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Adjusting the number of steps in a blend

From: Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Adjusting the number of steps in a blend

In this movie I'll show you how to change the number of steps between blended path outlines, and when and why you might want to do so. I'll start off by pressing and holding the Ctrl and Spacebar keys, that's Command and Spacebar on the Mac, in order to get the Zoom tool, and then I'll marquee around this approximate area here. And if you look closely inside of either the green gradient or the reddish one above it, then you may be able to make out a series of striations, which are the steps themselves. And when you're able to see the steps like this, it's called stair stepping.

Adjusting the number of steps in a blend

In this movie I'll show you how to change the number of steps between blended path outlines, and when and why you might want to do so. I'll start off by pressing and holding the Ctrl and Spacebar keys, that's Command and Spacebar on the Mac, in order to get the Zoom tool, and then I'll marquee around this approximate area here. And if you look closely inside of either the green gradient or the reddish one above it, then you may be able to make out a series of striations, which are the steps themselves. And when you're able to see the steps like this, it's called stair stepping.

Now, what you want of course is not to see those steps as much as possible, so that you're simulating the effect of a smooth color transition. The thing is, the stair stepping you see on screen isn't necessarily indicative of the stair stepping you might get when you print the document. Ostensibly, every gradient, whether created with Gradient tool or using blending, should look nice and smooth for output. However, what I'm going to do, just so you can see how these steps work, I'm going to click on the path outline with the Black Arrow tool in order to select it, and then I'll go up to the Control panel and click on the Edit Contents icon in order to gain access to the mast blend.

Now, to change the number of steps, you go up to the Object menu, choose Blend, and choose the Blend Options command. That will bring up this dialog box right here. Notice that Spacing by default is set to Smooth Color. I'll turn on the Preview checkbox so I can see what I'm doing, and I'll switch this option either to Specified Steps--which allows you to dial in the number of steps between the path outlines--or you can choose Specified Distance to determine the distance between each step. Most of the time, just because it's easier to wrap your brain around, you go ahead and choose Specified Steps.

Notice that Illustrator tells me that it came up with 76 steps automatically. Now, I could take that value and reduce it to just 6 steps and then press the Tab key, and now you can see those steps very easily. We've got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and then a hidden sixth step that's outside of the clipping path. Now, it may look like every one of the steps is filled with a gradient that starts dark at the bottom and becomes lighter at the top, that's absolutely an optical illusion created by the contrast between the colors of each step. In fact, each step is filled with a solid color, and that's how it works inside standard gradients as well.

Illustrator uses bands of solid color that are so tightly packed together that they look like smooth color transitions. Now, I could take this value up to something extreme, such as let's say 776 steps and press the Tab key, and then I'll end up with a smooth gradient. However, I can still see the stepping that I saw just a moment ago. All I've done is created a much more complicated blend. So I'll go ahead and take that value back down to 76, just so you can see the difference, press the Tab key; almost no difference on screen.

So in this case, Illustrator got it exactly right. So I can just Cancel out of this dialog box. So you may well ask, well if Illustrator gets it right nearly all the time--which is true--then why do you ever have to monkey around with the steps? And the answer is because sometimes Illustrator doesn't get it right. And one of the most common situations is when you're working with a very small blend. I'm going to switch over to this illustration here, which should be familiar from the previous chapter. I've gone ahead and included another version of the file inside the 23_blends_masks folder.

And I'll go ahead and zoom in on that Windows icon right there, and you can see it's very tiny, because it fits in between these characters of type. I'll go ahead and zoom in two more increments here. This icon is a group, so I'll double-click on this light blue path outline in order to enter the Group Isolation mode, and then I'll click on this light blue ellipse to select it; and then I'll move my cursor around to right about there, until I can see a little black square next to my arrow cursor. I'll Shift+ Click in order to select that dark blue ellipse. And now I want to blend between the two of them.

So I'll go up to the Object menu, choose Blend, and then choose the Make command--or you can just press Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac-- and it comes up with a single step. Why just one step? Because the distance between these path outlines is so miniscule that this is all Illustrator thinks you need. In fact though, you are going to see this step when you print the document. So what you want to do is change the number of steps. You can do so by going to the Object menu, choosing Blend, and choosing Blend Options. But there's an easier way to get to this function, and that is to just double-click on the Blend tool icon in the toolbox.

And notice that brings up that same Blending Options dialog box. I'll switch from Smooth Color, which is certainly not what we're getting, to Specified Steps. Illustrator is telling me it just created one step for me. I'll turn on the Preview checkbox so I can see what I am doing, and then you can nudge this value up from the keyboard by pressing the Up Arrow Key, or if you want to nudge in 10 step increments, you press Shift+Up Arrow. And at about 50 steps I'm getting very smooth results, so I'll go ahead and click the OK button, and then I'll press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A to deselect my artwork.

