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Designs dekeConstructed, featuring best-selling author Deke McClelland, is a new series in which Deke breaks down the creation of cool designs so you can create them on your own. In this installment, Deke shows you how to make a custom gradient dot pattern with Adobe Illustrator. He begins by showing you how to load, apply, and scale the preset patterns that ship with Illustrator, and then demonstrates how to make your own gradient patterns with round and square dots. Last, he shows how to infuse your designs with energy using dynamic rotations that make your own specialized pattern wave.
In this movie, I'll show you how to load, assign, and scale one of the custom dot patterns that believe it or not ships along with Illustrator. So, for starters here, I'll go ahead and click on the text with the Black Arrow tool in order to select it. And incidentally, you can always get to the Black Arrow tool by clicking it on the first tool icon at the top of toolbox, or by pressing its keyboard shortcut, the V key. Now, in the name of full disclosure, I'll go ahead and click on the word Character here in the Control panel to bring up the character panel so that you can see that I've set the tracking for my characters to negative 80.
Which moves them closer together. You may want to do so as well, or you can apply any formatting attributes that you like. I'll go ahead and escape out of there. Now because I want to come back to this original text over and over again, I'm going to make a copy of this layer by clicking on the layer here inside the Layers panel. And then, I'll click on the Flyout menu icon in the upper right hand corner, and I'll choose Duplicate Test, which actually duplicates that entire layer as you see here. Now I'll turn off the original layer to keep it safe.
And I'll double-click on an empty portion of this layer to bring up the Layer Options dialogue box. We'll go ahead and call this layer, custom dots, and I'll change the color to light blue. And then I'll click OK. Alright, now to add those custom dots, we need to switch over to the Appearance panel. In this case of my workspace, the Appearance panel is next door. If you are not seeing it, you can go up to the Window menu and choose the Appearance command in order to bring it up. Now, notice that we are not seeing the fill and stroke attributes as we normally do when we're working with the standard path outline.
And that's because those are hidden away inside this item called Characters. But that's okay because we need to add another fill. And you do that by clicking on the Add New Fill icon in the lower left corner of the Appearance panel. And that will change your characters to black, because after all, this black fill is now sitting on top of the orange fill. Which might not make any sense, but we're going to change this black fill to a dot pattern by clicking on that swatch right there. And notice that I have medium thumbnails in my little Swatch's Pop-up panel.
And I achieve this just so that I can better see my swatches, by clicking on a little fly out menu icon there and choosing Medium Thumbnail View. Now at this point, we need to load the dot pattern, and you do that by clicking on this little library icon. Notice, it looks like a bunch of books down here in the lower left corner of the panel. And then you want to choose Patterns, then go to Basic Graphics, and then choose Basic Graphics Dots. And that'll bring up this floating panel right here. Now, I've gone ahead and scaled my panel so that I can see my patterns nine swatches wide.
And notice in my top row, I've got 10 DPI dots, and in the bottom row, I have six DPI. So, if you select the smaller value, six DPI, you're going to get bigger dots. So this is six DPI, 50%. If you want smaller dots, then you would go with 10 DPI, 50% for example. If you want tighter dots, you'd go with a higher percentage value. If you want lighter dots, then you go with the lower percentage value. I'm going to go with ten DPI, 50%, and then for now, I'll go ahead and close this floating panel.
Now, this is all very well and good, and you can see, by the way that all of the dots are uniform in size. So, in other words we're not expressing a gradient at this point in time. But let's say my dots are still too big for my taste. How do I go about scaling them? Well, you want to make sure that the Fill is selected here inside the Appearance panel. So, go ahead and give it a click. And then go up to the Effect menu, choose Distort and Transform, and choose Transform in order to bring up the Transform Effect dialog box.
And this will allow us to scale the fill independently of the letters. So, let's say I decide to take the horizontal value down to 50%, then I'll take the vertical value down to 50% as well. Now I'm not seeing anything happen on-screen. And that's because the Preview check box is off. As soon as I turn it on, however, things have gone terribly awry. We're now making the letters themselves, that are filled with a dot pen and smaller. And the dot pattern is remaining the same size as it was before, so that's exactly the opposite of the effect we want.
In order to get the effect you want, you want to turn off the Transform objects checkbox, and that will automatically turn on transform patterns. So now we're no longer transforming the letters, but we are transforming the dots. And I can take them even smaller if I want. I could reduce the horizontal value to 25%, and take the vertical value down to 25%. That's going to look pretty rotten on-screen this far out. But if we zoom in, it's going to look just fine. And in fact, I'll go ahead and click the OK button in order to accept that change.
And then I will zoom in by pressing Ctrl+Plus, or Cmd+Plus on the Mac. And you can see that the dots are resolving just fine. Well, what if that's not what you want either, you want to still scale the dots to a different size. Well, because we have applied a dynamic effect from the Effect menu, we can modify the settings any time we like. So I'll go ahead and zoom out by pressing Ctrl + 0, or Cmd + 0 on a Mac, things look pretty dreadful at this view, and I want bigger dots than this. So, to increase their size, all you need to do is make sure that the little fill here is twirled open, by which I mean it's expanded.
You click on the little so-called twirly triangle right there, and then click on the word Transform in order to modify your settings. Then, inside the Transform Effect dialog box, I'll go ahead and change both the horizontal and vertical values to 75% let's say. And then I'll turn on the Preview check box, and I can see the larger dots here on-screen. And so now I'll click OK in order to accept that change. And that friends is how you load, apply, and scale a custom dot pattern that ships along with Illustrator.
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