Showing Motion Using the Blend Tool in Illustrator

This little tool can do big things in showing motion on paper!

First, create an object:

Next, make a copy of the object. To do this, select the object with the Selection Tool (Black Arrow) and the holding the Alt key down while pressing and dragging away from the first object:

Re-size one of the objects to give some perspective by holding down the Shift key and pressing and dragging a corner anchor point toward the center of the object. This is going to make it look like the object is going from the foreground to the background.


To create the effect, the objects must be selected. Select one object (Selection Tool), and hold the Shift key down and select the second object.

Now, double click on the tool.

The following menu appears:

The default spacing is Specified Steps. Note that the number of steps can be changed as needed. Let’s leave it at 8.

Simply clicking on the OK button here, makes nothing happen. The tool is now activated. Next, identify the objects to be affected. Click on an anchor point on the first object. Whichever point clicked, be sure to click on the corresponding point on the second object (top of one, click the top of the other).

As soon as the second object is clicked, you see a blending of the sizes. (If the objects were different colors, the objects’ colors would also blend from one to the other.)

In the Blend Tool Options menu, the Smooth color option calculates the number of steps for the blending.

One more option from the Blend Options menu, is the Specified Distance option. This option controls the distance between steps in the blend. Again, the user has control over this.

Next, we are going to investigate the Orientation option on this panel in a moment. We need to change our object to be able to show off how Orientation will affect our result.

Let’s start over with a new object. Draw a star from the Shapes Toolbar. Hold the Alt key down to make a duplicate and resize one of the starts so that it is smaller. Change the fill and stroke colors as desired. Use the Blend Tool as described above. Deselect the objects by click on the art board. (Following the steps lined out above.)

Our goal here is to change the connecting line from straight to curved. To do this, use the Convert Anchor Point tool which is located under the Pen Tool in the Tool Box. Press and hold the Pen tool to see:


With the Convert Anchor Point Tool selected, put it over the center point of one of the stars at the end of our string of starts. You will see the path in blue, but the anchor point will be hollow. Press and drag on that hollow anchor point and “handles” will appear. These handles allow you to change the direction of the base line of the stars.

The Orientation option of the Blend tool gives us two choices: Align to Page and Align to Path. The default is Align to Page. With your objects selected, choosing this option will place the blended objects perpendicular to the X axis as seen above. Because this is the default, it has already been applied.

Align to Path makes our blend perpendicular to the path.

Align to Page:

Now, change to your black arrow tool and adjust your blue handle to change the look of your line of start. Have fun playing with the line:

You can do:

Or, by using the same line of stars and changing the orientation:

Have fun!

One Comment

  1. J Lee

    ha! this was really fun to do. didn’t know about the Blend Tool being so versatile. i actually experimented & made changes w/Cnvrt Anchor Tool on the blended objects & moved them freely w/anchor points. it was very interesting! thank you for the Lesson!

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