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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.
So we've been talking about flattening itself and how it happens and what happens in that process, but what we haven't focused on yet is exactly all the settings that you have inside of flattening. For example, when parts of your artwork do need to get rasterized, what resolution do those areas get rasterized at? Or additionally, how does Illustrator determine when artwork becomes too difficult to work with and for performance reasons it decides to rasterize areas on its own? Let's take a close took at the Flattener Settings dialog box and see exactly where all these settings come into play. I'm actually just going to simply create two regular shapes here that have some kind of transparency in them, just so that we can make that command active.
I'll change the opacity of these two shapes to 50%. So now I have at least some artwork that's selected and has some transparency inside of it. I'll go to the Object menu and I'll choose Flatten Transparency to bring up the Flatten Transparency dialog box. Now let's take a look at what we have here. I have first of all something called a Preset. We're going to focus on this in a few movies from now, instead of choosing High, Medium or Low Resolution settings here, I'm just going to leave it right now set to the Medium Resolution setting. The first thing we have to look at over here is something called a Raster/Vector Balance slider. This is a slider here which on the left side says Raster and on the right side says Vector. I have a little triangle here and notice that if I go all the way to the left, I have a setting value of 0, and if I go all the way to the right, I have a value here of 100.
So first let's understand exactly what this slider means and what it represents then we'll talk about exactly what the values actually do on this particular slider. Now we have discussed before that purely in a case of a very complex file, Illustrator may decide to rasterize certain areas of a file, strictly for performance reasons. Instead of having to worry about calculating every single overlapping shape or atomic region, Illustrator may identify an area as being very complex and in doing so it may decide to rasterize that area just so that it could print the file or process the file faster.
Now the real question here is what is considered complex to Illustrator? I mean, after all, it's a computer. What could possibly be complex? So the answer is that this slider basically determines the complexity level of what Illustrator is looking for. As you move your slider towards the left here or towards the value of 0, you're giving Illustrator more and more leeway or you're basically telling Illustrator that even that the file is somewhat complex, you're free to go ahead and rasterize areas at will. The more that you move the slider towards the right or towards the Vector side, you're telling Illustrator to keep more of your artwork vector. And only when it's really, really complex, then should you go ahead and rasterize some of that content. Now it's important to realize that there are two values on the slider that are really important: the values of 0 and of 100.
At the 0 level, you're basically telling Illustrator, you know something? Just go ahead and rasterize the entire file. Imagine, if you will, if you take everything inside of your document inside of Illustrator and you copied and pasted it and brought it into Photoshop and everything just became one image. That would be the same thing as you're printing with your file right now set to 0 on the Raster/Vector Balance slider. By choosing 0 here for Rasters, you're telling Illustrator to simply rasterize your entire document and print it as an image. If you were to move your slider all the way to the right and choose the 100 value setting, you're basically disabling Illustrator's ability to rasterize content because of performance reasons.
At the 100 setting, Illustrator's second level of rasterization does not exist. Illustrator will only rasterize things in this particular setting if it has no other choice. If rule number two of flattening, meaning don't change the appearance of your artwork, comes into play only then will Illustrator go ahead and rasterize something. But even if takes a half an hour to process your file, at this particular setting, Illustrator will go ahead and maintain all your artwork as Vectors. Now you noticed before that the default setting inside of Illustrator is set to the Medium Resolution setting and in that particular case the Raster/Vector slider is set to 75. That basically tells Illustrator that only files that get really complex should you go ahead and rasterize certain areas. But it also means that as a default setting inside of Illustrator, Illustrator does have the ability or you can say the freedom to go ahead and rasterize areas that it deems as being very complex.
Again the main reason why this is the default setting inside of Illustrator is strictly for performance reasons. Instead of having to constantly wait a very long time for your to print your documents out of a printer, by having the Raster/Vector slider set at 75, just about all of your documents for the most part will print in a pretty speedy fashion out of your printer. So now that we're aware of what the slider does, let's take a look at some of the other settings here inside of the dialog box. The first one here is called Line Art and Text Resolution. Now Illustrator is a very smart application. There may be times as we discussed where Illustrator is forced to go ahead and rasterize artwork. But Illustrator also knows what that artwork is before it rasterizes it. Is that artwork in image, for example? Is it a particular gradient, or maybe it's some text or line art? Depending on what that artwork is, it may choose to rasterize it at different resolutions. Now for example, line art and text are very clean and sharp and you want to go ahead and rasterize that at a higher resolution. Things like gradients or meshes can be rasterized at a lower resolution, because those are considered continous tone.
As such, even if that is turned into pixels, you may not be able to see any jagged areas on the edges, simply because the nature of that type of artwork. So here in the Flatten Transparency dialog box, we have the ability to choose resolutions for how different types of artwork get rasterized. Now these settings come into play for both either when Illustrator is forced to rasterize something or if you allow it, meaning you have any value other than 100 here on a particular slider. These values also choose how those objects get rasterized. So if your artwork is line art or text, Illustrator rasterizes those at 300 ppi.
If the artwork is a gradient, then those get rasterized at 150 pixels per inch. Now if you're using, for example, a rip that rasterizes artwork at 1200 ppi or 2540, you may choose to enter that value right here, of course, knowing that the file would just take that much longer to process. When it comes to Gradient or Mesh Resolution, I'll tell you that it's rare that you'd ever want to have that value over something like 300 ppi. Now there are three other options that exist right over here. One is called Covert all Text to Outlines. Now there may be times where you have certain parts of your text that overlap transparent regions.
If those areas get rasterized, in your output you may see that the rasterized text looks a little bit heavier or fatter than the rest of the text that exists purely in vector form. By choosing this option, when Illustrator performs transparency flattening, it will convert all text to outlines ensuring that all of your text does look consistent. The same thing applies here to strokes. If you convert all of your strokes to outlines again, all of your stroke weights, even if they cross transparent boundaries, by converting them to outlines will all appear consistent. Finally, there is an option here called Clip Complex Regions. Now we've already discussed what a complex region is.
Those are the areas where if your slider is set anywhere less than 100, allows Illustrator to go ahead and rasterize certain areas strictly due to performance reasons. Now as we all know, raster images are always rectangular in shape. So what the Clip Complex Regions setting does is it actually creates masks or vector masks around each of the images that are created. Well, this particular option does add a tremendous amount of complexity to your file, after all, it does add all of these masks. It does help prevent something called stitching where you may see different color shifts across a single file.
Now specifically in this Flatten Transparency dialog box, we have two additional settings. One is called Preserve Alpha Transparency and one is called Preserve Overprints and Spot Colors. Now remember that we're performing transparency flattening manually at this point. So these particular options are available because they may still apply to the artwork inside of our document. Preserve Overprints and Spot Colors will simply tell Illustrator to preserve overprints where they don't necessarily interact directly with transparency and also preserve spot colors in my file, which again are usually preserved using overprints. That's why Illustrator informs us that we need to have Overprint Preview turned on in order to see those flattened spot colors.
The Preserve Alpha Transparency setting actually flattens all transparency settings except for opacity values. The reason why that may be important is because maybe you want to take your file and your artwork and you want to bring it into a program like Flash, which does support this type of opacity, but not in the other transparency modes that Illustrator does support. Now I know that all of this information right now is a lot, especially considering that all this is contained within a single dialog box. However, the good news is that you can capture all this information using these presets right over here. But in another movie we'll learn how to create our own presets which we'll use as we need.
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