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Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Working with Paths (part 3) - Understanding how fills and strokes relate to paths

10/22/2014 9:40:12 PM
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4. Understanding how fills and strokes relate to paths

If paths are the basic concept behind Illustrator, you may be wondering where the colors and patterns fit in. You apply all colors and patterns to Illustrator paths using fills and strokes. Basically, a fill is a color or pattern that appears within a path, and a stroke is a special style that you apply along a path.

When you work in Illustrator in Outline mode (View =:> Outline), only paths are visible. In Preview mode (View => Preview), fills and strokes applied to paths are visible. Unless a path is selected in Preview mode, that path (anchor points and line segments) isn't visible. You can toggle between Outline mode and Preview mode by pressing Ctrl+Y . Figure 7 shows closed paths with different fills in both Outline mode and Preview mode.

Figure 7. Closed paths with different fills: The top row shows how they appear in Outline mode, while the bottom row shows what they look like in Preview mode.

You can also fill open paths. The fill goes straight across the two endpoints of the path to enclose the object. Figure 8 displays different types of filled open paths. Filling an open path is usually not desirable, although in some circumstances, doing so may be necessary. Because the fill goes from the endpoints of the path, if you have an irregular-shaped path, the fill can look strange. If you're looking to create a cool pair of sunglasses, use a filled path for an unusual look.

A straight line with a fill can cause problems when you go to print. In PostScript, when you specify a fill but only have two dimensions to an object (a straight line), it prints (rasterizes) at 1 device pixel. At 100% on-screen, the filled line looks exactly like a 1-point stroked line (72 dpi = 1 device pixel = 1/72 inch and 1 point = 1/72 inch). When you zoom in to 200%, the stroked line scales by 200%, but the filled line stays the same (1 device pixel or 1/72 inch). When you print this line to a typical laser printer, 1 device pixel is as tiny as 1/300 or 1/600 inch. By the time you print to a typical imagesetter printer, 1 device pixel becomes 1/2570 inch, making it too small to be visible in most situations. The key to fixing it is to ensure that any paths you don't want filled have a fill of None before sending the document to print.


Figure 8. Open paths with different fills: The top row shows how they appear in Outline mode, while the bottom row shows how they appear in Preview mode.

Besides filling paths, you can also stroke paths with a tint of any color or a pattern. These strokes can be any weight (thickness), and the width of the stroke is equally distributed over each side of the path. Open paths have ends on the strokes; these ends can be cropped, rounded, or extended past the end of the stroke by half the width of the stroke. Several different paths with strokes are shown in Figure 9.

A single point is also considered a path; however, single points in Illustrator have no printable qualities. This isn't readily noticeable because you can assign a fill or stroke color to a single point, although you can't see it in Preview mode or when you print it. When the document is color-separated, it causes a separation of the color to print, even if nothing else on that page uses that same color, and the separation appears blank.

If you think that you may have individual anchor points floating around your illustration, you should select all of them at once by choosing Select => Object => Stray Points and then delete them.


Figure 9. Various paths with different strokes applied to them

Fills and strokes in Illustrator can be colors (including an opaque white), which knocks out any color underneath. Fills and strokes can also be transparent. Transparency in Illustrator is commonly referred to as a fill, a stroke, or None.
 
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