Deke’s Techniques 201: Op Art Experiment 2a: An Undulating Pattern in Illustrator

201 Op art experiment 2a: Undulating pattern

One of my favorite things about Deke is his focus, and by that I mean he gets an idea in his brain and won’t let go until he’s figured it out. I have a feeling that’s what happened the first time he started doing Op Art experiments with Adobe Creative Suite. He focused in on each style, using Photoshop (as in Deke’s Techniques 189, known temporarily as Deke’s Techniques 105: “Op Art Experiment 1a: Inflated Checkers in Photoshop) or Illustrator as needed. Eventually, he ended up with today’s Illustrator technique: an Op Art inspired pattern of undulating lines and hypnotic diamonds. Ironically, as much as it represents the manifestation of Deke’s mental focus, it could actually mess with your literal ability to focus your eyes.

But the visual effect is only temporary (I hope). The increase in your powers with Illustrator, however, will be permanent (I also hope). Starting with two sets of curly lines, plus an itinerant diamond shape, Deke duplicates, reflects, joins, blends, and eventually creates a pattern that yields this result. You can then fill an entire shape with your pattern and wow your friends and colleagues with your ability to create perfectly aligned visual mayhem. (You can probably use it to bend them to your will, as well.)

Along the way, you’ll become familiar with these key Illustrator tools, commands, and idiosyncrasies:

Useful Concept 1: By using the Reflect tool, those initial curvy lines eventually become the basis for perfectly aligned shapes. No measuring or exacting mouse positioning required. All you have to remember is whether to flip vertically or horizontally. Fortunately (for me), the dialog box has handy visuals:

Useful Concept 2: When you duplicate the lines across their horizontal or vertical axes, you’ll want to join them to their counterparts. It’s an excellent repeating opportunity to learn the Ctrl-J (Command-J) shortcut for joining two paths in Illustrator.

Useful Concept 3: Because the fills of this design need to be established in a busy visual environment (that only supplies black and white for clues), you’ll see how using the outline view (evoked by Ctrl-Y or Command-Y) can help you remove distraction and select just what you need. (And look how innocent our pattern looks in Outline Mode.)

Useful Concept 4: Here’s one that always gets me. When you want to use the Alt (Option) key to create duplicates in Illustrator, drag first then hold down that key. (Yes, I grew up graphically in InDesign.)

Useful Concept 5: The Blend tool in Illustrator is a “spatial blend” rather than a visual one. Which basically means you can use it to create transitional duplicates between to shapes. You can find out more about this Old School Illustrator tool in Chapter 23 of Deke’s new Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced course at (Not a member? Get a free week’s trial here.)

Useful Concept 6: Once you get your pattern established, you can designate a square selection and drag it to the Swatches panel where you can wield it anywhere.

Useful Concept 7: On screen, Illustrator’s pattern may show some seams between the repetitions. Deke will show you how to save it off as a TIFF file to prove to yourself that those seams do not in fact exist. Yet another optical illusion demystified.

All that Illustrator goodness, and all you have to risk is a little bit of visual chaos and a short-lived potential headache. Deke’s Techniques, bringing you pain and beauty every week.

Next entry:Photoshop Efficiency: Don’t Fear the Keyboard Shortcuts

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  • Congratulations

    A BIG CONGRATULATIONS !  is in order.

    200 Dekes Techniques at

    and a Huge THANK YOU.  Personally I have learned a lot from them.

  • I agree, Don!

    Congratulations are definitely in order, Deke!

  • Off Topic

    Hi Deke,
    At risk of stating the obvious, isn’t time to abandon updating your fate in 2012?
    My choice, if I had one, would be for more Photoshop stuff, workflow, camera raw techniques and revisiting Colleen for an odd cocktail occasionally… But what do I know… I’ll buy anything that’s free.
    Many, many thanks, all the same…. Its all good stuff.
    BRB in the UK

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