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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.
These next two exercises are all about limitations that are associated with gradients, and how you work around those limitations. Which is why I have gone ahead and saved my progress document as Gradient work-arounds.ai. And here is the deal. Even though we have seen just these amazingly powerful features that are associated with gradients and gradient mesh inside of Illustrator CS4, just well beyond anything that you can do in any other application, it's just truly, truly amazing, there are two of the most bizarre limitations ever. I mean in fact when I tell them to you, you might be tempted not even to believe me. Here they are.
You cannot apply gradients to strokes. You can to fills. We have seen many fills. We've seen many fills, you can apply as many gradients as you want to fill so you can stack up gradient on top of gradient on top gradient, but strokes nothing. And then here is the one that's just a baffler. You can't apply gradients to live editable text. Now that's actually not true, you can, there is a work around. But it so infinitely bizarre as to be the kind of thing you would never discover on your own.
So let me show you how these wonderful things work. Let's go ahead and zoom in on this spiral, right here. And I'm going to click on it to make it active, first though actually I better unlock this accents layer. So I'm going to lock down the backdrop so I don't mess it up. And then I'm going to unlock the accents layer because that's where this spiral resides. And then I'll click on it in order to make it active and you can see it's not a spiral I drew with the Spiral tool. Rather it's actually a free -form polygon that I then turned around and applied the Round Corners effect to. And you may recall how we can use Round Corners when we discussed the Pen tool way back, when I showed you how you can use the Round Corners effect in order to create spline curves and that's what we have right here.
So I'm going to go ahead and twirl open this accents layer, so that we can see here is the Path, right there. It's just a single path. It's got a double stroke associated with it. So let's go over to the Appearance palette. And you can see that we have got a 5 pt beige stroke on top of the 7 pt black stroke. And because the 7 pt black stroke extends one point in one direction and one point the other direction in back of beige stroke. It appears as if we have five points of beige with a one- point stroke around either side. All right, so let's say we want to take that five points of beige right there, and change it to a gradient. And ideally, the gradient would actually wrap around the stroke, wouldn't that be great? Not possible at all, but wouldn't it? Anyway go up to the Gradient palette. It's just sitting there going. Yup, sure. If you want to apply a gradient, you sure can. And if you go down here to the bottom of the toolbox you'll notice this Gradient is open too.
So nothing is dimmed, there is nothing to give you any indication whatsoever that this is going to not work. So go ahead and click on the Gradient in order to apply it, and this is Illustrators way of saying, you nut, you can't apply a gradient to a stroke, get out of town. You must have meant that you wanted the gradient to be applied to the fill. So I'll go ahead and do that for you. When of course, it's like Illustrator if you have any notion of what I'm looking at here, you would know that's not what I want. So go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. If it sounds like I'm a little bit exasperated about this, it's because I have been giving this same description for 20 years. I'm so tired of this limitation.
So anyway, but I don't want to curse the darkness people, let's shine some light on things. What you do? Well, things have got a little better actually. The workaround works better then it ever has, that they actually took a step out of my work around which is nice, in which they take this entire exercise away for me, just by making it work. But anyway here is what you do. Isolate the stroke that you want to fill with a Gradient. So in my case I want the beige stroke, and this is very important that you do this because otherwise if you have got more than one stroke, Illustrator can get mixed up and go after the wrong one. So go ahead and select the stroke that you want to modify, and then go up to the Object menu, choose Path, and choose Outline Stroke. Or if you loaded Deke keys then you would press Ctrl+Backslash or Command+Backslash on the Mac. And what's amazing about this, and this really is pretty truly amazing, is that Illustrator does just suck out that one stroke and convert it to a path, and it will leaves the other strokes alone.
So let me show you what I'm taking about. I'll go over to the Layers palette. Here I'm inside the accents layer. Notice my Path is no longer a path, now it's a Group. And it includes two items this Path, and this Path. Now this meatball is hollow indicating that there is no dynamic effects associated with it, no transparency, no nothing. And if I just take a look at the attributes down here at the bottom of the toolbox. You can see that I have no stroke anymore, and I have a beige fill associated with this Path outline. Otherwise if I go over to Appearance, we no longer have the Round Corners effect. That's gone. We just have a static regular old everyday Path. Whereas I'll go back to Layers once again, scroll down, here is my other Path, which has a volumetric meatball right there. So I'll click on it. And you can see now, let's go back to Appearance, we have a stroke, so that's -- the 7 pt stroke survives. We have no Fill just like before, and we have the Round Corners effect.
