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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.
Now I'm the first guy to tell you that Pathfinder Operations absolutely rock but they only rock so long as you are working with closed paths. Once you start working with open path outlines, they don't rock so much, don't you know? So let me show you what I'm taking about. I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Time 2 Boo.ai. And what I mean by that is it's time to assemble the word Boo that the robot is saying to us. Boo, not only because it's trying to scare us but also because Boo is short for Boolean and the idea is that these Pathfinder Operations are Boolean operations because we are adding and subtracting and applying various mathematical functions to our hand-drawn paths here inside of Illustrator.
All right, but in our case, he just wants to scare us. So that's where the word Boo comes from. What I want to do though is I want to go ahead and somehow assemble these lines right here into a kind of a talk balloon with these wavy lines coming out of it, so that we know he is not just saying Boo. He is saying Boooo, because that's not really communicated by the text so much as more of a robot boo going on up there. Now one would hope we could just select all three shapes and we could just go ahead and unite them with the Unite operation. So let's go ahead and zoom in so that we can see things up close and personal here, and then I want you to see that these guys right there are open paths.
So the larger ellipse, that's a closed path outline, but these are two open paths, two identical open paths of course, and they have fills associated with them but the fills are just tracing along here as if they are some sort of outline at work and that's just something that Illustrator does automatically. That behavior gets emphasized if I go ahead and click on Unite. So if I click on that Unite operation, notice that we do go ahead and unite these paths in this completely awful manner. Illustrator doesn't automatically draw a segment at the end of the paths, the way I might like, instead it goes ahead and draws along that area that used to be the fill line, and that's not what we want at all.
So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl +Z, Command+Z on the Mac and what I'm trying to demonstrate here is that when you are working with open path outlines, either the Pathfinder Operation is going to convert that open path into a closed path or it's just going to plain fail and make a mess of things. So you don't want to work with open paths when you can avoid it, but here is a work around. I am going to go ahead and combine these paths into a compound shape by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and then clicking on Unite, and now we have a compound shape that also has strokes but notice that it didn't go ahead and finish that area off with the segment. It just went ahead and stroked that virtual outline right there. That doesn't really exist. That's fine. Then check this out.
Now at this point, because I'm working with the compound shape, I can make modifications to my path outlines. For example, I can take these two open paths and join them either into a larger open path, which is where I'll start, or to form a closed path if I want. So I'm going to go ahead and grab my White Arrow tool, click off the shape and then click on this bottommost point, this end point of the left hand path, and I'll drag it so that it snaps into alignment, and I can see I have got it snapped because I have a white arrowhead, snaps into alignment with the similar endpoint on the right hand path.
And then I'll go ahead and move this control handle over a little bit. I'll go ahead and marquee these two coincident points in order to select both of them, then I'll go up to my Control palette and I'll click on this icon right there, Connect selected end points, or I could press Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac to invoke the Join command. Assuming that both points are indeed coincident, as they are in my case, I'll get this dialog box. I definitely want a Corner point, I don't want a Smooth point and I don't want a continuous arch. So I'll click OK in order to accept Corner point, and I get this effect right there which is much closer to what I'm looking for.
The only thing I don't want like about it, I'll go ahead and zoom in here, is that I have a beveled join at this point. Now if I go over to the Stroke palette, I can see that I have requested a Miter join right there, which should give me a nice sharp point but my Miter Limit is set to too low of a value. It's set to 4 times 4x the stroke weight right there. So, in other words, the miter join is only allowed to extend 4 times the line weight. So in our case, we have a line weight of one point so the miter joins only allow to extend four point away from this anchor point right there, and apparently, it has to extend farther.
Let's go ahead and take this value up to 10, and now we have got a nice sharp spike but that looks too sharp to me, and so what I prefer to do is let's go ahead and reduce the angle at which these two segments are meeting by dragging one of the control handles away from the other one. I suggest we drag this one, and we are going to get less of a spike as you are seeing right there. All right. Now I'll go ahead and zoom out and this is a lovely effect. Now if you wanted to, you could go ahead and say, you know what? I want to change this from an opened path to a closed path. So you'd select the entire thing by Alt-clicking or Option-clicking on the path with the White Arrow tool as I have done. Then press Ctrl+J or Command+J on the Mac in order to finish off this path outline. So I went ahead and connected the two endpoints with the straight segment. That makes no difference in terms of the final effect, but you can do it if you want to.
But my point here is whether the path outline is opened or closed, you are going to get the exact same effect because the Unite operation is already doing its best to convert all of these paths to closed paths, where the final effect is concerned. In the next exercise, we are going to go ahead and combine all of these path outlines up here that are associated with the word Boo into a single word Boo. This is advanced pathfinder territory, folks. Stay with me.
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