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Turning stacked strokes into editable paths

From: Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Turning stacked strokes into editable paths

In this movie, I'll show you how to expand the appearance of this path, convert the strokes to fills and clean up the results. The great thing about working from the Appearance panel--go ahead and zoom out here--is that you can draw by the numbers and then you can easily replicate the appearance of one path to another. Now it doesn't, however, mean things are always going to work. I'll go ahead and select this curving path for example, and then I'll drop down to the Eyedropper tool and double-click on it in order to bring up the Eyedropper Options dialog box.

Turning stacked strokes into editable paths

In this movie, I'll show you how to expand the appearance of this path, convert the strokes to fills and clean up the results. The great thing about working from the Appearance panel--go ahead and zoom out here--is that you can draw by the numbers and then you can easily replicate the appearance of one path to another. Now it doesn't, however, mean things are always going to work. I'll go ahead and select this curving path for example, and then I'll drop down to the Eyedropper tool and double-click on it in order to bring up the Eyedropper Options dialog box.

Make sure that the Appearance checkbox is turned on. If it isn't, scroll up and go ahead and click on it and then click OK. Now we need to click on this path with the eyedropper--fairly impossible to find however-- so press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y on the Mac to switch to the outline mode, and then click on that horizontal line like so. And you can see I've gone ahead and duplicated all 20 of those strokes. So I'm expecting when I press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y on the Mac to switch back to the Preview mode --that I'll see a nicely curving railroad track-- but instead, I see this, which is I have to say, is really pretty cool in a kind of cubist way, but it is falling apart and the culprit here is the Transform effect. Because I told the Transform effect to move, for example, the base plates straight up and straight down, it doesn't matter whether the path is straight or curving; that's the direction that those plates are going to go in, and as a result everything is out of kilter.

So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that. The same thing happens, by the way, if you were to rotate that top path outline. So I'll go ahead and switch back to my Black Arrow tool for a moment. Switch over to the Layers panel as well. Twirl open the Tracks layer, and then I'm going to turn off this third item down in order to hide the curving line, and I'll go ahead and marquee the horizontal line and drag them down while pressing the Shift and Alt keys--the Shift and Option keys on the Mac--that way I'll create a copy of it. And I'll get the Rotate tool here which you can get by pressing the R key, and I'll just rotate the tracks slightly. And you can see it falls apart there, too.

Now I can remedy that problem by converting this Dynamic effect into a series of static path outlines and let me show you what that looks like. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that rotation, and then I'll go up to the Object menu and choose Expand Appearance, and that doesn't convert the strokes to fills by the way, it just goes ahead and separates all the strokes into independent path outlines and sometimes then some. Notice that this first tie is for some reason separated to an independent path. Now to get to the bottom of things and just to clean up the edges as well--because we have these little bits of paths over here on the sides--the best way to clean those up is to convert these strokes into fills.

Now you don't absolutely have to. At this point I could go ahead and rotate these paths and everything is going to work out fine. However, if you want to be able to clean things up, then press Ctrl+Z, Cmd+Z on a Mac to undo the rotation. You want to make sure the paths are still expanded. And then to convert the strokes to fill path outlines, go up to the Object menu choose Path and choose Outline Stroke. Or, if you loaded dekeKeys, you can press Ctrl+\ or Cmd+\ on the Mac and that'll go ahead and deliver these results right here. Now notice that we have these collections of hidden paths here between each one of the ties and you can leave them if you want to. It's not essential that you get rid of them.

But if you do want to get rid of them, here is the best way to approach it. Press the A key to switch to the White Arrow tool and then press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, so that you select entire path outlines at a time, and marquee in between the ties and those white path outlines, but around both of the rails like so, in order to select all the lines that make up the rails. Then press Ctrl+X or Cmd+X on the Mac in order to cut them to the clipboard. Now I'll press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y to switch to the Outline mode, so that you can see all the paths, and here is where it gets a little brutal. We're using a White Arrow tool by the way, because Illustrator went ahead and converted the railroad tracks into a group, but you've got to select each one of these guys manually.

