench inside the layer. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+ Z on the Mac to undo that modification and put the bench back where it was before, which is where? It kind of seems to have disappeared here. So let's twirl jacket close and let's cross our fingers and twirl jacket back open, oh, look at that. It just magically reappears.
All right, so that's interesting little buggy boo there. I'm going to go ahead and grab that bench layer once again and notice-- I just want you to see this because this can be a point of confusion as you are working inside the program. If you drag down once again, you will see the bar has the entire width of the Layers palette. That moves it outside the Vectors layer. We already saw that. But if you move the cursor up just slightly, you will see that there is an indent now, which would maybe imply that oh hey, that's cool because now I have dragged the bench sublayer out of the jacket sublayer. And that's exactly what I want but if you release, it's still inside the jacket sublayer. And so that indent was too much of an indent is what it comes down to.
So try dragging the bench down and then just slightly up, like just a couple of pixels up. And you will see there's no in between. Either you are moving it outside the entire layer structure when it's at the bottom of the stack like this or you are keeping it inside of the sublayer. So, you are going to have to change the stacking order for a moment. Go ahead and move things up, so move the bench layer up the stack so it's just below that circle that I was using to explain how opacity masks work in a former exercise. Go ahead and drag it up to this location, you will see a little bit of an indent over here in the left- hand side that shows you, you are still inside of the Vector layer. I know my brain hurts too, but we are not inside the jacket sublayer anymore. Release, good.
Now, go ahead and twirl close jacket. Oh! By the way, notice now you can see the bench below the keyboard, so that's more interesting, and now move jacket above bench. Finally, things are in the right layering order now because before if I hadn't put jacket above bench, we would get this effect here and that's bad because the jacket is in front of Sammy and he can't sit on a bench that's in front of himself. So anyway, I'll go ahead and move the jacket back up in front of the bench like so, everybody is inside of the larger Vectors layer now. That's a good thing as well, okey dokey. I still don't like this effect, and the reason is what I want to see happen is I want the bench to fade in to view as the keyboard is fading out of view. So we need an opposite gradient going on.
So, my friends, this opacity mask that we are about to create needs to be a gradient that's based on the blue keyboard outline because the area outside of the keyboard should not fade at all. It should remain opaque. So what I want you to do is go ahead and click on the outline of the blue keyboard using the Black Arrow tool, press Ctrl+C or Command+C on the Mac to copy it to the clipboard. Now, meatball the bench layer like so and press Ctrl+F or Command+F on the Mac in order to paste it in front. That is to say paste the copy of the blue keyboard outline in front of the bench sublayer.
Now then, what I would like you to do is fill this keyboard with a gradient. So we could do the work after we apply this Path right here as an opacity mask or we can do it before. And just for the sake of variety, we are going to do it before. All right, so currently my Fill is active. I'm going to press the X key to make my Stroke active, and then I'm going to press the slash key to change the Stroke to none as we are seeing right there. Press the X key to make the Fill active now. At the bottom of the Gradient palette, you will see this tiny miniature little icon, you can click on it or you can just press the period key, full stop key to fill the keyboard with a black-to-white gradient. And to see what the direction of that gradient is, press the G key and you will see that the gradient is going from white, over here on the left-hand side, to black over here on the right-hand side.
We want white, which is Opacity to be at the bottom and we want black, which is Transparency to be at the top because we want things to go in the opposite way that they are going for the keyboard. You follow? If not, just do what I'm telling you to do and here is what you do. You go ahead and drag from this bottom location, right about there to up to about this location. This is pretty good right here next to Sammy's elbow, let's say. And then press the Shift key in order to constrain the angle of that drag to exactly vertical and release, and you will get a keyboard shape gradient that looks like this right here.
Now, I'll press the V key to switch back to the Black Arrow tool, just so I'm not seeing that Gradient Annotator anymore, and I'll Shift meatball the bench sublayer here inside the Layers palette. So you should see Path and bench, both meatballed. Go to your Transparency palette, go to the palette's Fly-out menu icon, click on it and choose Make Opacity Mask. And you should get this effect right here. Now you are probably looking at it going -- no, that's not right. We hid the entire bench except for the portion that's under the keyboard, which is now fading in to view. That's the good news. It is fading in to view. So what's the problem, puzzle this out with me.
If you are not getting the effect you want, even after doing all this meticulous labor and you think it through, it's just like you did everything right, right? You made the keyboard shape, you went ahead and selected it, you filled it with a gradient. It's going from black at the top to white at the bottom, so the bench should fade in to view. So why are we losing the bench on the outside? Anytime that starts running through your mind, think check boxes, check boxes, check boxes. Over here in the Transparency palette, you have got these check boxes, very rarely are you going to want to turn on or off Invert Mask, usually it's going to be Clip. That's your culprit. And sure enough it is, because you are setting the background outside the gradient to black and as a result everything outside the keyboard is turning transparent on you. That's not what you want. So you want to turn Clip off, and that magically solves the problem because it makes the background white.
All right, so I'm going to click off the bench in order to deselect it. So now we are seeing through the keyboard, to the bench and it is fading in to view as the keyboard fades out of view. That makes a lot of sense in the strange world of this strange graphic. In the next exercise, we are going to move away from opacity mask, and we are going to focus in on blend modes. Join me, won't you?
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