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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.
All right, so here is the deal. I have been burned by Illustrator artwork in the past and nothing against Illustrator because you know I love the program, but I have had artwork that you would think would print just fine. The toughest thing it had going was some gradients and yet the gradient is abruptly dropped out at some point, like in the corner of the artwork. All the sudden the gradient goes white or something along those lines. I have had such problems enough that I have decided that it is worth eliminating those problems from my life entirely. So, let's imagine you take an illustration, you place it into InDesign, you give it to your commercial printer, you print ten thousand copies of a book and then you have a problem with the output. Who is to blame? Is it Illustrator's fault, is it InDesign's fault, is it your commercial printer's fault, is it most likely the output device's fault? Who cares? All that matters is you have got egg on your face. So, what I have learned the hard way, folks, is that the easiest thing to do is to give up and go ahead and rasterize the artwork in advance inside a Photoshop because after all, and you should know this about printing in general, anytime you print your artwork you are rasterizing it.
You take a rectangle that's 100% Postscript compatible, you print it, it gets converted to printer dots, which are pixels, the printer pixels. Now, there is a ton of printer pixels. Like I was saying in the previous exercise a typical print resolution for a high end imagesetter might be 2540 DPI, 2540 dots per inch, linear inch. So, inside of a square inch you have got like a gillion pixels, but you are still rasterizing it. So, if you take the time to rasterize at a very high resolution in Photoshop in the first place then you are going to see exactly what your artwork looks like and you may uncover new problems that you didn't know about, as we are about and then you can fix them.
Then there are no tears. Everything goes exactly the way you expected to go and so I'm going to show you how it works in this very exercise. If you are following along with me, you will need access to Photoshop. Now, the great thing about the Creative Suite is that if you own any skew of the Creative Suite, you own both Photoshop and Illustrator because they are the core products of the Creative Suite. So, if you got Illustrator, you probably have Photoshop, but if you don't just sit tight and watch me work. I am inside the Bridge. I have the Bridge trained on the 21_transparency folder. I have selected my Final sans frame.ai file. I'm going to right-click on the said file or if you don't have right mouse button on the Mac you would press the Ctrl key and click and then choose Open With and then choose Adobe Photoshop CS4. That will switch you over to Photoshop, assuming it's already running. Now, I'm looking at the Import PDF dialog box because of course my Illustrator file has PDF embedded in it and then I'll go down to the thumbnail size option and I'll choose Fit Page so I can see my artwork bigger, just for the sake of looking at it.
Now, you can either open the entire artwork or you can just open any images inside that artwork and so this would permit me to open the image and extract it out of the Illustrator file. But I'm going to go ahead and just say no, I don't want to do that. I want to open the pages. I want to open the entire artwork and rasterize it out. Then notice over here we have a few controls that we can work with and what I suggest you do is increase the resolution of your artwork. Currently we are seeing the artwork at its actual physical size, which is 5.583 inches wide by 7.667 inches tall. But what really matters is that it is going to get rasterized at 300 pixels per inch to 1675 pixels wide and 2300 pixels tall.
Well that might not be enough and what I'm going to suggest you is that you rasterize your artwork to at least 600 pixels per inch if you are preparing for commercial output. At least 600 pixels per inch and possibly more like 1200. Now, that's about the highest you need to go. You do not need to rasterize at full resolution of your printer, like something like 2540 would be such extraordinary overkill as to be ridiculous and that would give you a 790 megabyte file. You would be approaching a 1 gig file flat, which is insanity my friends.
I am going to set it to 600. And my experience in the past has been 600 is dandy, just works out brilliantly. You can look at the artwork with a loupe and it looks just absolutely splendid, crystal clear and every bit as crisp as vectors all the way through. All right, now I'll go ahead and change the mode from RGB to CMYK. There is no point in converting the mode to RGB. This is CMYK artwork, let's keep it that way and then you go ahead and click on the OK button and then you sit on your hands for a while. Now, what happened with me on this particular machine, it does run Vista. It has got a few gigs of memory and it is a modern machine and it took about 2 minutes to go ahead and render this file, which was something like 141.1 seconds to rasterize this file. All right, anyway so I'm going to cancel out. There is no sense in watching at this progress bar. You can go ahead and do it yourself if you want.
