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Adjusting the number of blended steps

From: Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Adjusting the number of blended steps

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.

Adjusting the number of blended steps

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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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced
Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced

153 video lessons · 28099 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 38m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 48s
    2. Linking AI and EPS files to Illustrator
      6m 48s
    3. Installing the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      7m 43s
    4. Remapping Mac OS shortcuts
      6m 56s
    5. Installing the Best Workflow color settings
      4m 54s
    6. The color settings explained
      7m 4s
    7. Preserve Numbers vs. embedded profiles
      3m 22s
  2. 1h 40m
    1. Converting pixels to vectors
      1m 2s
    2. Tracing an imported image
      6m 17s
    3. Other ways to trace
      3m 17s
    4. Raster and vector previews
      7m 2s
    5. Threshold, Min Area, and Max Colors
      5m 27s
    6. Tracing options: The raster functions
      8m 2s
    7. Using the Ignore White option
      5m 3s
    8. Tracing options: The vector functions
      6m 40s
    9. Expanding traced artwork
      5m 6s
    10. Sketching and drawing for Illustrator
      6m 24s
    11. Editing scanned line art
      9m 23s
    12. Adding contrast and color
      10m 32s
    13. Live Trace and resolution
      9m 8s
    14. Expanding and separating paths
      8m 43s
    15. Scaling and editing traced art
      8m 4s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. Gradients are good
      1m 15s
    2. Assigning a gradient fill
      6m 9s
    3. Using the gradient annotator
      7m 31s
    4. Editing multiple gradients
      4m 37s
    5. Establishing symmetrical gradients
      5m 28s
    6. Creating a radial gradient
      5m 46s
    7. Adjusting the midpoint skew
      3m 23s
    8. Mixing gradients with blend modes
      6m 11s
    9. Making a transparent gradient
      6m 42s
    10. Drop shadows and dynamic effects
      5m 58s
    11. Assigning a gradient to editable text
      5m 42s
    12. Editing text that includes dynamic effects
      2m 56s
    13. Assigning a gradient to a stroke
      6m 46s
  4. 1h 37m
    1. The earliest dynamic functions
      1m 10s
    2. The gradient-intensive illustration
      5m 26s
    3. Creating a multi-color blend
      7m 39s
    4. Establishing a clipping mask
      3m 34s
    5. Reinstating the mask colors
      9m 7s
    6. Editing blended paths
      6m 50s
    7. Adjusting the number of blended steps
      6m 49s
    8. Using the Blend tool
      4m 33s
    9. Blending between levels of opacity
      7m 32s
    10. Editing the path of the blend
      6m 22s
    11. Adding a custom path of the blend
      5m 4s
    12. Placing one mask inside another
      8m 33s
    13. Blending groups and adjusting the speed
      6m 1s
    14. Rotating objects in 3D space
      10m 21s
    15. Creating custom perspective guides
      8m 31s
  5. 1h 37m
    1. What was old is new again
      39s
    2. Introducing tile patterns
      6m 11s
    3. Determining the points of intersection
      6m 51s
    4. Extending paths from the intersections
      5m 40s
    5. Crafting symmetrical subpaths
      5m 38s
    6. The final flawed subpaths
      5m 52s
    7. Reconciling misaligned paths
      5m 34s
    8. Completing the core path outline
      6m 14s
    9. Making a symmetrical modification
      6m 47s
    10. Adjusting the interior elements
      8m 26s
    11. Coloring paths and testing the interlock
      9m 29s
    12. Establishing a rectangular tile
      6m 22s
    13. Defining a tile pattern
      3m 43s
    14. Creating a few color variations
      8m 50s
    15. Protecting patterns from transformations
      6m 9s
    16. Transforming patterns without paths
      5m 30s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. Filling and stroking virtual areas
      44s
    2. Introducing Live Paint
      7m 57s
    3. Stroking with the Live Paint Bucket tool
      5m 30s
    4. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      7m 18s
    5. Adding a path to a Live Paint group
      4m 33s
    6. Building a classic Celtic knot
      8m 28s
