Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating layer opacity, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Instructor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. In this movie, I want to talk about handling opacity, and opacity layers in Illustrator. It's a feature most people tend to forget about until it's needed. So, let me show you what I'm talking about, and explain how to use it in context. So, this is a simple graphic map for a RPG card game. This isn't a real one. I just set this up as an example to demonstrate what I want to show you.
And, let's say, this is your base artwork. And you have all the various game pieces we can turn on. We'll go ahead and lock these layers. That come on above it. Now, these pieces could move around, and they can be composed to relate to whatever the given journey is in the game. Whatever you want to call it. Now, I want to show you one thing, and that is, building a path. Because, on this map, we want to have lines that kind of point and direct the viewer to specific things.
Maybe it's part of the path adventure we're creating for the game. In which case, we can go to the pencil tool over here. Make sure it's on smooth. Go OK. Right now we have nothing selected for fill and stroke, so we'll go ahead and put a fill of white inside our stroke as shown here. And with the pencil tool, we'll go ahead and just draw out a simple path, like this. Doesn't matter if we go off one side.
And nothing happens because we're on the wrong layer. So you have to make sure you're on the right layer when you do that. And it creates the path. And in this case, I want to beef this up quite a bit. So, we're going to go to stroke, 17, that looks good. And, we're also going to go down here to arrowheads, and we're going to pick a specific arrowhead. I think I want to have this one. And whoa, that's way too big. This really is clunky.
They've never bothered to update this in 20-whatever years. I've always found it confusing. You define a path by points, and then they want you to think in percentages for percentage to what? Well, I guess it's in percentage to the path maybe? But, in this case, we'll punch in 30%. You know, I don't like that arrowhead. Let's do a different one. We'll do this one. Yeah, that looks better. So, that's all I do to create a path like this.
Now, I'm going to add to this, and make the path point to all the other locations. And I'm going to go ahead and just turn that on. Because like a good cooking show, I've done that already. So you can see all of these paths going to different locations. Now, the point I want to bring up here, is opacity. On some of these figures, if we zoom in on this magic sword, for example, we have this set up, and it's grouped, so that I could move it around if I wanted to. And what that would allow me to do, is to compose my design.
So I have all of these elements set up. This mountain range, so on and so forth. Even the type is set up so I can easily move it around. But, on this piece of artwork, if we double click into isolation mode here, you can see I have my artwork, that's sitting on top of just this white shape. And then, under that white shape, I have a clone of that white shape, that's shifted off, and this is colored with a darker hue of our base color of the map, and it's set to multiply and 40% opacity.
And that's going to work well, in terms of being a cast shadow, or a drop shadow, for these various game pieces. So opacity is used all the time. I'm using opacity in the illustrations themselves to do the shading on the mountains, for example. But sometimes you want to use opacity in a way just to make the composition of the layout easier to edit, easier to handle. And in this case, if I take all of these paths here. I think white is too stark.
It's almost grabbing too much attention, away from the various components in this game. So I want to adjust the opacity, just to diminish it visually, and push it back a little bit. And in this case, we'll go 50%. But notice when I do this, you can see all the separate paths. Where they overlap, is actually a different percentage of tint of the white, opacity of the white that is. Because they're overlapping. So this can become a problem.
I'm going to show you two ways you can address this. The first way, and so let's go ahead and undo that, so we're back to white. We're going to have all these selected, and we're just going to group it, Command G. So now, instead of being individual, it's all a grouped element. And we can click into that via isolation mode, into that group, and select these paths. But, because it's a group, we can now assign an opacity to this group, 50%.
And notice how we don't get that overlapping problem. Now, if you ever want to adjust a path, you would just use the direct select tool, to either select it, and then adjust the anchor point, or the bezier curve, whatever you need to. Or you can simply double click into this isolation of this group, and select the various content you need, and access it that way. So that's one way you can handle opacity, make something very easy to edit.
Because, what you don't want to do, is you don't want to set it up as, let's say you take your original artwork, and you go to object, and you go to path, and you go to outline stroke. And then, you unite all those together. Well visually, it looks fine. But let's say somebody comes along and says, "Hey, we want to add another element to this." Or, "We don't want it pointing to this." Well, what are you going to do? You can't easily edit it.
Yes, you can adjust the opacity, and it will look the way you want it, but it's not going to be easy to edit. So, it really... And here's a word I don't use that often, behooves you, to build it in such a way that it's going to be easier to edit, easier to make changes, if necessary. So, we'll turn shapes off. Shapes isn't a way you want to go. You do want to keep them in paths. But, let's say you don't like isolation mode. Now, I work with my daughter, and I know she hates isolation mode.
For whatever reason, she just doesn't like it. So this would apply to her. Another way you can get the same effect, the same level of accessibility and editability, is to do what's called layer opacity. And all you do is you make sure you have your layer selected, and on this circle over here, you just click it, and then you would set the opacity. Right now it's at 100. We're going to set the layer to 50. So anything on this layer is 50% opacity.
And notice how it's not grouped, so you can easily select things, edit things, and move things around. Because, it never fails, somebody's going to come around and say, "You know what, we need to add another figure into this. "The Rogue Tribe needs to move down by Hades Well." And now we have a problem with our paths. So we would have to edit our path, which means we would have to go in here... Usually what I do is I'll just go ahead, and remove this anchor point.
And then, I'll just pull this one up here, like this. And I'll just start recomposing some of my elements, like this. Usually this is where you have somebody looking over your shoulder, while you're doing it. Like you're not going to do it. I bet none of you have never experienced that. I used to have a boss that used to... This is kind of rabbit trailed, but it kind of goes, give you something to listen to while you watch me adjust this artwork. I'm not doing anything great right now.
Literally, he used to come in, sit behind me, and tell me with the nudge keys, "Okay, nudge this over this far, "nudge this over this far." And I knew he was coming in to art direct me at times, this goes back 20 some years. Me being a young, kind of, rebellious designer who doesn't like the fact somebody's just making changes for no other reason than feeling part of the process. I would make a copy of my file, and then, make all these changes, and then as soon as he left, leave, I would just delete it, and then go with what I originally had.
And you know what, he never noticed. So, in my opinion, that means the changes weren't necessary. So, this is all I do to adjust art like this. Notice how, even though all of these are easily accessible, easy to select, they all align and work aesthetically. Because we've used opacity layers to pull it off. So, I just wanted to show that. I think it's a easy way to work, for a specific type of layouts or compositions that you may be creating. So, using layer opacity means anything added to that layer, doesn't matter what it is, type, anything, adopts the same attributes.
So, it does make the process go a lot smoother. You can use opacity on independent objects throughout a file and layers, but this is one easy way to make a project more flexible to edit and adjust. So, thank you for watching DVG Lab. And as always, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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