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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, author and industry expert Deke McClelland teaches how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic features in Illustrator CS5. This course demonstrates how to apply these features to paths, groups, and editable text to create professional-quality artwork. The course covers Live Trace, Live Paint, and Live Color, as well as symbols, gradients, exporting, and integration with Photoshop. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this exercise I am going to show you how to blend between stroked as opposed to filled path outlines inside of Illustrator. I will also show you how to adjust the number of steps inside of a blend, and I'll explain what steps are. I have saved my progress is Iridescent grass.ai, and I am going to go ahead and zoom in on this gradient background here inside of the sky. You may recall that we are blending from a red path to a dark brown one to a violet one to a blue one. If you look closely you can see some bands of color in between.
These bands are known as steps. So Illustrator is drawing temporary path outlines between the path outlines that we established in the first place in order to smooth out the color transitions in between. Illustrator will create as many as 256 different temporary paths between any two real paths inside of your blend and that's a function of postscript by the way. That's where that 256 maximum comes from. Now if you want to get a sense of how that's determined, I am going to switch down here to grass path and I am going to click on that path outline.
That selects my clipping mask. If I wan to adjust the blend instead the blend inside of the mask, then I'll go up here to my Control panel and click on that second icon, Edit Contents, and that selects the blend. So in this case we're blending between dark green on the outside to a kind of darkish medium green in the middle and then a very light green on the far interior. Again, Illustrator is ensuring smooth transitions in between. So sometimes you are going to be able to see the bands, other times you won't. I should say the banding that you see onscreen isn't necessarily an indicator of the banding that you might experience in print.
So you might have to print off a few test pages in order to be sure. At any rate, how does Illustrator determine how many steps to apply? Well, I can show you that by going up here to the Object menu, choosing Blend, and choosing this command right there, Blend Options. Now notice it has no keyboard shortcut, even though you will be using this command a lot. I frankly think it's a big pain in the neck to have to dig inside of a submenu like this, so let me show you a shortcut. I am going to escape out of that menu. Another way to get to the Blending Options dialog box, which is what you get when you choose that command, is to go down here to the Blend tool and double-click on it, and that will bring up Blending Options.
Notice that Spacing right here is set to Smooth Color and what that does is it ensures the smoothest color transitions possible. If you don't want smooth color transitions for whatever reason, you want to be able to see the bands of color, then go ahead and choose one of these other options. You can either specify the number of steps or the distance between steps. I almost invariably go with specified steps, by the way, as opposed to distance. I will go ahead and choose that command, Illustrator is telling me, I went with 76. That's what seemed right to me. This is Illustrator talking. If you want to go with a different value, be my guest.
Make sure Preview is turned on. Then I will try out something like 12, and once I enter a value of 12, I can clearly see the bands of color in between. If you can't quite see them in the video I will take them down even lower. I'll take that number down to 6. So we have six steps, that is six virtual path outlines in between each one of our real path outlines and we end up getting this terrific banding effect right there which you may or may not want depending on the effect you are going for. I don't want it. So I will click Cancel. So why in the world did I show you that? Well, let me show you.
I will switch to the Black Arrow tool and I am going to scroll up to this area on the left wing that's associated with the bat right there and notice that we have a couple of extreme path outlines here that represent the wrinkles inside of the bat wings, I don't know what those folds are called. But anyway I want to create a few more in between. What I could do is I could grab one of these path outlines. Notice that each of them contains just two anchor points, one at the beginning, one at the end, we have a curved segment in between. And I could switch over to my Rotate tool, and I can do this number where I click to set the transformation origin and then I drag a little bit, like so, and I press the Alt or Option key in order to create a clone, and then I press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on a Mac a couple of times in order to duplicate that effect.
But it's not reconciling properly at all. It should be going in toward this top fold right there and it's not. So Illustrator is not scaling the path outlines. I could do that in a separate step if I wanted to, but that's pretty static, working this way that is. It's not very flexible, whereas were I to work with a blend instead I would have all the flexibility in the world. So I will go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z a few times in order to get back to that original path outline. Then I will switch back to my Black Arrow tool and I'll Shift+Click on this top path outline, like so.
So I've got this guy selected at top, this guy selected down here, I want to blend between the two, which I can, even though they're open path outlines, no fills, and just strokes. You can still blend between them and you can get great results as well. We will be doing this a few times to achieve all kinds of effects. I will going to the Object menu, choose Blend, and then choose Make, or press Ctrl+Alt+, Cmd+Option+B on a Mac, and Illustrator gives me one step in between. That's all it does. A moment ago inside the grassy knoll we had 76 steps, now we get one.
What in the world is going on? Well, Illustrator is looking at this and going, all right, let's see, up here you've got a black stroke, no fill, down here you've got a black stroke, no fill. What do you want from me, buddy? This is the best I am going to do. I am going to give you one step, because I don't what you are trying to achieve here. You are not trying to achieve some kind of smooth color transition. So I don't know what you are up to. So what we do now is we adjust the number of steps manually. With this blend selected you go down here to the Blend tool once again double-click on it to bring up the Blend Options dialog box.
This is Illustrator's idea of smooth color, one step and only one. I will go ahead and switch over to Specified Steps. We can see that indeed Illustrator assigned one step and then I will press the Up Arrow key to bring it up to two steps. Now we have got two steps in between the extreme path outlines, and I will press Up Arrow again to get three steps, and we're done. Click OK. That looks great, and now let me show you just how flexible this is. First of all, notice that Illustrator is essentially rotating and scaling each one of these path outlines in order to fill in the gaps in between.
Then if I grab my White Arrow tool and I click off the path outline, click on it again in order to select just a segment and I drag this control handle, then Illustrator updates all those temporary path outlines, a.k.a. steps, on the fly that is to say. Then if I don't like that effect, I just modify it some more, bring the control handle back up, Illustrator fills in the gaps. So this is a very, very flexible way to work as you'll see. In the next exercise we're going to repeat these steps for these two path outlines over here on the right wing, and I'll show you want to do when things go wrong.
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