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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.
Another great new innovation in Illustrator CS4 where gradients are concerned is your ability to change the opacity of a color stop, so you can make opaque to transparent gradients, if you like. And that's exactly what we're going to do in order to create a vignetting effect. I'll show you what that means. But first, I've gone ahead and saved my progress as Background gradients.ai, and if you switch over to the Final gradient effect right here, you'll see that our background is a little bit darker because we have a vignette effect surrounding the corners of the illustration. And a vignette, by the way, is a photographic effect that's created by the lens element, casting a shadow on the photographic image. We can achieve such an effect here inside of Illustrator as well.
All right, so I'm going to switch back to the Background gradients.ai file and I'm going to zoom out. What I want to do is I want to create a new layer. So click on the Logo layer to make sure that it's active. Then go down to the little Page icon and Alt-click or Option-click on it to bring up the Layer Options dialog box. We're going to call this new layer Vignette, and I want you to change the color of the layer from yellow to green. It's very important, if you're working along with me, that you make a new layer for this vignetting gradient, because we're going to be doing some weird stuff to the Logo layer later and we don't want it to affect the gradient. So you don't want to have that gradient on the same layer as Logo.
Anyway, go ahead and click OK. We've got this new vignette layer right there. Get your Rectangle tool and draw a rectangle from corner to opposite corner, the direction of your drag is irrelevant, do whatever you want there. In my case, the rectangle ends up being filled with white, you want to make sure that your rectangle is filled with a nondescript color as well, because we want to start over from scratch, where making this new gradient is concerned. I do not, however, want a stroke. So I'm going to switch over to the Stroke here and I'm going to change it to None. Then I'll go back to the Fill, in my case, just by pressing the X key, what have you, and go to the Gradient palette. Click the down-pointing arrowhead and switch your gradient to Black, White right there, like so.
Now it's going to appear as a linear gradient, we don't want that, because we want a vignetting effect that's surrounding all of the corners of this rectangle. We need a radial gradient. That's going from the center white to the outskirts black. So change the Type to Radial, like so, and it will look like this. All right, now this is garbage, obviously, this isn't what I want. I want this gradient to blend with the underlying illustration, of course. So I want this center to be absolutely transparent. So I could click the white color stop and I could change its opacity from 100% to 0%, like so. I press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac and I get this totally horrible effect right there.
The reason it looks so very, very bad is because we're going from opaque black to transparent white. So that means in between where we're sort of 50-50 here, we've got gray. So we have 50% opaque gray, which looks terrible and it's just kind of casting this awful gloomy cloud over our illustration. It ruins everything that we've done, frankly. So what do we want to do? Well, we want both of the color stops to be exactly of the same color. So let's first figure out what this initial color stop is and it's 100% K. Now I could make it look better, by the way, by switching it a rich black, if I wanted to.
I could go over to CMYK right here and I could change the C, M and Y values to, like 50% across the board or 60% across the board or something along those lines. But it's not really worth it. We don't need to do that. We just need to make sure that this white swatch is the same that is black as well. So go ahead and click on that white swatch and switch over to CMYK just so that we're matching everything and change the K value to 100%, leave C, M and Y alone, leave them set to 0%. We get this effect here, which is better.
Now it's not best but it's much better than it was before. So we have a gradient that's turning transparent towards the center of the rectangle. Now, I'm going to zoom out and I'm going to switch over to the Gradient tool so that we can makes some further modifications. Now you can make all the changes we've made so far with the exception of changing the Type to Radial. You can make all those changes using the Gradient tool. So, for example, if I double-clicked on this first color swatch, I could change its Opacity to 0%. I could also change its Location value, which I'm going to. I'm going to change the Location value to 50%, like so, so that we open up some of the central portion of the illustration.
So notice now if you take a look at this, the first color stop begins at this location here. So this entire region right around here is absolutely transparent, going all the way over to here and upward as well. Let's extend the gradient so it's longer, like so, and also I want the gradient to be elliptical once again because after all our artboard is wider than it is tall. So it's not an absolute square, so similarly our Radial gradient cannot be circular. It needs to be elliptical. So I'm going to reduce the height of the gradient to somewhere in the 70% range, where the aspect ratio is concerned. Then I'll increase the size of the gradient until the ellipse is touching its tangential, as they say, to the corners of this rectangle. Nifty! That looks great actually.
Okay, the only thing that doesn't look great is that we have some greyness associated with this black gradient that we're applying. That's because we're not working with rich blacks, we're working with these sort of tiny blacks right here that are just 100% K and nothing else. As I say, we could change the Cyan, Magenta and Yellow values, but why bother? When all we need to do is make sure, by the way, that your entire rectangle is selected here with the Black Arrow tool. What I mean is if you go to the Appearance palette, we don't want just the fill to be active or just the stroke to be active or something like that, we want the entire path to be active there.
Then I want you to go up to the word Opacity up here in the Control palette, click on it. Let's go ahead and change the blend mode from Normal to our shading mode that we've already seen twice now inside of this chapter, and that is Multiply. So when in doubt, Multiply is your great blend mode for burning in those shadows and making them look nice and rich and wonderful and colorful and so on. Notice the difference. It looks so much better now. So this was before, by the way, that's Normal, and this is after, that's Multiply, beautiful! Now it's too dark, so I'm going to change the Opacity value to 50%, like so, good. Now let's zoom in a couple of clicks here. I'm going to click off the rectangle to deselect it. Let's go back to the Layers palette.
So if I turn off the Vignette layer, this is what the illustration looked like at the outside of this exercise, little lighter and this is what the illustration looks like now with the Vignette layer, a little bit of darkness surrounding the entire illustration. It adds a little bit of mood lighting to our wonderfully mysterious Ping Pong paddle. In the next exercise, we'll begin to add another kind of gradient inside of Illustrator in the form of drop shadows.
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