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AI-CS2: Tip on using outline strokes

Discussion in 'Adobe' started by Bobby H, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    I'm sure some of you remember my recent posts showing off the high quality of Adobe Illustrator's path offset and outline stroke effects (particularly in comparison with similar effects in CorelDRAW). I still use Corel for a great deal of sign design work, but I bring a lot of Corel-generated artwork into Illustrator for things like outline effects.

    Early on, I ran into a problem when "expanding" outline strokes into editable vector paths. The newly expanded path would have lots of overlapping areas. Macromedia Freehand has its dedicated Remove Overlap Xtra. Illustrator doesn't have an obvious function like that. In the attached JPEG image, I would wind up with expanded strokes with issues like what you see in "example two." Sometimes I could draw in a rectangle and use the Pathfinder function to make all the overlaps weld. Most of the time that method wouldn't work. I would end up taking the artwork into Freehand to get rid of the overlaps.

    But then I came across the thing that did the trick. Typical of Illustrator, the solution is not very obvious. You have to open the "Attributes" palette. There are two little buttons on the right side of the palette. One button tells a selected object to use the "even-odd fill rule," which is what you see in "example two." Just about any piece of Corel-based artwork will import with that even-odd fill attribute, be it an exported EPS file or a CDR file Illustrator CS2 can open directly. Artwork generated within Illustrator tends to default to the other attribute: "non zero winding fill rule."

    The tip: if you want to get rid of stroke overlaps make sure the non zero winding fill rule attribute is applied to the object before you expand the stroke into an editable vector path. Once the path is expanded, you can alt-click on the "add" button in the Pathfinder palette. Pretty easy.

    Using this tip in conjunction with a nifty shareware plug-in from Telegraphics that computes path area and path length, you can actually design some very accurate and attractive neon patterns from within Illustrator CS2.
     

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  2. Eyehawk

    Eyehawk New Member

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    Never had that problem...

    I have been using Illustrator since 1989, and been cutting on a plotter for about 10 years. I have never seen that problem happen before. I have had no problems with the "wondering" you seem to have. My keying has always been perfect.

    You have to be doing something wrong, but I don't know what it is. I have always worked on a Mac, but I can't think that has a thing to do with it since most sign folks work on PCs.
     
  3. iSign

    iSign Verboten

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    Eyehawk, I have to think that an articulate, informative & well illustrated post like Bobby's is a glimpse into the thought process of an effective capable designer who knows what he is talking about & has the ability to show others a valuable tip when one is found.

    Then , I have to wonder if your short, vague & simplistic reply filled with generalizations & assumptions is an indication of someone who is not challenging their software enough to tread into the same problem areas, rather then someone who is somehow able to avoid "doing something wrong"

    I could be mistaken, but without you taking the time to make any reference to specifics of the issue at hand... could it be your success is a result of you not outlining strokes as part of your design process? If you have been doing the same thing with better results, then I would also be interested in learning what you're doing right.
     
  4. Son Signs

    Son Signs Member

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    Bobby try this, when you outline type and want that outline to be vectored, hit expand and ok, once this process happens you do end up with overlapage but right after the expanding is done, go to your pathfinder tab and hit Merge...that's it you're done and the time for this process is about 7 seconds.
     
  5. vid

    vid Very Active Member

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    oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good one! I really like that tip!

    Bobby H:
    Like Eyehawk, my proficiency is Mac based, so it took me a couple times reading your post to understand what you were talking about... (ummmmm, this isn't to say that being a Mac guy implies that I'm a little slower on the uptake, though... LOL)

    Eyehawk:
    It is a application issue and solution. I'm not sure what your working methods are, but this tip is an epiphany for me in troubleshooting and resolving problems I've seen in my work flow... maybe epiphany is a bit of an understatement.

    My first impression is, if you don't get out of Illustrator and you don't accept customer files, you won't understand what Bobby H is talking about. He has laid out a pretty good map that is going to save me oooodles of keystrokes and head thumping.

    Thanks for the tip...

    vid
     
  6. Mason

    Mason Very Active Member

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    Well Done Bobby H

    Thanks for your proffesional input and for sharing a solution to a vexing problem,
    Eyehawk, illustrator has many functions not all of them are apparent at first glance which is what it may seem you have embraced, try stepping out a little with the software, even if you have been cutting/plotting for ten years. Usull only means a person is stuck on what they are comfortable with.
     
  7. Eyehawk

    Eyehawk New Member

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    My methods are simple, accurate, and quick. I think I'll stick to them. If "stepping out" means problems, I don't see the advantage.

    I'm not a novice. My first venture into the sign business was in 1961, so I have been around it for a while. I got back into it in the 80s, and jumped on the chance to do my work on a computer, starting in 1989, where I learned both Freehand and Illustrator (I stuck with Illustrator, by choice). I prefer working out of one program, instead of drawing in one and switching to another to finish. That's just my opinion.

