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Adobe Illustrator has long been the most popular and viable vector-drawing program on the market but, for many, the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials , author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland teaches the key features of Illustrator in a way that anyone can understand. He also goes beyond that, showing users how to get into the Illustrator "mindset" to make mastering Illustrator simple and easy. The training covers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text and gradients, and color management and printing features. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this time it is going to make sense. Exercise files accompany the training.
Now that we've seen how you can creates splined curves inside Illustrator in the form of these valiant warriors inside of this canoe, or at least that's what I think this is. This does come to us from an actual Ojibwe petroglyph that I photographed in Batchawana Bay Ontario. And now that we've seen how spline curves work, which is fairly easy right, as long as points are close to each other we get something resembling a corner. When points are farther away from each other we end up getting these curves.
Let's now experience the slightly more complicated, but much more powerful realm of Bezier curve editing here inside of Illustrator. If you want to join us I'm working inside of a document called Finished spline.ai found inside the 07_pen_tool folder. And let's go to the head of the great monster. This is the Mishipizheu, by the way, the great-horned lynx of Ojibwe mythology, and I'm going to go ahead and trace this fellow s head using the Pen Tool. So I'll go ahead and grab the Pen Tool from the toolbox, and as you may recall, you can use the tool by clicking to set corner points, and I mention this, I repeat this information because I want you to know these are known as corner points, because they represent corners between straight segments. I'll go ahead and delete that little graphic that I was creating there.
Compare that to a smooth point. You get a smooth point, which forms a continuous arc inside of a path by dragging with the tool, and notice the point at which you begin dragging with the Pen Tool represents the anchor point and that anchor point anchors down the line as we'll see. Then you end up dragging out these control handles, these symmetrical control handles and these are known as Bezier control handles or just plain handles if you like. I'll next drag from this point here, in order to create an arcing line between the two anchor points, and the anchor points are showing up as hollow squares, tiny hollow squares. And the control handles are showing up as tiny circles mounted on the ends of levers, as you can see on screen here.
Now notice that I'm dragging in a continuous direction, basically I am continuing along my curve in a counterclockwise direction in this case. So that the symmetrical corner point, the one that's opposite of my cursor about the anchor point, is controlling the curved segment, and the farther I drag the more the segment curves, and the closer I bring it home the less the segment curves. I'll go ahead and release at about this location there and now I'm going to draw another point at this location, and I'm dragging each time so that I can keep adding these smooth points to my line.
And I'll drag a fifth point right there in order to create that floppy ear on the beast. Now I'm going to go ahead and zoom in. So I've created a series of five smooth points, each of which is joined to its neighbor by a curving segment. I'm going to go ahead now and grab my Direct Selection Tool, my white arrow tool so that I can modify these points, and I'm going to drag this guy up a little. So I'm dragging the anchor point and notice the anchor point resides on the path itself. So when you move the anchor point you move the path. Compare that to moving the control handle which bends the path. The control handle never exists exactly on a path. I mean you can move it onto the path if you want to, and that'll just ensure that the path is straight, up until that point, but really you want to go ahead and drag it out in order to create a little bit of curvature anyway, that's the point of the control handle, the whole point of it in fact.
So just go ahead and move these control handles as you see fit. Now something else you can do in addition to actually dragging control handles or points for that matter in order to control the curvature of the line. You can also, check this out, you can select a segment, and I'm going to select the segment by marqueeing it with my white arrow tool. Notice that there are no points inside the marquee. Now I'm allowing, in this case I'm allowing a little bit of a control handle to fall inside the marquee. That doesn't matter.
You can't actually marquee control handles or if you do anyway it doesn't make any difference. What I am marqueeing in this case, what really matters is that I'm marqueeing the segment and as soon as I release, notice that none of the anchor points are selected now. All of the anchor points are hollow. So when you see a hollow square, that means that the anchor point is deselected. When you see a filled square, if I were to click on it, as I will just for the sake of demonstration here, that represents a selected point. I'm going to go ahead and marquee this segment once again just to select the segment independently of the anchor points.
The control handles display just to show me that my segment is selected. And now check this out, I can actually drag this segment around directly if I want to. And if I drag far enough it'll loop around on itself, wow. All right so I can drag it down this way. I can drag it up this way. I can drag it toward the points in order to reduce its slope, in order flatten it out a bit. Also worth noting is that you can nudge a selected curve segment by using the arrow keys.
So I'm going to go ahead and press Shift+up arrow in order to create a big modification here. And this is a 10 X and the when I'm pressing Shift along with one of my arrow keys, I'm getting 10 X. 10 times the increment that I specified inside the Preferences dialog box. So notice as I press Shift+up arrow I'm moving this control handle outward and I'm retracting this control handle because I'm actually moving the segment upward. If I was to press Shift+down arrow I'd get exactly the opposite effect. So this control handle ends up extending and this control handle down here ends up contracting.
And I'm going to go ahead and Shift+up arrow a couple times here. You can also Shift+left arrow to move this particular segment outward or Shift+Right in order to move it inward. So imagine that you're moving sort of the center of the segment with these arrow key nudges, and now I'm nudging downward just a little bit by pressing the down arrow key without Shift a few times in a row. Of course, you can also nudge a selected anchor point, if you want to. So if you click on an anchor point and then press something like Shift+down arrow you move it 10 X, the keyboard increment that you specified inside the Preferences dialog box, and this is Shift+up arrow and so on and so on. So you get the idea of what's going on there.
All right, I'm going to go ahead and drag this down a little bit and I just want to make sure that I'm matching the contours of my template pretty well, if not exactly. And it's okay, you know, you don't have to slavishly follow your template, you just want to make sure that you're creating some nice fluid contours with your curve. And incidentally there are a couple of rules that you might want to be aware of when using Bezier control handles. One of the rules is to go ahead and make sure that you either associate two handles with a segment or no handles with a segment. In other words, it should either be totally flat, in which case you wouldn't have any handles, or it should have two handles associated with it as each of these do, so that you have a nice healthy curve or at least the potential for a nice healthy curve.
The other rule of thumb is that each one of these control handles should take up about a third of the entire distance of the segment. So notice that this guy comes out about a third the distance of the segment. Then we have a blank area between the control handles of the third and then this guy is about a third the length of the segment as well. And if you decide to go really long with one of then, them you should go ahead and retract the other one so that together they add up to about two thirds, and again these are just like rules of thumb. You can do anything you want, but typically, especially when you're just starting out are you're just starting to learn the tool you want to try to keep your curves as fluid as possible and this is the way to do it.
All right so there's the smooth point. The smooth point represents a continuous fluid arc between your curving segments. In the next exercise I'll show you yet another kind of point known as the cusp point.
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