So that's one situation in which you might need to change the number of steps. Here is another. I'll go ahead and switch back to my sarcophagus illustration and press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac in order to zoom out. And then I'll zoom in on this region here which features these folds between the batwings, and I'll press the V key to switch to my Black Arrow tool, click on this path outline. Let's say I want to create a few more folds in between these two extreme path outlines here. One way to achieve the effect would be to rotate the path outline. So I could switch to the Rotate tool.

Click on the top anchor point in order to set the transformation origin, and then drag up to about here and press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac in order to create a copy. Then I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D a couple of times in order to create three more folds. Two big problems however; I'm not matching the curvature of the top segment and I'm not matching its scale either, so I'd have to monkey around with each one of these path outlines, which is not what I want. So I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac a few times in order to undo those modifications. Press the V key to switch back to my Black Arrow tool and Shift+Click on this top path outline.

Notice that each of these path outlines features two anchor points connected by a curve segment. And now I'll press that keyboard shortcut for the Make Blend command, which is Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac, and I just get one path outline. And the reason in this case is Illustrator is looking at these two paths and saying okay, neither of them has a Fill, both of them have identical black Strokes, so what in the world do you want from me? I can't create a smooth color transition because you haven't given me anything to work with. So what you do of course is you double- click on the Blend tool icon here in the toolbox in order to bring up the Blend Options dialog box. You switch from Smooth Color Spacing to Specified Steps, turn on the Preview checkbox, and then just Up Arrow that value there to 3, and we end up getting the effect we're looking for.

And notice that this time around Illustrator is both rotating and scaling and matching the curvature of the steps to match those of the two extreme blended paths. Now go ahead and click OK in order to accept that change. That's how and why you change the number of steps between blended path outlines here inside Illustrator.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

