Day 17: Blending Shapes & Colors

Illustrator Blend Tool does the trick of creating smooth transition between objects. You can blend open paths to create line effects and blend shapes to create realistic shadings. There are many creative things you can do with the Blend Tool and you will definitely be using it a lot in your illustrations.

Blend Effects

Here are some quick interesting stuff you can do with blending.

Realistic Shadings

With smooth blends you can create realistic shading which cannot be done with gradient.

Line Effects

You can create nice abstract blending line waves using Blend Tool. This is done by blending a dark to a light blue line.

Distributing Objects

With blend tools you can quickly align objects with specified steps.

Understanding How Blend Works

This is a quick diagram of how a blend looks. A blend needs at least 2 objects to blend. The start object will blend to the end object with the amount of steps you specified for the blend. In this case, I set it to 3 steps. A spine will also be automatically created. This spine determines the path the in between objects take.

Blending Objects

Method 1: Using Blend Function

To quickly make a quick smooth blend. Select the 2 objects you want to blend and go Object>Blend>Make. A smooth blend with be created.

Method 2: Using the Blend Tool

Another method I always use, is using the Blend Tool to do the job. I can have more control on the anchor points to blend to.

First select the start object.

Select the Blend Tool.

First click on the anchor point your want the blend to start.

Next, hold Alt/Option as you click the second anchor point you want it to blend to.

A Blend Options window pops up. Choose Specified Steps and enter 3 for the value.

The final blend will have the star morph to the final star in 3 steps.

Blend Options For Blending Objects

To quickly change a smooth blending object to specified steps, Alt/Option click on the blending objects with the Blend Tool. The Blend Options pops up. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps.

Replacing Spine

At times, you may want to edit the path of the spine to a curve path instead of the default straight path. To do this, you can edit the path directly with the Pen Tool. Another cleaner way to do this is to draw the path of the spine. Select the new path and the blend object. Go to Blend>Replace Spine to replace the spine.

Expanding Blends

If you need to break the blend into individual objects. You can go Object>Expand to expand the objects. You can then edit the in between objects.

Next Lesson: Photorealism with Gradient Mesh »

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About The Author: Tony Soh

Hi. I'm the founder of Vector Diary. Illustrator is my passion and I have written numerous tutorials on illustrator helping people learn illustrator. My most popular tutorial on learn illustrator has been a hit. It makes learning illustrator so easy and has benefited more than 20,000 people worldwide. Also, I've revealed some of my secret techniques in the premium tutorials. So don't forget to check it out!

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  1. Gravtar for ArtConch
    ArtConch August 7th

    Loved this lesson, so many neat things illustator can do, thanks again for showing me how to blend

  2. Gravtar for LadyUranus
    LadyUranus August 19th

    I think I’ve done something wrong with my settings– when I used “blend–>make” the object goes from dark to white instead of what you’re example shows. The star example gave me three deformed stars in between my start and end points.

  3. Gravtar for iStockdiary
    iStockdiary August 19th

    Hi LadyUranus, make sure the 2 objects are same shape. Then blend using Blend>Make. Alt/Option click on the blend to change settings to see how you can edit the blend options.

  4. Gravtar for Leroy Simpson
    Leroy Simpson August 29th

    Cool tutorial, i make jamaica flag blend into a spliff

  5. Gravtar for Derek Maloy
    Derek Maloy September 25th

    Keep the fill for both circles with the desired color. Change the stroke to None, box with red line through it, for both circles. Then try using the blend> make!

  6. Gravtar for elearning
    elearning January 6th

    Nice tutorial. Thank you so much.

  7. Gravtar for erick
    erick February 11th

    Thanks for this. Very much appreciated.

  8. Gravtar for kiticha phoonsonbat
    kiticha phoonsonbat March 20th

    Love and very funny this lesson.Thanks for good tips.You are cool.

  9. Gravtar for xavier izaguirre
    xavier izaguirre April 26th

    Derek is right. You have to remove strokes or its colours would eb the ones blending!!!!

    Awesome tutorial

  10. Gravtar for xavier izaguirre
    xavier izaguirre April 26th

    What I am not able to do though is to distribute objects keeping the size. The shapes in the middle are always smaller and bigger than the starting and end ones.

  11. Gravtar for Raymond Avilez
    Raymond Avilez May 11th

    Same here…how do you keep the size of the object consistent? Also having a little trouble with the line effects…how is it done?

  12. Gravtar for Dan Huffman
    Dan Huffman January 21st

    ok, so, under Method 2: Using the blend tool, I follow directions, blend options window pops-up, I click 3 and OK, and nothing happens. Is it supposed to have 5 stars like in illustration, or is it simply supposed to blend color of the first star? Mine doesn’t seem to do anything? I can’t seem to find where the spine is- mine only has one object. Thanks for the help.

  13. Gravtar for Crissy
    Crissy April 13th

    Real brain power on dsplaiy. Thanks for that answer!

  14. Gravtar for Nike TN Requin
    Nike TN Requin March 1st


  15. Gravtar for RSCdev
    RSCdev March 9th

    This tuto is one of the best (until now) 🙂