Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a multicolor blend, part of Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Advanced.
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Over the course of this chapter we're going to take this base graphic and we're going to transform it into this final piece of artwork. And everything that you're seeing pretty much is a blend. The background is a blend, the gradient foreground is a blend, the starburst traveling across the sky is a blend, these lines inside the sarcophagus and the wings and the eyebrows of the bat here, those are blends, and even these posts are a blend between two extreme posts. So this is a very, very powerful feature inside of Illustrator--old school but powerful.
I'm going to switch back to my base graphic here, and currently this background art--I'll press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on the Mac--this background art is a function of a gradient. So if I click inside the gradient, I'm not going to select it because of my recommendation in the previous chapter, where I suggested, by the way, just to make sure we're all on the same page--I'll press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac, switch to Selection & Anchor Display-- I suggested you turn on Object Selection by Path Only. And that way we're going to have a lot more control over our experience inside of Illustrator here.
So I'm going to Cancel out because I want that checkbox on. I'll go ahead and click on the outside of this rectangle, and that takes me to the sky layer here inside the Layers panel. I'll go ahead and twirl it open, and that selects this path inside this sky layer. And it's currently filled with a six-color gradient, as you can see here inside the Gradient panel, which is a lot of colors, but I could gain even more control if I were to express this gradient as a blend; because that way I can create a kind of wavy pattern, instead of a linear pattern like I have now, where basically I've got a straight vertical gradient here.
And so each band of color is like a very skinny horizontally-oriented rectangle. But with a blend I can create all kinds of patterns inside the gradient. So I'm gong to start things off by changing this path to a Solid Color. So I'll press the comma key in order to switch to the Solid Color option--and notice I've gone ahead and switched back to my CMYK values here inside the Color panel, because this is a CMYK document, as I can see up here in the title tab. And I'll just go ahead and click on a shade of green here inside this CMYK spectrum bar that's available to me at the bottom of the Color panel, just so I can see the rectangle.
Now I'm going to turn on this group that's also included in the sky layer down here at the bottom of the stack, and the name of the group is bands, and I'm going to meatball that bands group in order to select it. Then I'm going to ungroup it by going up to the Object menu and choosing the Ungroup command, or I could press Ctrl+Shift+G, and that way I can go ahead and blend between these colors. All right! Now I'll press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+ A on the Mac in order to deselect all those paths, and I'm going to zoom out a little bit too. Now, notice by the way that we have a total of six different shapes here; there is this light blue shape, this red shape, then we have a brown one, a purple one, a blue one, and a kind of rich black one here at the top of this stack, as you can see indicated by these values inside the Color panel.
And the reason I'm mentioning all these colors and these path outlines is because there are six of them, just as there were previously six colors inside my gradient. All right! There's two ways to create a blend. One is to go ahead and select a couple of paths, like so, and then you switch to the Blend tool. This is not my preferred technique; I just want you to know that it's an option. You switch to the Blend tool, which you can get by pressing the W key; it's down here near the bottom of the toolbox. This is a really strange tool, very, very old school. You click on an anchor point in one of the paths and then you click on the corresponding anchor point in the other path outline, and then Illustrator goes ahead and draws a blend between those two paths.
Now, the reason you would use this tool, I don't use it very often at all, the only real reason to use it is when things go wrong. If Illustrator ends up blending your path completely incorrectly and it blends between two opposing anchor points and you end up with a weird pattern and you want to fix things. So if that happens, you press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to undo, and then you turn your attention to the Blend tool. What you generally do, in case you're curious, is you go ahead and grab your Black Arrow tool--this is the preferred method of creating a blend--and I'll go ahead and marquee all six of these paths.
I'm just marqueeing the left hand edge here of all six of these paths in order to select them, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are all selected now, and nothing else inside the document is selected. And then I'll go up to the Object menu, you choose Blend, and then you choose the Make command, or you've got a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+B or Command+Option+B on the Mac. And bang--just like that, even though two of the paths were already blended before, now we're blending between all six paths in one fell swoop. And we end up getting this very interesting effect.
I'm going to press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift +A on the Mac, as well as Ctrl+0 or Command+0, and that deselects the paths and then centers my artwork. And notice now that we have this rippling gradient effect that we could not have achieved using a standard gradient. And check this out, I'll go ahead and switch to my White Arrow tool--which of course I can get by pressing the A key--and then I'll go ahead and hover. Notice I'm kind of moving my cursor around and searching for path edges. Whenever you see that square next to the arrow cursor, whether it's a Black Arrow or the White Arrow, that means there is a path outline right underneath the cursor.
Go ahead and click in order to select that segment in this case, so I'm selecting with precision here. And now I'll go ahead and drag up on one of the control handles on this side, then I'll click on this segment and drag up on the control handle on this side; and you can see that I'm making changes to my gradient on-the-fly, which is the amazing thing about blends is that they are just staggeringly powerful and a lot of fun as well I think. Anyway, I'm going to drag this guy up. Notice now I'm creating a very sharp transition.
If I press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac in order to hide my selection for a moment, you can see that I'm creating a sharp transition at this point. So you've got that kind of control as well, right? Not only do you have control over the placement and the shape--physical shape of the colors-- but you also have control over how fast the colors blend into each other. All right! I'm going to press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac to bring back my selection edges. Oops, dragged the wrong thing. Oh well, I'll click on this segment again in order to select it and then I'll drag this control handle down in order to soften the transition little bit at that point.
I'm going to press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+ Shift+A on the Mac in order to deselect my image. It looks like we still have some awfully sharp transitions actually. I'm going to click on that path again in order to select it and drag these control handles down a little bit. All right, that looks better to me. So there you have it, that's how you create a multicolor blend inside of Illustrator. In the next exercise I'll show you how to take this blend and place it inside of a clipping mask.
- Installing dekeKeys, Deke's free custom keyboard shortcuts
- Understanding the color-managed workflow
- Creating a multicolor blend
- Establishing a clipping mask
- Blending different levels of opacity
- Combining a letterform with a path outline
- Warping logo type around a circle
- Adding neon blur and bokeh in Photoshop
- Mixing and matching color harmonies
- Recoloring artwork
- Working with the Calligraphic, Scatter, and Art Brushes
- Creating translucency
- Editing attributes in the Appearance panel
- Adjusting and updating dynamic effects