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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.
In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to take this clumsy spiral here and change it into a more pleasing spiral using the Reshape tool. I'm working inside of a document called Clumsy spiral.ai that represents my progress so far. Now you might say "Well Deke, if you don't like this spiral, why didn't you just draw it right in the first place ?" The reason is I couldn't. The Spiral tool always draws clumsy spirals frankly. It has this habit, no matter what you set the K value to and all of the other jazz. It has a habit of creating these big gaps at one point and then they get tighter and then they get big again in here. That's not what I want.
So in order to gauge what it is I actually want, I'm going to turn big unite, which is the final version of my illustration, into a tracing template; just because I'm having to do this in front of you and I really want you to have a very keen sense of how the Reshape tool works, because it's an odd tool. It's an odd, but useful tool. All right, so I'm going to take big unite and move it under elements here in the Layers palette. Then I'm going to turn it on and we are going to convert it into a tracing template by meat- balling the layer. Changing its Opacity, in this case, here in the Transparency palette to 50% and then locking down that layer, like so.
Next, let's move over to the elements layer. This is currently still an open path with a 24-point stroke. Now it might be tempting to go ahead and outline it because the filled shape like the fingers, but if you do that, you are going to make a mess of this spiral, as you modify it using the Reshape tool. So you've got to be applying the Reshape tool to an open path, like the one we see right here, in order to get the best results. It's no surprise, by the way, that the Reshape tool and the Spiral tool were introduced in the exact same version of Illustrator, because it's uniquely suited to spirals, as we will see.
All right, we need to move the spiral upward, and I just so happen to know that the spiral wants to ago exactly 40 points upward. So I'm going to press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to bring up the Move dialog box. Notice, it's showing us the last movement we applied. I want this to be twice this movement. So instead of a vertical movement of 20 points, I want it to be 40 points, and I just want to show you the special trick in Illustrator. You can do math inside of these numerical options by using common operators. For example, if I were to enter *2 after 20 points right there and press the Tab key, it would go ahead and do the math for me and say "oh! You want 20 points times two, so that's 40 points ." If I wanted to do division, I would just enter /2, like so. Then you also have the option of doing minus, if you want to, of entering a minus character as a hyphen of course. Then I could, sort of, subtract 10 or in my case at this point, if we wanted to fool around with addition, I would say+30 in order to finally get 40 points, which is what I want.
Okay, just to give you a sense of the myriad options available to you inside of Illustrator. All right, so we've got things lined up over on this point, but that's it, the rest of the spiral is wacky and not in alignment with where we are ultimately going with the big unite layer. I want you to go over to this tool right here, the Scale tool. Click and hold. The Scale tool allows you to resize objects. The Shear tool. Nothing to do with sheep, it allows you to slant or skew objects. Then the Reshape tool allows you to do what we are about to do. It's really an odd tool. It allows you to basically pull on objects and tug them one way or the other, if they are made of taffy or something.
So I'll go ahead and select the Reshape tool. Now I'm going to drag this endpoint right there. This endpoint is in alignment, so we don't need to move it, but if I drag this endpoint, all the other points, except for that endpoint, are going to move around. Notice that and I'm going to stretch this spiral as if it were, well, maybe not taffy, maybe a spring. I want to move it into a proper alignment with the background template. So I think right about there is going to work for me. Actually, that landed in a pretty good place. Now once you get the two endpoints where you want them to be, and by the way if this isn't exactly where you need it to be, if you want to move it over a little bit, you can't nudge it with the Arrow keys. It's not an option. What you can do is just move it over slightly by dragging it, but snapping is turned on, so you would have to move it a pretty good distance before it would actually let you move it without snapping back into place.
So I recommend when using the Reshape tool that you turn snapping off. So go up to the View menu and choose Snap to Point to turn that command off. That's Ctrl+Alt+", Command+Opt+" on the Mac. Then you would drag this guy over as little as possible, just like a screen pixel or two over to the right. You may have to move it fairly down in order to get its attention and then that looks pretty good. It actually looks exactly like where we started, but that's fine. Now I'm going to drag this point over and as you do, when you drag any of the midpoints, notice that the endpoints remain locked down. So you're now only moving the midpoints inside the shape. Now my frustration with this tool is at a certain point you get points where you want them to be, the midpoints, that is, in a good place. What would be nice is to lock them down by doing something to them, but that's not an option, you can't right-click and say lock down that point somehow. It's just not an option when using the Reshape tool.
So every drag you make to one of the midpoints inside of the shape is going to affect the other midpoints as well. So it's all relative. So you keep having to go back and forth and sort of overcompensate in different directions in order to account for the fact that soon you are going to be dragging something in the opposite direction and messing up everything. All right, now you do have one interesting option, when using this tool. You can click on one point and then Shift -click on another point in order to maintain the relative distance between those points as you move them, but all the midpoints are still going to move. It's just that those two midpoints are going to move together and then you might go back to these guys and say "okay, I overcompensated this direction a little bit. I'll click on this one." Shift-click on this one and then move them up and see if my overcompensation is going to payoff for me or if this is just going to drive me completely insane.
In your defense, in case you are getting a little frustrated using this tool, it could definitely offer us more control than it does. That's a shame but it is a good tool. I would rather have it than not have it, put it that way. It's frustrating as it can be. In its defense, it's just a matter of patiently working through the dragging, and dragging, and dragging, that is required to use it. So expect to be pulling at this for a little while before you get everything in exactly the right place. I'm going to try to move this a little too far up and see if that's going to help us when I take this guy back down, because we just need to stretch out that increment between the two and this is looking actually quite good. I'm going to give it one more tug right there and see if that doesn't do it for us.
Well, it didn't really do that much there, but this is looking pretty darn good. Now if after a point you're just feeling like, well, that's as good as I'm going to get out of the Reshape tool, but I would still like to get a little more curvature out of this segment, for example. You do have the option of going to the white Arrow tool by pressing the A key of course and clicking off of the shape in order to deselect it. Then moving your cursor over that segment in order to get that little square that shows you that there is some portion of a path right under your cursor. Click on it and then you can modify the control handles by dragging at them in order to tug at that segment. We are going to be discussing control handles in a lot more detail in a later chapter, but for now just note that; that is an option as well. So you can use any of the tools at your disposal inside of Illustrator in order to get the job done.
That is how the Reshape tool works. In the next exercise, I would like you to join me as we join the fingers to the spiral palm.
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