    In the mean time, enjoy your battles, guys. And I don't mean that sarcastically.
     
  8. vid

    vid Very Active Member

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    Eyehawk:

    While, I don't mean to defame your status as a signmaker, if you are creating all original art in Illustrator... on a Mac... and don't handle customer files, you probably aren't going to see the phenomenon Bobby H described.

    Software has come a long way since '89. There are things that neophyte designers can do to an EPS file in any number of different applications that challenge even the hardiest of signmakers. Heck, even experienced graphic designers lay waste to computer files if they don't grasp the requirements of plotter art.

    Certainly anyone's preference is to work out of a single application, however, software companies haven't made that trouble free. The shop I work for, handles any number of different file formats. We're expected to confront and troubleshoot customer supplied artwork daily... and make it work in the most efficient way possible. The tip Bobby H offers is a solution in resolving one of the issues I've experineced when working across applications. If you read the post, you'll understand that it isn't about "how to do something" in Illustrator, it's about how to "handle an imported" file in Illustrator.

    Personally, I've been bit enough with "corruptions" in working across applications and across platforms. Any nugget like Bobby H's tip that makes my life easier, I'm all for it.

    Read it for what it's worth. It doesn't sound like the tip fits your working style. To me it's a gem.

    vid
     
  9. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    As others have pointed out, the overlap problems I'm talking about have to do with artwork imported into Illustrator. Artwork created within Illustrator defaults to non-zero winding fills on strokes. Most imported artwork (particularly that from Corel) is treated opposite of that. And that's where the problems occur.

    The Merge command (as well as others like Divide) can be hit or miss when eliminating overlaps. Changing the attribute on the stroke to non zero winding seems to be a much more simple and reliable solution. I just do that and then go to the Pathfinder palette. Click Alt+"Add" and the overlaps are gone.

    The Path Offset function is arguably a better choice for generating new outline effects around most objects. But working with strokes is better if you're dealing with neon patterns or stroking paths for other effects -like making maps or other line effects where you need more control over your corners and path ends.

    Probably the biggest plus for this tip is in dealing with customer submitted files. Very often when I get a vector based file from someone, they will often have outline strokes applied to various objects. Expanding and removing overlaps in a reliable manner will help in getting the artwork vinyl and machine ready quickly.

    Yes it has. Illustrator has vastly improved over previous versions. I truly despised Illustrator 4. The Berthold fonts and ability to paste paths into Photoshop were the only good things about it. I jumped to Freehand in response to Adobe making Illustrator 5 and 5.5 Mac only, but gave Illustrator another shot with version 7. It was a big improvement but still paled in comparison to Freehand. Now things have changed with AI-CS2.

    CorelDRAW, I'm afraid, has been going in a backward direction. We upgraded to version 12 recently and I find it disappointing in a number of areas. On the subject of outline and stroke effect quality, it's even worse than CorelDRAW 9. Lots more control points and wierd errors are common. And there's other little things that just make me want to slap a software engineer. For instance, they got rid of the one-shot zoom tool. Arrggh! Screen navigation was already kind of a pain, but now its even more cumbersome. I find myself going back to CorelDRAW 9 to get a lot of things done and only fire up CorelDRAW 12 when I absolutely need it.
     
  10. Eyehawk

    Eyehawk New Member

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    OK, I now understand. Slap me silly. Yes I have received weird artwork from other sources that make me scratch my head.

    If I understand you right, when I get something like that, I will choose the good line (if there is one), duplicate it, and then do some reconnecting to the other object. Or simply work off the good line and redo the other color.

    My appologies.
     
  11. vid

    vid Very Active Member

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    Admittedly, I haven't had the time to play out too many of the scenarios, but now I'm questioning if it is Importing/Placing the non-Adobe graphic... or is it opening the CDR or EPS graphic in Illustrator that is the issue?

    Whatever it is, it essentially changes the setting from the default of Illustrator to the default setting of the program that created it --- that's the head scratcher. If you don't know... or pay attention to that setting, any manipulation of that graphic doesn't react the way that you'd expect it to in the settings you're accustomed to in Illustrator. The fix is easy as pushing a button ---- Well, it is pushing a button.

    This post actually, reinforces what I'm learning about computer files. The information and how it is interpreted reacts differently from application to application even though it is a common format.

    I've had customers give me the surly-est comments --- implying that my skills are less than adequate --- for issues that actually center around how EPS files are built and interpreted by the different software apps ...rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (edited for brevity of rant about customers and the art they rode in on).

    The other things that have tripped me up are:

    Open paths in Illustrator can be filled --- CorelDraw does not recognize the fill until then path is closed.

