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Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.
So we understand the basic concept of a blend. We can take two objects we'll refer to as two key objects and morph them into each other. Illustrator generates the steps that belong to that blend automatically. Now a blend is also live, meaning as I update or modify those key objects, the steps inside of that blend automatically update. Now one of the most important settings inside of a blend though are specifically those steps, those middle areas, that Illustrator generates automatically to create the blend. So let's take a look at how we can actually control those steps very easily.
So I'm going to start off by just clicking on this regular blend right over here. And I have this example where I have two key objects, one in the left, which is a stroke that has a very narrow width of 1 point weight, and then I have on this side a stroke that has a 10 point weight on it. It's about the same color. So I'm basically seeing this appearance from one to the other. As you can tell, right over here, these particular shapes start to get thicker. As they get thicker, because the amount of space that appears between them gets smaller and smaller, at about the half way point, I get almost a solid appearance. Even though these are individual strokes that are over here, because their thickness is so high, I basically do not see any space in between them at all.
So what I'm going to do now is change the actual number of steps in my blend. By reducing the number of steps, I'll have the ability to see more of the space in between them. More important, I'll have far more control over the appearance of the blend that I'm trying to create. So I'm going to go over here with this object selected to the Object menu. I'm going to choose over here Blend and I'm going to choose this setting here called Blend Options. I'm going to go ahead and select that to open up the Blend Options dialog box. Now notice over here by default Illustrator uses a setting here for Spacing called Smooth Color. Now again the Spacing refers to the amount of steps that are defined here inside of this blend. In other words, right now from this edge to this edge, the Space is set to Smooth Color. Now Illustrator does that automatically, it thinks that you want to create a Smooth Color blend. So it automatically figures out how many steps in the blend that needs to create.
Now, I'm actually going to change that Spacing option to one of two other settings. There is one that's called Specified Steps. That allows you, as a designer, to specify the exact number of steps you want to occur inside of the blend. So for example, if I choose Specified Steps right here, right now it's set to 120, but I can go on and I can change that for example to 12. I hit the Tab key just to accept that value without clicking OK. Because I have the Preview checkbox turned on right now, I can really see exactly what this blend is doing. I have one stroke, which is 1 point weight over here on this edge. I have a 10 point weight on this edge.
And I can see that the strokes that are created for me, the steps inside of that blend, go and graduate from a very narrow stroke to a much thicker stroke. Now again, because the blend is live I can anytime come back to this particular dialog box and adjust the number of steps in that blend. So if I want more steps, for example 50, I'll type that value and hit the Tab key and I'll get a nice texture like this. So I can very easily control exactly how I want my blend to look by specifying a number of steps that I want in that blend. I also have the ability to choose the amount of distance that appears between each of the objects. I can do that by choosing this option called Specified Distance. Here I type in a value, for example, maybe 40 points, and now the amount of space that appears between each of these is going to be 40 points.
Now this amount of space that appears from here to here has to be divisible by this number. If not Illustrator just modifies it somewhat, tries to make it as close to that particular value as possible. Now you also have two other options here, which is called Orientation. One is called Align the objects to the Page and one is called Align the objects to the Path. Now we are going to get to those shortly. We are going to actually delve into that in a separate movie. We learn more about the spine inside of a blend inside of Illustrator because we'll see that that really comes to play a lot more importantly in those cases. But let's talk little bit more about the different settings you have here for spacing. I'm going to cancel this option here. I want to focus on this blend right over here. Now, we refer to a blend having steps, or the amount of distance, or the amount of objects that are created, between the two key objects.
So now what I'm going to do is I'm going to take this blend over here, which has that kind of nice, gradiated look. I'm going to go the Object menu, I'm going to choose Blend > Blend Options again and over here for Smooth Color, I'm going to change it to Specified Steps. And maybe something on a small range, maybe around seven steps for example, hit the Tab key and you can actually see here if you look closely, I don't get a smooth gradation. Now this is important because depending on the types of blends that you create, you may want to create a lot of shapes because you want that smooth gradation, or you may want to have just a few shapes and actually see the steps of the blend itself.
Now if you want to assimilate some kind of a gradiated effect or a shading effect, you really don't want to see the actual steps themselves. And if you do, sometimes when you create even some of the gradients of yesterday, when before Illustrator started adopting PostScript 3 and something called Smooth Shading allowed you to have smooth steps in a gradient. You were sometimes able to see the steps, or what we call banding inside of a gradient. Well, that's because it was made up of these blends in these specific shapes. So a lot of times when we want to create some kind of a shading effect using a blend inside of Illustrator, you just want to make sure that you are using enough steps in your blend. You could of course use the Smooth Color setting, or you could specify a specific number of steps and you go up like 200 steps or something like that. Again, it does increase the complexity of your file because you have that many more objects, but you are ensured that you get a smooth transition between those colors.
So I'll click OK here and finally let's take a look at this blend over here. Now here I have two instances of the same symbol, but this particular symbol has been scaled to be smaller. Notice that the blend actually goes ahead and scales that object as well. Now once again, it's really important to set the number of steps that you want in your blend. If you intend to use-- Such as in animation for example, the more frames that you have in your movie, the smoother that the result is going to be. Again, at the cost of having a more complex file. So it's important to remember that just because you create a blend inside of Illustrator, it doesn't mean you need to use the settings that Illustrator automatically chooses for you.
You can use any of the settings inside the Blend Options dialog box to get exactly the number of steps that you need for your blend.
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