Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating with shape blends, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Narrator] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. A lot of functionality in Illustrator tends to get lost or overshadowed by newer functionality over time. So we're going to take a look at an old favorite of mine, that is, shape blending. We'll use this simple methodology to create some stunning results. So let's get started. This is going to be a lot of fun. If you're not familiar with shape blending it's very simple. It can take two distinctly different vector shapes, in this case I have Illinois' state outline here and Abraham Lincoln.
Now why'd I pick this as my shape blending? Well here's a little backside story to this. In art school we had to actually do a project in graphic design where we morphed from one shape to another shape. I don't remember what it was trying to teach us but this is what I did. I had done Illinois morphing into Lincoln and man, if I digital it would have been a lot easier as you're going to see here. So we're going to select both, we're going to go to shape blending tool which is right here, and all you have to do is pick associated anchor points.
So in this case I'm picking the top right anchor point, clicking on this shape, and the top right anchor point in clicking on this shape, and notice how it blends. In this case it's only a five step blend from Illinois morphing into Abraham Lincoln. And that's all shape blending is. Now, mostly you never see it used this way, but it can be used this way. If we double click on the blending tool itself it will open up a dialog box and you can select specific steps and in this case let's say 100, you can see what that looks like.
Well, it just looks like a box because it's black. So if there's different colors you would see more but let's go back, we had five originally, we'll do seven and you can see what it does there. So it's saying, how many steps total? Well, in this case we only have seven steps. You know, we could go eight and go preview, so that's how it works. In this case we're just going to keep it at five so you can see what's going on here and we'll go okay. Now here's another thing that you can do. You can select these two shapes, use the shape blending tool, click one anchor point and then if you go to a different, opposing, non-associative anchor point like this, it actually twists the art and on this case I like the proportions on this, it's kind of cool.
So there's a lot of weird kind of spiro graphic things you could do. And if you use basic shapes you can experiment with this. So why am I showing you shape blending? What's it good for? Well, here's a really cool way you can use it. We can take these two shapes, and all this is, this is a simple blend on a elliptical shape from blue to this kind of hot pink color and it's making somewhat of a purple color inside. If I select these two shapes and I go to the blend tool and I select this central anchor point of each and click on them, it's going to blend that.
In this case that's not very compelling, it's just a one step blend if we go to specific steps. We don't want this. We're going to go to an insane amount, 150, and look at what it creates. It creates this blend, almost like a pill type shape. Well, so what? Well here's the nice thing, you can select any path, you can select this blend, you can go to Object, you can go to Blend, and you can go Replace Spine, and think of the path that's this cursive G as a spine, and we go, Replace, and it will map that blend onto a path.
Now, 150 you start to see these steps in here. This is where we can go back to the specific steps and we're going to put an insane amount. We'll go ahead and double it and we'll go Preview, and you can still kind of see steps so we're going to go even more. We'll go up 450, we'll preview that and what you can get is this authentic looking, 3-D effect and what a lot of people don't realize is when you create vector paths, Illustrator knows that as it started here, it came before this curve that goes over it so it actually has dimensionality to the path itself even though it was 2-D art, you can very quickly turn it into 3D art like this, which is kind of cool.
Let's take a look at another one, and if you want to create your own letter forms you just go to the pencil tool, double click it, make sure you have Smooth turned on, and then click OK, and in this case we'll try to to a fancy uppercase L. So we'll go like this. And you can see this doesn't look that great, but when you let go it disappears (laughs). That's because I was drawing them on a layer that I'm not even on, oops. Okay, let's try that again.
We'll go like this now that we're on the appropriate selected layer, like this. And you can see how it actually creates an elegant form because we have that Smooth turned on, so that's important. We'll select both of these and then we'll go to Object, we'll go to Blend, and we'll go Replace Spine, and you can see how cool that looks to create. Now you can do all kinds of cool stuff with that, but I just wanted to show you that. That's not what we're going to focus on.
