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Knowing the fundamentals of drawing and reshaping paths is only part of the story. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second of the popular One-on-One series, computer graphics expert Deke McClelland covers some of Illustrator's most powerful and least understood features. He shows how to merge simple shapes to create complex ones with the Pathfinder palette, as well as align paths to create schematic illustrations. Deke explains how to paint fluid, multicolor fills with blends, and the new and improved gradient tool. He explores seamlessly repeating tile patterns, blobs and brushes, and imported images. He also dives into one of the deepest features in all of Illustrator, transparency. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise, I want to show you how to permanently fuse shapes together using the Unite operation. So this time instead of creating a compound shape, we'll just be creating a plain old static path. I'm working inside of an illustration called Primitives.ai and this illustration contains just two layers. The layer that contains the primitive paths that I created using the Ellipse tool and the Pen tool, and then this Backdrop layer in back of it, just so that we can keep track of the robot against some kind of background other than white.
I'm going to ahead and zoom in here. Notice if I zoom in really close right there, we've got these sort of antenna things that are coming out of his head. I don't know whether these are Global Positioning elements or he's tracking information from outer space or what the heck is happening, but I do know that I want to take these two rods that I drew, and I want to combine them together into one and I want to permanently fuse them together. So I've got these two right here. I went ahead and clicked on one, Shift-clicked on the other. I'm going to go ahead and twirl-open my pathfinders here inside the Layers palette, and I'm going to have to scroll down. I don't really have these guys organized too well. So don't except things to look as nice as they did for the previous project.
You'll see midway down here, if you go ahead and scroll midway down the list, you'll see this path that's called Path. I know it's the right one because it's meatballed and it has this little blue square next to it, indicating that it's selected here inside the illustration window. So that's a good thing. Now notice if I open up my Pathfinder palette and I go over to the Unite icon, and I Alt-click on it or Option-click on it, in order to create a compound shape, then I'll indeed achieve a compound shape here inside the Layers palette. I can now move these two subpaths, which are revealed to me if I go ahead and twirl-open Compound Shape here inside the Layers palette. I can drag these two paths independently of each other.
So I'll go ahead and meatball this guy and then I'll drag it to a different location, like so, and I'll get a different kind of interaction between these two shapes. So I'll go ahead and zoom in so we can see that just a little better. You can see that we get a little bit of weird stroking action going on. All right, so I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+Z, that'd be Command+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, a couple of times, in order to restore that object to its original location. So we do have a little bit of a jag of that stroke going inward there, because we have an interaction of these two objects. But let's say you want these two objects to fuse together permanently.
You can either go ahead and select the entire compound shape and then click on the Expand button, like so, and notice now you get a path. It's not a compound path or anything fancy. It's just the standard everyday average path that happens to look like this. I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Ctrl+Z, again a couple of times. That's Command+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. I'll show you the other way to work inside of Illustrator CS4. Now in order to produce static paths from the Pathfinder palette, you just click on these icons, you don't press the Alt or Option key.
So I'll go ahead and just click on Unite and we get the same effect as having expanded the Compound Shape. Now, you may wonder well, how in the world is it managing to create this stroke that sort of jags in like that when really all we have is one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight points right there? Well, we have a couple of other points that are sort of lumped on top of each other. If I get my White Arrow tool, and then I'll click off the shape for a moment and then I'll click on this point and I can see that I've got a point underneath my cursor, because I can actually see the point there inside the illustration window. I'll click on it and notice that I do have two separate points that are just right next to each other, originally, before I moved one of them, here inside of the illustration. And that's what's responsible for this jag in the stroke.
I'll go ahead and undo that modification. Even, just the slightest variances in point locations can produce big variances inside of your strokes depending on line weight setting and the line joins and so on. The only thing to notice about this is that this shape went ahead and jumped forward. So this is the before version, which I get of course by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, and this is the after version, Ctrl+Shift+Z, Command+Shift+Z on the Mac. What Illustrator has done is it's gone ahead and moved both of those paths to the same plane, so to the same stacking order.
So it's moved the bottom one up to meet the top one. The reason, of course, is they have to be right next to each other because they are in the same path, because they are now fused into one. All right, so how do I get it back to where it needs to be? Well, I could mess around with cutting and pasting in front and all that jazz, but there is nothing that needs to be in back of this little feller here. So I'll just press Ctrl+Shift+Left Bracket, Command+Shift+Left Bracket on the Mac to move it all the way down the stack. All right, now to reproduce that exact same effect using these two little cylinders right there, I'll go ahead and grab my Black Arrow tool. I'll marquee to select both of them and the reason I can get away with marqueeing is because that background image right there is locked. The layer that houses that image is locked, that is to say. I can show you that right here in the Layers palette, if you want to see. There it is locked.
All right, anyway, now we want to go ahead and unite these two guys together. So rather than going through all the stuff we went through last time, all you need to do is just go over to this first Shape Mode icon, click on the Unite icon right there and everything is clumped together and the stacking order is perfect. This guy wants to be in front of everybody else. All right, so that's it. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you the difference between working with Minus Front right there and then Minus Back, which is in a totally different location, coming right up.
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