And so I could click on it if I wanted to change the amount of roundness, of course I don't because it would no longer match the beige stroke in front of it. But I want you to see that, the stroke that I do not select is left intact, which is actually a pretty radical thing. And that is new to Illustrator CS4. They did go ahead and give me that one. Apparently somebody has been watching my exasperated exercises here and decided to take care of that one. But anyway we used to have to expand the Appearance, used to have some other problems associated with Round Corners. All right, so anyway, now I'm going to meatball this Path right there. And guess what, I can apply a Gradient to its Fill because you can apply Gradients to Fills inside of Illustrator. So I'll press the I key in order to get the Eyedropper and then I'll just click inside this leg, let's say, and that will become the Gradient that's associated with my spiral. Now because I clicked inside of that leg, I lifted all of its attributes.
So that includes a Fill and a stroke attribute. I don't want this stroke so I would make my stroke active by pressing the X key because right now the Fill is active. And then I would press the standard slash key in order to set it to none to get rid of that stroke right there. And now we have a Fill. All right, great, now I'm going to go ahead and zoom out. Let's do the same thing with these guys and you can do it with multiple strokes at the same time. So I'll go ahead and click on this one and Shift-click on this one, and they have the same thing going on. That is to say they are free-form polygons that have Round Corners associated with them, and you can see the Round Corner effect right there. If you turn it off, you will see that it is indeed just regular old free-form sharp cornered polygons.
All right, I'll turn the Round Corners back on and what I'm going to do here is I'm going to click on a stroke that I want to change. It's very important once again that you do that, then go up to the Object menu, choose Path, and choose Outline Stroke. And you are going to cut these up into two groups now, go back to the Layers palette. And let's go ahead and expand these Groups, this one and this one right there. Meatball the beige Path, Shift meatball this beige Path so that you have got both of the filled Paths selected here. Get your Eyedropper tool by pressing the I key and click inside of the spiral in order to lift those gradients.
And then the final step of course is to set the gradients in the right direction. So go ahead and switch to the Gradient tool and I'm going to move the beginning of this gradient way over here. It didn't work because I would like to center the gradient. I think it's going in this direction. So I have got to first change its direction like that. And then I'm going to have to change its length like that pretty far, so that I have room to work. And then I'll move this guy back over here. And go ahead and drag this out a little more. That looks actually just fine. Now let's do the same thing here. I want to rotate this guy like so, move it over. Let's go ahead and move this here if we can, if it let's me. It did.
Good. And then I'll make this one longer and we have two delightful gradients inside of strokes. Now the one that's associated with the spiral, I'm not that happy with, because what I really wanted, I'm going to go ahead and get my Black Arrow tool and click here on the spiral outline in order to make it active. And that's not what I wanted of course because I got both the fill and stroke, but you know what? That's going to work out okay. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+H, Command+H on the Mac. It's not going to give me the option I want in the Gradient palette. So I'm going to have the meatball this Path right here. All right, that's good. That will now work. I think it definitely ought to work. If I were to switch to the fill, that's my problem. Press the X key to make the fill active. All right, now here is the idea, what I would like ideally is I would like you to start dark, let's say and get lighter continuously as it goes toward the center of the object. And were this a true gradient stroke, I would be able to pull that off, no problem. I can't get that effect at all using a Linear Gradient, but I can get something resembling it using a Radial Gradient.
So let's go ahead and try that out. And then I'll go ahead and grab my Gradient tool once again and let's make my gradient bigger, like so. And I could fool around with the center, and I could adjust the angle if I wanted to, and so on until I get the effect that I'm looking for. And this looks pretty good. All right, so I'll go ahead and zoom out. There are our gradient strokes. They are not really gradients strokes; they are actually now filled objects that are filled with gradients. But that is your work around my friends. In the next exercise, I'll show you the kookiest, craziest work around you ever done did see that permits you to apply a gradient to live text inside Illustrator.
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