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Create Hanna Barbera Style Graphics With Blending Paths in Illustrator CS5.5
David Smith on Mon, March 26th 0 comments
Understanding blending paths can open up a world of creative possibilities in Illustrator CS5. David Smith shows how to create a retro, Hanna Barbera style graphic using blending paths

There are a whole lot of interesting, and sometimes beautiful, creations that can be born from blending paths together in Illustrator. In this article I will show you some of the ones I like to teach people early on, as they illustrate (is that a pun?) the basics of Blending Paths really well. 

Lets start of with a simple, but very effective idea. 


Step 1 - Create a Path

Select the Line Segment Tool, or press \ and use it to draw a vertical line on your page 

TIP: hold down Shift to ensure the line is straight. Set the Stroke size to 2 pt and the color to red (I think this looks god in Red in particular). 

Red line


Step 2 - Add a Second Path

Use the tool a second time and draw a horizontal line (remember to use Shift again as you draw). The shape made should look similar to the letter L. 

L-shape


Step 3 - Set the Blend Spacing Options

Before creating a blend between these 2 paths we need to set up the Blend. Choose Object > Blend > Blend Options to open the Blend Options window.

Blend Options


Three spacing options are available. For this design choose Specified Steps and set the Value to 40. This will create 40 “in-between” paths. You can always make this number higher or lower if the blend isn’t quite right. 

For this first example the Orientation is not important, we can do more with that later. Click OK to return to the image.


Step 4 - Create a Blend

Select both Paths, making sure no other paths are accidentally included in the selection if you have any. Go to Object > Blend > Make

The blend is made


Step 5 - Add the Letter a

Pick up the Type Tool or press T, and type the letter a onto the page. Place it over the Blended Path. Set the font size large enough to fill the Blend. 

Text over the blend


Step 6 - Create a Clipping Mask

Select both the Blend and the Text, then choose Object > Clipping Mask > Make or press Command-7.

The blend is masked


The Blend and the Text become one, and you have a really interesting fill for your text. Try it with larger amounts of text (like a Title for example). 

Lets start a new Blend somewhere else. 


Step 7 - Type “BLEND”

Type the word BLEND and set the Font size to 70pt. Set the Fill Color to a Yellow and the Stroke to Red, with a stroke size of 2pt. 

'BLEND' in yellow


Step 8 - Type “WORDS”

Type the word WORDS and increase the Font size to 100pt. To save time styling the color and stroke, select the Eyedropper tool (or press I) and click on the word BLEND to match the styles. Then swap the colors over by pressing SHIFT-X.

The colors swapped


Rotate the word WORDS 90 degrees—you’ll find that holding Shift as you turn will help with that. 


Step 9 - Add a Curved Path

Next select the Arc Tool (lives in with the Line Segment tool) and use it to draw a Path that curves between the two text. This will create a path for our blend to follow. 

The curved path


Make sure that both the Fill and the Stroke colors are set to none for this path, or else the colors will interfere with the blend. 


Step 10 - Change the Blend Options

Re-open the blend options window and set the Orientation to Align to Path, this looks better than the results offered by Align to Page. Also set the number of steps up to 50. 

Blend mode options


Step 11 - Create the Blend   

Select the 2 words and the curved path then choose Object > Blend > Make

The blended image


The word Blend is not visible because it's obscured by the 45 blend steps. Let's fix that.


Step 12 - Expand and Ungroup

Select the blended image and choose Object > Expand. From the menu that pop us select Fill and Stroke and click OK. This breaks each blended step into an individual path. They remain grouped however, so then press Shift-Command-G to ungroup them. 

The ungrouped version


Step 13 - Bring back the Blend Text

Select just the lowest path in the image, this should be the word BLEND and choose or press Shift-Command-].

The blend returns


Now you have a Text Blend akin to a 70s Hanna Barbera cartoon. Now that you have the basics, try setting the blend options to Smooth Color and see if you can create some unique color gradients. 



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