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Despite the fact that they were introduced about 25 years ago, blends and mask continue to rank among Illustrator's most powerful and flexible capabilities. Blending permits you to design custom gradations and morphings, in which one path steadily transitions into another. You can even blend between objects that are far apart from each other, as well as entire groups of path outlines. Masking permits you to place those gradients, or any other collection of objects, inside a path.
But the real beauty of both blends and masks is that you can edit them anytime you like. Change the color or shape of a blended path and the entire blend updates immediately. You can change the path of the blend so it slows down, speeds up, or curves on its way from one shape to the other. Plus, you can blend both Fills and Strokes, blend between Opacity and Transparency, and specify the exact number of steps between shapes.
Where masks are concerned, you can edit both the mask and its contents, and you can even set one mask inside another one. Frankly, it warms my heart to see these 25-year- old features hold up better than many half their age. Here's hoping I'm still relevant when I turn 25.
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