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Simplifying paths

From: Illustrator CS4 Essential Training

Video: Simplifying paths

So as we've learned, Illustrator's vector graphics are really made up of a whole bunch of anchor points. We know that those anchor points can be one of several different types, for example, corner anchor points or smooth anchor points or combination anchor points. However, we also know that the number of anchor points that you have is directly related to the complexity of your file. So the more anchor points that you have for a piece of artwork, the longer it takes to print, the larger your file size gets and, of course, the more difficult or unwieldy it is to edit that particular file. Let's take these two pieces of artwork, for example. I have this file called simplifying_paths open inside of Illustrator and if you have the sample files or the exercise files available to you, you can go ahead and find that in Chapter 05. I'm going to use my Regular Selection tool to just click on let's say this emblem right here. Take a look at the number of anchor points that there are. Let's zoom in a little bit closer.

Simplifying paths

So as we've learned, Illustrator's vector graphics are really made up of a whole bunch of anchor points. We know that those anchor points can be one of several different types, for example, corner anchor points or smooth anchor points or combination anchor points. However, we also know that the number of anchor points that you have is directly related to the complexity of your file. So the more anchor points that you have for a piece of artwork, the longer it takes to print, the larger your file size gets and, of course, the more difficult or unwieldy it is to edit that particular file. Let's take these two pieces of artwork, for example. I have this file called simplifying_paths open inside of Illustrator and if you have the sample files or the exercise files available to you, you can go ahead and find that in Chapter 05. I'm going to use my Regular Selection tool to just click on let's say this emblem right here. Take a look at the number of anchor points that there are. Let's zoom in a little bit closer.

I'm going to use the Command+Spacebar or Ctrl+Spacebar keys to get my Zoom tool and I marquee select around this particular emblem so I want to zoom in on that and you could see how many anchor points there are. In fact, if I get just a little bit closer let's say on the claw, take a look at how many anchor points there are, lots and lots of anchor points. Not only does that make it difficult to edit, it will make this file take a lot longer to print as well. Let me zoom out just a bit over here. Let's take a look at a feature inside of Illustrator called Simplify. Simplify basically allows me to analyze a path and reduce the number of points on a path, because in reality the number of anchor points on a path don't necessarily make that into a better path, meaning a better looking path. If you're smart about where you place your anchor points, you can get the same piece of artwork with far fewer anchor points. So let's take a look at how that's done.

By the way, this Simplify feature I'm about to show you makes a lot of sense when you're getting artwork from outside sources. It's rare that you're actually going to go ahead and use the Pen tool to create artwork with this many anchor points. But when you do things like tracing or get artwork that maybe has come from another source or another application, it is possible that it has lots of anchor points. Your job is going to be to basically reduce those anchor points down to a manageable amount, but without sacrificing any quality in the image itself. So I'm going to go now with this particular piece of artwork selected. I'm going to go over to the Object menu. I'm going to choose Path and then I'm going to choose Simply. That's going to bring up a dialog box. The Simplify dialog box will give me options on how I want to go ahead and simplify that path and here's basically the key. I want to be able to reduce the number of anchor points, but I don't want to give up the quality or the actual definition of the artwork that I have created.

So the first thing I'll do is I'll click on the Preview button. Preview button will give me basically an idea of what's happening to my artwork as the number of points are reduced. So as we can see right now, I do get a very interesting stylized kind of look, and maybe this would even be a nice effect that I would be looking for. Although right now, my goal would be to simplify the number of anchor points without adjusting the overall appearance of that particular piece of artwork. So I'm going to go ahead here and by the Curve Precision, I'm going to start to bring that up much higher. That means that I want Illustrator to keep the curves and the look of that graphic as close to the original as possible.

By the way just to show you if I kind of bring that slider far down to the left, I get a very, very stylized looking piece, but that also means that Illustrator doesn't have to follow the actual path that were in the original piece of artwork. Just to give you an idea though, take a look at the values. Illustrator is very nice; it gives you some feedback here. The original piece of artwork had 3784 anchor points inside of it and now that I have applied the Simply command and I have this Curve Precision set to 5%, it reduced that down to 362 points, wow! So it's great that you can do that, but as we said before, I don't want it to look like this. I want it to look close to the original. What I'm going to do is I'm going to bring that Curve Precision up all the way to where I just stop.

