Friday, March 25, 2011

3D Design From Illustrator

In this graphic design tutorial, we will discuss how to create an assortment of 3D text styles in Illustrator CS4. We will create a custom pattern (a flower pattern), apply beautiful color gradients, use basic shape tools to create custom objects, and much more. The underlying lesson in this tutorial is that, in Illustrator, you can achieve amazing results by choosing the right fonts and colors, and by being conscious of basic illustration principles such as perspective and lighting.
Step 1: Set Up the Artboard
Create a new document in Illustrator with Size at 500×500pt.
 Step 2: Create the First Letter

Choose a nice, thick font for the letters as this will give us more surface area to play around with. Since we are going to make the letters one at a time, you can choose different fonts for each letter to achieve a vivid and interesting final piece. I’ll start with the Impact typeface, which most of us will have.

Type the first letter of the word you want to create using the Type Tool (T); my first letter will be "D". Afterwards, switch to the Selection Tool (V), select the letter, then go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + O or right-click/Control-click on the letter in the artboard and then choose Create Outlines from the menu that appears).
Step 3: Render the Letter in 3D

Let’s add a 3D effect to our letter. Select the letter and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.

In the Extrude & Bevel Options window, check the Preview option to be able to see what the letter will look like while we tweak the Extrude & Bevel effect’s options. Adjust the positional angles of the letter, and don’t forget to set a value for the Perspective option.

Perspective is a very important part in the creation of any 3D object on a flat plane (e.g. our Illustrator artboard). The two important things about perspective are size and distance. If we increase the distance between us and an object we are observing, we need to decrease the size of that object. That way, we can achieve an accurate depth illusion in our work.

When you are happy with the preview, press OK to apply the settings to your letter.

Step 4: Expand and Combine the Letter’s Components

Expand the letter by choosing Object > Expand Appearance.

Next, ungroup the letter in order to have all its parts separated. Ungrouping the letter gives us the ability to apply colors and gradients to each part of the letter separately. You can ungroup the object by going to Object > Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + G). You might have to perform the Ungroup command several times because our letter contains a lot of parts.

If you zoom in a little bit with the Zoom Tool (Z), you can see that some of the parts are broken down further into even smaller pieces. Just select the pieces and combine them as needed by using the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel (Window > Pathfinder).

 Step 5: Apply Gradients

Time to apply color gradients. To start, try to imagine the light’s source: For our piece, let’s make the source of light come from above our letter. Therefore, according to the light source we’ve picked, some parts of the letter need to be darker, and some should be lighter. That way, we will create shades and highlights on the surfaces as accurately as possible. Each time you are applying a gradient fill to an object, think about the angle of the source of light.

First, make sure the Gradient Panel is open (Window > Gradient or press Ctrl/Cmd + F9).

For the front side of the letter, use a radial gradient.
On the left side, use a linear gradient. Feel free to play with colors until you achieve your desired look.

For the inner part of the letter, also use a linear gradient.

Step 6: Creating Highlights

Let’s now add detailing to our letter by giving it some nice, highlighting edges. Select the front side of the letter, copy it (Ctrl/Cmd + C), then paste in front twice (Ctrl/Cmd + F).

Select the topmost copy with the Selection Tool (V) and nudge it 1px downwards and 1px to the right (use your Arrow keys). Keep this nudged copy selected. Now, Hold down Shift and click on the other copy to add it to the selection. In the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Minus Front button. This will leave us with one object that is just the non-overlapping part of both copies.

Change the Fill color of the object so that it’s lighter in color than the color gradient of the letter; salmon pink would be my suggestion.
Step 7: Creating Another Letter

Now that we have covered the fundamental steps of creating a 3D letter, filling it with color, and giving it highlights, I’ll quickly run you through how to create another letter. Afterwards, I will leave it up to you to create the remaining 3D letters.

The second letter we will make is "e". Find a font you like using the guidelines in Step 2 (it needs to be thick); I am using Cooper Std.

Go through the previous steps again and refer to the images below for filling it in with color gradients.

Once done, position the "e" such that it overlaps with "D" to reinforce our 3D illusion. Later on, we will give our letters shadows.

