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So we know that a spine is made up of a variety of different elements. We know that we have key objects that define the start and end points of a blend, or if I have multiple objects inside of a blend, they define just different areas that that blend goes through. I have the spine of the blend, which is this line that gets created that kind of connects the key objects inside of my blend, and then of course I have the steps that are created for the blend itself. So let's take a closer look though at the spine of my blend. I am going to use my Direct Selection tool and just click anywhere inside of the blend over here in the file. It's called replace_spine.ai. And you can see that I have three key objects and I have this spine that goes through each of them. It also has an anchor point that is defined for each of those particular stops along the way, for those key objects.
Now you will notice that the actual spine itself is made up of straight lines, in fact, we can think of these as corner anchor points, there are no curves here. So for example, if I were to take this key object right over here, and move it down over here, the actual spine, see, it goes straight from this object, and then straight to this one as well. However, there is no reason why you can't use a curve for a spine as well. In fact, the path that is actually created that defines the spine of your blend is simply created using corner anchor points, but you can change those to smooth anchor points at any time. So in fact, I'm actually going to go over here to my Pen tool, click and hold my mouse button down, to bring up the pop-up, and choose my Convert Anchor Point tool. I'll now move my mouse over the anchor point for this middle part over here of my spine, and I'll click- and-drag to turn that anchor point, from a corner anchor point to a smooth anchor point. When I release the mouse, now, I could see that my blend follows that particular curve.
So you can see very easily that I can really modify the spine itself at any point. It's a regular path. In fact, I can use effects on it. Like I can do a Zig Zag effect, if I wanted to. I could use the Liquefy tools on it. It acts just like a regular path inside of Illustrator, yet the steps that are created for my blend follow that particular path. In fact, when I'm going to press Undo for a second here. We can go back to where it was before. I'll press Undo twice. Because I want to show you that you don't even have to even modify that path. I can use a completely different path altogether. I'm going to use my Pen tool here, I'm just going to go over here to where it says Pen tool. I'm just going to click-and-drag, and create some kind of a curved path, something like this for example. I'll go ahead, and I'll select this particular shape right here. I don't even have to change its attributes. I could highlight that to select it. And then also select my blend.
I'm using my regular Selection tool for this. So now I have two elements selected. I have my blend and a regular plain path, and I can now choose Object > Blend and then I'll choose this setting here called Replace Spine. Because right now I actually have a separate path selected. Illustrator gives me the options to actually replace the spine that's currently in my blend, which is the straight line, with the other path that I now have selected. And doing so, I can now see that that arrow follows the path that I have already defined. Now I actually want to show you some of the settings though that apply inside of the Blend Options dialog box, because now that we understand that we could actually have our curve set for our spine. We could also take a look at some of the other settings that maybe were not so easy to figure out before.
For example, I'm going to go to the Object menu here, I'm going to choose Blend, and the Blend Options, for this particular blend here. Move this down over here. I'm going to change this to Specified Steps, just so we can more clearly see exactly what's happening here on the blend. And maybe set to around 12 steps. So now you can specifically see the arrows that are here. Now notice, all the arrows are on the same rotation, as they were and they are aligning themselves to the page, the way that they were created on the page. However, if I look over here, where it says Orientation. I see that I have two options, the first one over here called, Align to Pages, the default setting. However, if I change to this option called, Align to Path, the actual objects on the blend, the steps in the blend, will take into account, the curvature of the path, and follow that path, instead of just the orientation of the page. So by choosing this option, you can now see that the actual object kind of, rotate and flip along this area.
Now, in this particular example here, I did have the arrows on an angle, so they are all kind of aiming up towards as they kind of move upwards. But as you create any kind of a shape, by choosing the Orientation to Align to the Path, the objects themselves will actually follow the path itself, instead of just always remaining set to the page itself. Now one of the main reasons, why you also might want to replace the spine, besides trying to follow exactly how a particular blend is created, you might also want to use this when you are creating a blend for animation. For example, if I'm trying to have one object move from one side of the page to another, if I don't want to have it go in a straight line, think of, for example, a motion path in Flash, I can have those elements follow along, with specific guided path.
So remember that there are really two ways to work with a spine of a blend inside of Illustrator. I can either modify the spine that's automatically created when I define my blend, or I can create any path that I want to and simply replace that spine on the blend.
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