So I recommend you just marquee around them like so and then Shift+Marquee around the other ones. Obviously, this is little tedious and it would get more and more tedious depending on how many ties you had in the first place. So if you had a very long line, then you would have to repeat this process many times. But as soon as you've selected all those guys, press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of them, press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y on the Mac to go ahead and switch back to the Preview mode and then go to the Layers panel and locate that group of ties.

It should be the second item down in the Tracks layer. Go ahead and twirl it open and then go ahead and meatball the top item inside of that group--which is itself another group, as we can see over here on a left side of the Control panel--and then press Ctrl+F or Cmd+F on the Mac to not only place the rails in front of that item, but also place the rails into a larger group. And then you can go ahead and twirl the group closed like so. Now I'll switch back to the Black Arrow tool. Click on any one of these path outlines to select all of them, and then switch to the Rotate tool and go ahead and rotate those tracks any way you like.

All right, I'll press Ctrl+Shift+A or Cmd+Shift+A on the Mac in order to deselect those path outlines. And that, friends, is both how and why you expand the appearance of a very complex path, as well as convert the strokes to fill path outlines and clean up your artwork.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

118 video lessons · 14563 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 43m 9s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 9s
    2. Introducing my custom keyboard shortcuts
      6m 52s
    3. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on Windows
      4m 46s
    4. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on the Mac
      4m 18s
    5. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 10s
    6. Adjusting a few key Preferences settings
      8m 13s
    7. Understanding the color-managed workflow
      6m 51s
    8. Establishing the optimal Color Settings
      6m 50s
  2. 1h 11m
    1. Illustrator's oldest dynamic functions
      1m 28s
    2. Creating a multicolor blend
      7m 12s
    3. Establishing a clipping mask
      5m 40s
    4. Reinstating the colors of a clipping path
      8m 1s
    5. Editing individual blended paths
      4m 44s
    6. Adjusting the number of steps in a blend
      7m 15s
    7. Fixing problems with the Blend tool
      4m 2s
    8. Blending different levels of opacity
      4m 45s
    9. Editing the spine of a blend
      5m 3s
    10. Adding a custom spine to any blend
      5m 5s
    11. Advanced blending and masking techniques
      6m 18s
    12. Blending between entire groups
      3m 2s
    13. Adjusting the speed of a blend
      3m 21s
    14. Rotating objects in 3D space
      5m 36s
  3. 1h 0m
    1. Illustrator's logo-making features
      1m 8s
    2. Customizing a single character of type
      5m 25s
    3. Combining a letterform with a path outline
      7m 48s
    4. Creating logo type along an open path
      5m 3s
    5. Creating logo type around a closed circle
      3m 57s
    6. Vertical alignment, orientation, and spacing
      4m 55s
    7. Warping logo type around a circle
      6m 56s
    8. Creating a classic neon type effect
      5m 39s
    9. Adding random neon brightness fluctuations
      5m 19s
    10. Creating neon "block outs" between letters
      7m 44s
    11. Adding neon blur and bokeh in Photoshop
      6m 16s
  4. 46m 19s
    1. Generating colors using harmony rules
      1m 31s
    2. Introducing the Color Guide panel
      5m 16s
    3. The 23 color harmony rules, diagrammed
      8m 16s
    4. Mixing and matching color harmonies
      5m 59s
    5. Color groups and custom harmony rules
      6m 18s
    6. Working in the Edit Colors dialog box
      7m 4s
    7. Expanding on an existing harmony rule
      6m 51s
    8. Constraining colors to a predefined library
      5m 4s
  5. 32m 44s
    1. Changing lots of colors all at once
      1m 2s
    2. Introducing the Recolor Artwork command
      4m 58s
    3. Recoloring with the help of swatch groups
      4m 35s
    4. Changing the color-assignment order
      6m 44s
    5. Reducing the number of colors in your art
      5m 7s
    6. Applying tints and shades of a single swatch
