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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.
All right, I'm still looking at the Plain background.ai file that I opened in the previous exercise and made a mess of as you can see right here. Now something I want you to note. I want to see down here in this twirled open Backdrop layer that we have this object that's called Mesh. So we have permanently converted this rectangle to a mesh object and there is not a command that says release the mesh and just return it to a standard rectangle. You should know that. So if we're to go ahead and get rid of all these mesh junk that's going on here. We either need to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z several times in a row or we need to go up to the File menu and choose the Revert command or press F12. Yes, we want to revert and get back to our good, undisturbed path right here.
It wasn't a very complicated path. We could redraw a rectangle as quickly as we reverted the illustration, but when you are working through your drawings, you may be working with more complicated objects. So I just want you to see that. Now this next approach that we are going to take where we are going to create a gradient and then base the gradient mesh on that gradient, gives us a lot more control, a lot more flexibility and we don't have that problem with losing our original path as you are about to see. All right so here is what I'm going to do. I'm going to go ahead and lock down once again some of the other layers right here and I'm going to lock down this path in the background, here inside the backdrop layer. So that really the visible objects. Only the yellow path is not locked at this point.
Then I'm going to meatball it to make it active and now let's go ahead and apply a gradient that I have created in advance for you. So if you go over here to the Gradient palette and you click this down pointing arrowhead and you scroll to the bottom of the list, you should see one called the Color rivers. Go ahead and click on it and you'll see this gradient right there. So it's a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 color gradient with a variety of yellows and greens and reds going on. I am going to now switch back to the Transparency palette just to give me a little more room inside the Layers palette and at this point, what I want you to see is what the original underlying template looks like because that's what we are more or less trying to match here. I'm going to go ahead and turn off the backdrop layer for a moment and you can see that we have got all these wild colors. Recall this is my acrylic painting before I essentially ruined it.
I have got all these reds and greens and yellows going on, some oranges as well, going on in this background and that's the kind of thing that I want to emulate. I want you to be able to create something along the lines of these river flows right here. And this gradient that I have created right here just helps me to establish some of the base colors. So I have something to work with in the first place. All right I'm going to go back to my black arrow tool, click on that rectangle if I can find it right there in order to make it active again, so that we can change the angle of the gradient. I'm going to grab my Gradient tool and I can see that my gradient is just running straight across at a horizontal angle.
I'm going to drag from about here to here like so, in order to create a diagonal gradient much like the one that's at work inside of my background acrylic painting that's serving as a template there. I am not sure that I wanted to be quite this long so I might rein it in just a little bit like so, drag this guy back up here, then rein this point back again. Obviously, I could rotate the gradient if I wanted to. Anyway, this looks pretty good to me. I want to make sure that I'm completely filling up the rectangle if I can. All right this looks good.
Then I might actually adjust some of these midpoints skews on the fly here because I want to deemphasize the greens a little and draw out the reds like so, so I'm moving the midpoint skews, the little diamonds on either side of the red color stop outward sort of into the green territory here. And I could do the same thing with the midpoint skew that's associated with the yellow colors stop too, drag it into the greens as well and I might move the greens inward, I might move the red upward and so on, just until I get things looking kind of the way I want them to.
Then just to make sure I'm doing what I want to do, I'll go ahead and click the eyeball for the backdrop layer to hide it for a moment. So I just want to burn this image, this acrylic painting here, into my memory for a moment. I have got some red running through this area, a green stripe here, a green stripe there, obviously it's more complicated than that as some green goes into this area and then a mass of yellow that will be cut by red later. But this looks pretty good. It looks like I have things pretty locked up at any rate. All right, any time I hide this backdrop layer, of course I deselect my path so I have to re-meatball it to make sure it's active once again. And I'm going to switch back to my Black Arrow tool, just so that I'm not seeing that gradient bar running through the middle things and now I want to go ahead and convert this Gradient to a Gradient Mesh. Well, if you go up to the Object menu, there is no command that says Convert Gradient to Gradient Mesh.
Instead what you choose is the Expand command, which is anything but obvious but this is how it works. You go ahead and choose Expand and then when you see the Expand dialog box right there, you have the option of either specifying a certain number of objects, so you could actually render every one of these colors as a band of solid fill object like so. I'll go ahead and show you what this looks like. So 255 objects is the default setting. That's a postscript thing for what's it worth, so I'll go ahead and click OK. Now if I was to go ahead and show the underlying shapes here, let's see what we have got. I'll go ahead and twirl open this group and it's got a group inside it for some reason. Notice all these paths that are at work here and if I were to get my White Arrow tool, let's see if I could show you some of these paths without making a total mess of things. It might be a little difficult. Let's go ahead and try this instead.
I will just go ahead and click on some of these path outlines to see if we can see them on screen, oh, yeah. There it is, that tiny guy right there. That's not so useful. Let's see one of the bigger ones like this, let's say. Is this one right here? You can see we are really going to have to scroll down the list if we want to get to the center of this gradient. Here is this guy. It runs right through this portion. Isn't that nifty? All right, so just tons and tons of tiny little slivers of objects here which together end up representing a gradient but we don't want that. So let's go ahead and choose Undo Expand or press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that.
So we get back to our original gradient fill shape. Instead what you do is you go to the Object menu, you choose Expand, same command of course. But instead of specifying objects, you say that you want a Gradient Mesh and you click OK and then you have a Gradient Mesh. Then to check out what that mesh looks like, notice we have a group inside of a group, which really isn't all that useful. I'm going to take this group out of that group. We don't need a double group like that. So what we need is a clipping path and that's the rectangle, so the original rectangle is retained and it's clipping, that is to say masking, this mesh that's set at an angle.
In order to see the mesh, I'll just go ahead and click on this meatball right there for the mesh object there inside of the backdrop layer. You can see now that we have a series of rows going on, these rotated rows. No columns just one big column but we can always add columns later but each one of the rows is representing a key color inside of our gradient. So we should have a total of 6 rows in all because we have 7 gradient stops, 7 lines on either side of these rows.
In order to see these guys better, I think we should change the color of the backdrop layer. I'm going to go ahead and double-click on this backdrop layer and change it from Other-- it's really all of. I don't know why it says Other. To yellow right there and click OK and now we can really see those lines very clearly. In the next exercise, we'll begin to take a look at how you edit a Gradient Mesh.
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