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Jun 11

Using the Blend tool and Distort Zig Zag Effect in Illustrator

2007 at 09.45 am posted by Veerle Pieters

In my previous Illustrator tutorial I showed you how to create some cool looking effects with lines using the Transform Again feature. I would like to continue this path and share some other cool effects you can achieve with simple shapes or lines. A few readers asked me if I could explain how I created the blending wave lines. This is done using the Blend tool…

The Blend tool

Draw 2 lines that cross each other

Using the Blend tool in Illustrator

Start by drawing 2 curving lines using the pen tool. Make sure these 2 lines cross each other at least once. This will create this rather cool effect once we apply the Blend tool. Give the lines a stroke color.

Apply the blend

Using the Blend tool in Illustrator

Select both lines using the Selection Tool (black arrow). Now double click the Blend tool in the Toolbox to get the Blend Options box. Enter 20 for the amount of steps and select the 2nd orientation option. Click OK. Now with the tool and both lines still selected, click in the starting point of the first line and then click in the starting point of the second line.

Edit the path or color if needed

Using the Blend tool in Illustrator

You should get a blending effect of different lines in between as shown in the above image. With the Direct Selection tool you can select one of the lines you've originally drawn. The lines in between are not visible in outline mode. Yu can't select or edit them, but you can still modify the color of both lines you've drawn and you can change the shape or even add points if you like.

You can use the Blend tool on any shape. You can blend from a star to a circle, a line to a rectangle, etc. If I'm my memory serves me right I use to create gradients like this using this same technique back in older Illustrator versions. You can still do this but Illustrator offers you far more easier ways and the Blend tool is more likely used for special effects like for instance this line effect described here.

Distort Zig Zag Effect

Another way to achieve interesting line effects starting from a simple shape, is by using the Distort Zig Zag Effect. I'm choosing the Zig Zag effect because this effect will give a rather symmetrical end result compared to the other Distort effects. They can be interesting to experiment with if you're after a more random or even chaotic end result. Also one advice if I may, choose Effects over Filters if possible. Effects are adjustable at any time using the Appearance palette. Filters on the other hand don't give you that flexibility and freedom. Once applied, you need to use the undo to change the result and start over. So keep that in mind ;)

Using the Distort Zig Zag Effect

Draw a circle (hold down shift key). Give the circle a stroke or line filling. Go to the Effects menu and choose Zig Zag from the Distort submenu. Check the preview option and play with the sliders.

Using the Distort Zig Zag Effect

Or draw a star (using the Star tool, hidden under the Rectangle tool). I chose to give the star a dashed line. Go to the same Effect again and play with the sliders. Again, don't forget to check the preview option to see the end result.

My end result, just lines

Using the Blend tool and Distort Zig Zag Effect

It's that simple. Who said Illustrator is difficult? ;) Ok it needs a lot of practice and patience to become a pro, but if you approach things in a creative way you get nice things done in a pretty easy way with limited steps. Hope you enjoyed this one ;)

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


53served

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permalink this comment Antoine Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10.03 am

Very nice tutorial, thanks a lot !!

I think I’m gonna play a little bit with that this afternoon ;-)


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permalink this comment Oli Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10.28 am

great. simply awsome!
Thanks Verlee!


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permalink this comment Sergei Muller Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10.46 am

Good job and easy to understand.

Thanks a lot.


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permalink this comment Joel Laumans Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 11.00 am

Yet another great illustrator tip I learned here!
Veerle, you rock =)


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permalink this comment Ben Cardy Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 11.20 am

Beautiful!! You’ve inspired me to start to learn Illustrator and vector drawings, I’m used to just Photoshop… though it’s very hard :(


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permalink this comment mario Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 11.26 am

it’s not difficult, it sucks. it’s different.


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permalink this comment Graft Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 11.45 am

That blend tool efect is a great tip, thanks for sharing.


