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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 chapter, we are going to take a look at two of the oldest and most powerful features in all of Illustrator and to really understand what's going on with them, it's important to put them in historical context in my opinion, so you get a sense of just how old they are and why they grew up the way they did because they're fairly cantankerous features in a lot of ways but they are so good and they go by the names of blends and masks. So here is the idea. Once upon a time, there were no gradients inside of Illustrator. This is back in Illustrator 1.0. There was no way to create a fountain of colors. In fact, truth be told, there was no way to create colors.
It was just a black and white program. And then there is other whippersnapper of an application comes along that would ultimately be called Freehand and it not only includes color but it has the freehand drawing tool something that Illustrator didn't have, the equivalent to the Pencil tool. Then it also had a Gradient tool. Well, Adobe in its infinite wisdom decided that a gradient tool was not good enough for Illustrator. In fact, they didn't end up adding a Gradient tool to Illustrator until Version 5. So when Version 2 came along, which was known as Illustrator 88, they decided to add this thing called the Blend tool right there, which allowed you to blend between objects and I'll show you what that means in just a moment. That way, you could construct your own custom gradients and do a lot of other stuff as well.
And it was simultaneously not as good as Freehand's Gradient tool because it was weird and was harder to use and harder to understand and at the same time, it was much more powerful, which remains the case. If you were to compare the Blend tool with the Gradient tool, it is simultaneously more difficult to use and at the same time more powerful as well. All right, so I have opened up this document called Lone ghost.ai. I'd like you to open it as well and it features to return of the ghost robot but this time he is not inside the fistful of fiction magazine cover and he's got a more positive message. Instead of saying, "Boo" he is saying "2'oo" because he's come back, don't you see? I know it looks just like Zoo or 200 or something but that won't make any sense, he is saying 2-o-o.
Anyway, here's what we are going to do. I'm going to zoom out from this guy and let's take a look at this backdrop layer right there. In fact, I want to make sure we can't modify anything except the backdrop layer, so why don't you Alt-click or Option-click right there in the lock column in front of backdrop to lock everybody but that layer. And then I'm going to twirl it open and you'll see that we have got a rectangle here in the background. I am going to go ahead and meatball it to make it active and then I'll grab my Gradient tool, so that we can see that the rectangle is filled with a gradient that goes from orange to blue and finally up to this very deep purple up here.
And in front of that, I have objects that represent each one of those exact same colors and we can blend between these objects in order to construct our own custom gradient that we'll then clip inside of a mask. All right, at first it's going to seem like why would you do that that's just a bunch of busy work, later you'll understand just how terrifically powerful it can be and it will become just another tool in your arsenal, of course. All right, so to really see what's going on I'm going to go ahead and take this rectangle and fill it with some other colors, something that's completely different so that we can see the blended objects and fold before us. So I'm going to go ahead and change that fill to something completely shocking and aberrant and different like green and quite ugly in this case but that's okay.
All right, so now I'm going to go ahead and meatball those objects and they are grouped together for what it's worth, and you can work with a group if you want to, that's perfectly acceptable. The simplest way to blend objects inside of Illustrator is to go up to the Object menu. This is not the only way. We'll see another way later, but go up to the Object menu, choose the Blend command and choose Make, and that's got a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac and that will blend between these objects as you can see. Now it's not blending between the objects in a proper order. It's going from orange up to purple and then back down to blue. Why is it doing that? Because I have a problem with my stacking order.
So if I go ahead and twirl open objects and then twirl open this new item blend which houses of our individual objects. You can see that I went ahead and put the top object, the purple object between middle and base and that was a mistake. It really should be topped on top of middle, on top of base so that things pursue in the proper order. So did you get that? When you are blending, you are blending from the top object to the next object down to the next object down and so on, and you can't blend between multiple objects as we are doing here. All right so you'd think because this blend is a live, modifiable on the flying object, you would think you could grab this top object right there, and move it to the top of the stack, move it above the middle and that would solve our problem. Instead it just creates a different problem.
It is now blending from the deep purple object to the blue object and then to the peach colored object down here. Problem is that it went ahead and reversed the placement of the purple object in the blue objects. And actually what it did was they are both on top of each other. Now the purple object has moved down here but this path of the blend, this item right there now is going up and then back down, and that's because you get a path associated with your blend anytime that your blended objects are separated geographically from each other, as there are in our case.
The path will stay the same path, once it's created unless you modify it, it's going to remain that same path so it was messed up in the first place and it's messed up now. So this obviously is not what we want. So what do we do about this? Well I'm going to show you how to solve this and other blending problems in the next exercise.
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