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In this tutorial you'll learn everything there is to know about the Blend Brushes in Adobe Illustrator. These brushes with soft edges, are used often for adding highlights, shades or details, are a real treasure for your designs. Here you will learn how to create some of the most used Art and Scatter Blend Brushes. Let's begin!
1. Start a New Project
Launch Illustrator, then go to File > New to open a new blank document. Type a name and set up the dimensions then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode. Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1px. These settings will help you throughout the drawing process.
2. A Short Introduction
There are two methods to create a blend object: with the Blend Tool (W) or the Blend >Make command from the Object menu. The minimum number of shapes to be used is two. That's right, using many different shapes/paths, colors, gradients, strokes and transparencies is allowed.
Blends are a dynamic effect. This means that at any time after you create a blend object, you can change the shape of the object, the position, the colors or gradients. Just use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the shapes. The blend will be updated live. To change the parameters of the blend object, double-click on the Blend Tool (W) in the Tools panel or go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. This time we will focus only on the Specified Steps option.
Using blends, you can obtain smooth transitions between colors, shadows or even different shades of colors. If you set the Opacity of the lower shape to zero you will get a smooth transition between the blended shapes. This allows you to create brushes with soft edges that can be used to add highlights and shades in your drawings, for example. Exactly what you'll learn next.
If you want to know more about the Blend Tool (W) you can check out this tutorial Blend Tool a Comprehensive Guide.
3. Create a White Blend Art Brush (Small Size)
Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a 100 x 3px ellipse filled with white. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select only the right and left anchor points of this ellipse and press the Convert selected anchor points to corner option in the Control panel.
With the white ellipse selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and apply a -1.2px Offset. As a result you will get a smaller shape in the middle. Set the Opacity for the bigger ellipse to 0%. Next, select both shapes and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options. There, select 25 Specified Steps then go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B).
Drag the resulting blend object into the Brushes panel and choose New Art Brush. In the window that opens just type a proper name and leave the rest of the settings as they are.
This White Blend Art Brush I use most often along with its black version, about which we'll talk later.
4. Create a White Blend Art Brush (Large Size)
To create a bigger blend brush you have to start from a bigger ellipse. In this case a 200 x 5px ellipse also filled with white. Transform the left and right points of this ellipse from smooth to corner as you did earlier. Now, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and apply a -2.2px Offset to obtain the smaller shape in the middle. Set the Opacity for the bigger ellipse to 0%. Having both shapes selected, go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B) and by default you will apply again the same settings (25 Specified Steps).
Drag the resulting blend object into the Brushes panel and choose New Art Brush. Type a proper name and hit OK. The names are important because next time you'll need a blend brush (a week, a month) you'll have to easily remember how each brush looks like.
Now, let's put these two white blend brushes into action so you can see the difference between them. I've used a simple 3D shape for this example. Notice how the first Blend Brush made (100 x 3px) is sharper and the 200 x 5px Blend Brush is smoother. With how much the height of the ellipse increases, the fluffier the brush will be in the middle area.
5. Create a Black Blend Art Brush
This is the black version of the White Blend Art Brush 100x3 made at the beginning. Start from a 100 x 3px ellipse filled with black then transform the right and left anchor points from smooth to corner. Apply a -1.2px Offset to get the smaller shape in the middle then set the bigger ellipse to 0% Opacity. Finally, apply 25 Specified Steps to blend them.
Here is the black version of the white Blend Art Brush (large size) made. This time start from a 200 x 5px black ellipse and follow the same steps.
Drag these two Black Blend Art Brushes into the Brushes panel to save them and give them a proper name.
I've used a Black Blend Art Brush in the ghosts tutorial to add shades in order to accentuate the wavy look at the bottom.
You can also use it to add details in your drawings like I did on the body of the snake in this cute snake character tutorial, or to add depth like I did for the eyes of the snake.
If you need a different color, you can set the Colorization to Tints by double-clicking in the Appearance panel on the blend brush applied to open the Stroke Options window. Now, you can easily change the color of the blend brush by selecting any stroke color you want.
6. Create a White Angled Blend Art Brush
The blend brushes created so far are symmetrical and centered but sometimes you need something different like the next brush. Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a 110 x 5px ellipse then modify its shape as shown below. Transform the right anchor point to corner then modify the position and size of the handles for the left point. With this shape selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and apply a -2px Offset to get the smaller shape.
Move the red shape back in the middle using the Right Arrow Key on your keyboard. Fill both shapes with white but set the bigger shape to 0% Opacity. At this point you can blend the two shapes by going to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B).
Copy and Paste (Control-V) the blend object created at the previous step and replace the white fill with black for both shapes. The blend will be updated live. All other settings remain the same. This will be the black version of the White Angled Blend Art Brush.
Drag the White and Black Angled Blend Art Brushes into the Brushes panel to save them.
I've used the White Angled Blend Art Brush in another tutorial of mine tangled text effect to add highlights on the letters. Don't forget that you can at any time set the Colorization to Tints and by changing the Stroke color you can get a colored brush. You can also decrease the Stroke weight to get a sharper brush or increase the weight to make it fluffier.
7. Create a Blend Scatter Brush
Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw three circles having the dimensions shown. Fill them with white then set the Opacity values as indicated for each one. Now, select the three circles and press Vertical Align Center and Horizontal Align Center in the Align panel. Still having them selected, go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B) to apply again 25 Specified Steps.
Drag the resulting blend object into the Brushes panel and this time choose New Scatter Brush. Type a name and leave the rest of the settings as they are for the moment. You can also create and save the black version if you desire. If you arrange four flat white ellipses in the shape of a star over the blend object you can even create a Sparkle Scatter Brush.
Here's a simple example how to use these Scatter Blend Brushes. In the next image there are two wavy paths, both stroked with three of the brushes created so far, the White Blend Scatter Brush and the Sparkle Scatter Brush saved at the previous step and also the White Angled Art Brush made earlier. Now you can change the settings for each brush to make them look like you want. For example, double click on the White Blend Scatter Brush applied to open again the Stroke Options window. Play around with the values until you get the desired look. I usually change the values for Size and Scatter and always set the Rotation to Path.
8. Save Your Collection of Blend Brushes
Don't stop here! Following the steps explained so far you can create various Blend Brushes regarding the shape and size. Now, take a look at the Brushes panel and make sure that every brush that you want is saved and delete any non-related brushes that might be there (default brushes). You can't see the white ones but that's why the name of the brush is important.
Next, open the Brush Libraries Menu and select Save Brushes. Type a name for the collection like "Blend Brushes" and hit Save. Now you can access these Blend Brushes at any time and in any document by going to Brush Libraries Menu > User Defined > "Blend Brushes".
Congratulations! You're Done
Now, you have all the Blend Brushes at hand and ready to be used day and night to add highlights, shades or details in your designs. If in the future a tutorial will make reference to a Blend Brush you'll know what they're talking about.
I recommend you to read another tutorial of mine about Neon Brushes to learn even more about Art and Scatter Brushes. You can also save a collection of Neon Brushes in your library.