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How do I create gradients (only a few steps) that follow the contour of the artwork?

Jan 29, 2013 4:21 AM

Tags: #gradients #steps #contours

I am creating a 'How to' diagram using illustrations from a previous artist. As such I need to recreate his way of creating image gradients. He seems to do it by using only a small amount of gradient steps creating quite block like gradients. Like this:gradient.gif How would I go about getting my smooth gradients like this? At the moment I am creating a smooth gradient filled object, expanding it then specifying the steps in the dialogue box that then appears. But this does not really recreate the same gradient (please see as follows):my try.gifSo my question is does anybody know how this artist has done this? As the gradients also seem to follow the contours of the object.


Thanks in advance,


  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 29, 2013 4:27 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    He could have used blends, he could have placed color stops closely to one another to form sharp edges, he could have used al lsorts of otehr tricks...



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    Jan 29, 2013 6:00 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    Free Distort is rather time consuming and tedious. If you're going to do it that way (using expanded Grads), you'd do better using the white pointer to marquee-select all the anchorPoints at one end of the rectangles and then scaling the selection.


    But generally, Blends have long been used to construct shading that parallels or insets from the shape of the object. Regarding your difficulty with that in post 2, you are confusing Blends with Grad Fills. They are entirely different things. See the Online Help.


    Nowadays there are a few other tricks you could employ that sort of "elaborate on" the same principle. For example, you could:


    1. Create a Specified Steps Blend between three rectangles: A black-filled one, a grey filled one, and a black filled one.
    2. Epand and Ungroup the Blend.
    3. Use the Distrubute Space command in the Align palette with zero spacing to make the rectangles abut.
    4. Store the array of bands as an ArtBrush. Set the Colorization method to Tints & Shade or Hue Shift.


    That one Brush could now serve on a multitude of different shapes. You would:

    1. Draw an open path along the middle of the shape
    2. Apply the Brush to that path
    3. Set the Stroke color to that used for the fill of the base shape (the various shades of the Brush object take on tints and/or shades of the base color.)
    4. Control the overall width by changing the Stroke Weight of the Brush object.
    5. Use theWidth Tool to adjust the width of all the bands at various points.


    ALWAYS state what version of Illustrator you are using.


    This kind of thing (and others) would be greatly expedited if Illustrator had a decent contour fill feature like Corel Draw and others.



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    Jan 29, 2013 6:18 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    Unless my eyes are more shot than I thought, I don't see any gradients in the samples provided. What I do see are discrete bands of color, colored bands that are shades of one another (not that they would need to be shades of the same color).


    Because they are discrete, one can create them as blends and recolor, or other methods--including messing with gradient stops (which, I suppose, would make them gradient filled objects...).


    If I wanted to recreate this art, and had access to the originals, I would disect what they did.



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    Jan 29, 2013 8:53 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH



    If you do wish a more precise recreation, I am afraid you need to approach it some other way.


    As I see the original artwork, it has small roundings at the left end, and it has a dark outer stroke and a blend inside from bottom to top, and on top of that it has three slightly shorter parts, the two lower ones abutted. Everything narrower at the left end, except for the stroke which is uniform.


    You may recreate all that in this maybe rather silly way:


    1) Create a rectangle with the original width and right side height and with the same Stroke Weight and colour as the original and with a solid fill the same colour as the original at the bottom, then create a corresponding rounded rectangle with Corner Radius corresponding to the roundings to the right, and place it on top of the rectangle;

    2) Select both and Pathfinder>Divide, then delete the corner paths to the right, then select the rest and Pathfinder>Unite (or whatever it is called in your version to get one path with rounded corners to the right, then scale the H value to the original left side height;

    3) Copy 2) to the front, remove the fill, and lock the copy (which holds the stroke), to work on with the fill/nostroke path;

    4) Create two copies of 2) and hide the topmost one;

    5) With one of the top Reference Points ticked in the Transform palette, select the visible copy path 4) and reduce the H value to a small suitable value (1pt or something, depending on the size);

    6) Select 3) and 5) and Object>Blend>Make (with Smooth ticked in Object>Blend>Options), this should give you the background fill;

    7) Show the copy hidden in 4) and reduce its height to 1/6 (divide the H value by 6), change the fill to the right (darker) solid colour/shade, move it to a position 1/6 up, and reduce its W value by a small amount so the bottom fill shows at the ends;

    8) Move a copy of 7) 1/6 up;

    9) Move a copy of 8) 1/3 up;

    10) Adjust the colours/shades of 8) and 9), unlock the stroked path from 3), and Group everything, now you should have the whole artwork represented, only rectangular;


    Depending on version, you may then:


    11a) For the newest version(s) create an Art Brush to be applied to simple paths with decreasing width towards the right, or

    11b) For any version, Direct Select the Anchor Points to the far right, and Object>Transform>Scale vertically to get the original height to the right.


    Here is an image in greys, indicating the look after 10) and 11) (the stroke should have been wider, eating away more of the height of the bottom fill blend):



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 29, 2013 11:00 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    well, you  could just  create the blends as needed larger than needed, create the shapes desired, drag a copy of the blend and clip the blend inside the shape.

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    Jan 29, 2013 11:52 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    You are welcome, Olly.


    I did think of the Round Any Corner script, which I often refer to, but decided to work fully inside Illy features.


    In 2) you could skip the scaling up and work with the right side height and then scale up in the left side in 11).


    But all those are minor things: it is rather tedious in any case, as you say.


    In many cases you have to choose between easy and accurate recreation.


    but there are many objects with not so straight forward shapes.


    A selection of these might help find the common approach, if there is any.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 29, 2013 7:36 PM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    I imagine that maybe this artist was using CoralDraw instead of Illustrator.

    Download the demo. Read its instructions on the Contour Tool and try it out.


    And I am using CS4

    That rules out the Width Tool. But the same thing can be done by scaling selections of AnchorPoints without much more effort. Here's the basic idea:


    Creating the Brush:




    Using the Brush:







    stepped shade

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 30, 2013 5:06 AM   in reply to AAAARRRRRGGGHHH

    It's a shame that illustrator doesn't feature this...

    You do understand that the demo in Post 14 is done in Illustrator, don't you?



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