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Friday Fundamentals: Illustrator Pen Tool Mysteries Decoded

For today's Friday Fundamentals adventure, we'll be deciphering some of the mysteries of the Pen tool in Adobe Illustrator. I used to think the real mystery was figuring out how to draw efficiently with bezier curves. When to click and when to drag. And what to drag. And where to drag. And where to click...

However, a recent review of a free movie from Deke's Illustrator CC One-on-One: Fundamentals course reminds me that there's an even more basic and ancient Illustrator mystery: what on earth do the various stages of the Pen tool cursor actually mean? Ancient Illustrator spirits, what are you trying to tell me? 

Decoding the Pen Tool Cursors in Adobe Illustrator

Ostensibly, the following movie---a free sample from Deke's course---is about one of the more basic Illustrator maneuvers: connecting two open paths. But as you'll soon see, during the course of simply connecting two line segments, the cursor changes to indicate what's going to happen next. (What's going to happen next is my true Illustrator mystery; please tell me I'm not the only one who's ever inadvertently drawn a giant gash across my artwork by misconnecting endpoints.) 

The chart that Deke uses to explain the various Pen tool states might look familiar to those of you who follow Deke's Techniques (where Deke once explained how to draw this very chart in, uh, Illustrator, but, uh, without the freaking pen tool.)

Think of this movie as the decoding of that chart. And now, for those of you whose heads are aching, read on as I additionally decode the video, using Deke's sample file for, uh, Illustrator illustration: Read more » 

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Free dekeKeys Custom Shortcuts for Photoshop and Illustrator CC

For Creative Cloud subscribers who are also connoisseurs of keyboard shortcuts, Deke's custom collection---aka dekeKeys---is now available for Photoshop and Illustrator CC. These treasured files are actually part of Deke's Photoshop CC One-on-One: Advanced and Illustrator CC One-on-One: Advanced courses at

But you don't have to be a member of to get the files, because Deke also makes them available to members of dekeOnline. And that membership is free, my dekeLings. 

dekeKeys: Deke's Custom Keyboard ShortcutsIf you're already a member, read on for the links. If you're not a member, why don't you want free stuff? You can register here and read on and grab the files like a self-respecting, privileged dekeOphile:   Read more » 

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Friday Fundamentals: Making Great Selections with Color Range in Photoshop

This week's Friday Fundamentals covers an amazingly useful tool that was designed to take the place of a less amazing tool with a much sexier name. Yes, I speak of the clumsily named but ever so efficient Color Range command in Photoshop. Despite its delightfully adept ability to make selections based on color and luminance, it often gets overlooked. And yet the tool it was designed to replace, the Magic Wand, still maintains its honored place in most selection-making primers. This may be evidence of the power of marketing.

But for today's Friday Fundamentals, let me show you the evidence of powerful, one-click selections instead. The Color Range command may be buried in the Select menu, and it may have a dialog box that looks nothing like a selection tool, but by the end of this post, I will prove its superiority over its more sexily named cousin: 

Making great selections with Color Range

For our selectee object, I'll use something instantly familiar and yet cunningly wispy, a fluffy cloud against a blue sky background. Let's start by looking at what the Magic Wand can accomplish with one click (that be the the rules for this experiment):  Read more » 

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Friday Fundamentals: Setting Text in InDesign

Theoretically, Creative Cloud subscriptions are going to expose more people to Adobe's layout program, InDesign. If you're new to InDesign, but familiar with Photoshop and Illustrator, then you're probably coming to ID for one key purpose: wrangling large bits of text. If you're a veteran text wrangler---steeped in the behaviors of word processors like, well, Word---then your interest in InDesign may be about learning to set text in the context of a graphics-rich environment. Either way, it's about getting those words in there. That's why today's Friday Fundamentals is about setting text in InDesign. 

Setting Text in InDesign

If you're new to working with text in InDesign, here are the key things you need to know (gleaned and adapted from Deke's Up and Running with InDesign course at  Read more » 

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Friday Fundamentals: Tracing Rasterized Line Art in Illustrator

Today's Friday Fundamentals (still Friday here in Colorado, plus I get a bonus hour because I'm really a Californian) celebrates the release of Deke's updated Illustrator CC One-on-One: Fundamentals course. And because I'm in charge, I'm going to cover one of the first things I was ever interested in doing with Illustrator: tracing artwork. 

Tracing Line Art in Illustrator

Tracing is handy when you have a rasterized bit of art (i.e. art that's made out of pixels) that you'd like to turn into clean Illustrator vector-based goodness. Especially if redrawing in Illustrator is beyond the limits of your time, patience, or talent (as in my case). Speaking of my case, I was trying to duplicate a logo for a baseball league, which I inherited from a person who only left behind a tiny 150-pixel GIF file when his kids grew out of little league. In Chapter 6 of Deke's updated course, he uses an intricate butterfly he drew with Sharpie and paper, then scanned into a TIF file. The process is the same. 

Changing line art or other rasterized graphics into vectors has some advantages, as you can imagine. The biggest of these involves, well, making the biggest art. Like the giant laminated posters I was trying to plaster all over town to encourage baseball registration. Since vectors are mathematically defined, you can blow your graphics up as large as you like and keep all the beautiful smoothness your baseball bats, butterflies, or other beauties deserve. 

Here are the key things to know about tracing in Illustrator that I learned from Deke's course, which apply to CS6 (and really CS5 if you can get over the interface differences), as well:  Read more » 

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