Using the Blend Tool in Adobe Illustrator CS3

Adobe Illustrator CS3’s Blend tool creates a sequence of shapes or colors that results in entirely new design effects. With it, you can make three-dimensional effects, interesting abstract backgrounds, or well-controlled gradients.

To try it out, begin by making two shapes: one large and one small. Have your big shape and your small shape separated from each other so it’ll be easy to see what’s happening.

The Blend icon in the Illustrator toolbox looks like a square and a circle being connected with dots. To get to the Blend tool options, double click on the icon in the tool box. Within the option box are three options for different types of blending: Smooth Color, Specified Steps, and Specified Distance. In this example, the two shapes will be “blended” using the Specified Steps option. This means that you can specify the number of steps between the objects simply by typing a number into the box. For this example, the number 5 was entered.

Click “OK” to accept the number you’ve typed in, and select each of your shapes with the Selection tool. The cursor will become a square resembling the icon in the toolbox. When you are above a point of the shape the square will turn black to show that you’ve reached a point.

Click one point on each of your shapes to implement the Blend tool. The shapes are now connected with shapes that mathematically reduce in size from the larger to the smaller shape.

If you don’t have the effect you want, select your shapes again with the Selection tool and double click the Blend tool to get the option box back up. Enter the new number, and when you click “OK” the Blend tool will automatically change the shapes.

The other options within the blend tool can be used in the same way. Play around with the Blend tool starting with lines to see some of the other possibilities. You can place one shape on top of the other or put a smaller shape within a larger one. Try out color effects and see how the Blend tool interacts with other tools as well. Once you see the myriad possibilities, the Blend tool will be one you’ll reach for often.