I'm just going to show you what ended up happening. This is the file here, this is the product of rasterizing this file inside a Photoshop and I should say what you really going to see is a layered file. So, you will get one layer inside the Layers palette and presumably and especially in the case of this artwork, there is no reason to have those layers because there is nothing in back that we need to composite this image with. You would only want the layers if you were going to composite this illustration with some other stuff inside of Photoshop. But I'm not going to do that. So, you just go up to the Layer menu and you would choose Flatten Image in order to render out a completely flat version of the file and then you would save it off as a TIFF file and if you are going to save it as a TIFF file, I would go up to the File menu, choose in my case Save As to demonstrate how did it and then you would choose the TIFF file format right there. Make sure to embed your ICC Profile. That's very important, then click on the Save button.
Well, actually I'll give mine a slightly different name, something slash two, so I'm not asked if I want to replace my existing file. I'll click Save and then make sure to set Image Compression to LZW. Otherwise you are going to get a big bloated file. This way you are going to get a pretty small file because illustrations compress really nicely. This is lossless compression by the way meaning that it's non-destructive. It is not going to hurt anything, none of the pixels are going to be altered. You are just going to get a smaller file. Leave Pixel Order set to Interleaved, Byte Order doesn't matter, whatever you want it to be, leave Save Image Pyramid off and then click OK.
Anyway I already did that stuff and that's what we have right here, Photoshop raster 600ppi.tiff. Then let's go ahead and zoom in on this artwork and notice how very, very smooth it is. This is the artwork here in 100% zoom size right there and we can see every single element of our graphic rendered out in super smooth detail here. Complete with anti aliasing, just in case there is any chance that something isn't going to look super smooth. Now, notice right around the artwork here, right around his jowls and stuff you can now see exactly how things are going to render out on the edges of this image. Now, you will notice some pixel action inside of the image and that's because I was telling you this is a low quality image. It wasn't in that greater shape in the first place and it remains not in that greater shape, but there is so much distracting vector action going on that I think everything is just fine and we get these nice cuts going along the edges.
Okay, so what am I noticing is a problem? One of the things I would kind of see in Illustrator and that's the quality of the Drop Shadows. Notice that the Drop Shadows are rendered out at pretty low resolutions. Now, that has nothing to do with the Flattener Preview palette that we saw in the previous exercise. That has nothing to do with the Resolution setting that we just set inside a Photoshop. This has everything to do with your Dynamic Effect Raster settings and I'll show you how those work in the next exercise when we fix these problems. But just note that we do have some choppy Drop Shadow action and we may see more of it over along here and may be able to makeup some big pixels as there as well and below the drapes too. Check those out. That's a pretty harsh Drop Shadow there. That's Illustrator Drop Shadows for you. They are not nearly as good as they are inside of Photoshop where Photoshop takes advantage of a Gaussian Drop Shadow and you get much better tapering.
But anyway that's the way they are, but you don't want those pixels right there you won't rid of those and then the other thing is notice that. Notice that we can see these lines going through Sammy's flesh right here, through his jowls, and that's because that opacity mask isn't quite working for us. The opacity mask is letting some of those stroke show through down here as well and actually where else we can them, see can see them -- Oh, My God! His stumps are still visible. That's terrible. That's really actually big problem.
Now that's not something that showed up inside of Illustrator, my friends. Let's go back to Illustrator. Here we are, same graphics before it got rasterized. Let's zoom in. Illustrator isn't showing me any stump action, but that's how the graphic would print according to Photoshop and Photoshop is the best Illustrator printing engine that there is and it is basically the most accurate as well. So, this is most likely how this graphic is going to output to a commercial printing device. So, what in the world do we do? Well, we go back to Illustrator and we fix the problems and we re- rasterize the artwork and I'm going to show you how to do it exactly that in the next exercise.
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