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The Blend Tool in Adobe CS5 Illustrator

Use the Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator Blend tool to transform one object to another to create interesting morphed artwork or to create shaded objects. Using the Blend tool (located in the main Illustrator Tool panel), you can give illustrations a rendered look by blending from one color to another or create an even number of shapes from one point to another.

Some objects using the Blend tool.
Some objects using the Blend tool.

Creating a blend isn’t difficult, and as you get used to it you can take the process even further, to create incredibly realistic effects. Follow these steps to create a simple blend from one rectangle size to another, creating an algorithmic stripe pattern (a rectangle of one height blended to a rectangle of another height):

  1. Create a rectangle.

    Size doesn’t matter in this example; just be sure that you can see a difference in shapes when you blend. We’re using a rectangle that measures roughly 4 x 1 inches.

  2. Give your shape a fill and assign None to the stroke.

    You can use other settings, but we recommend keeping it simple if you’re still new to working with blends.

  3. Using the Selection tool, click the rectangle and Alt+drag (Windows) or Option+drag (Mac) toward the bottom of the artboard to clone your shape.

    Press the Shift key before you release the mouse button to make sure that the cloned shape stays perfectly aligned with the original shape.

  4. Reduce the cloned shape to about half its original height by using the Transform panel.

    If the Transform panel isn’t visible, choose Window→Transform.

    Alternatively, you can hold down the Shift key and drag the lower-middle bounding box handle.

  5. In the swatches panel (choose Window→Swatches), change the cloned shape’s fill to a different color but keep the stroke set to None.

    Changing the color just helps you see the blend effect a little better.

  6. Using the Blend tool, click the original shape and then click the cloned shape.

    Reduce the size of the cloned shape.
    Reduce the size of the cloned shape.

    As a default action, the Blend tool creates a smooth blend that transitions from one color to another. To change the blend effect, experiment with the Blend Options dialog box.

    Creating a smooth transition between rectangles.
    Creating a smooth transition between rectangles.
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