Deke’s Techniques: Optical art experiment 2a: Undulating pattern

Published by | Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

This week’s installment of Deke’s Techniques returns to optical art territory. Deke McClelland starts off with some very basic path outlines in Adobe Illustrator, and then converts them into a seamlessly repeating tile pattern. Let’s see exactly how it works!

To get started, follow along with Deke in this week’s free video and use the companion text below to help with each step.

If you’re a lynda.com premium member, you can use the exercise files Deke provides with the course, or simply use the instructions he gives in the first part of the video to create your own version.

1. Select one of the wavy paths, choose the Reflect tool (accessed from the Rotate tool flyout menu), and Alt or Option+click on the bottom anchor point to open the Reflect dialog box. Change the Axis to Horizontal and click Copy.

Select one of the paths and then use the Reflect tool

2. Select the coincident anchor points on the inner corners and fuse them together using the Object > Path > Join command. Do the same action with the outer anchor points.

3. Marquee-select the two paths, open the Reflect dialog box, switch the Axis to Vertical, and click Copy.

Select the two paths and copy them.

4. Select and join the two outside paths (left and right) of the emerging pattern, and then do the same for the two inside paths.

5. Select the diamond shape floating in the middle and choose Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center from the options bar.

6. Select the diamond again. Scale it 150% horizontally and 130% vertically and create a copy. Bring the copy to the front of the stack.

7. Marquee-select all of the paths you have been working with and press X to invert the fill and stroke colors. The paths will now be solid black.

Press X to invert the fill and stroke colors.

8. Switch to Outline mode (Cmd+Y or Ctrl+Y) and select the outermost wavy shape and the outermost diamond and fill them with white.

Switch to outline mode.

9. Switch back to Preview mode. Select both wavy paths and choose Object > Group. Then group the two diamond paths.

10. Select both groups and choose Object > Blend > Make to blend the paths. To create more steps in your blend, double-click the Blend tool and change Spacing to Specified Steps and increase Steps to 6.

Choose Object > Blend > Make to blend the paths.

11. Duplicate steps 1 through 10 with the other wavy path set and diamond on the right-hand of the composition. However, change the Scale to a uniform 190% when you re-create step 7.

Duplicate steps 1 through 10.

12. Bring the inner diamond to the front of the stack. Select all the paths in this set, and fill them with black by inverting the stroke and fill values with Cmd+X or Ctrl+X.

13. Switch to Outline mode (Cmd+Y or Ctrl+Y) and select the outermost wavy shape and the outer diamond and fill them with white.

14. Switch back to Preview mode. Select both wavy paths and choose Object > Group. Then group the two diamond paths.

15. Select both groups and blend them. Do not change the number of steps just yet.

16. Select the entire diamond group and press Cmd+C or Ctrl+C to load a copy in your clipboard.

Note: Resist pasting it for now.

17. Select the white diamond and create a scaled copy 540% larger horizontally and 507% larger vertically.

18. Select the black diamond and create a scaled copy 940% larger horizontally and 870% larger vertically.

19. Reselect the entire diamond group and choose Edit > Paste in Front to create a copy of that original smaller diamond group.

20. Select the entire blend on the right-hand of your screen and change the Specified Steps to 3. This is the second group of your pattern.

Building the optical art pattern

21. Move the two blended groups closer together. Switch to Outline mode and drag the left-hand anchor point of the newest blend to the bottom inside anchor point of the other blend. Now drag that same anchor point to the outside anchor point. Double-click the Selection tool to open the Move dialog and change the Horizontal value to 0 and the Vertical value to half its current value.

Use the Selection tool to open the Move dialog and change the horizontal value.

22. Create copies of each blend group, snapping them around the center hub.

Create copies of each blend group.

23. Hide both copies of the second blend group, which take the left and right positions in the pattern so far.

24. Draw a rectangle with no fill and no stroke from the four outside anchor points of the remaining blend group, as shown below.

Tip: Turn on Smart Guides to snap the rectangle exactly to the points.

Turn on Smart Guides to snap the rectangle exactly to the points.

25. Move the rectangle to the back of the stack and unhide all objects. Return to Preview mode, choose Edit > Select All, and drag the entire group of path outlines into the Swatches panel. This creates a pattern swatch.

26. Deselect the artwork and switch to the empty pattern layer in your document. The entire artboard should be covered by another rectangle with no fill or stroke. Click to select it.

27. Fill this shape with the swatch containing your new pattern.

28. Center and scale the swatch within your artboard to finalize it for print or other design uses.

The final optical art piece.

Now you have a piece of complex op art, achieved with the help of the powerful commands in Illustrator.

Members of lynda.com can check out the next movie in the series, Op art experiment 2b: Concentric rings, and learn how to create another op art effect that mimics the pop artist Bridget Riley. Next week Deke shows how even nonprofessional photographers can get great looking, color corrected, and white-balanced image results with Photoshop and Camera Raw. Stay tuned!

Suggested courses to watch next:

• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection
• Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate
• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

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