Step 8: Creating a Flower Pattern

To create variety, we can apply patterns to the front side of the letters instead of color gradients. Let’s create a nice pattern for the third letter ("s").

Choose another thick font for "s" and render it in 3D just like we did for the first two letters ("D" and "e"). Apply a linear gradient on the left side of the letter.

For the front side, we will create a pattern — a simple flower pattern, to be exact. To start creating the flower pattern, use the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tools Panel to draw a small, pink circle.

With the circle still selected, switch to the Rotation Tool (R) and, holding down Alt/Option, click just below the pink circle. In the Rotate window that appears, set the value for Angle to 60o and then hit the Copy button. This will create a second pink circle.

Repeat the rotation by going Transform > Transform Again (Ctrl/Cmd + D) — this will rotate and copy the circle again so that we now have three circles. Use the Transform Again command 4 more times in order to complete the flower’s petals.

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select all the petals and, in the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Unite button.

Create one more circle at the center of the petals. Set the Fill color of the circle to white. To perfectly center the white circle, select it along with the petals and then, in the Align Panel (Window > Align or Shift + F7), click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons.

 Make a few copies of the flower and arrange them as shown below. Draw a rectangle around the flowers with the Rectangle Tool (M), then set its Fill color to beige. Afterwards, send the beige rectangle to the back (Transform > Arrange > Send to Back) so that it’s behind the flowers.
Select the flowers and its background (you can group them if you want), then drag and drop them into the Swatches Panel — this will create a swatch that we can then apply just like any other color or pattern that is in our Swatches Panel.

Select the front side of the "s" and click on our flower pattern swatch in the Swatches panel to apply it as a fill.

Then, set the Stroke color to pink and Weight to 1px to stylize the edge of the letter.

Let’s do the same thing with the letter "e" (make a copy, ungroup the copy, unite the ungrouped copy).

Use your Arrow keys to nudge the copy of the letter "e" 2px to the left. Now click-and-hold on the bottom-right transform control and rotate clockwise.

Hold down Shift and click on the "D" copy to add it to your selection. With the two objects now selected, press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel.

Select the new object created, send it backwards (Object > Arrange > Send Backward). Then, change its Fill color to dark red. We choose dark red because it’s darker — but around the same shade — of the orange gradient on which it’s on top of.
Use the same technique to continue making the shadows for other letters. Just make sure to set the Fill color of the shadow slightly darker than the part of the letter where the shadow is on.
 For shadows on top of surfaces that have multiple colors, ungroup the shadow and apply different shades of colors to each part. Doing it this way makes the shadows appear more nuanced.

 Step 10: Hanging a Letter on a String

To further enhance the diversity of appearance between each letter, one of the possibilities we can do is "hang" one of the letters; you just need a string for that. As you can see in the preview at the begginning of this tutorial, the letter we’ll hang is "g" because it has a perfect shape for this technique, and is positioned in just the right place.

To start, let’s make sure that your letter "g" is on top of other letters (i.e. it is the topmost layer). Grab the Line Segment Tool (/) and hold down Shift to draw a vertical straight line.

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw the vector path (shown below) that will eventually become the loop around the letter "g".

 Select the vector path and expand it (Object > Expand) so that we can edit it further.

What we want to do now is make sure the ends of the vector path don’t go outside of the letter "g". To do that, first, copy the letter "g" and paste in front. Ungroup the copy. With the ungrouped objects of the letter "g" copy still selected, press the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel; you’ll end up with one object like the one shown below

Now select both the letter "g" and the vector path and click on the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel. You’ll be left with just the part of the vector path that’s inside of the "g" shape, making it look like the string loops around the letter.

To make it more realistic, let’s add some shadows. Ungroup the letter "g" and select the inner part (shown below).

Change the Fill color of the inner string vector path to light gray (a darker shade of white). This makes our lighting as realistic as possible, since the inner part should be less affected by our light source.


 Tutorial Summary

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. The various techniques discussed in the tutorial are pretty simple, but combined together, they can result in elaborate and remarkable artwork. Just keep in mind two important things when working with 3D: perspective and light source.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Will it Print???

