Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustration by Richard Downs

Making vector-based adjustments


Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

with Mordy Golding

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Video: Making vector-based adjustments

We know that by using the Live Trace feature inside of Illustrator, we can trace objects using the fill tracing method, the strokes tracing method or combination of fills and strokes. But whether you use fills or strokes, when you trace your objects, there are many other settings that apply to how Illustrator precisely converts the pixels into paths. So let's take a look at some of these vector adjustments. I'm going to start off by selecting this object right over here. Let me zoom in on really close, so we could see what we are doing, and I'll position that just over here on the left side of the screen.
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  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
    2. Drawing in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    3. Creating a Live Paint group
      2m 54s
    4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      3m 17s
    5. Using Live Paint with open paths
      2m 29s
    6. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      4m 17s
    7. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      3m 41s
    8. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 44s
    9. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 55s
    10. Understanding how Live Paint groups work
      3m 4s
  3. 49m 35s
    1. Introducing the trace options
    2. Setting expectations: Live Trace
      2m 26s
    3. Using the Live Trace feature
      1m 51s
    4. Understanding how Live Trace works
      5m 41s
    5. Making raster-based adjustments
      5m 52s
    6. Tracing with fills, strokes, or both
      2m 55s
    7. Making vector-based adjustments
      6m 12s
    8. Adjusting colors in Live Trace
      4m 39s
    9. Using Photoshop with Live Trace
      5m 22s
    10. Releasing and expanding Live Trace artwork
      2m 57s
    11. Saving and exporting Live Trace presets
      2m 36s
    12. Tracing in Batch mode with Adobe Bridge
      1m 35s
    13. Turning an image into mosaic tiles
      2m 28s
    14. Tracing an image manually
      4m 22s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introducing 3D
    2. Setting expectations: 3D in Illustrator
      2m 53s
    3. How fills and strokes affect 3D artwork
      4m 43s
    4. Applying the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect
      6m 25s
    5. Applying a bevel
      5m 40s
    6. Showing the hidden faces of a 3D object
      4m 49s
    7. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 22s
    8. Visualizing the revolve axis
      3m 5s
    9. Applying the 3D Rotate effect
      1m 35s
    10. Adjusting surface settings
      9m 33s
    11. Understanding the importance of 3D and groups
      3m 24s
    12. Preparing art for mapping
      10m 19s
    13. Mapping artwork to a 3D surface
      14m 21s
    14. Hiding geometry with 3D artwork mapping
      4m 0s
    15. Extending the use of 3D in Illustrator
      8m 7s
  5. 44m 37s
    1. Introducing transformations and effects
    2. Using the Transform panel
      12m 37s
    3. Repeating transformations
      5m 23s
    4. Using the Transform Each function
      3m 48s
    5. Using the Convert to Shape effects
      5m 49s
    6. Using the Distort & Transform effects
      5m 12s
    7. Using the Path effects
      6m 58s
    8. Using the Pathfinder effects
      4m 18s
  6. 28m 24s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 47s
    4. Previewing graphic styles
      2m 10s
    5. Modifying graphic styles
      3m 30s
    6. Understanding graphic styles for text
      3m 16s
  7. 22m 49s
    1. Introducing advanced masking techniques
    2. Understanding clipping masks
      7m 15s
    3. Using layer clipping masks
      6m 30s
    4. Creating opacity masks
      8m 32s
  8. 1h 6m
    1. Introducing color
    2. Considering three types of color swatches
      7m 7s
    3. Managing color groups
      2m 58s
    4. Understanding the HSB color wheel
      3m 57s
    5. Understanding color harmonies
      2m 58s
    6. Using the color guide
      3m 54s
    7. Limiting the color guide
