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In this installment of the Illustrator Insider Training series, Mordy Golding shows how to draw vector artwork quickly, precisely, and efficiently—without having to think about technical concepts like anchor points or control handles. The course highlights intuitive drawing techniques using the Pathfinder functions, Live Paint groups, Shape Builder tool, and variable-width strokes. It also describes the sketching workflow and features in Illustrator that use pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, allowing designers to focus more on their creativity.
So we can see that the Shape Builder tool is really a combination of both Pathfinder and of Live Paint. However, there was an aspect of Live Paint that we haven't seen yet. Live Paint had this really cool feature called Gap Detection. It allowed us to define regions in our artwork, even though the regions themselves were not completely closed, and in fact, if we take a look at this ear over here of Mister Zee and I select this area. If I want to use my Shape Builder tool to apply different colors to maybe the ear and also some shading over here, you can see that the Shape Builder sees these as one region and that's because there's a gap over here, and the gap identifies this as one single shape.
So I have one shape here, but only one shape here. Wouldn't it be cool if I could have Gap Detection when using the Shape Builder tool as well? Well, guess what? It's there, although it's turned off by default. The main reason why is because Gap Detection does take a little bit extra memory or kind of more processing power for Illustrator to use when it's analyzing your artwork. If you can imagine a really large piece of artwork with many paths, having Gap Detection turned on, could slow things down a little bit.
However, in this case here, really we're going to be using things kind of one off as we're building artwork, so it's okay to have this feature turned on. I'm going to come over here to the Tools panel and double-click once again on my Shape Builder tool and that brings up the Shape Builder tool Options dialog box, where I'll see at the top an option called Gap Detection. Like I said, by default, this option is turned off. But I'm going to turn it on and once again just as with Live Paint, I'm able to determine how large of a gap I can allow and I can also specify a custom value as well.
I'm going to leave it set to Small and click OK. Now you'll notice that when I mouse over these areas, they are identified as their own individual regions. So because I have the ability now to color my artwork also, I'm going to use the arrow keys on my keyboard to toggle to the black color, click once over here to actually color this part black, and let's actually get a few gray colors as well, maybe kind of add a little bit of a gray color there just for some shading. I just want to show you by the way what happened here. When Illustrator now had to create a close filled shape in order to apply the color, Illustrator simply found that gap and just closed it off with a path.
So if I kind of pull these shapes apart here, you can see what Illustrator created here. It's not that perfect. So I may want to kind of go in and clean that up a little bit. However, if I have really small gaps, I may not even care about it, I may not even notice it, but I can still close and fill those areas using the Shape Builder tool. So now we come full circle. We see that the Shape Builder tool gives us the power that Pathfinder brings to us but the intuitive nature and the really cool features of Live Paint. It doesn't mean that you can use the Shape Builder tool, and forget about Live Paint, and forget about Pathfinder, I think that on a day-to-day basis, the Shape Builder tool is going to be really powerful and very useful for the work that you do.
However, there will always be times where you might want to use Live Paint and might want to use the benefits of a live structure, especially when you understand the benefits of working with groups, and there are many times when you'd really just want to have a quick one-off Pathfinder, especially if you're already familiar with it. Perhaps most importantly, you now have mastery over three ways of building artwork inside of Illustrator. Pathfinder, Live Paint, and Shape Builder.
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