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Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this movie we are going to take a closer look at exactly what happens during the flattening process when transparency flattening occurs. Now I want to emphasize an important part here before we get started. I'm going to be using a manual flattening process meaning that I'm actually going to go ahead and flatten this artwork as opposed to Illustrator doing it automatically. Now obviously the reason why I'm doing this manually is because I want to be able to demonstrate exactly what happens in the process. In the automatic way when Illustrator is doing it by itself we don't really see this happening because it just happens in the background. Keeping that in mind it's usually beneficial to have Illustrator perform the flattening automatically and as we get towards the end of this particular video I think you will understand why.
Now let's take a look at the objects that I have right now on my artboard. I have two shapes. Each of these shapes are just simply regular plain vector shapes and one is filled with this blue color and one of them is filled with this red color. Now I'm going to drag the red on just about right over here, so they overlap each other. Maybe I'll do something just about like this. And what I'm going to do now is I'm going to take this red shape out here and bring it to the front. The keyboard shortcut for that is Command+Shift+] on the Mac and Ctrl+Shift+] on Windows. So now I have this shape that overlaps this shape right here. What I'm going to do is I'm going to actually specify that this particular shape has some level of transparency in it so that I can see through it and actually see the shape behind it right now.
So I'm going to go over here to my Transparency panel, I'm going to specify a blend mode of Multiply and that basically will allow me to see this overlapping area right here. Now this is possible here inside of Illustrator because Illustrator supports transparency. But as we have discussed up until now postscript does not know anything about transparency at all. In fact everything in the world of postscript is completely opaque. I right now have two objects in my file, one over here and then one over here. The red object has a Multiply attribute applied to it, which allows me to see through it to the shape beneath it. So the question that you ask yourself is if postscript does not know about transparency how will this particular part of the file print when I print it to a postscript device or when I save my file out as an EPS file? The answer is transparency flattening.
What we are going to do is we are going to actually see that Illustrator breaks this objects apart and makes them all completely opaque. It may look transparent but it really is not. And the process that kind of causes that to happen is transparency flattening process if you will. Actually abides by two rules. I like to refer to them as the two rules of flattening. The first rule is that whenever I'm sending my particular artwork to a postscript device or to an EPS file I need to first remove all the transparency from a file and that should be pretty obvious.
Obviously if I'm sending this to postscript device that does not understand transparency I need to remove that transparency before that particular construct or that artwork gets that particular device. So the first rule is clear. Get rid of all the transparency. But I have a problem though. If I were to take this object right now and get rid of its transparency meaning I set its blend mode back to Normal instead of Multiply I no longer see that other shape that was right over here. I don't see through this artwork anymore and the appearance of my artwork has changed, which would mean that if I was simply to just get rid of the transparency what I see on my screen inside of Illustrator would be very different from what I actually see that comes out of the printer. Now obviously that's a bad thing. I want to be able to actually print what I see on my screen inside of Illustrator.
So changing the blend mode or removing the transparency is not good enough. I'm going to go back over here to the pop up menu and change this back to Multiply. What I'm going to do is I'm going to now talk about the second aspect or the second rule of transparency flattening and that is while performing the first rule, so while getting rid of the transparency don't change the appearance of my artwork. So now we have these two rules basically that are in place when dealing with transparency flattening. The first rule is get rid of the transparency. The second rule is while getting rid of the transparency, don't change the appearance of the artwork.
Now I reality some things got to give. If I can't make the artwork truly transparent but I want it to look transparent I have to do something and the answer is that in this particular case here the editability of my artwork is compromised. I'm actually going to have to chop up this artwork into three distinct areas. One over here that will be red, one over here that will be this combined color of an area and then I'll have this area here which is blue. So let's see how that works. I'm actually now going to perform this flattening step manually but again like I specified before in the beginning of this movie normally this kind of step would happen automatically without you having to do anything. I'm going to select both of these shapes right here. I have two shapes with the transparency applied, I'm going to go to the Object menu and I'm going to choose a setting here called Flatten Transparency. Now this dialog box will come over here and in a future movie we'll talk more about the details of what each and everyone of these settings do.
But for now I'm simply just going to click on the OK button. And right now my file has been flattened. There is no more transparency in my file. It doesn't look any different and that's because rule number two states that Illustrator is not allowed to change the appearance of my artwork. However, all the transparency has been removed from my file. In fact if I go ahead and I use my Direct Selection tool I'll see that if I now move these objects around, my artwork has been split into three distinct opaque shapes. Yes there is no more transparency in my file. However at the same time I have compromised the editability of my file. If I want to now move one of the shapes around, if my client for example decided that they wanted that red shield to be moved somewhere else I wouldn't be able to do so because the shape has already been chopped into pieces.
