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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'm still working inside the illustration Ball & chain.ai. We've gone ahead and put the grill lines inside the shoes and cut off the extra bits of legs and used the heart to cut a hole inside the chest. In fact, we've done everything to this illustration except address the ball and chain. So let's go ahead and do that. We'll be taking care of the ball and chain using the other two great Shape modes inside of the Pathfinder palette, which are Intersect and Exclude. So let's start with the chain here. You'll notice that it's just a series of the exact same ellipse repeated over and over again. I'm going to go ahead and marquee this group of ellipses right there with the Black Arrow tool. Then I'll Shift-click on these two ellipses there in order to select the entire length of chain.
Now, if you go under the Appearance palette, you'll notice that we have no fill, and we've got two strokes. We've got a double-stroke effect here. We've got 3 point black stroke with a 1 point white stroke on top of it. So I was telling you that strokes are not our friends where Pathfinder operations are concerned, but when you're working with this top row of Pathfinder operation, the Shape Modes, you can get away with strictly stroked paths as long as they are not open paths. So all of these paths are closed, so everything is hunky-dory. Now, let's say that we want to turn these various ellipses into a continuous chain. Well, we'd just try out the Shape modes. Go ahead and press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac in order to hide the points and paths, and then go to the first Shape Modes icon and click on it. This is what unite would look like, looks like a big thick large intestine, so that's not what we want.
So if it turns out that's not it, then press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on a Mac, very important that you undo one static pathfinder operation before applying another one. Then let's try out Minus Front and that's going to take all the forward chains and subtract it from the one remaining background chain. That creates sort of this little fish that's poking out from this left-hand leg, which is not what we want either. So press Ctrl +Z, Command+Z on a Mac. Let's try out Intersect. In this case, we're going to get an error message, because there is no point at which all of the chains intersect each other. Because there is no point of intersection, the filter, which is the Intersect pathfinder operation, produces no results. So it's telling you it's not going to do it. Click OK.
Then let's go ahead and move up. We don't have to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z, because we didn't do anything. So just go ahead and move on to Exclude and try it out. Now that's almost right. But because we applied a static application of the Exclude Blend mode, we get this kind of safety pin effect where we have a bunch of little paths here that are overlapping each other. What I want is a nice continuous effect where the strokes interact with each other. So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on a Mac and instead of clicking on the Exclude mode, I'm going to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click on this icon, and then we create a compound shape. I can see that it's a compound shape right there.
All of the strokes are aligning with each other. So in other words, all of the black strokes are applied first and then all of the white strokes are applied second. So we have this continuous uniform application of strokes across the course of this chain. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+H or Command+H again to bring back my anchor points and so on. The other advantage of this approach is that I can edit each one of these entirely intact ellipses independently of each other. So I could select the White Arrow tool in order to make it active, and I could click off the shapes in order to deselect them. Alt-click or Option-click on any of these ellipses and move it to a different location, and the strokes move magically along width.
So Illustrator goes ahead and dynamically updates all of the attributes that are assigned to these various subpaths. You could even do things like this. I could Alt-click or Option-click on this chain right there and I could grab the Rotate tool. I could drag in order to rotate that chain link to a different angle. So, very, very flexible approach afforded to you by compound shapes here inside of Illustrator. To get a sense of another approach to compound shapes, let's go ahead and grab that Black Arrow tool once again. We've got this ball and chain, and what we want to do is we want to take all of these bits and pieces of ball and chain and put them inside of the ball, so in other words, these various sort of surfaces, associated with the ball.
I could take the approach of applying the Crop operation, if I wanted to, but then I would have to change all these strokes to fills by applying the Outline Stroke command, and I just don't feel like doing that. I want to take advantage of a more flexible approach, and that's what we're going to do right here. So first things first. Go ahead and select each of these two surfaces here and notice that their fills are currently transparent. Go ahead and change the fills to white, which I can do by clicking on this last color option right there. Because whenever you're applying a pathfinder operation, Illustrator is going to go ahead and assume the fill and stroke attributes of the forward paths. So we want them to be white.
All right, then go ahead and take this background circle right there. Click on it to select it, and then press Ctrl+C or Command+C on the Mac to copy it to the clipboard. Then one at a time, we're going to apply Intersect operations to each one of these surfaces with, that is to say, the circle. So with the circle selected, Shift- click on this surface right there in order to select it. Then if you want to retain the original shapes, so that you can move them around and make different decisions later on down the line, then you want a compound shape.
So go ahead and press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click on that Intersect icon in order to get this effect here. So you can see we still have the circle and we now have this surface as well united together into a dynamic compound shape, which we can edit anytime we like. Now, go ahead and click this surface. We've lost the ball at this point, but we really haven't, because it's in the clipboard. So press Ctrl+B or Command+B on the Mac to paste that ball behind the surface. Then Shift-click on the surface again to make it active and go ahead and grab that same exact icon right there.
Alt-click or Option-click on Intersect and you get this effect right there. We have one more surface to go. So click on it, press Ctrl+B, Command+B on the Mac in order to paste the ball in back. Shift-click on the surface once again so that both ball and surface are selected. Press the Alt or Option key on the Mac, and click on Intersect in order to get this effect right there. Then the final thing you need to do is select all three of these guys just to make sure all of them are active and then press Ctrl+B or Command+B on the Mac to paste the ball in back of all three. We now have this effect right there, which is very flexible. If I press the A key to get my White Arrow tool, and I Alt-click or Option-click on anyone of these surfaces, I can move it to a different location and it remains clipped inside of this ball.
Now, this is not necessarily the most efficient approach, because we have three independent compound shapes and a fourth ball in the background. We could have achieved this exact same effect using a clipping mask inside of Illustrator. We'll see how to do exactly that in the future chapter. But for now, this is a great way to achieve the effect we're looking for to combine all of these various paths into a single ghost robot, thanks to the power of Pathfinder operations here inside Illustrator.
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