    7. Constructing the base objects
      5m 31s
    8. Weaving one object into another
      6m 13s
    9. Creating a path that overlaps itself
      7m 15s
    10. Painting a path that overlaps itself
      5m 34s
    11. Creating knots inside knots
      5m 2s
    12. Adding gradients and depth
      8m 22s
  7. 1h 4m
    1. Dynamic effects and OpenType
      1m 12s
    2. Applying a dynamic effect to type
      5m 43s
    3. Creating a basic bevel effect
      4m 12s
    4. Building up a multi-stroke effect
      4m 49s
    5. Best practices for 3D type
      6m 34s
    6. Applying a "path wiggler" to type
      6m 14s
    7. Drop shadows and Raster Effects settings
      4m 52s
    8. Duplicating attributes and effects
      7m 8s
    9. Editing type with dynamic effects
      7m 27s
    10. Ligatures, swashes, ordinals, and fractions
      5m 45s
    11. Small caps and the Glyphs panel
      4m 25s
    12. Warping text and increasing resolution
      6m 9s
  8. 1h 44m
    1. A world of colors at your beck and call
      1m 32s
    2. Customizing a letterform to make a logo
      8m 37s
    3. Creating a custom drop shadow effect
      6m 26s
    4. Introducing the Color Guide panel
      9m 3s
    5. Harmonies and Color Guide settings
      5m 39s
    6. Lifting harmony rules from color groups
      7m 21s
    7. Harmony layouts and the Lab color wheel
      8m 15s
    8. Working inside the Edit Color dialog box
      6m 36s
    9. Limiting a color group to spot colors
      5m 47s
    10. Recoloring selected artwork
      5m 50s
    11. Recoloring with custom color groups
      6m 1s
    12. Swapping colors with the Color Bars feature
      5m 18s
    13. Using the options in the Assign panel
      8m 41s
    14. Moving color groups between documents
      7m 17s
    15. Distilling your artwork to one spot-color ink
      7m 45s
    16. Recoloring artwork that contains gradients
      4m 17s
  9. 1h 21m
    1. How symbols work
      1m 2s
    2. The power of symbols
      5m 1s
    3. Creating new symbols
      6m 0s
    4. Enabling the new 9-slice scaling
      4m 24s
    5. Adjusting your 9-slice scaling guides
      6m 54s
    6. Previewing and acquiring symbols
      4m 12s
    7. Finding a symbol and creating an instance
      4m 13s
    8. Duplicating and replacing instances
      4m 19s
    9. Breaking a symbol link and envelope fidelity
      5m 26s
    10. Distorting and expanding a symbol
      4m 54s
    11. Updating an existing symbol definition
      3m 40s
    12. Recoloring a symbol definition
      4m 13s
    13. Applying a basic "local" color adjustment
      5m 20s
    14. Applying a more elaborate local color adjustment
      5m 4s
    15. Laying down a random symbol set
      5m 35s
    16. The eight symbolism tools
      6m 55s
    17. Editing selected instances
      4m 11s
  10. 1h 32m
    1. Illustrator needs Photoshop
      1m 1s
    2. Two ways to place a pixel-based image
      6m 6s
    3. Working with linked images
      6m 6s
    4. Linking versus embedding
      9m 38s
    5. Stroking and blending an image
      6m 16s
    6. Adding a clipping mask and page curl
      6m 51s
    7. Creating a blended border effect
      7m 10s
    8. Rasterizing your artwork in Photoshop
      8m 0s
    9. Saving a flat raster file from Photoshop
      4m 58s
    10. Restoring cropped border elements
      5m 39s
    11. Copying and pasting into Photoshop
      6m 27s
    12. Working with Photoshop Smart Objects
      5m 26s
    13. Adding a pixel-based layer effect
      4m 12s
    14. Editing a Vector Smart Object in Illustrator
      7m 20s
    15. Creating and placing a transparent image
      7m 1s
  11. 1h 15m
    1. The many forms of transparency
      1m 29s
    2. Real-world blending modes
      7m 57s
    3. Exporting transparency from Illustrator
      6m 24s
    4. Opacity and blending modes
      6m 18s
    5. The Darken and Lighten modes
      7m 17s
    6. The Contrast, Inversion, and HSL modes
      6m 12s
    7. Blending modes in action
      5m 11s
    8. Creating a knockout group
      6m 14s
    9. Confirming the viability of your artwork
      6m 8s
    10. Introducing the opacity mask
      4m 6s
    11. Making an opacity mask
      5m 25s
    12. Drawing inside an opacity mask
      3m 34s
    13. Creating a gradient opacity mask
      5m 29s
    14. Adding an opacity mask to a single object
      3m 22s
  12. 1m 13s
    1. Until next time
      1m 13s

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