Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Blending between levels of opacity, part of Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced.
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I have saved my progress as Blended bat wings.ai, and in this exercise I am going to demonstrate how you can blend not only between different colors of fills or strokes inside of Illustrator, but also between different levels of opacity. So I am going to scroll over here until I find this region. So notice that I have got a few things going on actually here and let me make sure that this layer is unlocked, it is locked. It's the star layer that contains the objects that we are seeing onscreen.
So I need to unlock that layer so I can gain access to the items it contains. Then I'm going to click in the upper right-hand corner of that star layer in order to select everything contained inside the layer and there are a total of four objects that we are seeing right now. There is actually a fifth object that's offscreen. I will go ahead and zoom out so that we can take in everything. So the fifth object is over here. It's this little completely transparent guy, a little circle whose Opacity value is set to 0%. Over here, if I zoom in, we've got a transparent star shape toward the outside.
We also have this translucent star shape on the interior that's also blurred a little bit and then we have two variations of the circle with different levels of opacity once again. So I am going to click off these path outlines for a moment. I want to show you what's going on with this blurry star shape just so you have a sense of what we're working with here. This is not one of the shapes that we are going to blend, actually. In fact, this is the only shape on the layer that we are not go blend. If I switch over to the Appearance panel while that shape is selected, you can see that it has a fill and the Opacity is set to 25% and you can change that Opacity value by clicking on the word Opacity.
That brings up the Transparency panel. You change the Opacity value. Raise it to make the shape more opaque, lower it to make it more translucent/transparent. Anyway, I am going to escape out of there. This is what I want you to see, this Gaussian Blur option. If you click on it that brings up this dynamic effect inside of Illustrator and it's called Gaussian Blur. It's borrowed from Photoshop, and what it does is it goes ahead and blurs the shape. It's a pixel level effect. So it does go ahead and convert this vector to pixels on the fly, and in this case I have set the Radius value to 6 pixels, which is a fair amount of blur, not nearly as much of a blur as you would get if you applied 6 pixels worth of blur inside of Photoshop, but quite a bit of blur here inside of Illustrator.
Anyway, I just want you to see that. I am going to cancel out. So you get a sense of how I created that blur. And if you were trying to blur an object in such a way, then you would select it, go up to the Effect menu, and this is how you apply the blur in the first place. Choose blur, and then choose Gaussian blur from this region of Photoshop Effects right there. Anyway, we will be talking about those more, these dynamic effects, when we look at dynamic effects, an entire chapter devoted to the topic inside the Mastery portion of this series. However, in the mean time, here is what I want to do. I am going to click off that star to deselect it and I am going to grab this star right here. And you might say, what star are you talking about, Deke? Well, I can see that there is something here, I know there is a star out here, it happens to be transparent.
But I can see a little black square next to my cursor. So I will click in order to select that big old star. Sure enough, it is there. Notice that it has a Fill Color of 50% Cyan. Everybody else zeroed out. So where is that Fill Color? Well, by virtue of the fact that I have set the Opacity value - either up here in the Control panel or down here in the Appearance panel, anywhere where you can find it - to 0%, it is absolutely transparent. Now I am going to go ahead and click on this interior circle right there. It's actually the outermost of the two circles that are right on top of each other and this guy has a Fill Color of 25% Yellow.
Everybody else is zeroed out, and its Opacity is 100%. So I just want to see what we are working with here. Click on one, Shift+Click, if you can find it, on the other one. If you can't find it, by the way, if you just can't locate the shape, you can press Ctrl+Y, Cmd+Y on a Mac to switch to the Outline mode, then you'll see the bigger star's the one we want to select. Go ahead and Shift+Click on it to select it as well. Then press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y to switch back to the Preview mode, and now go up to the Object menu, choose the Blend command and choose Make, or press Ctrl+Atl+B, Cmd+Option+B on a Mac in order to create a blend between those two path outlines.
Now by virtue of the fact that the two paths had different Fill Colors, because the interior shape has a color of 25% yellow and the exterior shape has a color of 50% cyan, why then Illustrator goes ahead and creates a bunch of steps in between. If they were the same color, but different Opacity levels, then Illustrator would do that one step thing once again. Or it might create a few more steps depending on the distance between the path outlines. But it's not smart enough to tell the different levels of transparency apart from each other. You would then have to specify the number of steps manually.
I might go ahead and do that anyway. With the Blend selected I will double -click on the Blend tool here inside the toolbox in order bring up the Blend Options dialog box and then I can switch from Spacing. Remember, if you ever want to know the number of steps that Illustrator has assigned, you switch from Smooth Color to Specified Steps and then you'll see, my gosh! 127 steps. I don't think I need this many. Now you want to assign as few steps as you can get away with, by the way. If you're really trying to control the process, because otherwise, too many steps, you're just throwing more complexity at the project.
It's going to take longer to print, it's going to take longer to rasterize inside of Photoshop, the whole number. So if you reduce the number of steps to, let's say, 35, I think worked out pretty nicely, and press the Tab key, I didn't see anything change onscreen. And I reduced the number of steps to about a quarter of what they were before and everything looks just absolutely copacetic, and that means that, as I say, it's going to print faster, it's going to rasterize faster, it's going to view faster. We are going to preview the effect faster onscreen as well. So I am going to click OK in order to accept that modification.
Now the great thing, I am going to zoom in on this effect, because I just love it. Notice if I click off, now, by selecting the Black Arrow key and then clicking off the shape, if I deselect the shape, because I am so far zoomed in, I can see the bands of color in between, bear in mind however that you really are zoomed in. In my case, I am zoomed into 300%. These different bands aren't going to reconcile in print. They are not going to reconcile when I rasterize the graphic either. However, now that I am zoomed in, I can see that I have got this wonderful interaction between the various star shapes and I have got this very sculptural star effect going on as well.
Now this brings up an important point if you've been paying close attention you might ask me, well, wait a sec, Deke. Just a few exercises ago you were telling us how important it is to make sure your path outlines contain the same number of anchor points and equivalent anchor points and they should be the same kind and all that garbage, and yet you have got a circle that has four smooth points and then you have got this bazillion point star. I think it's 11 point star, which would mean 22 corner points. How different could these shapes be? Well, the great thing is that the two shapes are oriented properly with respect to each other, so things are working out quite nicely. And also, Illustrator is very good about blending between a circle and just about anything.
So it goes ahead and smooths out these areas in etween the different shapes and reconciles the effect quite nicely. Anyway, you can achieve some really awesome effects by blending between paths with various levels of opacity. In the next exercise I am going to show you how to blend between two paths that are far apart from each other and edit the path of the blend.
- Tracing a pixel-based image
- Sketching and drawing for Illustrator
- Creating and editing gradients
- Creating multi-colored blends
- Creating seamlessly repeating tile patterns
- Creating interlocking artwork with Live Paint
- Designing advanced type effects
- Recoloring artwork with color harmonies
- Making the most of symbols
- Integrating Illustrator with Photoshop
- Using transparency, blend modes, and opacity masks