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Knowing the fundamentals of drawing and reshaping paths is only part of the story. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second of the popular One-on-One series, computer graphics expert Deke McClelland covers some of Illustrator's most powerful and least understood features. He shows how to merge simple shapes to create complex ones with the Pathfinder palette, as well as align paths to create schematic illustrations. Deke explains how to paint fluid, multicolor fills with blends, and the new and improved gradient tool. He explores seamlessly repeating tile patterns, blobs and brushes, and imported images. He also dives into one of the deepest features in all of Illustrator, transparency. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Recommended prerequisite: Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Illustrator from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise I'm going to show you an extremely powerful way to modify a gradient mesh as opposed to approaching it on a point by point or handle by handle basis. We are going to transform entire rows and columns at a time using Illustrator's Liquify tools. And these are some very powerful tools that we haven't seen so far. I have gone ahead and created a modified version of the document and saved it as Rivers of color.ai. And the idea is I have gotten rid of the violets and all the other weird aberrant colors. And I have added a few colors going in the opposite direction, some of the rivers that are following in perpendicular directions here, which more or less matches what we are seeing in the background art kind of. And when I say more or less matches, not at all but at least we have got colors going in the right direction at this point.
What we need to do is get some curvature going inside of these lines, which are all now perpendicular to each other. So I went ahead and got rid of all the weird kinks and stuff that we had before. And if you want to see those mesh lines then obviously you go ahead and meatball the Mesh item, here inside the Group that's inside the Backdrop layer, that's inside the Layers palette, that Jack built. All right anyway I'm going to go ahead zoom out a little bit here, quite a bit actually, what the heck. And let's go ahead and see what we are doing by Ctrl-clicking or Command-clicking on that eyeball once again next to the Backdrop layer. And Liquify tools are the theses guys right there. They start with the Warp tool, which is your most useful of the Liquify tools. And then move down the list to Twirl, and Pucker, and Bloat, and all these other guys.
Warp goes ahead and moves things around, squishes entire groups of anchor points and handles around. Twirl is going to twirl them for what that's worth. Pucker is going to squish them inward. Bloat is going to bloat them outwards, and so on. And we'll be taking a look at these tools in more detail in a future chapter. But for now I'm going to go ahead and grab the Warp tool right here, and one of the interesting things to note about the Warp tool is you can change its cursor. Notice it's a painting tool by the way that allows you to do this, just squish things around.
And then we are going to get a very different effect. If I press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac, you can see that right away we are starting to get some amazing effects out of this gradient mesh. And we really do have the opportunity to start adding some curvature to these rivers very, very quickly. Now if you want to move quicker still, you want a bigger brush then you can change the size of your brush by pressing and holding the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and then dragging with the tool. So notice how it's getting bigger and it's also revealing the hidden web in the background. That's nice.
It's not editing it. It's just showing it to me, cool. Anyway, as you Alt or Option+drag with the tool you are going to change the size of the brush and you can make it like really wide and short, or you can make it tall and narrow and all kinds of stuff. Anyway, I want a brush that's about let's say that big, and as soon as I release, gosh all those little web lines go away. That's nice. And then I could start dragging around huge bunches of the envelope if I want to, like so. Now you want to make sure that your Clipping Path is not active and it is not for me. So I'm not modifying it, which is really great. If you do have a problem with that, you can always lock it down. So you can lock down that Clipping Path rectangle independently of the mesh itself, which is actually very handy, very powerful, I think.
All right, do whatever you want, have fun with this. But another thing we might do, if you Ctrl-click or Command-click on that eyeball in front of the Backdrop layer right there, you will see that the colors sort of appears inward toward the center. So they flare out at the outside edges and then they squish inward toward the middle. And so we might be able to take advantage of the Pucker tool. So anyway I can go ahead and work on this mesh here even though it's in the Outline mode, which is nice. Oops! I have got a little bit of auto scroll.
I guess that's okay. And I can move this down a little bit as well if I want to and flare the top area upward. All right, so to get a sense of how another one of these tools work-- I'm not going to show you every one of them because as I say, we are going to be playing with the Liquify tools ad nauseam in a future chapter. But let's go ahead and try out the Pucker tool. Now the thing about the Pucker tool is that it works really fast. I'll go ahead and make my brush even bigger here by Alt or Option+dragging like so invoking a nice auto scroll. Isn't that lovely? Bring that back down please and then notice if I start clicking, I just squish this envelope like crazy. Just the tiniest little click on this guy turns it into a butterfly. So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification.
What you need is more delicate tool, and you create a more delicate tool by double-clicking on the Pucker tool icon right there and changing the Intensity from 50% to let's say 5 and then click OK. Now, if I click with the tool, you can see that it's squishing the envelope in a more dainty fashion, don't you know? All right, that's looks pretty good, maybe. I'll go ahead and move this over with the Black Arrow tool. Now you can control exactly which portions of the gradient mesh get modified and which portions don't using selections.
So when you are working with the Liquify tools, you only modify the selected points inside of the mesh. So let's go ahead and Ctrl-click or Command-click on that eyeball again just to see what in the world we are doing and see what kind of mess we have made of the mesh so far. And then, you know what I think I would like to do is press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac, so I can see which points are selected and which points aren't. And then I'll go ahead and get my Lasso tool, which I can get by pressing the Q key because it looks like a Q, a backward Q after all. And then I'll just go ahead and drag around some of these central points like so, just some random points.
Now this time, I ended up selecting some of the Clipping Path, so I'm just going to lock it down by clicking its lock icon. And now we have just the Mesh active and then I'll go back here to the Pucker tool and click some more. And notice now I'm just modifying those selected points and I'm not changing any of the points out here in the nether regions, which I don't want to modify. Then I would go back and get my Lasso tool once again, maybe select some of these points in the upper-right region and then I think I'll go and grab my Warp tool. Now all of the tools go ahead and use the same Intensity value. So an Intensity value that works great for the Pucker tool doesn't work worth beans for the Warp tool. You can see that I'm just not getting anything done at this point.
So I would go ahead and double- click on the Warp tool icon and then I would reinstate an Intensity value of 50%, press the Enter or Return key to accept that modification, and now I can drag with a little more authority here. Now I'll press the Q key to get the Lasso tool, you get the idea. I'm just playing around here. And then, I think Shift+R is the keyboard shortcut for the Warp tool. Yes it is. And now I can go ahead and drag this guy upward like so. All right, so anyway there you have it. Some ways to get some work done very, very quickly if you want to, and it's not like you have a ton of control.
You will see now that I have all kinds of harsh transitions. But I could now iron out those harsh transitions by going in on a point-by-point basis with the White Arrow tool, or with the Mesh tool, or I could take it a little easier with the Warp tool if I wanted to. All sorts of options available to me when editing a gradient mesh here inside Illustrator.
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