The Long-Awaited Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Mastery (Now with Free Samples)

This week, I bring you one of the best things on earth: free samples. And I don't mean samples of some disgustingly healthy, fat-free, high-fiber cardboard-esque reconstituted potato-chip substitute; no, today, I've got full-flavor, indulgently informative free videos to whet your appetite for Deke's new course at CS6 One-on-One: Mastery. Both good for you and truly delicious. And calorie-free, if it comes to that.

Mastery is the fourth level in Master Deke's One-on-One series, so this course covers some powerful vector-wrangling features. But don't be daunted, these helpful features are explained with Deke's usual care and clarity. Don't just take my word for it, savor the delicacies I've spread before you here. The folks at always make a percentage of each course free for the sampling, and I've included many of those treats here. (And if you'd like the full meal deal and you're not a member of, you can get a free week's subscription by going to Here's what you can expect:

Chapter 33: Using Smart Guides
You probably sense that Smart Guides are convenient for aligning aspects of your work on the fly, but in this chapter, Deke reveals some of the hidden ways you can exploit Smart Guides to create finely crafted artwork. For your consideration, check out this movie that not only helps you draw custom letters, but also is part of a heart-warming story of a man trying to create a logo for his son: 

Free Sample: Hand-drawing letters as stroked paths

Chapter 34: Working with Symbols
The Symbols feature in Illustrator offer a way to repeat often-used artwork in multiple instances that also allows you to update all of those instances in one fell swoop by just editing a single occurrence. If your symbols library is meager, check out this free video in which Deke shows you how to lift symbols created in Photoshop with the Custom Shape tool. You've got to go to the course page to check this one out, but as I mentioned, there are unlocked movies for every course. Just go to the course page and search for blue links to watch the freebies. (Go, this is a good one.) 


Chapter 35: Gradient Mesh
The Gradient Mesh feature allows you to contour elements of your illustration by using a netlike mesh you cast around a path outline, with anchor points at the intersecting points to which you assign colors. Illustrator then creates micro-gradients between those points. It's entirely possible I'm not explaining this amazing feature adequately. Fortunately, there's this handy video excerpt:

Free Sample: Creating a Gradient Mesh


Chapter 36: Opacity Masks
The Opacity Mask allows you to mask through overlapping objects in order to reveal things beneath. Although we all know white reveals and black conceals, there are three checkboxes involved in creating Opacity Masks that require a nuanced understanding. Here's Deke explaining the challenge and the results:

Free Sample: Introducing Opacity Masks


Chapter 37: Liquify and Envelope
In this chapter, Deke discusses distortion. The Liquify tool allows you to smush, warp, and bend path outlines, although destructively so. The Envelope feature allows you to put your object "inside" an envelope, then distort the envelope rather than the object, thus allowing for dynamic reconsideration. To see it in action, check out this free sample with the bonus feature of Deke saying the words "unfortunate anatomical detail of the horse": 

Free Sample: Applying an envelope-style distortion 


Chapter 38: Pattern Brushes
The Pattern Brushes feature in Illustrator allows you to teach the program a pattern that you want to be used along a path. In this example, Deke creates a green, meticulously rounded, interweaving loop pattern that can be applied to any path seamlessly. You can even use the Transform command to help create your pattern. Watch Deke create his pattern here:

Free Sample: Creating a basic pattern brush


Chapter 39: Charts and Pictographs
One of Illustrator's most useful features in this Age of Infographics is its ability to turn a spreadsheet into a graph. Despite the fact that some of Illustrator's limitations in this area cause you to have to duplicate some effort, Deke urges us to give it a chance and experience the beauty of the final outcome. In this video sample, Deke shows you how to import and graph numerical data:

Free Sample: Importing and graphing numerical data


Chapter 40: 3D Effects
Illustrator may have fairly limited 3D capabilities compared to Photoshop, but there are some advantages to using Illustrator in certain 3D circumstances. Here is Deke explaining the three kinds of 3D Illustrator offers: Rotate, Extrude & Bevel, and Revolve. 

Free Sample: Introducing the three kinds of 3D in Illustrator

If these tasty morsels leave you hungry for more, you can find the entire course here at If you're not a member, sign up for a free week's trial at and gorge yourself silly on some fine Illustrator training. 

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Thank you for share such a thoughtful post... and long-lasting to push all of us towards being our best selves!