Comments Off on using Illustrators warp and distort features effectively

using Illustrators warp and distort features effectively

Posted October 16th, 2014 in Solutions by perkevin

I’ve always thought of Illustrators warp and distort functions as fun but not really useful for real world design until I needed to complete the project below. And while working on it I realized that warp is most powerful when you use it minimally and repeatedly. These are vectors after all, not filters in photoshop, and using the same illustrator effect again and again is not going to degrade your graphics resolution at all.

I was provided with a low-res image of a high northern view of Alaska and Russia, and needed to replace it with a vector version of the same view. Simple, I thought, as I searched multiple stock sites, but soon came to the realization that while there are lots of vector globes out there, they all use the same 5 or 6 view points, and none of them are from the north (or south). What could I do now? Hmmm, I suppose I could try to stretch a flat vector map over the pixelated globe… and so it begins.

[1] world map next to polar view

I placed the pixelated image on a separate layer and locked it. Then I copied a chunk of the flat vector map (don’t bring the whole thing, just what is necessary to cover all parts of the source image) and pasted it on it’s own layer. I also changed the line color to red so I could better see how things were lining up.

[2] red map over black jpeg

My first (and wrong headed) try involved laying down dozens of points in an envelope distort and stretching stuff all over the place. This did not work at all. The more points I added, the more related points I had to shift and the worse it all looked. I was ready to admit defeat.

[3] messy stretch

Then I realized that perhaps warping in small steps would get me closer to where I needed to go without all the warping. Here’s how to recreate what I did.
Select the map chunk again and choose object>envelope distort>make with warp, then select “arc” in the warp options dialog. Choose settings that began to shape it in the direction you want but don’t overly distort it. We are going to do this several times, so don’t be in a hurry.

[4] menus, initial warp and picture of dialog

Then use the Mesh tool to reposition the major points on the warp. You can also add a few points to gently shift areas that are getting too far out of position, but don’t add too many. Taking your time will save time in the end.

[5] repositioned points on mesh warp and mesh warp tool symbol

Now expand the warp/distort. Select object>envelope distort>expand and we’re back to vector shapes.

[6] vectors

Now repeat the above steps several times. Envelope distort, arc, stretch with mesh tool and expand from the envelope distort.

[7] – stages of distorts

and after a final, fine tuning distort we’re there. Not mega-perfect, but for my purposes it’s as close as it needs to be.

[8] final in a frame

Create complex seamless patterns easily with symbols in Illustrator

Posted June 2nd, 2011 in Solutions by perkevin

Most pattern tutorials I have seen are rather complex and use a lot of math to get where they are going, so I’m documenting what I feel is a better approach. I’m sure other people use this method, but I have seem no mention of it anywhere.

Step 1: Make a square with some logical dimensions 10p, 1″ or 100 pixels, whatever suits your fancy. A round number just makes it easier to move stuff numercally if  necessary (we are trying to avoid such work). Then snap 4 gridlines to your square.

Square and Gridlines

Step 2: Define the square as a symbol. Select and click “New Symbol” in the Symbols pallette. In the following dialog box, make sure your symbol type is Graphic

Creating a Symbol

Step 3: Duplicate copies of your symbol to create a grid of nine symbols. Make sure snap to guides in turned on

my method

  • Shift+option drag one copy up from the center until it snaps into place.
  • Now shift+option drag one copy down until it snaps into place.
  • Select all three symbols and copy them to the left
  • One last copy drag to the right
  • Smart guides should have aligned everything correctly but zoom in very close to inspect and reposition if necessary.

Grid of Nine Symbols

Step 4: Double click the center symbol to edit it. Draw a few things in the middle of the guides to get started. (note: don’t use a colored background at this point, it’ll only block some of the graphic overlaps). Exit symbol editing mode by double clicking anywhere else on the page and watch your graphics replicate across the grid.

Edit and replicate your pattern

Step 5: Continue moving in and out of symbol editing mode to reposition, add and change elements until the center square looks the way you want it to. OK, now you’re done and it’s perfect, time to turn it into a pattern fill.

Finished Pattern

Step 6: Draw a square over your center square guidelines (make certain it is sized and positioned exactly). At this point I drag a copy of everything to somewhere else on the page so I can go back and edit my pattern later if I want to. Select and cut (cmnd+X) the square you just made (really). Select every thing else and choose “expand” from the object menu. Now go back to the object menu and choose “expand appearance” if it is available.

Expand Appearance

Step 7: With all of those parts still selected paste the square back in front (cmnd+F). Now select all the parts and the square you just pasted and use the crop button on the pathfinder pallete to trim it all down to that one square.

Cropping the Graphics

Step 8: With the cropped items still selected choose Define Pattern from the Edit menu. Your pattern will appear in the Swatches list.

Define Pattern

Now you can draw any shape and select your pattern as the fill and there you go. You can also resize, rotate or reposition the fill inside those items and even apply your pattern to a stroke.

The New Pattern in Use

see this great tutorial for in depth information on rotation and other actions

Variation: You can also use this method to make complex custom strokes. Pull two guides out so there is 2” or so between them. Draw some thing in the middle and make a symbol out of it and duplicate the symbol to the left and right 2”.

Using Symbol Method to Create Custom Lines

Adjust the center symbol in isolation mode until everything lines up the way you want it, expand, draw a box, and crop, just like the tutorial above. Choose new brush from the flyout menu of the brushes pallette and select, “pattern brush” from the dialog options.

Create a New Pattern Brush

The line will work applied to any curved shape (and you can use the round corner effect to make it wrap smoothly on sharp edged shapes)

Examples of New Brushes

Have fun with these techniques.

Mixed ink swatches

Posted October 4th, 2010 in Solutions by perkevin

Did you know that in InDesign it’s easy to create a set of mixed ink swatches from 2 or more spot colors? I’ve seen clients go to great lengths to fake spot color blends with transparency because they don’t know about this very useful feature. Here’s how to do it.

In the flyout menu of the color swatches palette select “new mixed ink group” and you’ll get a dialog which lets you define how many swatches you want and the percentage of color change between them. Hit OK and you’ll have dozens of mixed ink swatches to use in your design. Perhaps you’ll want to limit the number of swatches by using a higher percentage, like 25%.

When you’re finished with the layout don’t forget to go into the flyout menu again and choose “select all unused” then delete them to keep your swatches palette tidy. You can always generate a new set later.

Comments Off on the “Document Fonts” folder and small caps error

the “Document Fonts” folder and small caps error

Posted September 29th, 2010 in Solutions by perkevin

PROBLEM: Packaging an InDesign job which has the small caps options applied will cause those styles to cease working correctly. This is a huge problem for you and the printer or colleague receiving the files. This happens because InDesign creates a folder named “Document Fonts” in the Packaged job folder and the fonts in this file supercede your system fonts. For some reason loading these fonts stops small caps from functioning.

SOLUTION: Make InDesign use the system fonts, not the collected ones. The formatting will now return to your document. A simple way to ignore the fonts is, rename the “Document Fonts” folder to “Fonts”, and remember to load those fonts into your system if they are not already present.