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Appearance Styles

Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 under Design | No comments

Appearance Styles

Last night I finished the design for a brochure promoting a missions trip to Africa that we plan to take in September. Along the way, I found myself against a few odd problems in Illustrator and thought it worth while to share their solutions.

Large-scale Texture Backgrounds

For the backgrounds of both the inside and outside of the brochure, I wanted solid colors that were accented by subtle textures. Initially, I created full size raster graphics in Photoshop, using textures from the always lovely CGTextures and simply linked to them from Illustrator. This wasn't too cumbersome to deal with, but as the brochure is 8.5" by 11", the file size for each raster was unnecessarily large.

After trying a few things, I found a nice replacement in Illustrator's Swatch Patterns (Window > Swatch Libraries > Patterns). There are only so many that come bundled with the application, but with the right layer blending and opacity, they'll do nicely. Plus, since each is made up of vector shapes, they tile to large physical sizes but maintain an overall low file size.

Bordered Images

I knew from the start of this project that I wanted to drop in the photos with each having a border of consistent look and assumed that I could directly apply a border (e.g. typical Illustrator shapes) or use the Appearance panel to apply a border (e.g. a nice trick to get gradients and borders on live text). Unfortunately, neither option works on linked photos.

I did, however, find success by first placing the photo, applying a shape mask (in this case, it was a simple rectangle) and then adding a border. You won't get access to the Stroke Alignment options (among many other options), but it did make it a lot easier to get consistent borders without having to switch to a page layout application like InDesign or Pages.

Patterned Strokes

My preliminary sketch had these patterned lines that I was immediately fond of excited to see in color. Unfortunately, the pattern used wouldn't separate with the "Expand" command and didn't result in what I wanted with different blending modes.

What did work was recreating the pattern by applying three new Strokes to the line via the Appearance panel (one thick solid for the middle, one white for the space and the last one dotted for the outside) and then using the Graphic Styles panel to apply it to the rest of the border lines. In retrospect, I might have tried using the Symbol Sprayer Tool, as it has done solved similar problems before.

And Done!

The rest of the hard stuff was easy enough to get around, thanks to CS4/CS5's new features ... Artboard Tool, Key Object Selection and Magic Wand options. That last one isn't really too new, but I don't think as many people use it as should. Oh and the last piece of goodness was that this is another design project that I kept versions of using git. Commits at the major changes and if I needed to roll back, I just ran a checkout. Easy peasy.

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