I just wanted to give you a sneak peek and you can explore that and play with that as much as you want. This principle of blending shapes works with live type. A lot of people don't know this. So if we take this type, hero, and I go Command + C, Command + F and I make a clone of it and move it down here. In this case we're going to make it white and I'll select this and we'll take the blend and we'll blend from this path to this path and that's not very compelling either so we're going to increase this to, let's go 150, see what that looks like.
That's okay, but notice it's knowing our hierarchy so we're going to take our original type here, the one that's on the top, and we're going to Object, Arrange, we're going to bring to front in order to get that to look the way we want it to, and now the nice thing about this is once you have it blended you can just double tap into it and you can select this type that it blends down to and you can adjust it like something like this.
We're going to turn on a background and that doesn't look so good, but if you go to Transparency and you go to Multiply, and then you adjust the Opacity to 70, you know, that's looking nice. And then if you put white type on top like this, I always add a subtle outline, usually .75 like this because what I want to do is I want to select this type right here and I want to go to Effect, I want to go Blur, I want to go Gaussian Blur, and I want to do not a lot, like three, and I go okay.
And it applies that Gaussian Blur. But you can see you can get a pretty cool effect. Now this is what I want to play with more but I don't want to specifically use a live font. I actually would never use a live font and use this. I just wanted to show that it is possible that you could do that if you ever wanted to. I like to figure out my design and layout using type and then once I have it I can precisely built it so I can snap anchor points and get my spacing and negative and positive all worked out specifically the way I want it so I have a piece of vector art like this.
And this is where the fun and the magic really begins. So we're going to clone this, Command + C, Command + F. I'm going to drag this down and we're just going to drag our type all the way down, just so it's offset nicely. Maybe right about there, and I want to make sure this type's on top so Arrange, Bring to Front, and on this one right here I'm going to change this to white, and on this one we'll keep it black, and we're going to blend these two.
So we'll go to the shape blending tool and I'll pick this top left corner to this corner and you can see immediately, already how cool this outlook. But we're still going to do a lot more to this. So the next thing I want to do is I want to adjust the opacity. I don't want it stark black. So we'll select this and we'll go 70, like this, and then what I'm going to do on this is go ahead and select our background.
You can see this doesn't look that hot but as soon as we turn Multiply, anything white will become transparent and so that's looking really cool. And the next thing I want to do is I want to go to Effect, I want to go to Blur, I want to go to Gaussian Blur, and once again I'm going to Gaussian Blur this three, like that. And then I have type on top of it which is white and this is where I'll add that subtle outline just to cover that blur that we created, .75 should do it.
And I like to go ahead and outline this stroke and then I make sure to unite everything and make sure I change it to a compound path. Why did I do that? Well, it's because I'm going to now go ahead and add a nice gradient to this. So I'm going to go to linear gradient here and right now we're going to blend it from a gray to this white.
Now this gray value is 100%, I'm going to put it down to like 15% and then if we go to our palate here we're just going to adjust this and we're going to adjust it to the same angle as our lighting and it's just so the type isn't stark white. It actually has a hue. And if I turn this up more you can see how the type's getting darker on the left side. I don't want it that dark, I want it to be very subtle. You could go 20 if you wanted to, that would work.
You just want it the same angle, and it creates that nice illusion. Now this approach can work on any kind of background. I picked marble because it kind of goes with the theme but let's say you wanted to actually use a photograph of a hotel. Well you could create a nice piece like this and because this is a blend you can go into this, so you can double click, you can select this and you can adjust this to be any length you want or any proportion you want.
Like this to adjust that you can double click out of it and it's a really great way to get compelling, almost a film noir look and I love film noir, that's one of my favorite genres of film and it does work good for that. So layout compelling type, use shape blending and you're going to get some compelling results. The reality of digital tools is that software companies love to push new features, regardless if they're actually needed. But the truth be told, most of the creative heavy lifting is still being done using core functionality that's decades old.
So take the time to look at old features and think of new ways you can use it in your own work flow. Thank you for watching DVG lab. And until next time, never stop drawing.
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