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Screensaver Tutorial: Liquids in the Library: Illustrator Tutorial

This tutorial teaches how the Liquids in the Library screensaver was created in Adobe Photoshop CS5.5.

Liquids in the Library Illustrator Tutorial

Preview of Final Result

Final Image

Liquids in the Library Illustrator Tutorial

Illustrator is a powerful vector drawing application and my application of choice when working with typography and illustrations. You can do so much more with shapes using the tools in Illustrator then you can manage in Photoshop.

This is our final image, in this tutorial were going to go over using the type tool and the pen tool, and learn some tricks with paths.

Open Adobe Illustrator 5.5 and create a new document by going to [ File > New... ] or by hitting Ctrl + N and use the exact same settings as you did in the Photoshop tutorial: select Web in the New Document Profile dropdown menu, and then select 1024 x 768 in the Size dropdown menu.

new document

Place the photoshop file you created in the first part of this tutorial into your new document. [ File > Place... ] You may also want to lock this image so you don't have to worry about accidentally selecting it while you work, you can do this in the Layers tab [ Window > Layers ] (F7) by clicking in the box next to the little eye which toggles the lock on and off, or by selecting the image and going to [ Object > Lock > Selection ] or using the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + 2).

Place Photoshop file

Because both documents are the same size, your placed file will fit perfectly in the artboard. You may notice that the quality of your placed image looks low, that is because Illustrator has not embedded your image, it is just referencing it. Basically it's just a preview, when you save out your image as a JPEG or PNG then it will be at full clarity.

There are a couple reasons why we do things this way, number one being that it makes your life a lot easier if you want to make any changes to your file later on. The second is that it keeps your file size down, because instead of copying and pasting your image, you're just linking to it. IMPORTANT: If you move your files around after they're placed, or rename them, then it will break the link. Illustrator will notify you that the file is missing, and you will need to replace it, this is why naming your files and saving them in organised folders is important.

First lets put the words that we want to use in the document. Use the type tool (T) and type out the words you want to use one at a time. Click the Type tool icon inbetween words to create a new type block. I usually do this beside the artboard then drag them in when I'm ready to use them.

NOTE: Keyboard shortcuts don't work when you're using the type tool, you have to hit the Esc key to exit the type tool first.

Type tool

Using the Selection Tool (V) select the words you've typed out, resize them and arange them on the artboard however you want. I will note that Typography is one of the hardest things to do in graphic design, I spent a good amount of time on this part finding fonts and playing around with different ideas, so I'll just skip the whole creative process in this tutorial and jump right into what I did.

First make the change the colour of your words to something that contrasts your image, and arange them into something that your eye can flow accross nicely. You will notice that one change I made was to us an ampersand (&) in place if the word 'in' this gave me some room to get more creative.

Text Alignment

Choosing fonts is something that you can spend a lot of time on. If you don't know much about typography and font types, then the first thing you should learn is never use Comic Sans, Pupyrus, or Comic Sans. Just don't use them. Ever. Especially not Comic Sans.

I went to to look for some fun fonts, and I found one that I liked called Ocean.

The other fonts I used were Ravie, Gill Sans Ultra Bold, and Cheltenham which happens to be the font for the University of Lethbridge logo. If you don't have those font's you can find them online in a couple of places for free.

Font selection

After settling on some fonts I rearranged them to look like they do below, changing the colour of the ampersand, giving it a thin border and layering it behind the words. I just used the eyedropper tool and picked a random shade of blue from the image which happened to be #0E8BBE.

Final Arrangment

Now comes the fun part! How many of you recognised the wavy white line in the final image as a Disney reference?


So we're going to Nemo-fy the word Library. First we need to convert our letters to outlines [ Type > Create Outlines ] (Shift + Crtl + O). This turns our letters into shapes that can be edited, but they are still grouped together, we need to ungroup them or else we're going to have problems when we try to use the pathfinder tools [ Object > Ungroup ] (Shift + Ctrl + G).

Create Outlines

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the wavy line, you can free hand it, or you can just copy and past the Nemo image into Illustrator and trace it. To use the Pen Tool, click on a point to make an anchor, click and drag to make an anchor with a curve, hold [Alt] to modify the handles. Click on your first anchor to close the path and finish the shape. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) or the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) to make any adjustments to your shape.

Wavy Line

Name your shape "Nemo Wave" by double clicking it in the Layers Window, give it a white fill colour, and resize it to fit onto the Library outlines.

New Shape

We're going to need more than just one copy of this shape, so Duplicate it by going into the dropdown menu of the Layers Window [ Window > Layers ].

Duplicate Path

Open up the Pathfinder window [ Window > Pathfinder ] (Shift + Ctrl + F9) with two shapes selected, click on the Minus Front Shape mode. This makes whatever shape you have on top work like a cookie cutter. Duplicate the "Nemo Wave" shape as many times as you need so that you can cut every letter that the wave is covering.

Pathfinder Tools

This is what you should be left with, the path below illustrates what parts have been cut out. Some of the letter have just had the edges trimmed, but others have been cut into a couple of parts. Ilustrator automatically groups these parts, so make sure you ungroup them [Object > Ungroup] before going to the next step. Also, make sure you leave at least one copy of the Nemo Wave shape left over.

Path Cut

Select your last Nemo Wave shape and all of the cut of shapes below it and move them down a few pixels using the down arrow key. Delete the one chunk of the 'L' then open up the Pathfinder Window again and select the 'Unite' Shape Mode, this turns the paths you have selected into one path.


To finish up we're going to give the whole thing a drop shadow. To do that in Illustrator, first select all your shapes (Ctrl + A) then go to [ Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow...] Don't change anything, and click OK. TIP: If you put all of your shapes into their own layer then you can put the effect on the layer and everything you add to it will automatically have a drop shadow.

Drop Shadow

That's it for the fancy part. Now we're going to give the puffer fish a little speech bubble.

Finished Part one

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) and drag an ellipse out into the shape you think looks good. If you do this in a layer that already has a drop shadow effect applied to it then the shape will automatically adopt that effect.

Ellipse tool

Use the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) and add three anchors to the elipse by clicking on the path. Then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the middle of the three points and modify the handles [Alt] to form the speech bubble.

Modify Speech bubble

Now use the Type Tool (T) and click and drag a text box inside the bubble and type in your text. The font I used was Hobo. Align your text to the centre, make it the same colour as the ampersand and give it the bulge effect by making an envelope. With your text box selected using the Selection Tool (V) click on the envelope icon highlighted in the top bar, choose Bulge as your style, adjust the Bend a bit and click ok.


And that's it! Feel free to do any fine tuning, move things around, adjust some of the shapes, or whatever minor changes you think may improve the overall image.

Final Image