      3m 17s
    8. Modifying color with the Recolor Artwork feature
      6m 25s
    9. Using the Edit tab to adjust color
      5m 44s
    10. Using the Assign tab to replace colors
      8m 37s
    11. Making global color adjustments
      2m 17s
    12. Using Recolor options
      7m 3s
    13. Converting artwork to grayscale
      3m 23s
    14. Simulating artwork on different devices
      3m 18s
    15. Accessing Kuler directly from Illustrator
      2m 7s
    16. Ensuring high contrast for color-blind people
      2m 42s
  9. 53m 19s
    1. Introducing transparency
    2. Understanding transparency flattening
      2m 31s
    3. Exercising the two rules of transparency flattening
      10m 53s
    4. Understanding complex regions in transparency flattening
      4m 50s
    5. Exploring the transparency flattener settings
      8m 37s
    6. Using transparency flattening and object stacking order
      6m 39s
    7. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      6m 31s
    8. Creating and sharing Transparency Flattener presets
      2m 25s
    9. Working within an EPS workflow
      5m 3s
    10. Understanding the Illustrator and InDesign workflow
      5m 10s
  10. 50m 1s
    1. Introducing prepress and output
    2. Understanding resolutions
      8m 27s
    3. Discovering RGB and CMYK "gotchas"
      5m 42s
    4. Using Overprints and Overprint Preview
      7m 43s
    5. Understanding "book color" and proofing spot colors
      8m 1s
    6. Collecting vital information with Document Info
      2m 28s
    7. Previewing color separations onscreen
      1m 12s
    8. Making 3D artwork look good
      2m 16s
    9. Seeing white lines and knowing what to do about them
      2m 41s
    10. Creating "bulletproof" press-ready PDF files
      3m 45s
    11. Protecting content with secure PDFs
      2m 48s
    12. Using PDF presets
      2m 47s
    13. Moving forward: The Adobe PDF Print Engine
      1m 48s
  11. 35m 44s
    1. Introducing distortions
    2. Using the Warp effect
      4m 20s
    3. The Warp effect vs. envelope distortion
      3m 48s
    4. Applying the Make with Warp envelope distortion
      2m 45s
    5. Applying the Make with Mesh envelope distortion
      2m 41s
    6. Applying the Make with Top Object envelope distortion
      3m 45s
    7. Editing envelopes
      5m 0s
    8. Adjusting envelope settings
      4m 2s
    9. Releasing and expanding envelope distortions
      1m 45s
    10. Applying envelope distortions to text
      1m 27s
    11. Using the liquify distortion tools
      3m 5s
    12. Customizing the liquify tools
      2m 39s
  12. 28m 56s
    1. Introducing blends
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    5. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    6. Replacing the spine of a blend
      4m 32s
    7. Reversing the direction of a blend
      2m 15s
    8. Releasing and expanding a blend
      1m 47s
  13. 46m 56s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
    2. Setting expectations: Graphs in Illustrator
      3m 19s
    3. Creating a chart
      8m 2s
    4. Importing data
      3m 34s
    5. Formatting data
      5m 1s
    6. Customizing a chart
      10m 22s
    7. Combining chart types
      2m 40s
    8. Creating graph designs
      6m 0s
    9. Styling and updating graphs
      5m 33s
    10. Ungrouping graphs
      1m 49s
  14. 26m 36s
    1. Introducing Gradient Mesh
    2. Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature
      9m 34s
    3. Using Gradient Mesh to add contoured shading
      6m 14s
    4. Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects
      10m 25s
  15. 8m 18s
    1. Introducing flare effects
    2. Drawing a lens flare
      3m 28s
    3. Modifying a lens flare
      1m 27s
    4. Using a mask with lens flares
      2m 58s
  16. 29s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
9h 42m Intermediate Apr 03, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tracing artwork both automatically and manually
  • Mapping artwork to complex 3D surfaces
  • Using pressure-sensitive distortion tools
  • Recoloring artwork across a document
  • Using Excel data to create charts and graphs
  • Understanding how transparency really works
  • Creating high-quality, press-ready PDFs
  • Building efficient files with graphic styles
Mordy Golding