Now, it's important, by the way, you don't want to go to 100. Sometimes when you do that, you end up with actually more anchor points than you do. It's absolutely kind of like reverse Simplify. So we don't want to go there, but I'll say there is a huge difference when you start going to like 99. Take a look at that, I'm at 98 right now and I just dropped down from 3784 to 2239. Not too bad, but of course, I can do better. So I'm going to go down here and here is the key. If you look over here where it says Options, I could choose Show Original and what it does, it gives me a red outline of where that original path is. Just to show you if I reduce my Curve Precision down a lot here, you can see that the red path is where that original anchor point was, and here is what the new path is. Yes it's smooth around the fewer anchor points, but it doesn't really match where I was before. Anyway, I want to zoom in closer to your graphic here. I just want to be able to see the whole piece of artwork here as it is. But as you're working with this, you might want to zoom in closer and really see the differences between the previous path that had lots of anchor points and what the Simplify command is going to do with it. But basically the new path is in blue; the old path here is in the red.

I could also use the Straight Lines option, which prevents Illustrator from using curves at all. Notice the Curve Precision is completely out now and now simply using basically an angle threshold to see what I ended up getting, I get all these wacky straight lines. Again, if you like doing some kind of Picasso thing, maybe that would make some kind of sense. But I'm going to uncheck Straight Lines. I do want to show the original. I'm going to leave the Curve Precision set to around 98%. Maybe I'll come down to make 96% or 95%. Again I'm paying attention to where the red and the blue are and make sure they are not out of whack; they all look -- and they are lining up pretty well over here and I see that I have just reduced this from 3,700 points to just a little over 1, 000 points. I could also adjust the Angle Threshold to basically control how Illustrator can go ahead and smooth out those little sharp angles so on and so forth.

I find that if I bring something here towards the middle I usually get a pretty good result. Then what I'll do is I'll just simply click OK and now I have reduced the number of anchor points. Now again a much smoother path, it prints faster, it's easier to work with and to edit and that is far better as well. So you may want to go ahead. I would provide another example on this file. This is nice little trace of a nice little palm tree and you might want to go ahead and reduce the number of points on this and see what kind of results you get as well.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS4 Essential Training
Illustrator CS4 Essential Training