      5m 37s
    7. Recoloring artwork that contains gradients
      4m 41s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Painting with path outlines
      1m 24s
    2. Introducing the Brushes panel
      4m 25s
    3. Applying and editing a calligraphic brush
      7m 34s
    4. Applying and scaling an art brush
      6m 12s
    5. Applying and editing a scatter brush
      5m 31s
    6. Formatting and scaling brushed text
      5m 45s
    7. Designing a custom art brush
      7m 35s
    8. Creating (or replacing) an art brush
      6m 42s
    9. Refining a brush to fit ends and corners
      4m 11s
    10. Expanding, filling, and stroking a brush
      7m 4s
    11. Type on a path vs. text as an art brush
      7m 3s
    12. Distorting text with the Width tool
      8m 49s
    13. Infusing your artwork with a tile pattern
      3m 13s
  7. 58m 24s
    1. The many forms of transparency
      1m 38s
    2. Creating translucency with the Opacity value
      4m 21s
    3. Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn
      6m 15s
    4. Lighten, Screen, and Color Dodge
      5m 8s
    5. Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Difference, and Exclusion
      4m 59s
    6. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      5m 12s
    7. Combining the effects of multiple blend modes
      6m 42s
    8. Isolating blending and Knockout Group
      7m 37s
    9. Combining blend modes with dynamic effects
      7m 25s
    10. Exporting transparency from Illustrator
      9m 7s
  8. 1h 39m
    1. The Layers panel for dynamic attributes
      1m 4s
    2. Applying attributes in the Appearance panel
      6m 15s
    3. Creating depth using translucent strokes
      5m 37s
    4. Adding, layering, and offsetting strokes
      6m 12s
    5. Duplicating entire groups of attributes
      7m 55s
    6. Turning stacked strokes into editable paths
      5m 43s
    7. Simplifying a multi-stroke effect
      6m 31s
    8. Applying the Convert to Shape effect
      7m 47s
    9. Adding aligned patterns and shadows
      8m 16s
    10. Drawing with arrowheads and angled strokes
      8m 49s
    11. Employing overlapping gradient strokes
      8m 25s
    12. Drawing circular stroke elements
      10m 13s
    13. Outlining an entire multi-stroke effect
      8m 39s
    14. Creating seamless wood grain in Photoshop
      8m 11s
  9. 1h 12m
    1. The best features in Illustrator
      1m 38s
    2. Repeating a series of transformations
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting and updating a dynamic effect
      6m 37s
    4. Applying a stroke to an entire layer
      6m 24s
    5. Improving the performance of drop shadows
      5m 40s
    6. Applying a single effect multiple times
      6m 10s
    7. Creating an intricate Spirograph pattern
      7m 10s
    8. Adding scalloped edges with Pucker & Bloat
      4m 40s
    9. Applying a dynamic Pathfinder to a layer
      3m 56s
    10. Creating beveled ornaments
      6m 50s
    11. Creating a sculptural type effect
      5m 59s
    12. Subtracting editable text from a path
      7m 6s
    13. Editing text inside a dynamic effect
      4m 25s
  10. 27m 40s
    1. Never remember anything again, ever
      1m 41s
    2. The pixel-based Effect Gallery
      3m 53s
    3. Copying effects from one layer to another
      4m 44s
    4. Introducing the Graphic Styles panel
      4m 11s
    5. Correcting previews in the Effect Gallery
      4m 36s
    6. Adjusting the resolution of your effects
      4m 0s
    7. Combining and saving graphic styles
      4m 35s
  11. 1h 13m
    1. Two powerful graphics programs combine forces
      1m 5s
    2. Creating a perfectly centered star shape
      6m 52s
    3. Precisely scaling concentric circles
      7m 47s
    4. Adding reflective highlights with the Flare tool
      6m 23s
    5. Two ways to rasterize vector art for Photoshop
      7m 37s
    6. Importing vector art as a Smart Object
      6m 47s
    7. Creating a lens flare effect in Photoshop
      7m 56s
    8. Photographic texture and brushed highlights
      6m 26s
    9. Modifying a vector Smart Object in Illustrator
      6m 33s
    10. Converting Illustrator paths to shape layers
      6m 27s
    11. Assign layer effects to native shape layers
      5m 55s
    12. Completing a work of photorealistic art
      3m 46s
  12. 1m 5s
    1. Until next time
      1m 5s

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