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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 exercise, I'm going to show you how to refine the painting that you do with the Blob Brush using the Eraser tool. This is that Eraser tool that didn't work very well where the open paths created by the Paintbrush were concerned, but works beautifully when combined with the Blob Brush. I have saved my progress so far as Edwardo.ai, and let's say that I want to refine some of this, some of the paint strokes that I have made, because a little bit of it is somewhat sloppy at this point. The answer is the Eraser tool right here, but if you are working with the pressure-sensitive tablet, go ahead and give it a double-click and that will open the Eraser Tool Options dialog box. Let's change the diameter from Fixed to Pressure and then I'm going to increase the Variation to 10 pt like. So again, Angle and Roundness, really don't care for them where the Eraser is concerned. So I'll go ahead and click OK.
I would like to be able to just hone in on my illustration without any fanciness when erasing. I should have mentioned in the previous exercise, I want to show you this really quick. I'm going to double-click on the Blob Brush tool because I want you to see that there are these Tolerance options up here, Fidelity and Smoothness, and Fidelity determines how many pixels the path can wander away from the actual path that you painted. So in other words, if you start wiggling your Paintbrush back and forth, 4 pixels, then Illustrator is going to smooth those 4 pixels of wiggliness away.
So if you are a very skilled artist or at least you have great hand-eye coordination, you can go ahead and reduce the Fidelity value and that's also useful if you want sort of wiggly rough paths. If you want smoother paths, then you would want to increase that Fidelity, and then you also have the option of adding smoothness on top of this fidelity modification right there if you are really getting rough results. So if you want super-smooth path outlines and you don't want any weird little corner points, then you can increase this smoothness value to taste. Try it out, see how it works, see what kind of results you get.
Anyway, I'm going to cancel out because I'm pretty happy with the defaults. Then I'm going to go over here and paint right there across the haunches, and if I did that, then I would paint a weird little brush stroke right at that location. That's because I have the Blob tool selected. Let's go and switch over to the Eraser tool here and then I'll paint away that little bit of roughness from the tail in order to just clean that up a little bit. I could even paint along the back in order to get rid of a little bit of that weirdness I was seeing in a moment ago. Now, part of my problem is for some reason, I'm sitting here and painting with the mouse. So let's go ahead and undo those latest two changes and I'll take up my Pen, my Stylus right here and see if I can get better results, and I can just by kind of scrubbing in there a little bit. I tell you there is nothing like a Stylus where painting is concerned, inside either Photoshop or Illustrator or any of the other products.
I am not a big Stylus user where selecting commands from menus is concerned. I much prefer a mouse for that, but that may just be because I'm old school. I know a lot of people who feel very much at home with the Stylus all the time, 24x7, but anyway you can see what I'm able to pull off here. I'm able to really smooth out some of these rough transitions by erasing them away. So it's up to you how far you go into this. I'd just want you to get a sense of how wonderfully well it works. It works absolutely as well as it didn't work when we were trying to paint away the Paintbrush strokes there a few chapters ago. I could even use it to go ahead and separate this anchor away from the hair if I wanted to, so I can move the anchor to a different location and I could sort of smooth that and then paint this little bit of anchor away like that, nice, and I can always paint back in with the Blob Brush later if I want to.
Then this weird thing that you can do with the Eraser tool. You can press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and you can drag over nary to marquee it and that will erase that area away like so, so it's great. If you want to erase away all of Edwardo, you are just very displeased with the whole picture at this point and now it's completely gone, but I don't want that. I will press Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+Z on the PC, Command+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, and you now have a sense of what you can do by combining the Eraser tool and the Blob Brush here inside Illustrator CS4.
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