118 video lessons · 14359 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 43m 9s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 9s
    2. Introducing my custom keyboard shortcuts
      6m 52s
    3. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on Windows
      4m 46s
    4. Installing my dekeKeys shortcuts on the Mac
      4m 18s
    5. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 10s
    6. Adjusting a few key Preferences settings
      8m 13s
    7. Understanding the color-managed workflow
      6m 51s
    8. Establishing the optimal Color Settings
      6m 50s
  2. 1h 11m
    1. Illustrator's oldest dynamic functions
      1m 28s
    2. Creating a multicolor blend
      7m 12s
    3. Establishing a clipping mask
      5m 40s
    4. Reinstating the colors of a clipping path
      8m 1s
    5. Editing individual blended paths
      4m 44s
    6. Adjusting the number of steps in a blend
      7m 15s
    7. Fixing problems with the Blend tool
      4m 2s
    8. Blending different levels of opacity
      4m 45s
    9. Editing the spine of a blend
      5m 3s
    10. Adding a custom spine to any blend
      5m 5s
    11. Advanced blending and masking techniques
      6m 18s
    12. Blending between entire groups
      3m 2s
    13. Adjusting the speed of a blend
      3m 21s
    14. Rotating objects in 3D space
      5m 36s
  3. 1h 0m
    1. Illustrator's logo-making features
      1m 8s
    2. Customizing a single character of type
      5m 25s
    3. Combining a letterform with a path outline
      7m 48s
    4. Creating logo type along an open path
      5m 3s
    5. Creating logo type around a closed circle
      3m 57s
    6. Vertical alignment, orientation, and spacing
      4m 55s
    7. Warping logo type around a circle
      6m 56s
    8. Creating a classic neon type effect
      5m 39s
    9. Adding random neon brightness fluctuations
      5m 19s
    10. Creating neon "block outs" between letters
      7m 44s
    11. Adding neon blur and bokeh in Photoshop
      6m 16s
  4. 46m 19s
    1. Generating colors using harmony rules
      1m 31s
    2. Introducing the Color Guide panel
      5m 16s
    3. The 23 color harmony rules, diagrammed
      8m 16s
    4. Mixing and matching color harmonies
      5m 59s
    5. Color groups and custom harmony rules
      6m 18s
    6. Working in the Edit Colors dialog box
      7m 4s
    7. Expanding on an existing harmony rule
      6m 51s
    8. Constraining colors to a predefined library
      5m 4s
  5. 32m 44s
    1. Changing lots of colors all at once
      1m 2s
    2. Introducing the Recolor Artwork command
      4m 58s
    3. Recoloring with the help of swatch groups
      4m 35s
    4. Changing the color-assignment order
      6m 44s
    5. Reducing the number of colors in your art
      5m 7s
    6. Applying tints and shades of a single swatch
      5m 37s
    7. Recoloring artwork that contains gradients
      4m 41s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Painting with path outlines
      1m 24s
    2. Introducing the Brushes panel
      4m 25s
    3. Applying and editing a calligraphic brush
      7m 34s
    4. Applying and scaling an art brush
      6m 12s
    5. Applying and editing a scatter brush
      5m 31s
    6. Formatting and scaling brushed text
      5m 45s
    7. Designing a custom art brush
      7m 35s
    8. Creating (or replacing) an art brush
      6m 42s
    9. Refining a brush to fit ends and corners
      4m 11s
    10. Expanding, filling, and stroking a brush
      7m 4s
    11. Type on a path vs. text as an art brush
      7m 3s
    12. Distorting text with the Width tool
      8m 49s
    13. Infusing your artwork with a tile pattern
      3m 13s
  7. 58m 24s
    1. The many forms of transparency
      1m 38s
    2. Creating translucency with the Opacity value
      4m 21s
    3. Darken, Multiply, and Color Burn
      6m 15s
    4. Lighten, Screen, and Color Dodge
      5m 8s
    5. Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Difference, and Exclusion
      4m 59s
    6. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      5m 12s
    7. Combining the effects of multiple blend modes
      6m 42s
    8. Isolating blending and Knockout Group
      7m 37s
    9. Combining blend modes with dynamic effects
      7m 25s
    10. Exporting transparency from Illustrator
      9m 7s
  8. 1h 39m
    1. The Layers panel for dynamic attributes
      1m 4s
    2. Applying attributes in the Appearance panel
      6m 15s
    3. Creating depth using translucent strokes
      5m 37s
    4. Adding, layering, and offsetting strokes
      6m 12s
    5. Duplicating entire groups of attributes
      7m 55s
    6. Turning stacked strokes into editable paths
      5m 43s
    7. Simplifying a multi-stroke effect
      6m 31s
    8. Applying the Convert to Shape effect
      7m 47s
    9. Adding aligned patterns and shadows
      8m 16s
    10. Drawing with arrowheads and angled strokes
      8m 49s
    11. Employing overlapping gradient strokes
      8m 25s
    12. Drawing circular stroke elements
      10m 13s
    13. Outlining an entire multi-stroke effect
      8m 39s
    14. Creating seamless wood grain in Photoshop
      8m 11s
  9. 1h 12m
    1. The best features in Illustrator
      1m 38s
    2. Repeating a series of transformations
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting and updating a dynamic effect
      6m 37s
    4. Applying a stroke to an entire layer
      6m 24s
    5. Improving the performance of drop shadows
      5m 40s
    6. Applying a single effect multiple times
      6m 10s
    7. Creating an intricate Spirograph pattern
      7m 10s
    8. Adding scalloped edges with Pucker & Bloat
      4m 40s
    9. Applying a dynamic Pathfinder to a layer
      3m 56s
    10. Creating beveled ornaments
      6m 50s
    11. Creating a sculptural type effect
      5m 59s
    12. Subtracting editable text from a path
      7m 6s
    13. Editing text inside a dynamic effect
      4m 25s
  10. 27m 40s
    1. Never remember anything again, ever
      1m 41s
    2. The pixel-based Effect Gallery
      3m 53s
    3. Copying effects from one layer to another
      4m 44s
    4. Introducing the Graphic Styles panel
      4m 11s
    5. Correcting previews in the Effect Gallery
      4m 36s
    6. Adjusting the resolution of your effects
      4m 0s
    7. Combining and saving graphic styles
      4m 35s
  11. 1h 13m
    1. Two powerful graphics programs combine forces
      1m 5s
    2. Creating a perfectly centered star shape
      6m 52s
    3. Precisely scaling concentric circles
      7m 47s
    4. Adding reflective highlights with the Flare tool
      6m 23s
    5. Two ways to rasterize vector art for Photoshop
      7m 37s
    6. Importing vector art as a Smart Object
      6m 47s
    7. Creating a lens flare effect in Photoshop
      7m 56s
    8. Photographic texture and brushed highlights
      6m 26s
    9. Modifying a vector Smart Object in Illustrator
      6m 33s
    10. Converting Illustrator paths to shape layers
      6m 27s
    11. Assign layer effects to native shape layers
      5m 55s
    12. Completing a work of photorealistic art
      3m 46s
  12. 1m 5s
    1. Until next time
      1m 5s

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