Or alternatively, let me just press Undo a few times over here. If my client decided that this instead of red should be yellow, if I go ahead here and I click on this, this area here does not update and that's because it's a completely separate shape. So I lose the editability of my file once that particular flattening process happens. So here we come to the first important concept when understanding what Transparency Flattening is. It actually breaks your artwork into many, many different parts, each of those parts are completely opaque, there is no transparency in your file, but as we have just seen now it becomes incredibly difficult to edit your file after the file has been flattened and this is why I mentioned in the beginning of the movie that it's rare that you would actually want to manually perform this flattening process, because in doing so you are now saying that you can longer edit your file anymore.
Now I'm actually going to hit Undo a few times to back up to my original shapes here. So now I have my artwork here, if I click on this one and choose Normal and go back to Multiply, I now have my two overlapping shapes with the transparency here. Normally when I'm working inside of Illustrator if I wanted to now print this file it would be pretty bad if I would have to now manually flatten this artwork just to print it but then I'll no longer be able to edit my file. So what Illustrator does is that when I hit Command+P or Ctrl+P to actually print my document, Illustrator makes a copy of my file in its computer memory and what it does it actually flattens that copy of my file and it sends that flattened information on to the printer for processing. But my Illustrator file as it exists right now does not get changed at all. So the flattening happens in the print stream. It doesn't happen to my document and that allows me to actually design something on my screen and have it print and look the exact same way. That flattening process happens in the background.
Now you may be looking at all this and say okay, Mordy, I get it, but why do we even have to know about all this? Basically Illustrator takes care of all the flattening in the background and what I see on my screen is eventually what I'm also going to see when I print out my document, why should I care how Illustrator has to go through to jump through all these hoops to make that process happen? The answer is that what we are looking at right now is a simply case. I have two regular plain vector shapes that overlap each other with some transparency applied. However when I start to introduce some other things inside of my file I may begin to see some side effects happening due to this flattening process. Let's take a closer look.
Right now I still have my two shapes here, this shape is filled with a solid red, I'm actually going to change these, instead of these filled with solid colors, so I'll select this shape over here and I'll fill this with maybe a rainbow gradient and I'll click on this shape here and fill that with a regular plain black to white gradient and I'll use my Gradient tool here to actually change this particular gradient to go on an angle. Maybe we'll go in the other direction here so we get kind of a darker area here. So now we'll take a closer look at the shapes that we have just created. I now have the same two vector shapes but instead of solid colors they are not filled with gradients. So I know that when I process this right now because this object on top is set to Multiply, Illustrator in the flattening process will actually need to chop it into three pieces. I'll have one piece over here, one piece which is the transparent overlapping area here and then another piece over here as well.
Now this particular part of the shape over here can definitely be filled with a gradient as can this over here but let's take a closer look at this overlapping area right here. This is currently made up of two overlapping gradients that are traveling in different directions. Now if for a moment we think about the two rules of transparency flattening that we have learned the first rule stated that I must get rid of the transparency that's fine, but the second rule stated that I can't change the appearance of my artwork when I remove that transparency. Now if I chop this piece of artwork into three distinct areas what I'm going to fill in this area here to maintain my appearance, I already know that a vector itself cannot contain a gradient that travels in two different directions. So because of this rule number two in Transparency Flattening meaning I can't change the appearance of my artwork Illustrator is only left with one possible solution and that's to actually convert just this overlapping area into an image because as an image or a raster file I can actually create this exact appearance. So let's take a look and see exactly how that happens.
I am going to again select both of these shapes right here, again I have two vector objects and those objects are filled with gradients and the top object is set with a transparency blend mode. I'm now going to go to the Object menu and once again I'm going to choose Flatten Transparency. I'll just click on the regular settings over here, click OK and again my file has now been flattened. But let's take a look at it. I'm going to use my Direct Selection tool here to select this piece of the artwork and move it over here, a regular vector shape with a gradient. The same applies for this shape right here. However this shape is actually an image. If I look at my Appearance panel I see that I have image pixels here, which has been placed inside of a vector mask.
So I'll press Undo a few times to bring this back over here. While yes, my file right now is actually flattened there is no more transparency in my file, that particular process has also forced part of my file to become rasterized. Now in the world of Illustrator we are familiar with the concept of scalability. We know that when we create vector objects we can scale them to just about any size. However as I have just shown right here there may be times when you are using transparency that parts of your file become rasterized and as such scaling them infinitely is not possible. Now you may be asking yourself this question, okay I understand that that particular shape now has become rasterized but what resolution is it? Is it a high-res image? Is it a low-res image? The answer is in this case right here if I click on it I can see in my control panel here that it is listed as 150 pixels per inch and that's a default setting inside of Illustrator. What we'll do in the future movie is talk about how to modify those particular settings to get the transparency flattening to be just right for any need that we have.
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