Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a pattern of custom halftone dots, part of Designing Gradient Dot Patterns with Illustrator.
In this movie, I'll show you how to create an all together custom gradient dot pattern. That in our case fades from dark on the left to light in the center and back to dark on the right. I'll go ahead and switch over to my document in progress here and I'll turn on that Custom dots layer. I'll go ahead and select the Text layer because I want to make a duplicate of it. And I can do that by selecting the layer and then going to the Fly-out menu and choosing Duplicate "text". However, that's going to create a layer directly on top of the previous one like so.
If you want to put this new layer in a different location such as, right at the top of the stack, here's a shortcut that you might want to know about. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on a Mac to undo that move. I'll click on a Text layer and then I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and drag it to the top of the stack like so. And notice because I have the Alt or Option key down, I have a little fist with a + sign next to it. And as soon as I release, I create a copy of that Text layer at the top of the stack. I'll go ahead and turn it on so I can see it. Then I'll double-click on an empty area here in order to bring up the layer options dialogue box.
I'll call this new layer halftone and I'll change its color to let's say, light red, just so I can tell these layers apart. Then I'll click OK. Now I'm going to draw a new rectangle in front of the letters. And for this, I need the Smart Guides turned on, which I can do by going up to the View menu and choosing the Smart Guides command. Later, I'm going to turn this command off using the keyboard shortcut, which, once again, is Ctrl+U or Cmd+U, the U being the second letter in the word guides. Now, I'll go ahead and select my Rectangle tool, which I can also get by pressing the M key and I'll move my cursor to the very top left corner of that art board and I will click in order to bring up the rectangle dialog box.
And then, I'll enter the same values I entered into the new dialog box when I was creating this document back in the first movie, which is to say 766 points wide by 506 points tall. And then I'll go ahead and click OK and I'll create this big rectangle, like so. We don't want to stroke, so go ahead and click on a Stroke swatch, the second swatch here in the Control panel and switch it to none. And now, you want to make sure that your fill is active and you can see whether the filler stroke is active from either the bottom of the toolbox which, in my case, is cut off or here inside the Color panel.
You can also get to the Color panel by the way, by going up to the Window menu and choosing the Color command. And notice, in my case, the fill is active that's what you want. So the fill right here, this top left guy right should be in front. Then you want to bring up the Gradient panel by going to the Window menu and choosing Gradient. And now go ahead and click on that gradient bar there in order to fill the shape with a gradient like so. Now this isn't the gradient I'm looking for, so I'll go ahead and expand the panel by clicking on this double arrow icon, a couple of times next to the word gradient.
That way, I can see these numerical settings right here. I'll select the White swatch over here on the left hand side and I'll change the location value to 50%. So it's right there in the center. By the way, your type should be set to linear by default. Now, I want this black swatch over on the left hand side, so I'll go ahead and press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and drag it, because any time you Alt or Option drag something in Illustrator, you make a duplicate of it. So, I'll Alt or Option drag the black swatch over to the left hand side and I end up with this kind of back and forth gradient, this reflected gradient, as it's known.
Now however, I want to express this gradient as a half-tone pattern, as a series of dots. And I could do that by going up to the Effect menu and choosing Sketch. These are all by the way raster effects down here in the bottom portion of this menu, which is why they're labelled Photoshop effects as opposed to Illustrator effects which are generally vector effects. Anyway, I'll go ahead and choose Sketch and then I'll choose Half-tone pattern. And you can switch the pattern type incidentally from dot to line if you like, or even to circle which will produce this effect here.
Now, you might look at this and say, wait a second, Deke, this looks terrible. If I go in and zoom in by pressing Ctrl+ or Cmd+ on a Mac, you can see that this is indeed a raster effect, that is to say, comprises pixels and very big chunky pixels at that. Well, that's a problem that we're going to solve in the next movie, but for now, just trust me, this is going to work. I am however, going to switch the pattern type back to dot. You want to increase your contrast value all the way to its maximum of 50% because otherwise if you've got some other value going such as 25% you're going to end up with these sort of grey anti alias dots which are not going to work for us.
So, go ahead to crank it up to 50% at which point, we get black and white pixels only. A size value of three is just fine. We'll come back to that, because I want you to see what happens here. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to assign that effect and we end up with this result here. Now, problem is, to my way of thinking, this is way too dark of an effect. The gradient gets too black on the outside edges. So, we're going to have to reduce the darkness of these color stops right here.
And you do that by double-clicking on the first color slot, the left hand one. And your probably going to see swatches inside of this Pop-up panel. And I'll switch over to the color icon by clicking on that little palette right there. And you may see a single K value or you may see RGB. If you're seeing RGB sliders or anything else go ahead and switch to grey scale. Then, reduce that K value to 45%. That works best in my experience. And then press the Enter key or the Return key on Mac in order to apply that change.
Now, first that doesn't look quite right. It looks like the left edge is now too light as opposed to too dark. But, once we do the same thing over here on the right hand side, it's going to reconcile. So, go ahead and double-click on the Black color stop over here on the right. And then reduce the K value here. Not the opacity value but the K value to 45% and press the Enter key or the Return key on a Mac and you end up with this brighter dot pattern. Problem is, if I press Ctrl+ or Cmd+ on a Mac, we have that horrible problem where some of the dots look like rounded rectangles and other dots, which are supposed to be circular, look like absolute squares.
What do we do about that? Well, I'll explain how to increase the resolution of this raster effect in the next movie.
- Using Illustrator's preset gradient dot patterns
- Creating a pattern of custom halftone dots
- Filling editable text with a dot pattern
- Turning circular dots into squares
- Using dynamic rotations to create specialized patterns