    Confusion of color palettes between applications. The eleventy gillion “new color swatches” that open up as all black in Illustrator from a CDR EPS file ---still baffles me from time to time.

    Of course, the gradient fills that are eleventy one gillion boxes from the start color to the finish color.

    oooooooooooooo and there's more, but I'll save those for later... keep those tips and tricks coming!

    oh, and Eyehawk, perhaps I'm outta place, but think I've read this forum enough to figger out there's not a whole lotta slappin' that goes on around here... Some stern words maybe, but slappin' don't happen too often.

    best,
    vid
     
  12. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    I've put this up before, but in case you missed it, here is a freeware plugin for Illustrator that expands dramatically your choices in the Illustrator Object Select Menu. I find it incredibly useful for many of the kinds of weird things that come my way from customers. It will find and select open paths, unfilled paths and a host of other things Illustrator won't select out of the box.

    It was obtained at Adobe Forums and has a readme file with it.
     

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  13. Derf

    Derf Very Active Member

    Thanks for the tip Bobby H. What I do when importing customers files is first try to open them in there native software Freehand, AI, Corel, and so forth.. then export the file to an "AI 3.0" provided we are talking a file that is to be cut on a vinyl cutter and not printed.

    Then either clean up the mess in AI CS or Flexi sign pro however I have not run across much that I can't fix except those damn Quark & MS Publisher files. Those files I sent to a friend at a design firm to export back to me in an AI format.

    I do have to admit my time as an art director dealing with these challenges every day has made me upset with sign makers that blame the customers or graphic design artist for the "messed up" files they receive when in fact they should learn how to work with what they get and be thankful they got art at all.

    I praise the people who are willing to give us tips even if 50% of the people reading already know or don't understand because it just might help some one else out

    Tip Illustrator CS : ALIGN an object relative to another object.

    Select the two or three objects you wish to align then while all objects are selected (MAC) "OPTION, click" the on object you wish the others to align to. Then chose the align function from the align pallet and your objects will align to the object you "OPTION", clicked.

    Derf
     
  14. ENTDesign

    ENTDesign Very Active Member

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    I have been using Illustrator since 1998 or so, mostly doing design for print. I liked it so well I have stuck with it over Designer and Corel Draw, even though I can't cut directly from it (hope to afford CoCut someday). I have had designs with text with fat strokes applied and have always have rebuilt the stroke border. I didn't know you could get Illustrator to make the path at the stroke extent. This has been an insiteful thread for me. Now I gotta go play.
     
  15. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    I really don't agree with that sentiment -especially if the "messed up file" comes from someone in an advertising agency or some place like that. Folks in the printing industry, publishing industry and general advertising know about "work flow" and "pre-flighting" jobs before they are output. The very same steps should apply when they are sending digital files to be used on sign projects.

    Whether I'm going to get annoyed by a messed up file or not is really irrelevant. The one thing that is absolutely going to happen is the messed up file is going to generate design time fees for fixing the problem. I'll give the customer the option of sending a properly prepared file, but I'm not going to fix a messed up file for free.

    Actually there's two ways to do that in IllustratorCS2. On the PC version you can Alt+Click the object you want to anchor in the alignment command. Or, once all the objects are selected, you can simply click on the one you want as the anchor. It works either way.

    This is one of the more "Corel-oriented" behaviors Illustrator has adopted over the years. Corel's method is the last object shift-clicked into a selection is the alignment anchor. Other apps like Flexi make the first object selected the anchor.

    Unfortunately, this alignment tip doesn't work in earlier versions of Illustrator (such as version 7). Neither does the tip that started this thread (you can't "expand" strokes into editable paths that far back).

    One thing Illustrator still lacks is the ability to align and anchor align control points. CorelDRAW has offered this ability for several years and it is an extremely useful feature.
     
  16. vid

    vid Very Active Member

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    I have to admit, that comment made me all huffy. I was already to extend an invitation to meet Derf behind the woodshed to continue this discussion...

    But there is some validity in that view point. Yes, signmakers need to be competent with their software. Certainly there are varied levels of competency in the industry. There's a whollllllllllle lot of frustration when you run into someone that you have to train TO DO THEIR JOB!

    Then too, I’ve built files that I’m sure were nightmares for production monkeys. ...I know they were. At the time they were created, they were industry specific to screen printing. All the output was done in house so no one but me had to understand why there were 8 spot colors, 12 layers, varied overprints, etc. uuuuuuuntil someone wanted the art for embroidery, offset printing or any other use besides that for which it was created.

