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In this installment of Illustrator Insider Training, Mordy Golding shows experienced Illustrator users how to create transparency effects and ensure reliable printing results. This course reviews the history of vector transparency and covers features such as knockout groups, opacity masks, and transparency flattening. Mordy also shows how to establish a safe workflow when placing Illustrator graphics containing transparency in PostScript, PDF, and InDesign files. A free worksheet is included with the course.
In the previous movie we've seen that Illustrator will at times rasterize artwork in order to maintain its visual appearance. However, in the case that we've seen so far, Illustrator was forced to rasterize artwork because there was simply no other way to accomplish that same appearance in vector form. However, there are times when Illustrator may choose to rasterize something for other reasons. Let's take a look at such an example. I have a blank document open over here and I am going to go over here to my Symbols panel.
And I am going to choose to open up one of the Symbol libraries that come with Illustrator, so I'll come down here to the Library icon and scroll down to where it says Nature. And over here there are some trees, like these trees right over here. I am just going to click on that to add it now to my document and I can close this. I don't need it right now. And I want to add a whole bunch of trees. I want to create some kind of forests, right? Let's believe for a moment here that we are Bob Ross. So I am actually going to switch over here inside of my tools panel and there is a tool here called the Symbol Sprayer tool. This tool obviously only works with symbols and allows you to basically spray your document filled with symbols.
So I am first going to go ahead now and select this tree symbol right here and then click and drag with the mouse to basically add all these happy trees all over this document now. So I have like a pretty dense area here of these trees and you can see over here that I've started to create this forest. Let's add a few more trees. I am just going to click and drag. You can just continue to add more. This is like a live object. So I have a nice dense area here of trees. Not a place you'd want to go skiing through. But right now, before we actually print this document I want to make some changes to this document.
So what I am going to do is I am actually going to go ahead and come back to my Tools panel. I am going to click it and hold now on the Symbol Sprayer tool and I'll see a popup here. And there are many other sub-tools that work with the Symbol Sprayer tool. One of them is called the Symbol Screener tool. This tool allows me to actually apply transparency or opacity settings across all these symbols. So I am just going to click and drag to start to introduce and add some Opacity values to the shapes that are here. By the way, if I felt it went too strong I can hold down the Option key, or that would be the Alt on Windows, to reverse that and kind of bring back some of the opacity.
But I wanted to add some opacity here to some of the shapes that are now present inside of this piece of artwork. Now I am going to switch to my Selection tool here. And let's talk about what this artwork is actually made up of. In fact, I am going to double-click right here on this symbol itself in the Symbols panel, and that's going to isolate just the symbol so if I wanted to edit it, for example, I can do so. Let me zoom in a little bit closer here. And let's take a closer look at exactly what this artwork is made of. There are no gradients in here. In fact, this object is just filled with regular solid vector shapes.
In fact, we can see that by opening one of our panels here inside of Illustrator. I am going to go over here to the Window menu and I am going to choose to open up the Document Info panel. Now this is a panel which I don't use as often, but it's a great tool to use when you're troubleshooting things because it gives you information about your file. In fact, if I go to the flyout menu here you can see that first of all there is a checkbox that says Selection Only. I am going to leave that checked on for now. But I can view information about my document, about the objects, about the graphic styles, brushes, spot color objects, tons information here that tells me exactly what's going on inside of my file.
So right now, it's set to Objects and it's set to Selection Only. That means that this is only going to show me information based on the artwork that's currently selected. So I am just going to now select this artwork and now I am going to read what's available now inside of the Document Info panel. If I look over here at the bottom where it says Gradient Objects it says None. That means that none of these objects are filled with gradients. If I go down over here where it says Linked Images, it says None and Embedded Images it says None. So that means that right now this artwork that I am viewing is completely vector and it is filled with solid colors. There is no gradients in here to worry about.
I have no patterns. It's just a simple straightforward piece of art that has regularly filled vector objects. In other words, if I were to start introducing some of the transparency here, there should be no reason why Illustrator would be forced to rasterize any of this artwork. After all, even if I were to have transparency in these and overlap them, the overlapping areas would still be solid shapes so I should still end up with a complete vector representation of my artwork, right? Well, let's go ahead now and double- click on a white area to exit Isolation Mode.
So I am back to my document here. I want to press Command+0 so I can kind of see this document as is. And again if I select this object, right now you can see my Document Info panel tells me that there are no images here whatsoever. These are simply the symbols that are made up of the vector objects. Now I am going to go to the Object menu. I have an entire symbol set currently selected, and I am going to on choose Flatten Transparency. Let's see what happens when this artwork actually gets printed. I am going to use regular default settings for here. Click OK. It's actually going to take a little longer to flatten this because there is a lot of information that's here.
Now let's talk for a minute here about what's going on. Illustrator itself obviously creates vector artwork but it can also create rasterized artwork. Now here another thing also to note. We've always kind of been taught that raster images in order for it to be high resolution it take about a lot of space and vector objects are pretty simple and can be printed very easily. Well, that's true for a normal artwork. But there are times when there are so many vector objects and so many anchor points that even printers with a lot of memory can take a lot of time to process that information.
In other words, there are times when it's is actually faster or easier to print raster-based information then it would be to try to process all the anchor points necessary for printing out a vector artwork. In a case like this where I have so many anchor points, so many paths, so many overlapping areas, Illustrator may decide, you know what? This artwork is just too complex for me to worry about breaking down the vectors. It's going to be easier if I take certain areas that are just too complex and rasterize those areas, meaning that will speed up print time by rasterizing some of the content.
In other words, I don't need to rasterize it. I mean, I could keep it vector but it's going to be so much faster if I rasterize it, and Illustrator takes that into account. In fact, if we look now at our Document Info panel I have a tremendous number of paths here, over 25,000 paths. But I also have images. Illustrator actually rasterized 37 areas of this document in order so that it should print faster. So what we see here is something that's quite incredible. Illustrator has the authority, if you want to call it that, to actually rasterize certain parts of the document purely for performance reasons.
Meaning if Illustrator feels that some areas are just too complex, Illustrator will go ahead and rasterize those areas to decrease print time. Now these areas that Illustrator identifies as being too difficult to print are areas that are called complex regions. So every time that you process any kind of artwork that has transparency inside of it, Illustrator first start looking for these complex regions to see if it can actually save some them time by rasterizing those areas. Now here's a question for you.
What is too complex for Illustrator? How do I know which area is more complex or less complex? How can I, as a user, know at what point Illustrator is going to choose to actually rasterize something? Or even a step further than that, since these are areas that don't have to be rasterized, they are only done for performance reasons, do I have some way as a user to tell Illustrator I don't care if it takes a half an hour to print it, I want it to print at the highest quality possible, take as much time as you need to process all these information as vector information? The answers to all these questions are things that we're going to discover in the next movie.
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