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Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.
Because of the natural contours that a Gradient Mesh seems to make, I like to use it for shading especially when I want to create something little bit more complex than just regular plain shading. In this example here I'm working with a document called shading.ai and what I want to do is I want to create some kind of a reflection or a highlight in this particular area of the object and I want it to match the contour of the shape itself. I want it to look somewhat more realistic and on top of that, I also want to go ahead and apply it as an opacity mask to really allow it to do what I want it to do. I'll explain it to you guys as we kind of go along. So I mean this a mesh to work with the shape right here. I don't have a group to work because I just want to access parts of the paths that are here. I'm going to start off by just clicking on this outer edge right here. So this is my shape here, which I'm going to be using as my overall shape my mesh is going to be as well.
So I'm going to copy this then I'm going to select everything basically all my artwork right here. I'm going to go to the Object menu. I'm going to choose Lock and I want to lock my selection. Command+2 or Ctrl+2 on windows would be the keyboard shortcuts for that. So right now, I have nothing selected at all and I'm now going to choose Command+F or Ctrl+F, which is the shortcut for Paste in Front. So again, if you go to the Edit menu, you will see there is an option here called Paste in Front. So right now what I have done is I basically locked the artwork behind and I have now added a new shape in front that I'm working with. If I move this to the side, you will see that that shape is just behind it. I basically lock the art work underneath it because as we'll soon see, I want to be able to work with the mesh points without having the other pieces of artwork get in the way.
So I have this path here. My first step now is going to be to actually convert this into a mesh object. Now instead of using the Mesh tool here, I want to start off by using the Create Gradient Mesh Object command because that will allow me to quickly get the kind of contours and the shapes that I need. So I'm going to start by going over here with the object selected over here to the Object menu. I'm going to choose Create Gradient Mesh and over here, I can specify the number of rows or columns, I'm actually happy with right now 5 rows and 5 columns. I think it's going to add just the right amount of detail that I need for this area and you will see that automatically all the lines that are created here, the paths basically with the actual mesh points match the contour of my shape, which is perfect. This is wonderful I don't need to have any appearance here, as I'm doing this on my own, I'm going to click OK.
So now I have all my mesh points here. There were actually different ways to select mesh points. For example, you could use your regular Direct Selection tool to click on them or it's your actually click and drag, what the problem of the actual Direct Selection tool is not only a tool that selects objects, it also moves them. So, if I wanted to click and drag to marquee selects, there were points I'm actually moving that entire part of the mesh which I don't want to do, Undo and I'm actually going to switch to a different tool which only selects but does not actually move anything which is the Lasso tool. The Lasso tool is great when you are working with mesh because it allows you to select mesh points that may not be in a straight line. For example, if I wanted to just simply go around and so like these particular mesh points where I can do so very easily with the Lasso tool.
So I actually find that I use the lasso tool a lot when I'm working with Gradient Meshes. So I'm not going to simply just click and drag, I want to highlight just the mesh points in this part of the object right here. So I now have these mesh points right now highlighted and I want to change their fills. I'm actually going to go over here to my Swatches panel and I'll choose, let's say, a lighter gray. Let's do actually about like 30% black over here. So I get this kind of a light shade of gray. Now again, because I have the contour already set, because my Gradient Mesh is created, I automatically now have beautiful shading that applies in this area. So now what I'm going to do is I basically want my shadings to be non- existent on this side but then slowly kind of ramp up as it gets to over this side over here. So what now I'm going to do is I'm going to use my Lasso tool to go ahead and just highlight these mesh points and now I'm going to go use a darker shade of gray. Let's do something of maybe around 70 K.
So now you can see what I have basically created here. I have created a shape, a mesh here in this particular case and I have nothing going on in this side, it's all white here but then as the actual object kind of goes towards the right over here, it's starting to turn darker shades of gray and it is not just a regular plain linear gradient because you can see there is actually curve in this way matching the shape itself. In fact, I'm really happy with the way that it fits right now. I want to now be able to use this as some way to create that kind of highlight on my object. The problem though is that it does not really match all the colors and everything but it doesn't need to because I'm going to use a feature inside of Illustrator called an Opacity Mask. Now, we know that an opacity mask simply takes the actual values that I have. It finds my colors and uses that as a mask. We know that, for example, in Photoshop we have something called an Alpha Channel.
Well, I can use these particular values over here of whites and grays and blacks for that matter to automatically create some kind of a mask for any artwork beneath it. So in the case of working with the mask inside of Illustrator, I can create that any white areas are completely see through but anything that is completely black is completely hidden and then on top of that, any area that is transition inside of the gray areas becomes somewhat see through. So I'm actually going to do that right now. I'm going to go ahead and right now go ahead and choose my Regular Selection tool. Now I have to first go ahead and choose to select that artwork that appears beneath this. Now remember, I locked that artwork before. So I'm going to go back over here to the Object menu, I'm going to choose Unlock All. So now I have everything unlocked and I'm now going to go ahead and just hit Command+A or Ctrl+A to select everything. I now have the topmost object, which is my Gradient Mesh, which is now going to become the mask for all the other artwork inside of my document. Now I'll go to my Transparency panel. I'll go to the Fly-out menu here, the panel menu for the Transparency panel and choose Make Opacity Mask.
So now we can see exactly what happened here. I have my artwork which appear underneath may Gradient Mesh over here and then I have the Gradient Mesh which was the topmost object which now became an opacity mask for everything underneath it. The opacity mask simply is using the gray values that I have inside of my mesh. Remember we actually started off with no color at all and then it went to lighter shades of gray to darker shades of gray and that now becomes a highlight for this particular object in this piece of artwork that we have here. So this is just one example of how I can use the power of Gradient Mesh inside of Illustrator to get just the right kind of shading and highlights that I want to create inside of Illustrator without jumping through hoops and working with different types of gradients. Then I work also with very basic Gradient Mesh here. I don't have to worry about turning red and blue all on to these different shades of white for highlights and so forth. I could simply use that as an opacity mask. I get exactly what I need very quickly, very easy to edit because we know that with opacity mask, I can easily edit them and for more information on opacity mask, you can refer back to the chapter on masking itself where we go into great detail about how the opacity mask work.
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