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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.
I am still looking at this illustration called Anasazi stop.ai found inside the 07_edit_transform folder. The whole idea behind this larger project is we are starting with very primitive open paths and we are ultimately constructing these carefully crafted geometric forms, all of which end up being closed paths. But before we see that project, I want to show you a tool that's new to Illustrator CS4 that paints with closed paths right out of the gate, and that's the Blob Brush. I'm going to go ahead and turn off Big Unite. I'll turn on Blobs, so that you can see one of many variations on this artwork that you can achieve using the Blob Brush.
Now, it ends up giving you more primitive results potentially. You are not going to get these very careful geometric forms, for example, but Blob Brush artwork is also more expressive, it's more organic, it's more painterly, if you will. So here's one I would like you to do, just to get a feel for how this tool works, and whether you want to integrate it into your illustration workflow. Go ahead and turn off the Blobs layer so that we have nothing showing. Then Ctrl-click or Command-click in the eyeball area here, in front of the Stroked layer, so that we have something to trace. What we are seeing, of course, is the path outlines viewed in this Keyline Mode right here.
I am going to go ahead and add a new layer up top, and to do so I'll Alt-click or Option-click on this little Page icon down at the bottom of the Layers palette, and I'm going to call this my blobs or something to that effect. You can set the color to anything that you like. I might go ahead and set mine to gold; and that's a color that's assigned to the anchor points and segments when an object is selected. Go ahead and click OK, and now we are going to trace this hand. Now, before I go any farther I'm going to tell you that I have a Wacom tablet with a pressure-sensitive stylus that I'm going be drawing with, just so that I can control the Blob Brush a little bit better. Frankly, a pen is going to be more enabling when using this tool than a mouse any day of the week.
So let's go ahead and select the Blob Brush. Notice it has a keyboard shortcut of Shift+B. You can just start painting around with it if you want to, just to get a sense of what it does. Notice if I just sort of sketch around the spiral like so, I'm going to get ultimately a closed shape outline here. So if I go back to the Black Arrow tool and now click on this shape, you will see that it is one lumpy weird looking shape at this point. But it has all been traced, so Illustrator has automatically traced the outline of the thing I just painted, of all of these blobs, and filled it with black. This is regular black by the way. This is 100% black ink. That's it.
All right. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and get rid of that guy and try something different. Now, I want the Blob Brush to respond to pressure-sensitive input, because I'm using a pressure-sensitive brush. So I'll double-click on the Blob Brush icon there in the toolbox and I'll change size from Fixed to Pressure. I'm going to go ahead and increase the Size value here to something like 30 points let's say. I want a full 30 points of Variation as well, so that when I let up from my stylus, when I release pressure, I'll get a very thin line, and when I press hard I'll get a very thick line.
Then I'll go ahead and click OK. Let's see what we come up with now. I'm going to start painting right at that thumb there and then loop around and get thinner and thinner and thinner, or I might start the other direction actually. When I say I'm getting thinner and thinner and thinner, I mean I'm letting up on the pressure on my stylus, so it responds relatively naturally, just like a marker would for example. So the Blob Brush is trying to emulate traditional tools. I end up getting this fairly wacky form right there. Now, if this isn't to your liking, if your very first stroke doesn't end up working out exactly the way you want it to, don't worry about that. Just so that we can clearly distinguish what we are drawing here on this My Blobs layer, from the outlines on the Stroked layer in the background. I'm actually going to lock that Stroked layer, just to make sure I don't mess it up.
Let's go ahead and change our Fill color from black to something else. I'm going to Ctrl-click or Command-click on this outline in order to select it, and then I'm going to check that my Fill is active, which it is, and I'll go up to the Swatches palette and I'll change the Fill to this Hand outline color right there, which is red. Now, if you don't get things exactly right, as I was saying, then you can continue to paint on your lines. Like if I want my thumb to be a little thicker at this point right there, I just go ahead and paint in a thicker thumb, and then if I Ctrl-click or Command-click again; and the reason I'm pressing the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac is to get my Black Arrow tool on the fly, If I Ctrl-click or Command-click again, you will note that I have gone ahead and thickened up this path outline. So I still have just one filled shape inside of my illustration.
Now I'm going to go ahead and paint down the pinky, and notice that gets added to the path as well, and I'll paint this ring finger, and I'll paint the middle finger right there, and finally I'll paint in the index finger. If I again Ctrl-click or Command-click on the Mac on this shape, we will see that yes indeed, it is all one big shape that has been glommed together. All right. Just to eliminate some confusion, I'm going to turn off that Stroked layer so that I can't see it anymore. Now, this is a pretty good stab at the illustration for starters, bearing in mind of course that I wanted to have a certain primitive feel. But what if you are looking at it going, this isn't quite right. It's not that I want to add more stuff to this illustration. I could add more thickness to these edges if I wanted to. What I really want to do at this point is I want to go ahead and erase some of this garbage, because it's getting too thick in places.
How do I go about erasing? Can I use the Blob Brush to erase? The answer is no, the Blob Brush does not have an Eraser function, but Illustrator does. And I'll show you how it works in the next exercise.
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