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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.
Now if you know anything about the commercial print industry, you know that it's all digital these days and it's all based on the Postscript Printing Language. So you would naturally assume that anything that you can do in Illustrator is 100% Postscript compatible. After all who owns Postscript? Adobe. Adobe led with Postscript back in 1985 and then a couple of years later they came out with Illustrator 1.0. And back in the old days the two used to be in lockstep with each other, but these days Adobe invests it's new printing wizardry into the ever expanding PDF file format.
So things like Transparency are not compatible with Postscript. Postscript provides no provision for the Opacity value or blend modes or opacity masks or anything that we have seen in this chapter except for clipping masks. Everything else falls outside the domain of Postscript, so how in the world are we going to get an illustration like this to print? Well Illustrator does one of two things. It either breaks complex regions down into a bunch of independent vectors as you are printing the file or it goes ahead and rasterizes complex regions. Meaning that it converts those regions to pixels and that may seem like absolute heresy, that you spend in all this time creating vectors inside of Illustrator and then coverts the artwork to pixels behind your back.
To a certain extent it is heresy and I'll show you control that heresy, how to mitigate it inside of this exercise from the Flattener Preview palette, but I'm going to warn you of something about this palette. It is an absolute propeller head palette meaning that its quite tacky. You may find that you never want to revisit this palette again in your life and I'll show you a better technique then working inside of this palette in the next exercise when we take a look at Photoshop. But in the mean time you owe it to yourself to at least understand that this palette exist and get a sense of how you work with it. So I'm still working inside Final sans frame.ai. I'm going to go ahead and move this artwork over to left so I have some room right there to bring up my Flattener Preview palette and I'm going to go the Window menu and choose Flattener Preview, here it is.
Now not the most welcoming palette. It doesn't have much in the way of options. The only thing it really invites you to do actively anyway is to zoom on the blankness, which is an act of absurdity. But anyway here is how to make the palette, well, functional. Go up to the fly out menu and choose Show Option and that will give your a hand full of options with which to modify your artwork and by default I'm going to go ahead an change this Preset to Medium Resolution. These are the settings that you will see by default inside of Illustrator. Then I'll go ahead and switch to the Detail Preview, which permits me access to the couple of additional options.
All right so now you have got a palette that's actually useful make it taller so that you have a big Preview area here and then to take advantage of the Preview go ahead and click on the Refresh button. Now you will spend a lot of your time inside this palette clicking on Refresh. You can also zoom in by inside of the Preview area with this Zoom tool you can Alt-click or Option-click to zoom out and you can Spacebar+drag to move. Now don't press Ctrl+plus or Ctrl+ minus because if you do that you will actually zoom in and out of the artwork and that will get rid of your Preview and you have to click Refresh again and it's just a big pain in the neck. All right so I'll go ahead and zoom in on my artwork just a little bit. Right now we are just seeing Color Preview of the artwork. That doesn't really serve our purposes. We need to see what's going to print in what way. So go to the Highlight options and notice that you can check out a lot of different stuff.
For example you can see which strokes inside of your artwork are going to get outlined, converted to path outlines that is, and any where you are seeing red those represents outlines strokes. So these strokes are going to get converted to outlines which is pretty much everything inside the artwork because after all covert all the strokes to outlines is checked right there and if you didn't want that you turn it off but there is no reason to turn it off, because there is no downside to converting stroke to paths and if it suits Illustrator's purposes if the program is more likely to put the artwork this way then all the better. You can also see which text is going to get converted to outlines, so the top text is not but if you scroll down you will see that the bottom text is because it has all this transparency going on inside of it and that will have to be rendered out to independent vectors if nothing else.
Also you have the option of seeing which regions are going to be rasterized based on there sheer complexity this is kind of an interesting one. Some areas inside of Sammy's face are going to get rasterized that is converted to pixels, but now I should say this doesn't mean these are the only areas that will get rasterized, these are the areas that are so complicated they have to be rasterized but really everything inside of Sammy's face is ultimately going to get rasterized because its already a raster. Illustrator is not going to covert a raster object this is a photograph for example a pixel based photograph to a bunch of Vectors there is just no reason to do that.
So these are just regions that based again on their sheer complexity will be rendered out to rasters. If you want to see everything that's going to be rasterized, you will choose this command and you only see this command if you are looking at the Detailed View. Remember this detailed view function right there? You have to have that turned on in order to see this command all rasterized regions. This can be a little alarming when you choose this command especially where this artwork is concerned. Notice that the entire artwork is going to be rasterized and I'll go ahead and Alt-click or Option-click to zoom out and the only thing that's not getting rasterized is the border, oh my gosh, and the text right there at the top.
And that's well just playing strange. Well here is why that's happening. We have this gradient that's covering up this entire area that's proposing to get rasterzied right there. If you turn that gradient off, that gradient overlay that's responsible for that blue bound stand there, then of course my preview will disappear. That's just par for the course. You have to click on the Refresh once again and now you will see then not nearly so much stuff is getting rasterized. This area around the text because of its transparency and because of its Drop Shadow and also the other areas that are effected by Drop Shadows, like below these drapes right here and below the curtains. Those areas are getting rasterized and then of course the areas that are getting rasterized based on their sheer complexity, like in Sammy's face.
All right so that's a lot better. Oh and this area that has the gradient applied to the bench, remember that gradient opacity mask that's going on inside the bench right there, that area requires rasterization as well. Not that may concern you that you are converting the pixels and after all that should concern you because it's very possible that because of this gradient right there, let's say just for a moment let's backup and say you want that gradient you are married to that gradient it has to remain part of the artwork. Okay fair enough, go ahead and turn it back on. Click Refresh. This entire area is getting rasterized. That's just the way it is, but what is the resolution of that image that's going to be printed from Illustrator and you don't really know is the answer.
It could be the Line Art and Text Resolution of 300 pixels per inch or it could be the Gradient and Mesh Resolution of 150 pixels per inch because after all it's a gradient that's causing this problem and if you look at this warning it says Resolution values are saved with Presets, yes they are, but will not be previewed in the panel. So you cant tell what's going on inside the panel you cannot see the pixels inside the panel you are just going to see the Vector art. So what I would suggest, if you are looking in alarming situation like this where just basically the entire artwork is going to pixels no matter what you do and notice even if you crank up this slider right there, you can switch by the way between Presets if you want and high resolution is going to go ahead and crank that slider all the way to Vector. So in other words, if Illustrator can print it as Vectors it will. It will do it and you click on Refresh and it's still showing you that oh, my gosh that this entire area is going to get rasterized.
Now then we have higher resolution values of 1200 pixels per inch but we still have Gradient and Mesh resolution of 300 pixels per inch and the thing is your final commercial printer probably has a resolution of something like 2540 pixels per inch or it may be beyond that. So 300 pixels per inch for Line Art is not all that high and so you might want it just go ahead and increase that value to something like 600 pixels per inch. You loose your Preview so then go ahead and click on the Refresh button to bring it back and you will once again see that this is rasterized area.
So that's one way to work is to basically explicitly state to Illustrator the resolution at which you want your artwork to print. The other thing though, if you are looking at a piece of artwork that is going to get converted to pixels like this, the better thing to do is just save the artwork as a pixel based image. Because after all that's going to print really quickly you are not asking Illustrator make all these decisions on the fly you are not leaving it to fate to decide what's going to happen, when you send this out to a commercial print house. If you open the illustration inside of Photoshop you can see a better preview of what that illustration is going to look like then you can inside of Illustrator and I'm going to show you what I mean and how that works in the next exercise.
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