What is Blend tool?
The Blend Tool is an invaluable and often misrepresented tool in Adobe Illustrator. Not to mention, a total time saver. Ever completed a game of classic Solitaire on Windows? The win animation couldn’t be easier to rebuild with the Blend Tool. But, it’s not all 90’s throwback graphic design. The Blend Tool, as it’s namesake suggests, is also used to blend one or more colours together.
In this tutorial, I’ll demonstrate the 3 basic functions of the Blend Tool. To keep our introductory walkthrough simple, we’ll blend between two perfect circles. In a later tutorial, I’ll produce a more complicated design.
First, draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L). Hold Shift while dragging to draw a perfect circle. Hold Alt/Option to draw a circle from the centre of the cursor.
Now, we’ll need a second shape to blend our circle into.
Select the first circle. Select Edit > Copy (⌘C) to copy the circle. Then, select Edit > Paste (⌘V) to paste a new copy. The position of the new circle isn’t a concern at this point. Ensure the newly pasted circle is in a similar position to the tutorial circle. Select the new circle and choose a colour swatch different to that of the original circle—in this case, green.
Blend Tool option 1: Smooth Color
Now, let’s explore the Blend Options panel. Double-click the Blend Tool to open the panel. Note: There’s no need to select either shape at this point.
The Blend Tool creates numerous copies of the two shapes we select to blend between. The default option is Smooth Color. Smooth Color produces a smooth gradient between the two shapes. In this example, both shapes are circles—Orientation doesn’t matter.
Click ‘OK’. Select both objects to create the blend. With more complex shapes, select a specific point in each shape to influence the outcome. That’s for a later tutorial. In this tutorial, it won’t make a difference.
Your blend should—more or less—resemble the below shape. Notice the smooth shape and gradient. Once expanded, this won’t produce a natural perfect gradient. For that, the Gradient panel is still the best tool for the job. Each individual shape will become editable.
Next up, Specified Steps.
Blend Tool option 2: Specified Steps
The Specified Steps Spacing option won’t produce a smooth gradient like Smooth Color. The process however, is the same. In the example above, I’ve selected 8 Specified Steps. This option results in 8 brand new circles that transition from our circle 1 colour to our circle 2 colour. This is a useful tool to experiment with.
What about in practise? We could create a blend between two established brand colours. This could result in a new accent colour—or a terrible blend. It’s fun to experiment.
In addition, we could draw a simple framework in no time. The featured image was rendered blending two circles with 6 Specified Steps between them. I then duplicated the result and generated another 6 Specified Steps between those. That produced a grid of 64 equally spaced circles with only two commands—without the Align panel.
Blend Tool option 3: Specified Distance
Specified Distance, much like Specified Steps, will produce a number of shapes between our two selected shapes. This time, instead of selecting the number of shapes, we select the distance between those shapes. In this example, a new shape will generate every 25 pixels.
This is likely more useful than Specified Steps in a specific context—pixel perfect artwork, for instance.
Time to experiment
That’s it—couldn’t be easier. Want to put this new skill into practice? Use the Blend Tool in this tutorial: How to design a colour wheel in Adobe Illustrator. Don’t have Adobe Illustrator? Click here to make an account.