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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.
In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the new and improved Gradient tool inside of Illustrator CS4. I've gone ahead and saved my progress as Textured cushion.ai. Now that I've gone ahead and assigned the desired gradient and texture to this paddle cushion, I want to go ahead and apply a gradient to the background green. If we take a look at the Final gradient effect.ai file, you can see that we have this rich lustrous background going on. Not so much as if the paddle is sitting on top of the ping-pong table, almost as if it's sitting on top of a pool table or something. That's just gorgeous.
Anyway, we can accomplish this effect using gradients of course, and there is actually two gradients working together, a Linear Gradient and a Radial Gradient, applied to the same object here. We're going to start with the Linear Gradient, so I'm going to return to the Textured cushion.ai file, and I'm going to zoom out a bit here. I'm going to select this rectangle right there. That's that work in the background, and let's go ahead and use the green that's assigned to this rectangle as the base color for our new gradient.
So we'll do that. Right now I've got the Gradient palette showing my red gradient right there. That's fine. I don't care. I'm going to go ahead and grab my green color swatch here inside the Color palette, so I'll grab the green swatch and I'll drag it and drop it on the left side of the gradient bar in order to replace that red with green, and now we're fading to red, which is entirely wrong. That's okay. Now I'm going to show you how to work with the Gradient tool. Now that we've assigned a gradient to the shape, we can modify that gradient using the Gradient tool. It's right here. Notice it has a keyboard shortcut of G. It's been with us inside of Illustrator for a long, long time now. However, this version of the tool inside of Illustrator CS4 is so different from the previous version as to be called new. It really is for all intents and purposes a new tool inside of Illustrator CS4.
So go ahead and select it. We have this line that's showing us the direction of the gradient. So the circle marks the beginning of the gradient right there. Notice if you hover over this line, it's going to turn into a gradient bar, complete with color stops and so on. So the circle represents the beginning of the gradient, and the diamond represents the end of the gradient. If you move your cursor off of that diamond, it turns into a square, sort of oddly. Some of the behavior that's associated with this line, I don't really care for, but generally speaking, it's a vast improvement over the old days.
But here is what you've got to do. You start things off by angling the line, in our case, because I want the gradient to extend from the upper left corner of the rectangle, from exactly that corner, by the way, to the lower right corner of the rectangle. So I need to change the angle of my gradient, and I do that by moving my cursor very close to but not totally over the square, the end of the gradient. It doesn't work over here on the beginning of the gradient. You can't angle over on this side. You have to angle over on this side. So look for the square, move your cursor close to it, and then start to drag in, once you get that rotate cursor.
Now, you're going to get this kind of weird effect right here, where you're moving the line off the screen, and you've got this weird dotted rectangle going on. The weird dotted rectangle is a thing you want to pay attention to, and specifically, you want to pay attention to the opposite parallel line, in other words, the dotted line that's parallel to the line that you're drawing, because that's where your line is really going to go. This is kind of a confusing item, but once you get used to it, it makes sense, but keep an eye on where that dotted line is and release, and notice the line will move to the dotted position, see that. So it goes ahead and snaps up to that dotted position, because that represents the full extension of the gradient.
Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to drag the circle, and when you drag the circle, you don't stretch the gradient, notice that you actually move the gradient, you move the entire gradient to a new location, and again, you want to keep an eye on that dotted line, because that indicates where the gradient bar is really going to rest once you release it. Then if you want to extend the gradient, make it longer or shorter, then you drag the diamond, like so, so you can either extend the gradient one direction or shrink it the other direction, like that. I want it to be long enough to cover the entire rectangle, corner to corner, so this looks pretty good. I need to do a little more rotating, so I'll go ahead and drag very close to that square/ diamond thing right there, and again, I'm keeping an eye on the dotted line, release when I have it in place, and this looks good to me.
What doesn't look good of course is the color of the gradient, and I'll show you how to change the color using the Gradient tool in the next exercise.
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