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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, I will show you what can go wrong when blending between objects and how to solve problems using the Blend tool. I have saved my progress as Three-step blend.ai and I'm going to press the V key in order to switch to the Black Arrow tool, click on this path outline toward the top of the right-hand wing, and Shift+click on this lower path outline, and we are going to blend between these two guys just as we did over here in the left-hand wing. However, it's not going to work out as well this time. So I'll go up to the Object menu. I will choose Blend, and I will choose Make.
Now I am fully anticipating that I am going to get a single step and nothing more. But as soon as I choose the command, I get this step right there. So we do just get one step, great, but that step looks totally wrong, and if I were to go over here to the Blend tool and double-click on it, and let's go ahead and switch over to Specified Steps, and raise that value so that we can create a bunch of steps in between, what in the world is happening here? Well, Illustrator is always blending between anchor points when it's trying to reconcile the difference between two extremes paths, and when I say extreme I mean on the extreme ends of a blend. And normally, what we'd hope it we do, since they're such simple path outlines, blend between the two left-hand anchor points and then blend between the two right-hand anchor points.
But in this case, Illustrator has gotten the equation totally wrong. It's blending from the left anchor point in the top path to the right anchor point in the bottom path and between the right anchor point in the top one, to the left anchor point in the bottom one. Why is it doing this? Because of the order in which I drew the path outlines. I must have drawn one from left to right and the other from right to left and Illustrator pays attention to that kind of stuff, even though it doesn't let you just change the direction of an open path outline, it does punish you for getting that direction wrong. So what in the world are we supposed to do? Well, cancel out of here.
Then press Ctrl+Z, Cmd+Z on the Mac in order to undo the creation of that step right there, and now what we need to do is use the Blend tool, which I have already selected because I just double- clicked on it, but go ahead and grab that Blend tool or your can press the W key, that's not a keyboard shortcut that I care to remember but you may find it helpful. And then what you do with this tool is you click on an anchor point in each one of the path outlines that you want to blend and you are basically telling Illustrator, hey! Here is the similar anchor point.
So since the two right-hand anchor points are coincident, that is, right on top of each other, it's easier to click on the left-hand anchor point. So I will start by clicking on the left- hand point in the bottom shape, and you click, once again, on each one of the path outlines that you want to blend. So having clicked on this guy, I now need to click on this one here and that will go ahead and create the blend immediately. However, Illustrator once again got it totally wrong. This time it looked at the front shape which was not selected, darn it, but it went ahead and grabbed the front most shape at this point and blended that to the left-hand point in the top open path.
And I have to give it A for effort, because it's really tried, bless it, in order to blend these completely different path outlines with each other. However, it's made an absolute mess of things. That's not what I want. So I will press Ctrl+Z, Cmd+ Z on the Mac to undo that change. Now the problem is the shields & ribs layer right here. It contains paths that are on top of the path that I'm trying to blend. So I need to lock it down. So first I am going to press Ctrl+Z, or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that bad blend, and then here inside the layers panel, I will click in front of the shield & ribs layer to lock it. And now Illustrator can't consider those path outlines in the blend, and I will now click on this bottom left point and then I will click on the top left point, and this time Illustrator does exactly what I want.
So that's why YOU use the Blend tool, when you're trying to reconcile blends that Illustrator can't figure out automatically. Okay having done that, I need to specify a number of steps. So I will double-click on the Blend tool once again. From here on out, it's the same old thing, change spacing from Smooth Color to Specified Steps, increase that number of steps option to 3 like so, so that we have an equivalent number of steps on the right-hand side and the left-hand side, click OK, and the job is done. I will press the V key to switch back to the Black Arrow tool and click off the path outlines to deselect them.
So if you run into a situation, and you will, where two path outlines don't blend together properly, undo your modifications and try clicking on equivalent points inside of those path outlines using the Blend tool.
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