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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, we're going to take our first look at Blends inside of Illustrator. Specifically, we are going to take this big background sky that's currently filled with a linear gradient starting at the top and going to the bottom, that contains a total of six different colors. So it's quite the gradient. But we'll see that by replacing that gradient with an equivalent blend, we provide ourselves with lots more opportunities. The name of this graphic is Lots of gradients.ai and I am going to zoom out so that I can take in the entire illustration at a time.
Notice that it bleeds off the artboard and I do have a bleed boundary set up and you can get to it by pressing Ctrl+Semicolon or Cmd+Semicolon the Mac to turn on the guides, and that way you'll see that red bleed line right there. So in other words, I have this document set up properly so that we can print a full bleed. And then I'll scroll down to Layers panel and I'll twirl open the sky later right there, and it contains two objects; path, which is the big background rectangle that's filled with a gradient as well as these bands of color that are assembled inside of a group, currently they're turned off.
We'll be turning them on in just a moment. But first I'm going to meatball the path to select it, and I've got my Gradient panel up so that we can see the various colors that I've used inside the gradient. So things start off at the bottom of the gradient with this color right here. If I click on this color swatch and take a look at the color values here inside the Color panel, I've got a 25% Cyan, everything else is zeroed out. So that we have this little bit of brightness down here at the bottom of the sky. Next, I have this very deep red, and notice for each and every one of my colors the next color is a kind of a dark brown.
All of my color values add up to no more than 270% and that's very important. Because if your total ink percentage adds up to more than 270% you stand a chance of having your ink smear when you go to print this illustration, and you don't want that to happen. So keep an eye out for those totals as you work along. It's especially tempting by the way, I should just say, when you're trying to create rich dark colors like these, it's tempting to go into the stratosphere and build up color values that add up to 300% or 350% and those will definitely smear, so watch out for that.
Anyway, what I want to do though is replace this gradient with a blend because I want some more sort of wavy action going on in the sky where the bands of color are concerned. Right now, each and every band is strictly horizontal inside of this linear gradient. So I am going to click in the gradient swatch in the upper left-hand corner of the Gradient panel to make it active and that way I can switch out the entire gradient with a flat fill just by clicking somewhere inside of the CMYK spectrum. And it doesn't matter where you click, just click somewhere in there if you're working along with me, because that way you'll be able to better see the bands of color that we are going to blend together.
They are these bands here, I will go ahead and turn them on, this is a group of a bunch of different objects and notice every single one of those six colors is represented. So I am using the exact same colors that were at work inside of the gradient. They're just expressed as separate path outlines with flat fills. And what I'm going to do here is, I will meatball the bands in order to select them and then I'm going to ungroup them. I just wanted to group them together to keep them tidy. But before I blend them, I might as well ungroup them because otherwise I'll have a blend inside of a group and that just makes it more laborious to edit the document later.
So with this group selected, I'll go up to the Object menu, and then I'll choose the Ungroup command, or I could press Ctrl+Shift+G, Cmd+Shift+G on the Mac to ungroup those guys. Now click off of them in order to deselect the entire group and I'll click on any one of these objects. I just want you to see. I've clicked on the light blue down here at the bottom. That's the exact same color that was at work at the bottom of the gradient. So that is 25% Cyan, everybody else zeroed out. If I click on the red shape in order to select it, that's that same collection of color values that I used to create the red.
Again, I'm making sure that my percentages add up to 270% or less. That magical number by the way is just a standard in the prepress community. It doesn't have to be 270%, some presses can handle more ink. You would want to talk to your commercial printer to find out what their total ink limit is. By the way, that's the question you would ask is, how much ink can you handle? What is your total ink limit? All right, with all of those objects ready to go, I am going to go ahead and select them by marqueeing across them with the Black Arrow tool, so I have all six of my paths selected. And there is a couple of different ways to create a blend inside of Illustrator.
One is to use the Blend tool, down here near the bottom of the toolbox, and it's got a keyboard shortcut of W. However, I'll tell you, I don't use this tool very often. What it allows you to do is click at specific points inside of your blended objects in order to blend them together. It works best when you only have two objects that you are trying to blend, although you can use it with more. But the only reason you actually need to take advantage of it is if your blend starts going weird on you. If it doesn't blend in the right way, that is, this point for example, this bottom left-hand point in this purple path ends up blending over to the bottom right-hand point in the next path down.
That's the kind of situation where you need the Blend tool. For standard blends, however, like this one here, you don't need it. What you do instead, is you go up to the Object menu, you choose the Blend command, and you choose Make. And this is a keyboard shortcut. If you're going to do a lot of blending inside of Illustrator, which I recommend you do, very powerful feature, then you want to remember this keyboard shortcut as well, Ctrl+Alt+B or Cmd+Option+ B on the Mac, and that goes ahead and blends all of the objects together in order to create a continuous smooth gradient as we're seeing here.
Now, I am going to click off of the paths for a moment so that you can see what the gradient looks like and because all of those path outlines were bending, I had a bunch of curvatures set up in those path outlines that I drew using the Pen tool, incidentally. We have that same curvature built in to our final blend as well, into the gradient that we've constructed manually here inside of Illustrator. That means that I can now go in and edit those blends. Because this is a live dynamic object, it will respond to my edits on the fly.
So I could go ahead and grab my White Arrow tool, for example, and then I would just hover the tool over a perspective path outline. I can see now, notice my cursor has a little square next to it, a black square indicating that there's something underneath the cursor. If I click on it, sure enough I've gone ahead and selected it, it looks like the red shape, because I can see it's red, here inside the Color panel. Now I can manipulate its control handles or the anchor points as well in order to change the nature of my gradient. So notice now that I've set things up so I have a pretty harsh transition at this point, which can be very useful depending on the kind of effect you are trying to create.
If you are trying to create nice sharp highlights, for example, then you want your path outlines to be very close to each other inside the blend. If you want smoother transitions, then you move that path outline away, so that you have more room between the various paths inside of your blend. So I might want to go ahead and bring this side up a little bit to add a little bit of glow over this region of this hill, over this grass, for example, and I have that kind of control, it's amazing. Now the thing, I will tell you is now I've got this big huge galumphing sort of gradient that's exceeding outside of my rectangle, that's not necessarily a problem for our purposes because we've got this bleed.
So anything outside of the bleed is just going to drop out. But let's say it's important to you that all of the elements of the blend fit inside of the rectangle, that's when you take advantage of a clipping mask and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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