August 23, 2007

Lite Brite Art (Part 3 of 3)

Are you ready for the grand finale? Make sure you buckle your seatbelt though -- this third and final segment of our Lite Brite project dives headlong into the Live Color feature in Illustrator CS3 -- a fun ride indeed, but it's head and shoulders above the child's play we spoke about in parts one and two.

7. As we last left things, we had some artwork that had been successfully converted to rows and rows of colored circles, giving the appearance of Lite Brite pegs, on a black background. However, Lite Brite only came with pegs in 8 different colors. Right now, the artwork uses many more colors than that. So we'll need to reduce the artwork to use only the 8 Lite Brite colors. Our first step in doing that will be to create a new group of colors that contain these 8 colors. We'll also add a black color to the group (for a total of 9 colors), as this will allow us to make certain pegs "disappear" into the black background, giving the appearance as if there was no peg. You can either create a new color group on your own (I found some references to the 8 colors that Lite Brite uses on the web), or you can download one that I created.

Lite Brite Colors

Once you download this file and unzip it, you'll have an Adobe Swatch Exchange file (.ASE) which you can load into Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign. Simply choose Open Swatch Library > Other Library from the Swatches panel flyout menu and choose the Lite_Brite.ase file. Once you've opened it, drag the folder icon of the color group into your swatches panel to add the group to your document.

Disclaimer: Being color retarded as I am, I didn't do that great of a job creating all of the Lite Brite colors. In fact, I even saved them as CMYK (what was I thinking?). In any regards, feel free to edit my colors to make them more bright, vibrant, and glowy (I just made up that word, but I like it).

8. Now that we have our color group, choose Select > All and then choose Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork. This opens the Live Color dialog box, with the Assign panel chosen. Click on the Color Reduction Options button (it appears right beneath the Edit and Assign tabs) and specify the Lite_Bright library in the Limit to Library setting. Choose Hue-forward for the Sort setting (the Lite Brite library of colors that I created were also arrange in a hue-forward order), and for the Colorize Method, choose Exact. This is important because by default, Illustrator uses tints or shades of colors to simulate other colors. However, Lite Brite pegs can’t be tinted, they are always one solid color. By choosing Exact, you’ll only get solid full color pegs. Finally, uncheck the Preserve White, Black, and Grays options. Click OK.

9. At this point, Live Color is remapping every color it encounters with a color from the Lite Brite library, but to make things easier to edit, we’ll want to combine all of these colors to create 9 distinct rows of color (8 for the colors, and one for black). Click on the Lite Brite color group in the Live Color dialog, and all of the current colors will now be grouped nicely into the 9 rows we need, each mapped to a single Lite Brite peg color.

However, we have a problem. As you'll notice, we lost a lot of white color in the area of the clown's face. This happened because we didn't preserve white or black, and Illustrator ended up grouping the black and white colors together, mapping them both to black. You can clearly see this by scrolling to the bottom of the colors. The last color contains similar shades of black colors, but also has two white colors as well (see area circled in red in screenshot).

10. We can fix the problem easily though. Holding the Command key (Control on Windows), click on the two white color to select them. Then, drag both of them up into the color row that is currently being recolored to the light color, near the top (see screenshot).

Now, the clown's face contains the detail we're looking for. Click OK to accept the colors.

11. As a final step, in order to make this really look like Lite Bright, we'll need to adjust the pegs somewhat. Upon closer inspection of the grille on a Lite Brite, you will notice that the holes aren't stacked perfectly in a vertical and horizontal fashion. Rather, they appear offset. Depending on how many rows of pegs you've created, this can be somewhat tedious to adjust, but it makes a huge difference in the final result. Use the Selection tool to select all of the pegs in every other row in your illustration. This might be easier to do in Outline mode. Once they are selected, use the arrow key on your keyboard to nudge them a bit to the right or left to create the offset appearance.

And that's it! You've created a fantastic illustration that simulates Lite Brite art! Now I know that it’s rare you would ever want to create this kind of look to begin with (watch, now every ad and website I’ll see for the next month will use this effect), but it goes much deeper than that. The techniques you learned in these three segments ARE things you'd use often. Hopefully, you can take things from these techniques that I've shared and do some wild things on your own. If you do, share them with me! I love seeing what people who are really creative (not fakers like me) do with Illustrator.



khiltd said...

Is there any way to magnify those tiny little slivers in the Live Color dialog so you can actually drag the ones you want around to remap them? They're absolutely microscopic in many instances.

Mordy Golding said...

Unfortunately, there isn't. Well, at least not when Live Color is trying to place hundreds of colors into a single row. A technique I use often is that I reduce colors in steps. If my end result is supposed to be 3 colors, I first reduce to 15, then I reduce to 6, and then finally to 3. This gives me FAR more options and makes the color rows more meaningful and easier to use. I describe that technique in detail in the new Real World Illustrator CS3 book. Maybe I'll see if there's a way to distill some of that info here on the blog as well.

Teri Pettit said...

Mordy, I think you would have got better results by choosing "Limit to Library" with your lite brite colors chosen as the library to limit to, rather than choosing the lite brite colors as a color group.

Choosing them as a color group forced every color in the group to be used once, even though some of the 8 lite brite colors (like blue) didn't match any color in the original clown art.

Could you try again with that approach and see what you think?

Also, before applying the Convert to Ellipse effect I would have used the Magic Wand with a tolerance of about 10% to select all the black or very dark squares after the Object Mosaic step and delete them. The art would have looked the same, but why keep all those objects in the file making it take up more space and more time to execute the live color algorithms on?

MaddOphelia said...

BRILLIANT! this project is pure genius. i'm new to your blog and am also relatively new to design--i'm a recent grad and new freelancer. i'm really enjoying procrastinating on work today by reading various tutorials in your blog. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been playing around with pixel art but instead of using perler beads I am using glass gems (like the ones used in vases for decoration - I get them at the dollar store). This is perfect for simulating the end result since the glass beads are round, not square, hence, I was looking for brite lite patterns. The result is quite large and heavy but that's ok since I don't want to be looking and handling little beads, like perler or otherwise, my eyes are too tired after working at the computer all day.
Thank you again.