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If you're reading this book, you probably have at least some idea of what Illustrator is and what it can do (although you may not know quite what you're getting into; most computer programs this charismatic can be addictive!). But I'll sum up: it's an incredibly powerful vector drawing program that helps you create just about any kind of image you can dream of, from basic drawings on up to complicated visual epics. It uses a lot of tools that mimic what you may have done (or wished you had done) using traditional tools such as pens, t-squares, and paints, and tools that can be found only in the digital world. It finds myriad ways to help you do your work faster and avoid duplication, yet it never squelches your creativity. Can you tell I like this thing?

You see Illustrator graphics every day in newspapers and magazines, in advertising, and on the Web. Artists use Illustrator to create diagrams, info-art, maps, logos, posters, photorealistic renderings, and all sorts of other illustrations that defy categorization. And so can you. You can draw high-contrast graphics with perfectly smooth edges. You can use tools and filters to alter a basic (or any) shape in ways you and your pencil hadn't imagined. You can edit the outline of any shape long after you create it. You can even integrate photographs that were corrected and enhanced in Adobe Photoshop or a similar application. In this new version of Illustrator, you can perform minor artistic miracles with gradients, blends, transparency, live effects, and Web-graphics capabilities that may knock your socks off.

Illustrator is as expansive, elaborate, and perplexing (to the outside eye) as any traditional, professional workshop on earth. Like any powerful collection of tools, Illustrator will demand your attention and reward your comprehension. That's why this book guides you through every feature of the program as if you've never seen a drawing application in your life. Every section not only explains how to perform a technique, but also provides enough background so you know why you'd want to. Though I hope they're pleasing to look at, the figures aren't meant to amaze, but educate. Soon enough, you'll be able to amaze yourself.

The Structure of This Book

Real World Adobe Illustrator 10 contains 25 chapters organized into five distinct parts. Each part explores a simple concept in exhaustive and engaging detail. My hope is that at the end of every part, you will feel confident enough with the material to see that the explanations are really just starting-out points for your own explorations. Once you understand the topics, you can invent techniques on your own without the slightest hesitation.

  • Part One, Starting: The first part's four chapters introduce the fundamental aspects of Illustrator 10. I explain how Illustrator differs from other graphics programs and introduce you to Illustrator's network of tools and palettes. I'll tell you everything there is to know about the file formats supported by Illustrator 10. If you're familiar with previous editions of Illustrator, this part will get you up and running in no time at all. You may even get to skip ahead.

  • Part Two, Working with Shapes: These five chapters tell you how to create basic graphic elements in Illustrator. I'll introduce you to the fundamental shape-creation tools—such as the polygon, line, star, and spiral—and explain how you can change shapes, combine them, make holes in them, smooth them out, and otherwise coax them into becoming whatever you want them to be. I make sense out of the all-powerful but oft-confusing pen tool and Bézier curves. This section also covers “management” features that will help you keep your shapes in line, literally and figuratively. I'll explore the tools and controls for measuring, aligning, and arranging elements, as well as those that will organize the elements of your document for easier retrieval, focused attention, or for use in other documents.

  • Part Three, Type, Symbols, and Graphs: Chapters 10 and 11 devote close attention to Illustrator's strong and easy-to-use text editing tools and to the larger topic of creating and editing text. But don't think that just because type is in a separate section from shapes and other images, it isn't as artistic an element in your illustrations as those graphics are. Chapter 12 introduces the symbolism tools, an exciting new way of working with repeating elements. I close this section with a look at one of Illustrator's most overlooked features, graphing.

  • Part Four, Color and Effects: I've devoted several pages to showing you how color works and how (and with what features) to use it. Even if you didn't happen to be using Illustrator, you'd find a lot in Chapter 14 to help you understand working with digital color. Chapter 18 looks at how the transparency options affect objects. However, coloring doesn't just mean color, so there are also chapters to cover blending colors and shapes, masks and opacity masks, and other effects. This section also includes extensive coverage of Illustrator's new live distortion effects, which are “smart art” personified: they maintain the integrity of the individual elements of your designs while allowing you to perform amazing feats of transformation on them.

  • Part Five, Going Public: Then, of course, you'll want to share your masterpieces with the world, and so I'll tell you all about how to get your graphics wherever they need to go: to the Web, to other programs, and of course to print. And seeing how you're always in such a big hurry to get all those things done (isn't it always that way?) I've included a modest chapter on how to get the most out of Illustrator's Actions—a great way to automate repetitive tasks.

I've written the chapters so you can read them from beginning to end without finding the information either repetitive or overwhelming. If you prefer to read just when you're stumped, you can look up a confusing topic in the index. Or you can simply browse through the pictures until you come to something that looks interesting. But no matter how you approach the text, I hope that it snags you and teaches you more than you bargained for. If you look up from the book at your watch and think, “Dang, I've got to get back to work!” then I've done my job.

The Margin Icons

If I've written a paragraph that contains very important information or an offhand comment, I've included an icon next to the paragraph to distinguish it from the surrounding text.

Here are the five icons that you can expect to jockey for your attention.

This icon points out features that are new to Illustrator 10. Sometimes, the paragraph tells you everything you need to know about the new feature. Other times, the icon introduces further paragraphs expounding on the same topic. Either way, you'll know it's something you didn't have in Illustrator 9 or earlier. If you already know Illustrator, you can get up to speed in Illustrator 10 by just reading these paragraphs.

The latest version of Illustrator packs in even more features specifically for generating optimized Web graphics. I bring the most significant and useful ones to your attention using this handy Web icon.

It seems like every book offers a tip icon. I've tried to steer clear of the boring old tips that every Illustrator user hears a million times and concentrate on the juicy stuff that most folks don't know. But keep in mind, these are fast tips. For the more involved killer techniques, you may have to read some text, too. Tips, as well as warnings and notes, are in italics to make them really stand out.

This icon explains an action to avoid or that maybe won't work the way you expected it to. Few operations are hazardous in Illustrator, but many are time wasters. When I tell you what not to do, I try to include a preferable alternative as well.

Occasionally I feel compelled to share my thoughts on a variety of subjects. Sometimes it's a bit of history, sometimes a technical clarification, other times it's a thoughtful observation, and every once in a while it's just a complaint. Whatever it is, you can skip it if it gets on your nerves.

Platform Nuts and Bolts

Adobe Illustrator 10 is a drawing program for both Windows and Macintosh computers. The differences in the program between these two types of computers are few and are mostly related to unique platform behaviors, such as the look and function of a palette's Close box. The biggest of these differences is that for keystroke combinations Windows employs the Ctrl key and the Alt key, whereas on a Mac you'd use the Command (Cmd) key (sometimes called the Apple or even Splat key) and the Option key. In this book, when I point out helpful keyboard shortcuts, the Windows version will appear first, followed by the Macintosh keystroke combination(s) in parentheses. The Windows key combinations will be joined with plus symbols, while their Mac brethren will be connected with hyphens. So when I tell you the quick way to save a document, for example, it'll say “Choose File » Save or press Ctrl+S (Cmd-S on the Mac).”

The other platform-specific convention you'll see in this book is (with apologies to any lefties out there who've switched their controls) “right-click” (Control-click on the Mac). Typically, this brings up a context-specific menu that repeats choices from a standard menu. The contextual menu can be a lot more convenient (if you're a keyboard person) and, to me, represents a general “have it your way, have it delivered right to your door” trend in our society that has trickled into software.

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