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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. Now, this week we're back inside Adobe Illustrator, and I'm going to show you how to exploit one of the oldest and best features inside that software, namely blending. We're going to use blending in order to create this glowing star on right, and then I'm going to show you how to create the shooting star trail in the background. So pull up a seat, launch Illustrator, and let's get started. All right, let's see how to create that shooting star. Now I'm working inside of Illustrator CS5, but the primary feature that we'll be taking advantage of, blending, dates back to Illustrator 88 in 1988, so you can get away, very easily, with using an older version of the software.
I'm going to scroll down to the bottom of the Layers panel, and you can see I have this layer called shooting star, which contains four very basic paths-- three circles and a star--and that's it. But we're going to be able to blend between them to create something very special. I'm going to twirl open that shooting star layer by clicking on its triangle to expand it, and then I'll scroll down to the bottom of the list, and I can see that my bottommost path is the star. I'm going to go ahead and target it by clicking on this little so-called meatball to the right of the layer thumbnail. Then I'll also Shift+Click on that little circular meatball above it in order to select this internal circular path right there.
And we're going to blend between those two paths by going up to the Object menu, choosing the Blend command, and then choosing Make. Or you can press that keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac, and then Illustrator will automatically create that smooth blend between the two paths. Now, let's say you want to control the number of blended steps between the two paths. So a blend is creating a series of intermediate path outlines. To control the number of paths that get created, you go up to the Object menu, choose Blend, and then you choose Blend Options, and that brings up the Blend Options dialog box.
Go ahead and change that Spacing value to Specified Steps, and I'm going to change the number of steps to 35. Turn on the Preview check box just to notice that nothing really seems to happen. What I'm doing is simplifying this blend so it takes less time to print and so forth, because after all, we don't need all those steps in order to pull off the effect. All right, now I'll click OK in order to accept that modification. Now, the next thing I want to do is blend from that opaque circle in the center to an absolutely transparent star at the outside. To isolate that star, notice that I have this new Blend item here near the bottom of my Layers panel.
I'll twirl it open by clicking on that little triangle, scroll to the bottom of the list, and go ahead and target just the blue star by again clicking on the circular meatball. Then we'll change its Opacity up here in the control panel from 100% to 0%. As a result, you can see that we're now blending from opacity at the inside to transparency on the outside. So blending respects transparency as well as the shape of the path outlines. All right, now just to make sure I don't goof up this path, I'm going to lock it down by clicking in this lock icon right next towards of the eyeball, and I'll twirl close that Blend.
Now we're going to focus on a couple of other circles that I have available. I'll meatball this path, which as you can see, selects this tiny little circle at the center. Let's go ahead and reduce its Opacity value to 50% up here in the control panel, and then I'm going to go ahead and select this circle over here on the far left-hand side of the illustration. That's that top path, as you can see here in the shooting star layer, and I'm going to reduce its Opacity value to 0%. So we're going to blend from 50% opacity to 0% opacity. Once I go over to the Layers panel and Shift+Click on this lower meatball right there, so you can see both of these two circles are active.
Now I'll go up to the Object menu, I'll choose Blend, and I'll choose Make once again. Or again you can press Ctrl+Alt+B, Command+Option+B on the Mac. Now notice when we blend between two path outlines, these two circles that are separated by a geographical distance, that we get this additional path outline that determines the angle and the speed and the direction of the blend. We can modify that so-called path of the blend by twirling open this top blend item here in the shooting star layer. Notice now inside of this blend we have three paths, so the two original circles as well as that new path. That's just called Path right there.
It looks like a diagonal line, and that is the path of the blend. So I'm going to go ahead and rename it, just so we know what it is. I'll call it POB for Path of Blend. Click OK. Now let's lock down the two other paths inside of this blend by clicking on the lock icon next to each one of those paths. Those are the circles, by the way. That will prevent us from messing up those circles as we perform this next step. Now, what I would like you to do is go over to the Pen tool icon here, click and hold to bring up its flyout menu, and then choose the Convert Anchor Point tool, which allows us to add control handles to these anchor points.
I'm going to start things off by dragging from this left-hand anchor point and I'm going to drag up and to the right, like so. As I drag forth this control handle from this anchor point, I add curvature to this path outline. The next step is to drag from the opposite anchor point, and you want to drag in that exact same direction. So in other words, you don't drag down and to the left; you drag up and to the right in order to create this kind of curvature right there. Again, I'm drawing forth control handles. That adds curvature to the path and as a result, the star appears to be streaking up and then over and then up again.
All right, you can see how we have got a series of circles that are being added automatically by Illustrator, and that's because we don't have enough blended steps. So in this case, rather than reducing the number of steps, we need to add steps. Go up to the Object menu, choose Blend, and then choose Blend Options. Again, I'm going to change the Spacing value from Smooth Color to Specified Steps, and I'm going to raise that value to 150 steps. If I press the Tab key while this Preview check box is turned on, as it is, then I can see that I have a nice smooth shooting-star trail.
I'll click OK in order to accept that modification. All right, finally let's say that I want this star trail to be a little longer. I'll go ahead and switch over to my White Arrow tool, which Illustrator calls the Direct Selection tool, click on that tool, and then click on that far-left anchor point in order to select it. I'll drag that anchor point farther over to the left. I might go ahead and modify the direction of the control handle as well. Let's go ahead and drag this guy down farther so that we have a more radical degree of curvature. Then I'll go ahead and click off the path outlines to deselect them. That, my friends, is how you create a shooting star using blends and opacity inside Illustrator.
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