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permalink this comment Jill Tovey Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 02.35 pm

Nice one - that’s worked out pretty well for something I’m doing right now :O)


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permalink this comment Esther Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 02.36 pm

I read that previous Illustrator tutorial the other day and actually wanted to know how to create that effect on the lines! I knew that Transform Again would be used, but I couldn’t quite achieve the look I wanted. Thanks for sharing! I don’t know why I didn’t think to request that you reveal the tutorial for this as well :P


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permalink this comment max Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 02.40 pm

nice stuff keep on what about photoshop?


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permalink this comment Luce nella Rete Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 02.43 pm

Very nice blog and tutorials.

Paolo - Milan (Italy)


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permalink this comment Stelian Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 02.58 pm

I’ve waited some time for this tutorial.
Thanks.


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permalink this comment Matt Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 03.32 pm

Simple and nice, but very similar to: http://www.ndesign-studio.com/resources/tutorials/abstract-background/


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permalink this comment xunk Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 04.58 pm

Matt said:

Simple and nice, but very similar to: http://www.ndesign-studio.com/resources/tutorials/abstract-background/

What’s the problem ? This is not a rip off…

A lot of people (including me) didn’t know about this n-design tutorial, so i’m glad Veerle posted this.

The ‘OMG’ I already saw that on the internet reaction is childish and boring.


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permalink this comment skip Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 05.01 pm

Great tutorial, keep’em coming!

Is it possible to change the background color in Illustrator?  I’m talking about the color upon which you work, sort of like the “canvas” in Photoshop (I think).

I always create a huge rectangle/square and then fill it with my desired BG color, with all layers going on top, but I’m wondering if there is another way.

Thanks!


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permalink this comment lucas Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 07.30 pm

just perfect


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permalink this comment Michael Short Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 07.44 pm

Fantastic Veerle.

You never cease to amaze me with these tutorials :-)


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permalink this comment k Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 07.52 pm

Have just recently discovered your great blog with so many useful tips and info - thanks!


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permalink this comment Eva Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 08.00 pm

Gorgeous! You rock Veerle! I’ll be sure using this one ;)


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permalink this comment Michael Andreas Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 09.19 pm

Oh my, very impressive tutorial. Thank you Veerle. :)


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permalink this comment carmelyne Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 09.41 pm

I always wondered how you do that in Illustrator. Thanks for sharing.


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permalink this comment cilla Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10.02 pm

thanks so much for this site! this article was great as is everything here! thank you!


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permalink this comment Amarilys Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10.41 pm

Thanks for the tips! They most certainly be used


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permalink this comment avidman Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 01.06 am

An excellent tutorial - this one finally convinced me to stop being a lurker and register.  Thanks again Veerle.


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permalink this comment Jackie Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 01.40 am

Very neat. It is interesting to see how you turned the two lines into the graph-like spiral image.  I have used the blend tool to blend other shapes like stars, which you can actully turn into things like flowers, and so forth, just by using the distort and transform filter in certain ways.  There are also ways of taking a basic circle shape, and turning it into like a sun with points radiating from it. In fact, there are logos that have been created like this, if you know enough about how to use the filters to produce the desired results.  I think the Smithsonian’s logo may have been created like this, with a filter effect.  Anyway, Veerle, thanks for these fun tips - you always know how to do everything!


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permalink this comment Neubreed Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 05.33 am

This is brilliant, I used to do that kind of thing freehand and it was really difficult to adjust once I had done it, so this will make it alot easier. Thanks!!


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permalink this comment asha Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 05.46 am

Great tutorial. Easy to follow! Keep it going Veerle :)


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permalink this comment Unexpected Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 07.05 am

Woohoo thanks Veerle :) did you ever consider writing a book with tutorials ???


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permalink this comment Linda Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 08.35 am

nice blog…. nice tutorials…

great!!!


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permalink this comment Stas Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 10.27 am

Thanks a lot, Veerle!