Making vector-based adjustments

We know that by using the Live Trace feature inside of Illustrator, we can trace objects using the fill tracing method, the strokes tracing method or combination of fills and strokes. But whether you use fills or strokes, when you trace your objects, there are many other settings that apply to how Illustrator precisely converts the pixels into paths. So let's take a look at some of these vector adjustments. I'm going to start off by selecting this object right over here. Let me zoom in on really close, so we could see what we are doing, and I'll position that just over here on the left side of the screen.

With the object selected, I'll simply go ahead and open up my Tracing Options dialog box, and I'll click on the Preview button so I can see what's happening here. Now because I'm using the default tracing right now, which uses a fills option, you can see that these two options here, Maximum stroke weight and Minimum stroke length, are currently grayed out. That's because these settings only apply when you are using the strokes option. So I'll go ahead and I'll turn strokes on. Let's turn off fills now for a moment, so that we can see what these two settings do. The Maximum stroke weight defines how thick of a stroke or how heavy of a stroke Illustrator can use when tracing the object. You'll notice that it has some strokes that are very thin in weight, and some that are much heavier. This setting simply determines how thick of a stroke Illustrator can use. Sometimes I may reduce this to a very low number, for example, like 1 pixel, just so that they are all consistent.

At the same time in this case here, it kind of does a trace where again the exterior of the object is traced, which doesn't really help me if all I want is a centerline of an object. I also have the ability to set a Minimum stroke length, which gives me control over how long each path will be that is drawn. By setting a higher number here, I'll ensure that I don't get all these minuscule paths that are broken up inside of my trace. In this particular example, I really won't see a difference by changing this value, because I have one long continuous path. There are three of those settings that are here. One is called Path Fitting, Minimum Area, and Corner Angle.

For now, let's take a look at the Path Fitting and Corner Angle Settings. To better illustrate what these settings do, I'm going to turn the fill setting back on, and turn off strokes. What the Path Fitting setting does, it actually controls how close the vector path match the underlined pixels. In general, using a low number for Path Fitting will increase the number of anchor points used in my trace. And I'll close the trace to closely match exactly how the pixels are positioned. Using a higher number, it starts to reduce the number of anchor points used and also smoothes out the path.

Let me show you what I mean, if I change my Path Fitting here for example to 0. That means that the trace that I create is actually going to match perfectly, to the way the pixels are. Now because this is a low-resolution image, the trace is now simply drawing over the exact edges of the pixel. Now if I'm going ahead, and I'm looking for a nice, smooth and clean path, this is certainly not the way to go. In addition, take a look at how many anchor points I have now. By setting my Path Fitting setting to 0, I now have close to 20,000 anchor points in my object. By going to the default setting of 2 pixels here, now do I see a nice, clean smooth path. I have also reduced the number of anchor points to 323. Overall, the Path Fitting setting is probably one of the most dramatic effects on the appearance of your trace. I use a higher number, for example, 4 pixels, and you will see that now the paths start to smooth out even more, and also seem to take on some kind of interpretation on their own, rather than matching the pixels perfectly, it's just using them as a base to create some new type of artwork. Let me set it back to the 2 pixel setting, which is the default setting that's here, and let's take a look at the Corner Angle setting.

Now right now in this trace I have some points that are here, and then I have some smooth areas as well. The Corner Angle setting simply determines at what point the paths anchor points become smooth anchor points, rather than corner anchor points. For example, focus on these nice smooth lines that appear here on the trace. I'm going to set my Corner Angle here to 0, again to the extreme, and you can see that now instead of a smooth line, it kind of has a little point here, and a point here as well. Notice these other points that appear here. By increasing the corner angle, I'm telling some of those points to convert into smooth curves. The higher of a number I go, and I can go all the way up to 180, the smoother or rounder the edges of my artwork get, even these areas that were pointy before, now have a little bit of a roundness to them.

So now that we know what Path Fitting and Corner Angle do, that leaves us with two more settings here in the Trace Settings area and the Tracing Options dialog box, and that's Minimum Area and Ignore White. Let's cancel out of this particular object here, I'm going to zoom out for a second here, then focus on this piece of artwork right here, and move up towards the top of the screen here, and once again, I'll open up my Tracing Options dialog box, and click on the Preview button. The Minimum Area setting determines the size for how bigger region needs to be in order for your Illustrator to trace it. In other words, if I have a really small little spec or little area of pixels in my original image, the Minimum Area setting might allow me to ignore that particular area, and not trace it at all.

In other words, the Minimum Area allows me to control how much detail the Live Trace feature actually pays attention to. For example, take a look over here. I have some highlights in this person's ear. Right now these areas are more than 10 pixels in size, so that's why Illustrator traces them. But if I were to increase this number to maybe 60 pixels for example, you will notice that those areas start to disappear. Because they are smaller in size than 60 pixels, Live Trace simply ignores them and makes believe that they are not there at all. If you have an image that has a lot of detail inside of it, by increasing your Minimum Area, you are telling Illustrator to ignore those smaller areas of detail and not trace them.

If you want more detail in your image, you would lower your Minimum area. For example, if I set my Minimum area to 4 pixels, I'll start to see more area show up over here than it is here. When using a Black & White trace inside of Illustrator, you will see that the Minimum Area setting also appears in the control panel. Finally, there is the Ignore White setting that's right over here. Now we specified a Black & White trace. That means that Illustrator is taking a color photograph and converting it to black & white objects. But let's say I don't want white object. Let's say I want some kind of background to show through in these areas. By choosing the Ignore White option, Illustrator actually sets these areas to None instead of White. Allow me to place my Live Trace artwork on top of a colored background, and having that colored background show through where the areas are white.

Now that you know what each of these vector adjustments do, you have the tools that you need to get the result you are looking for from Live Trace.

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