116 video lessons · 48475 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 59s
    1. Welcome
      59s
  2. 33m 17s
    1. Why use Illustrator?
      2m 22s
    2. What are vector graphics?
      8m 4s
    3. Understanding paths
      4m 13s
    4. Fill and Stroke attributes
      5m 32s
    5. Selections and stacking order
      8m 31s
    6. Isolation mode
      4m 35s
  3. 23m 43s
    1. The Welcome screen
      1m 11s
    2. New Document Profiles
      4m 36s
    3. Using multiple artboards
      7m 17s
    4. Libraries and content
      3m 52s
    5. Illustrator templates
      2m 56s
    6. Adding XMP metadata
      3m 51s
  4. 43m 55s
    1. Exploring panels
      4m 18s
    2. Using the Control panel
      5m 25s
    3. Navigating within a document
      5m 27s
    4. Using rulers and guides
      5m 23s
    5. Using grids
      2m 12s
    6. Utilizing the bounding box
      3m 3s
    7. Using Smart Guides
      4m 59s
    8. The Hide Edges command
      3m 31s
    9. Preview and Outline modes
      2m 18s
    10. Using workspaces
      7m 19s
  5. 38m 3s
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 9s
    2. Drawing closed-path primitives
      7m 15s
    3. Drawing open-path primitives
      5m 5s
    4. Simple drawing with the Pen tool
      7m 28s
    5. Advanced drawing with the Pen tool
      10m 33s
    6. Drawing with the Pencil tool
      6m 33s
  6. 46m 37s
    1. Editing anchor points
      13m 7s
    2. Creating compound shapes
      5m 55s
    3. Utilizing Pathfinder functions
      5m 11s
    4. Joining and averaging paths
      5m 37s
    5. Outlining strokes
      3m 24s
    6. Simplifying paths
      5m 41s
    7. Using Offset Path
      2m 43s
    8. Dividing an object into a grid
      1m 41s
    9. Cleaning up errant paths
      3m 18s
  7. 35m 23s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 4s
    2. Creating area text
      4m 19s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      6m 27s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 4s
    5. Creating text threads
      5m 28s
    6. Creating text on open paths
      5m 18s
    7. Creating text on closed paths
      3m 57s
    8. Converting text to outlines
      1m 46s
  8. 20m 15s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      7m 53s
    2. Using the Magic Wand and Lasso tools
      6m 34s
    3. Selecting objects by attribute
      2m 38s
    4. Saving and reusing selections
      3m 10s
  9. 40m 35s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      6m 48s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      3m 26s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      7m 6s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      8m 9s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 48s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      6m 51s
    7. Copying appearances
      3m 27s
  10. 37m 15s
    1. Defining groups
      7m 2s
    2. Editing groups
      5m 28s
    3. Working with layers
      8m 10s
    4. Layer and object hierarchy
      6m 57s
    5. Creating template layers
      2m 3s
    6. Object, group, and layer attributes
      7m 35s
  11. 44m 4s
    1. Applying colors
      3m 18s
    2. Creating solid color swatches
      4m 48s
    3. Creating global process swatches
      5m 1s
    4. Using spot color swatches
      4m 27s
    5. Creating swatch groups and libraries
      6m 50s
    6. Working with linear gradient fills
      6m 34s
    7. Working with radial gradient fills
      2m 19s
    8. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      4m 51s
    9. Defining simple patterns
      5m 56s
  12. 22m 43s
    1. Moving and copying objects
      2m 1s
    2. Scaling objects
      4m 49s
    3. Rotating objects
      3m 14s
    4. Reflecting and skewing objects
      2m 27s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 9s
    6. Aligning objects
      5m 15s
    7. Distributing objects
      2m 48s
  13. 25m 13s
    1. Using a pressure-sensitive tablet
      1m 38s
    2. Using the Calligraphic brush
      6m 10s
    3. Using the Scatter brush
      4m 0s
    4. Using the Art brush
      2m 26s
    5. Using the Pattern brush
      3m 21s
    6. Using the Paintbrush tool
      1m 41s
    7. Using the Blob Brush tool
      3m 42s
    8. Using the Eraser tool
      2m 15s
  14. 16m 36s
    1. Using symbols
      3m 9s
    2. Defining your own symbols
      2m 1s
    3. Editing symbols
      4m 4s
    4. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      2m 32s
    5. Using the Symbolism toolset
      4m 50s
  15. 35m 37s
    1. Minding your resolution settings
      6m 15s
    2. Applying basic 3D extrusions
      6m 43s
    3. Applying basic 3D revolves
      2m 31s
    4. Basic artwork mapping
      5m 9s
    5. Using the Stylize effects
      5m 35s
    6. Using the Scribble effect
      5m 43s
    7. Using the Warp effect
      3m 41s
  16. 21m 37s
    1. Placing images
      4m 51s
    2. Using the Links panel
      2m 47s
    3. The Edit Original workflow
      2m 0s
    4. Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
      5m 29s
    5. Rasterizing artwork
      1m 55s
    6. Cropping images with a mask
      4m 35s
  17. 10m 35s
    1. Saving your Illustrator document
      8m 18s
    2. Printing your Illustrator document
      2m 17s
  18. 6m 25s
    1. Exporting files for use in QuarkXPress
      1m 8s
    2. Exporting files for use in InDesign
      39s
    3. Exporting files for use in Word/Excel/PowerPoint
      45s
    4. Exporting files for use in Photoshop
      1m 25s
    5. Exporting files for use in Flash
      1m 15s
    6. Exporting files for use in After Effects
      19s
    7. Migrating from FreeHand
      54s
  19. 2m 23s
    1. Finding additional help
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye
      23s

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