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This chapter is from the book

Adjusting Elements

The Arrow tool also performs other adjustment tasks throughout the Flash program: for example, simple chores, such as moving objects around and grabbing preset points, or action options that manifest in various operating modes. Also, Flash takes selected elements—strokes, shapes, and objects—and lets you apply changes to them. For now, these actions are discussed only in the context of shape modifications. But it is important to keep something in the back of your mind as you review this section. Some of the actions you apply to shapes can also be applied to animations, letting you make the changes over time. This powerful component of Flash enables you to create grand effects in your final product.

Transforming Objects

With a single shape, or a series of shapes highlighted, choose Modify, Transform from the main menu to review your options. Here, you can make a battery of scaling and rotating selections to transform the element.

TIP

Use a right-click in Windows or a Command-click on the Mac to bring up a contextual menu on selected areas. This gives you faster access to scaling and rotating options than the main menu.

To change the dimensions of an object, choose Modify, Transform, Scale. Eight hollow squares appear around the edge of the object, forming a rectangle. Click and drag the end points to change the ratio of the shape, and drag the middle points to make adjustments horizontally or vertically to the dimensions. When you have properly scaled the object, double-click the element or press the Esc key to accept the changes.

CAUTION

Note that the Esc key does not move you out of scaling mode and return the object back to its original form as it does in other programs.

The other option is rotation. Because motion of 90° in either direction often is a standard move, these two actions are part of the main menu drop-down list (do this by selecting Modify, Transform, Rotate 90° CW or Rotate 90° CCW). You also can flip the selection vertically or horizontally by selecting Modify, Transform Fill Vertical or Fill Horizontal from the main menu. These specific moves are not part of the contextual menu.

When you designate a highlighted area for manual rotation, eight hollow circles appear in a rectangle around the shape—similar to the squares that appear for scaling. To rotate the selection in any direction, grab one of the circles and spin the area clockwise or counterclockwise.

Smoothing and Straightening

In Chapter 2, "Creating Artwork and Text with Flash," you read about the virtues of the straightening and smoothing options on the Pencil tool. Remember that these various options let Flash "recognize" your basic intentions.

The same rules apply to finished shapes. Even well after the Pencil tool has been put away, you still can work with shapes to bring them more into line with your expectations.

With the errant shape selected, choose Modify, Smooth from the main menu (or make the same selection from the contextual menu) to soften the curves and reduce anomalies in your lines. Work with caution because smoothing also begins to wipe out any linear segments that might be a part of your curve. You can apply smoothing over and over again and watch your shape undergo a metamorphosis as you continue.

Straighten has the same relative effect, except it moves a shape toward a compilation of more linear segments. That means curves gradually become flatter and, taken to the extreme, ultimately become lines. This works hand in hand with shape recognition. With the entire object highlighted, continue to select Modify, Straighten from the main menu; your element will move more toward one of the recognizable geometric shapes, as shown in Figure 3.4. If your project calls for a more complex collage, even shapes within the shapes gradually transform into circles, squares, or triangles.

Figure 3.4 The fairly ambiguous collage of weird geometry on the left ultimately evolves into the recognizable shapes on the right with the Straighten option.

Shape Options

Flash comes with several additional modifiers that you can apply to shapes. Select Modify, Shape in the main menu to access these three shape options:

  • Convert Lines to Fills—This command does pretty much what it says (see Figure 3.5). Instead of being a single segment, now the line itself is a shape. You can grab a side of the line and pull it to stretch it out. Also, you can apply gradients to the line and use the Eraser tool on pieces of the segment. Converting the lines to fills makes your file larger, though, so use this option judiciously.

    Figure 3.5 The Shape Option Convert Lines to Fills was used here, which enables you to grab a side of the stroke line and pull it out as though it were a shape.

  • Expand Fill—Use this option to increase or decrease fills by a specific amount. The Expand Fill dialog box appears after you select Modify, Shape, Expand fill from the main menu. It prompts you for a pixel value and whether you want to expand or shrink (Inset) the fill. This option can be very valuable when you need to back off a geometric shape from its stroked line to produce an outline or border effect like the circle in Figure 3.6.

    Figure 3.6 The fill in the circle was inset 15 pixels, pulling it away from the stroke line.

  • Soften Fill Edges—This effect brings back ancient Photoshop memories when everything on the Web needed a drop shadow (ahh, the good ol' days). The option creates a blurred effect around the contours of a shape. You must specify how far you want to extend the blur, or how far you want it to regress (inset) into the fill.

    You also specify how many steps you want. This option measures how many curves will be used for the soft edge effect. More curves create a better blend, but also seriously increase file size. The whole process has the potential to increase file size, so use it sparingly.

Adjusting Shapes

The Arrow tool can be used to stretch and change shapes by grabbing the stroke, or the edge of an object, and dragging it into a new position.

As you move the cursor close to an object, a small curve appears below the black arrow or, if the section happens to be a corner, a tiny right angle shows up below the cursor. When either of these indicators appears, you can click and drag the curve or corner into a new position, as shown in Figure 3.7.

Figure 3.7 To adjust a curve, all you need to do is click and drag to pull it into a new position.

If you grab an object with a stroke around it, the fill inside of the shape follows your changes except when you cross the single fill line over itself. Assume, for example, you have a circle, and you drag the lower third of the outline up past the top third, creating an overlap of the stroke. In this case, only the original area is filled. The new section created by the overlap does not receive any fill area.

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