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Despite the fact that they were introduced more than 20 years ago, blends and masks continue to rank among Illustrator's most powerful and flexible capabilities. Blending permits you to design custom gradations and morphings in which one shape or group of shapes steadily transitions into another. Masking permits you to place those gradations or any other collection of objects inside a path. The beauty of both blends and masks is that they are forever editable. Change the color or outline of a blended shape and the entire blend updates immediately.
You can even change the path of a blend, so it slows down, speeds up, or curves on its way from one state to another. Where masks are concerned you can edit both the mask and its contents independently. And even though creating a mask for removes its fill and stroke attributes, you can reinstate them any time you like. Frankly, it warms my heart to see these 20 year old features hold up better than many half their age. Here's hoping I'm still that relevant when I turned 20.
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