Adobe Illustrator CS5: Top 5 new features

This video about the new Adobe Illustrator CS5 features are life changing for us designers. I can’t wait to use the “Perspective Drawing tool.”  We would love to hear what your favorite feature is. Sharing is caring 🙂

Creating Halftone Effects in Illustrator

Every time I see a halftone used in a design I beg Mel to write a blog on how to create those halftones. I have finally found a clear, descriptive tutorial that is super easy from Vectips called “Creating Halftone Effects in Illustrator.” I never knew how easy this could be. Thanks Ryan for the great tutorials!

What is a halftone?

According to Ryan from Vectips, halftones simulate continuous tones with equally spaced dots of varying size. The eye blends these tiny dots into smooth tones. So anything that has a continuous tone can be simulated by a halftone.

Getting started

1. Create a shape with a gradient, blend or gradient mesh.

2. Go to Effects>Pixelate>Color Halftone. Change the Max Radius to 20 and keep the rest of the settings the same. If the dots in the halftones are too small or too big change the Max Radius by double clicking the Color Halftone effect in the Appearance Panel.

3. Expand the image. Object>Expand Appearance. With the image selected, the Control Panel defaults to the Live Trace option (very cool thing I never knew about). Click the Arrow Button beside the Live Trace button and select Tracing Options.

Mode: Color (select if your object contains color, hopefully you are using black and white)

Max Colors: Dependent on how many colors you used, if any.

Path Fitting: 1 px

Minimum Area: 1px

Corner Angle: 1

Ignore White: Check this box.

I saved these settings as a preset in the Tracing Options so I can easily go back and repeat the previous steps.

4. Expand. Press the Expand button on the Control Panel and now your image is vector.


Halftone from Photos

I knew how to apply a halftone to a photo in Photoshop but I never knew you could apply a halftone in Illustrator! This is great.

1. Place and Embed your image in Illustrator.

2. Click Edit>Edit Colors>Convert to Grayscale.

3. Apply the same settings as before (if you don’t like the size of your dots you can change the Max Radius)

4. Change colors accordingly.


I think I prefer doing my halftones in photoshop (you have a little more control of the dot size and contrast, but it’s great to know I can create them in both programs)

Halftone Swatcheshalftonestock

There are some stock halftone options in illustrator. They’re not as versitile as the techniques above but are worth checking out.  To open the swatches, click on the pop-up menu in the Swatch Panel. Then go to Open Swatch Library>Patterns>Basic Graphics>Basic Graphics Dots. The last 5 swatches are the halftone swatches. To read the full article read here.

Distressing Type in Illustrator

When I see something cool online I’m always telling Mel to write a blog about this, make a shirt look like that, or asking her to find different tutorials that are awesome (that I’m too lazy to find).  She saved the day again today! I’ve been trying to find out an easy way in illustrator to distress type without bringing it into Photoshop. She sent me a link to this tutorial on DzyneO about distressing type that really helped my project get finalized.  Check it out:

Step 1. Type something that you’d like to distress. Open the brushes palette

Step 2. With the pen or the brush tool draw lines over your text in a different color (this color won’t be seen at the end, it helps with separation of images) until you receive the desired effect. Apply different stroke sizes to add variation in your design.

Step 3. Outline the text and group. (Type>Create Outlines) (ctrl+g)

Step 4. Select all strokes created and go to Object>Expand Appearance

Step 5. Open the Pathfinder tool and select everything (ctrl+a). In the pathfinder palette click on merge. Make sure that the stroke color is selected in the fill color. Go to the toolbar and click Select>Same>Fill Color and delete the selection. (I promise it works, it took me a few trys to figure it out, so don’t give up)

Step 6. Your Final Image!

I’m working on some t-shirts for our favorite local singer/songwriter Zank. Which design do you like? I can’t decide.

Hope this helps!


Make a Mesh with Illustrator

So I was randomly searching for some mesh textures online and found this great blog post called, “Illustrator Make with Mesh” on Veerle’s blog. There are all of these little tricks about illustrator I never learned and Veerle has a ton of tutorials for the eager designer.


#1. Create 4 lines using the rectangle tool

#2 Add color, reference Kuler for some killer swatch options. I used “Greenpeace Greenlife”

#3 Make a Mesh: select all lines and click Object> envelope. I used 4 columns and 2 rows. Pull and twist the anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Before (left) After (right)

#4 Overlay Color Effect: I duplicated the layer with the mesh on top of my original mesh (ctrl+f, for a direct paste on top). Click the layer target circle icon in the Layers palette and change the layer mode to Overlay in the Transparency palette. Move the overlay layer until you reach desired effect.

#5 Play around with different effects. I used the warp option and added text by drawing a line with the pen tool and selected the Type on a Path tool to create curved text.

To see more detailed instructions, visit Veerle and all of her tutorials.


How To: prep images for screen printing

Great for anyone interested in the screen-printing business and especially our Collar Free designers.

1. Always use your original photograph or artwork (it’s not cool to steal other people’s work)
2. Don’t place rasterized images in your illustrator files; work in photoshop or illustrator
3. If using images, please make sure they are at least 300 dpi.

Lets start with photoshop:

Option 1: Posterize

We took a picture of Mel in color and changed the setting to grayscale (image>mode>grayscale)

Then we put a halftone filter on it (filter>sketch>halftone pattern)

This is NOT a printable image

Color separation on a halftone image is a difficult and long process, but we can limit the number of colors using the posterize effect. (image>adjustments>posterize).

This is a printable image

This is also another way to posterize:

(image>adjustments>channel mixer: to adjust the color) then (image>adjustment>posterize) no more than 4 levels

Option 2: Threshold

Threshold is an easy and fun way to make your images print ready (image>adjustments>threshold). You can easily change and select color by using the color range tool (select>color range). Once you are in that mode use the eyedropper to select the desired color and fill in with a brush, paintbucket or cut and copy to new layer.

Option 3: Livetrace (Illustrator)

Import the photo into Illustrator. (object>live trace>tracing options).

These are the levels used here. Don’t use more than 6 colors. Play, experiment and surprise us with your design.

Please Note:

Try and separate your colors into separate layers. Use the color range tool (select>color range). It’s amazing! Use the eyedropper to make your selection by color. Cut (ctrl x) and paste (ctrl v) each color into a new layer. This process is not required but we want to inform you about the prep work we do before we send the art out for production. These techniques will give you a better understanding of the screen-printing industry and makes our job more efficient.

We know everyone is not familiar working with screen-printing and we will be posting more about this industry next week. If this helped and you would like to see more tutorials in the future give us a holla or comment back.  If you have specific questions email us at: or We’re here to help 🙂

-mel & michelle