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permalink this comment Tramis Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 03.01 pm

Really pretty.
I love it.
Thanks a lot. ; )


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permalink this comment Ali Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 06.01 pm

Awesome! AI tutorials are back.. yaay :)

Thanks Veerle


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permalink this comment Tom D Tue Jun 12, 2007 at 07.50 pm

I’d never thought of using the blend tool like that! I’m yet to read an article on your blog that I don’t learn something from.. it should go without saying that I love the design too :) Thanks!


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permalink this comment Icep Wed Jun 13, 2007 at 03.58 pm

What font are you using on that image? I really like it.


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permalink this comment Tyler Wed Jun 13, 2007 at 04.30 pm

Looks great! 

Thanks for really spelling it out.  It’ll definitely replace my painstakingly tedious and imperfect method :|


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permalink this comment greg Wed Jun 13, 2007 at 05.02 pm

Thank you!!!


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permalink this comment Brockton Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 01.49 am

I had fun getting familiar with this technique. Thank you so much.


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permalink this comment Alex Ciobica Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 12.08 pm

Thanks for the tip! I’m falling in love with the blend tool :).


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permalink this comment Richard Johnson Thu Jun 14, 2007 at 04.32 pm

Nice trick. You use Illustrator to great effect. :-)


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permalink this comment Tomasz Gorski Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 11.48 am

This is brilliant how You use Illustrator I hope, in few months I will be able to made something like You.


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permalink this comment Veerle Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 01.22 pm

Thank you for taking time to comment. Happy to hear so many people appreciate this and learn from it :)

Icep said:

What font are you using on that image?

I actually can’t tell you this at the moment but I hope all will revealed soon ;)


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permalink this comment Thomas Hurlimann Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 03.26 pm

Nice article, too bad its about fat old Illustrator, I prefer the less fat but also old FreeHand, I am trying to reproduce your idea in FH.


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permalink this comment Alex Red Fri Jun 15, 2007 at 08.40 pm

Brilliant, thanks a lot for that tutorial.


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permalink this comment ketket Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 01.04 am

Nice tutorial.

In your first example, actually, you CAN edit all the lines in between the original lines by using the Flatten Transparency in the Object menu.

Flatten to a vector, then un-group the whole thing and then, each line is selectable and you can change the color stroke and whatever else, and can be a fun way to change the linear pattern a bit!


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permalink this comment Andy Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 12.43 pm

Sweet, that looks really nice!


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permalink this comment Nick Loose Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 03.45 pm

Thanks, it’s very simpel but so cool!


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permalink this comment Veerle Sat Jun 16, 2007 at 06.24 pm

ketket said:

In your first example, actually, you CAN edit all the lines in between the original lines by using the Flatten Transparency in the Object menu.

Flatten to a vector, then un-group the whole thing and then, each line is selectable and you can change the color stroke and whatever else, and can be a fun way to change the linear pattern a bit!

I was speaking from the current situation actually. Interesting that you mention this, because I always do this in another way. I use Object > Expand for any effect I want to do extra edits and where I have no choice then to ‘break’ the link with it.


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permalink this comment Brandon Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 06.39 am

I really like your work. I’m still honing my Illustrator skills, and your tutorials/tips regularly help me do that.


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permalink this comment Manuel Vidarte Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 06.18 pm

very nice Veerle :)

applying your tutorial and distort & transform>twist i made <a haref=“http://www.muchik.com/test/test.png”>

thank you very much again :)


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permalink this comment Susheel Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 02.16 pm

Wow! Simple and useful tutorial… nice one…


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permalink this comment Diane Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 04.48 pm

Another nice tutorial! Thanks a lot!
Maybe it’s time for a tutorialbook…


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permalink this comment Henri Sun Jul 1, 2007 at 09.21 pm

What a good and nice tutorial! I really like the secrets you show me about how to use illustrator!


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permalink this comment daniel Mon Jul 9, 2007 at 01.28 pm

Did you free-hand the ‘just lines’ text or is it a font? if it is a font, do you mind if i ask which one?



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