    My attitude was, “well. I ain’t makin’ money on that one, let them fix it.” Heck, it was cheaper for all involved for the production house to build it the way they wanted it, than for me to futz around with production issues that I didn’t understand. --- Graphic Designer: $65 - $250/hr ... Signmaker: $Free - $75/hr... ya gotta figure those numbers work to the advantage of the customer/designer.

    The designer/customer that I take issue with are the ones that leave no sense of craftsmanship in their files. For example, there’s a kajillion colors in the color swatch menu using 3 different palettes. ...fonts not converted or included ...stray points or unfilled objects. If there is no sense of any objective or craftsmanship in the artwork then, it’s a “messed up” file.

    What makes it more “messed up” is an argumentative attitude of some customers/designers when I tell them there’s going to be a set-up fee for cleaning up the art. Usually, they're rookies.

    This all circles back to the "training frustration." I don't feel I need to train a customer--- and in particular, a designer how to do their job.

    Like Bobby H said, there’s no room for slop in Agency Art. And print house art, eeeeeeeyyyyyyyya, that’s a crap shoot. You know it will be industry specific but workable. More than likely it’ll be production monkey art with a few issues.

    Should I be thankful that I get any artwork at all?... mmmmmmmmmaybe. At least it serves as road map to what the final result should be... and billable hours... Oooooooo, now I’m thankful!


    TIP: There’s a couple ways to convert the outline to an editable path in Illustrator. As the thread talks about OBJECT > EXPAND then UNITE. Or, OBJECT > PATH > OUTLINE STROKE and UNITE. I don’t know why, but I have to ungroup everything before I unite. Also, You can use the OFFSET PATH command for a similar effect to stroking an object --- OBJECT > PATH > OFFSET PATH... enter value.

    And thanks for the zip file, Fred... I don’t remember how I found it before, but I think I had it for AI8 --- Very helpful.

    Best,
    vid
    Production Monkey - Level II
     
  17. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    I agree with Derf, Vid. At least in a retail environment like I operate in, and an hour can be lost just finding out what the customer wants to show and tell. Any art is often better than no art.

    I also however, get very fed up with professional designers and ad agencies who shoot over a PDF or a JPG and never inquire as to how their files might best be prepared for production. Sure I can open a PDF in Illustrator and extract the contents, get the font names, install the fonts, reset up the job. And an hour and a half goes by unnecessarily ... which is still quicker than emailing or phoning the designer to explain the hard, cruel world of graphic production.

    Bill for the time - sure whenever I can. OTOH, I make two to three times that amount when I'm producing graphics. I'll take a well prepared file or one of my own creation everytime!
     
  18. Derf

    Derf Very Active Member

    Thanks for the tip VID and not dragging me out to the woodshed I know Modesto has a lot of them... And there not used for wood... LOL :)


    I do charge $65 to $100 for art set up depending on the usage of the art however I don't get upset any more when I get sloppy files with stray points or CMYK fills in a stroke or any number things that can mess with you. I do have an art preflight I go through with incoming art. It is a step by step proses that involves options for the customer.


    The sign business is in my opinion one of the easiest trades to clean up an art file for. Try setting up an art file for an 18 out die-cut container on an 8 color Flexographic press with an 1/8" trap on a continuous tone image with vector art that you have to hand trap then manually set up color separations and screen angles in a DS2 spot channel file while keeping in mind the distortion factor of the plate material as well as the velocity rate of the printer your going to print on not to mention web weave or ink choice. Hell I could go on for hours about the files I have worked on for days not hours days on one file. Sign are extremely simplistic when put into prospective of what other trades have to deal with.

    Eight years ago I thought every graphic artist was an idiot and I was the **** then a color scientist from Costa Rica ("Master Yoda" I called him) schooled me big time. We would talk about the different algorithms of dithering and how the mind sees color. Also the interpolations of Photoshop filters and how they can make harmonic waves in line screen angles, this made me realize I don't know crap and still don't know it all and never will..

    Derf
     
  19. vid

    vid Very Active Member

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    ooooooohhhhhh yeah, Derf, you know Modesto. But ya gotta give the place a break. I'm not sure which travel magazine picked it, but we're proud to be listed as having one of the most spectacular sights of all of California right here on the edge of town --- it's "The Welcome to Modesto" sign in your rearview mirror. :p

    I ran into one of those color guys, too --- when I was a god at Illustrator. I'm sure I bored him as the only schoolin' I got was a lesson in humility.

    Like Fred, the shop I'm at deals some retail, some broker stuff, so the faster a file or art can be put in production the better.

    Still, any art that I see that lacks some semblance of craftsmanship amazes me. So, I'm still gonna grumble about both customer and designer art --- the better than nothin' attitude is still a grind with me.

    vid
     
  20. Derf

    Derf Very Active Member

    I will agree that some customer supplied art just flat out looks bad. and they think it's great because they designed it :design:
     
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