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Adobe Illustrator has long been a popular vector–based drawing program, but for many the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals, author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland shows users how to get in to the Illustrator mindset and overcome this learning curve. He covers the application's key features in a new way, making it simple and easy to master Illustrator. Deke teaches viewers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text, and the Pen tool. He also explains how to export and print. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this training can help make sense of it. Exercise files accompany the course.
All right, now that we have had a chance to experience spline curves, in which just to sum things up here, a little bit of oversimplification where the spline curve is concerned. When you have two anchor points that are close to each other, then you end up getting something that resembles a corner. So, it's a very quickly curving corner, in any case. And when the points are spread farther apart from each other like so, you end up getting a more fluid curve. Now, I say more fluid because it is difficult to get truly fluid curves out of splines. Whereas when you are working with Bezier curves, which we are about to do here, you can achieve much more predictable results.
That's not to say that Bezier curves are easier. They are actually a little more difficult to come to terms with. But once you grok the Bezier, you are really going to get how to draw inside of Illustrator. So, I'm going to go ahead and undo my most recent changes to this very valiant secondary warrior right here. Anyway I'm working inside Finished spline.ai, so called because I have finished the spline canoe right there. Let's move over to this fellow right here and I should say before I embark on the Bezier curves, these are named after a fellow who is a car designer named Pierre Bezier, who I believe is still alive.
Let's grab the Pen tool here and let me show you how to draw a Bezier. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on the creature's head. This of course is the Mishipizheu himself, the mythical underwater panther of Ojibwa origin. Here is what I'm going to do. We have seen that clicking with this tool delivers corner points that are connected by straight segments. We don't want that shape right there, so I'm going to go ahead and press Backspace key a couple of times to get rid of it. That's delete twice in a row on the MAC. If you want to draw a smooth point in which the curve fluidly arcs through that point, then you drag with the Pen tool like so. So I clicked and I dragged, essentially.
Notice as I'm clicking and dragging, I set the position of the anchor point and as I drag away from it, I'm positioning two symmetrical Bezier control handles or just plain old control handles. And notice that they are symmetrical about the anchor point to start with and what they do is they will be tugging at our curve, as we will see. So I'm going to go ahead and release there. The anchor point actually sets a location in the path. So the path always goes through the anchor point, unlike with the spline curve where it's just sort of going back and forth around the points. Whereas the control handles never exist on the path. They are pulling at the path rather. We will see how that works as we continue here. So if I was to click and drag again with this tool, notice that Illustrator goes ahead and connects my two points with a curving segment, the curvature of which is determined by these control handles pulling one direction, or the other direction like so.
Notice, however, the crazy thing when you are first coming to terms with this is you are controlling the opposite control handle. So notice I'm dragging away. I'm not dragging over the segment I'm trying to control. I'm dragging away from the segment I'm trying to control. I'm controlling it with that opposite symmetrical control handle right now. Now you can always go back later and drag that control handle directly, but when you are creating it for the first time, you are indirectly controlling it. Now, I'm going to create another point right there and drag again away. So I'm dragging in the direction that I'm creating the path, always on the other side of things as I'm moving along here. I'll just go ahead and add a couple of other points to this grouping here.
Now, let's say at this point you decide, hey, I want to go ahead and modify my points a little bit, my control handles, then you can switch over to the White Arrow tool and go ahead and click on those points and you can then drag them to different locations like so. So standard stuff but notice when you drag the anchor point, you are going to move the path around. In other words, the path is actually anchored by that anchor point. It has to go through the anchor point, whereas the control handle of course is just tugging at it playfully. It's just teasing it, one direction or the other direction, like so.
I am going to go ahead and put that anchor point back where I want it to be. So this is what makes the Bezier curve drawing model so much more predictable than the spline curve model is that these guys, the anchor points, the path has to go through. These guys are control handles; the path never goes to them. So you always know what's up. You are not just sort of monkeying around with three different or four different points since you are with the spline curve to try to get things right. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and move this anchor point up a little bit and then of course, if you wanted to tug the path in a different direction, you could, using the control handle.
Now, something to note about control handles. When you are first coming to terms with the Pen tool, there are a couple of rules you should know about. One is that you either want no control handles associated with this segment, in which case you are going to have a straight segment. So if you don't have any control handles, you have a straight segment. Or you want two control handles to be associated with that segment, so that it curves fluidly. Because notice what happens if I were to take this control handle right here and drag it so close to the anchor point that it basically disappears like so.
That means what I end up getting is this sort of chopped off segment right there. The segment that curves rather fluidly at the beginning and then ramps away, and so we have a lot less control over what's going on when we work that way. So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl +Z a few times in a row there. That's Command+Z, Command+Z a few times in a row in order to get that control handle back. All right, so either zero control handles or two on either side of this segment. Another thing to note about control handles, how far do you pull them out, how far do you want them to extend from the anchor point? The rule is if you go too far, like we're seeing right here, you're going to end up with this sharply transitioning curve here. It's not going to be fluid once again.
If you want it to be nice and fluid, then you want the control handles to consume together about two-thirds of the length of the segment. So in other words, you could either have one control handle be pretty short and another control handle be pretty darn long, by comparison, and then about a third of this segment is not covered by control handles or you can have each of those control handles be a pretty similar length so that we have one third covered by control handle, one third with that anything and another third covered by control handle.
So that's the two-thirds rule right there. These aren't hard-and-fast rules, obviously, you can violate these rules all the time if you want to, but when you're first coming to terms with this tool and drawing control handles, it's a good thing to watch out for. These are some good rules to bear in mind. All right, another thing that you can do, you can of course move a point if you want to, by pressing an Arrow key or Shift with an Arrow key. This is Shift with an Arrow, just so that we can really see that anchor point moving around. You could click multiple points and move them around if you want to. If I were to Shift-click on this anchor point and Shift-click on this one, for example, then I can move them together by Shift+ Arrowing around, in this case, or just nudging with the Arrow keys, just nudging in smaller increments like so.
You can also however select and nudge a curving segment. So if I were to just marquee the segment, for example, just some random portion of this segment, without getting either the anchor points. We can see both of its control handles thereby telling me that it's selected and then I can actually drag that. Watch this. you can drag that segment around directly if you want to in order to change its curvature. It doesn't give you a whole lot of control, but you can't do it. There are other times where you might find it helpful to nudge from the keyboard. You can actually nudge that segment. So this is what's happening if I'm pressing Shift+Up Arrow and I'm just pressing the Shift key so we can see those changes happen very easily here, and this is Shift+Down Arrow. I could also press Shift+Right Arrow and Shift+ Left Arrow with different effects here.
So, it takes a little bit of time to get used to what kind of changes, what you're doing when you're nudging a segment from the keyboard like that? But it can sometimes be terribly useful. All right, looking good, so far we've got this nice curving segment, very organic, going down the side of the animal's head and notice that at every point here, at every one of these smooth points, because we have symmetrical control handles, we are ensured a fluid smooth arching curve through that anchor point, and that's the whole point of smooth points is to keep things smooth.
In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to create a special combination of a smooth point and a corner point that's known as a cusp, stay tuned.
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