3 tips for creating an InDesign file that prints perfectly.

1. Talk To Your Printer Early
2. Construct Your File Carefully
3. Create a Document Bleed

In the days before digital publishing, the layout of publications or the creation of artwork for printing was almost always done by artisans—craftspeople who either worked with ink-stained hands in a printing shop, or who had been carefully schooled in the craft of printing. Today, you’re often on your own when you create
an InDesign document for commercial printing. Here are some tips for preparing your job for printing that may save you and your printer a few gray hairs.

1. Talk To Your Printer Early
Talk to your printer early in the process of constructing your print document. A customer service or prepress person at the printing company will tell you of production requirements for their particular presses. These guidelines include items such as the minimum distance that artwork should sit from edges and folds, the sizes of panels for folded pieces, and how much overlap must be created for a bleed. Following production  requirements is particularly important if your printer is using special printing processes like die cuts or embossing. 
Also, ask your print provider the following questions and store the information. I’ll explain later how the answers will affect your files: ❱❱How do they prefer to receive files: InDesign application files, PDF files, or both?
❱❱What kind of RIP do they use: PostScript or Adobe PDF Print Engine?
❱❱Do they have a preferred method for preparing PDF files?
❱❱Do they have a custom PDF preset you can use?
❱❱Does the printer use a custom output profile? If so, you can install this and select it when converting images from RGB to CMYK.

2. Construct Your File Carefully
Sometimes you may not know who the printer will be. If you’re new to the printing process, try to find a mentor—a more experienced designer who has successfully created the kind of document you’re working on, and who can give you some general guidelines. When constructing your document, place one piece per page, rather than all on one page, each with its individual crop marks. So, for example, a company’s letterhead would go on page 1, the envelope on page 2, and the business card on page 3. You can create multiple page sizes in a single InDesign document with the Page Control plug-in from DTP Tools. Create your document to the correct trim size. This is the final size of the printed piece. If you have an odd-size page, create a custom-sized page in the New Document dialog. Don’t place the artwork on a larger page and placing crop marks around it yourself. Maintain the live area in your document: This is the area recommended by your printer where you can place objects on the page. Staying in the live area is important because when you place text or graphics too close to a trim or a fold, the objects may be trimmed off or be creased in the fold. For multipanel brochures, make the panels that fold inside shorter than the outer panels. The amount actually depends on how thick the paper is, so getting advice about this from your printer before you begin the document is a good idea.

3. Create A Document Bleed

If any element on your document layout makes contact with the document edge, you have to use bleed. The trick is to place the element so that it goes over the edge where the document will be trimmed after printing.
Let’s say you’re working on a brochure with a background color that extends off the page. Your document size (what’s set up in File > Document Setup) should be the size of the final trimmed page, but you’ll add a colored frame that extends past the edge of the page. To ensure the object bleeds off far enough, add bleed guides on the pasteboard around your spreads. In the New Document dialog, click More Options to reveal the option for setting bleed (Figure 1). In North America, a standard bleed amount is usually 1/8” (.125in, or about 1p or 5mm), but check with your printer. You can also add the bleed after the document is created by choosing File > Document Setup; click More Options if necessary. In Normal view, the red line that surrounds the document boundaries indicates the bleed. Later, just before you print, you can test whether the objects off the page will print properly by turning on Use Document Bleed Settings in the Marks and Bleed pane of the Print dialog box (or the Export Adobe PDF dialog box). In most cases, you don’t have to worry about bleeding into the gutter (the spine of a facing pages document)—just extend the object to the edge of the page. However, in some cases, a printer might ask for a true bleed into the gutter. That’s easy if your  document is set up for single-sided pages. But if your document is set up with facing pages, you can still force a bleed area in the gutter by following these steps: 
1. In the Pages panel flyout menu, turn off the Allow Document Pages to Shuffle option.
2. With this option turned off, in the Pages section of the Pages panel, you can now carefully drag the right page of each spread to the right. Drag until you see a dark vertical bar, then release. Or choose Move Pages from the panel menu and tell it to “move page 3 to after page 3,” then “move page 5 to after page 5,” and so on.