Friday, 6 May 2011

You See Right Through Me… Illustrator CS5 Tip

During the course of my Illustrator tutorials, I briefly mention transparency effects and advise against relying on them, since I have found that they can output unreliably.

There is one exception to this, which is when you are outputting final lettered TIFF files of the pages yourself, since you will have the opportunity to review the finished bitmap image and will be able to judge for yourself if the effects are working correctly.

However, although I do this for a number of clients, I still rarely use transparency effects, mainly for the following reason…

Here's a panel from Matthew McLaughlin and Matt Soffe's story "A Pleasing Symmetry" for FQP's Something Wicked #6

I wanted the effect to be ghostly, but it really needed a stronger stroke to help the legibility:

To the best of my knowledge, the easiest way of doing this was to have one copy of the effect with a transparent fill but no stroke, and then another copy directly on top with no fill but a white stroke:

(I've separated the two elements here to show you what I mean…)
This is all well and good, but it can make selecting the bottom element a bit fiddly, and if you wanted to mask off part of the effect then you have to group it, create a mask, and the whole thing quickly becomes more trouble than it's really worth!

However, changing the opacity from the Transparency palette only allows you to apply a global value to the whole object, right?

Well, not quite. Create the SFX with both a stroke and a fill and leave the opacity at 100% in the Transparency palette.

Instead, now go to the Appearance palette…

…and click on Fill.

Now, if you go back to the Transparency palette:

When you change the opacity value, only the opacity of the fill changes, meaning that you can set the opacity values of the stroke and fill independently of each other.

Maybe I'm the last person on Earth to figure this out, but I genuinely didn't know you could do this, so perhaps this hint will be of use to somebody out there!

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