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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
There are two unique drawing tools inside of Illustrator, one here called the Blob Brush tool. The other one here is called the Eraser tool. And they're both unique in that they are kind of performing these Pathfinder functions behind the scenes for you as you draw. Before we learn how to use these tools let's take look at some of their settings because as we'll find out they're really based in the same technology and they are quite similar. So I am going to start by double clicking here on the Blob Brush tool to bring up the Blob Brush Tool Options dialog box. You know I'll be honest with you. I am not a big fan of the name Blob Brush.
It sounds too close to blah, but in reality when you start working with this brush it's anything but blah. I want to focus here on the bottom here where it says Default Brush Options because you'll see here that you have the ability to set a size for your brush. But you can also choose different options for the brush itself. Now I'm using a Wacom tablet here with a pressure-sensitive pen. So I can set the size of my Blob Brush to take the pressure of my pen into account when I draw. I can also choose a variation for how much I want that pressure to affect the size of the brush itself.
For example, to understand how this preview works, I've currently specified the brush size of 10 points. It's a rounded shape right now. So I see a round 10 point circle right here. However, because I specified a variation of up to 10 points, that means that as I press harder or a lighter on my tablet I can either have the tip of my pen to be almost 0 or up to 20 points in size. I am going to leave my brush set to a round brush here. Obviously the angle of a perfectly round brush has no visual difference, so I'm going to click OK.
Now when you are working with the Brush tool itself, the color that you draw with it is actually determined by your stroke color. So I am going to tap the X key on my keyboard to bring my stroke into focus. Notice now my stroke is actually now in the front. Same thing also here inside that the Color panel. And I'll choose like a dark green color. Now first I'll start drawing with the mouse. Because the mouse has no pressure sensitivity, as I click and drag I get one uniform stroke that's consistently 10 points in size.
However, now I'll pick up my Wacom pen and as I create a stroke I could vary the pressure so now that you can see I could have thin and thick areas as well. Now I mentioned before that the Blob Brush performs some type of Pathfinder functions in the background. And here's the real unique thing about working with the Blob Brush tool. I am going to jump into outline mode for a moment by pressing Command+Y and you'll see that I am now working with these filled shapes. That's because as I draw a stroke with the Blob Brush tool Illustrator expands it into a filled shape when I stop drawing the stroke.
So I'll toggle back to preview mode by pressing Command+Y and watch what happens now when I continue to draw over a certain areas. Like maybe I want to thicken up the area down here in the bottom so I am just going to simply go ahead now and kind of paint over these areas. Well, now if I go into Outline mode I'll see that Illustrator combined all those together. Basically as I would draw more strokes with the Blob Brush tool, Illustrator will automatically create a single shaped by uniting all those strokes together into one.
But Illustrator is using some intelligence to make that happen. For example, I am going to change now to a different color, a lighter green. And I'll start now adding some other color here as well. In this example you'll see if I go back into Outline mode that Illustrator did not combine those two together. That's because they're different colors. So when you're using the Blob Brush tool, as you continue to add strokes, Illustrator will combine like fill colors into one overall object but it won't do that for a different colors.
So back in Preview mode you can see how working with the Blog Brush tool can be very easy to work with and to draw with. Let me delete these shapes for example and draw something like a leaf. Once again I am using the Wacom pen for this. So I'll start off with a nice green color here and I'll create some kind of shape like this and then like that. Maybe I'll add some detail down the middle, add a few shapes like this. And then if I decide I want to fill in or add some kind of color, I could switch to a lighter green color and I might want to scribble this behind all these shapes.
So I'll actually press Shift+D to toggle into my Draw Behind mode and I'll simply go ahead and scribble some of this right here behind this. And notice how that gets added right there. Let me kind of fill that up just a little bit more. I don't want too many gaps there. But this is really one of the benefits of working with the Blob Brush tool because as I just click and drag, it's merging the colors that have the same fill and maybe I'll just go ahead right about over here and add a little bit more detail. Now that I am done with that, I'll press Shift+ D to go back to my regular Draw Normal mode.
Now inside of the Tools panel right next to the Blob Brush tool is the Eraser tool. If I double-click on Eraser tool, I'll see that the options are very similar to what I just saw inside of the Blob Brush tool. In fact for the size of my eraser, I leave it set to 10 points, which is the same that I had it as for the Blob Brush tool. I'll change the setting here from Fixed to Pressure and I'll set the Variation to 10 points as well and click OK. What this allows me to do is actually write or draw over these artwork to erase it.
So it's kind of like performing a subtract for this artwork. One of the really nice things that I like about working with the Wacom tablet, however, is that my pen has an eraser on one end and a drawing nib on the other. So if I go ahead now and I select my Blob Brush tool here and I start clicking and dragging to draw some artwork here, I could just flip my pen over and notice that Illustrator automatically turns it to the Eraser where I can now go ahead now and erase parts of those paths as well. So it mimics the exact same experience that I might have when working with traditional tools like a pencil and paper.
Just one thing I want to note about the Eraser is that obviously in this example I've been using it to erase paths that I've drawn with the Blob Brush tool [00:06:053.02] but the Eraser tool can really be used to erase almost any paths inside of Illustrator. In fact, sometimes you might find it easier to simply swipe across an object to erase it rather than to perform its distinct Pathfinder command. The Eraser tool also changes its behavior somewhat based on the selections that you've made. For example, right now I have nothing selected so if I choose my Eraser tool here and I click and drag through the middle everything in its path becomes erased.
However, if I press Undo and I hold down my Command key to temporarily access the Selection tool and I click on just the background right here, now if I click and drag through the middle only the artwork that was selected becomes erased. The artwork that was not selected doesn't get touched at all by the Eraser. It's almost as if that leaf right now was locked, but the light green background behind it was not locked. So even if you don't like the name of the tool itself, the Blob Brush tool, I think you'll find that you'll have a tremendous amount of fun actually using it.
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