Blend Tool Not Making Smooth Color Blend

Contributor ,
Dec 04, 2013

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I'm using Illustrator CC (on a Win7 Pro machine) at a beginner level, probably halfway to intermediate. I'm trying to learn how to blend colors together for highlights of various types (skin tones, clothing, light on objects, etc.) so that when I'm making a graphic for a project I'll have a decent idea of which tool/technique is best for the specific effect I need.

I'm trying to use the Smooth Color option in the blend tool. Late yesterday afternoon I recall creating two ellipses (one of which was a solid fill and one of which was a gradient going from black to transparent) and getting a smooth color transition between the two. It was a much harsher effect than I was looking for so I didn't keep it. This morning, while trying to replicate the same thing, I seem to be unable to use smooth color between two objects if one or more of them has a gradient applied. I only get what you see below, which is a step between the two objects.

I've done searches and found multiple references to blending gradients in this way and have followed those instructions (create the shapes, fill with the gradients, then either click on the Blend tool and click on the center of each shape, or click on Object -> Blend -> Make) but I can't seem to get a Smooth Color blend if either object has a gradient applied. Am I missing an important step somewhere? I'm 95% sure I accomplished it yesterday and nothing has been changed since then.

I realize the blend tool might not be the best option in this particular instance but this is just a learning exercise for me. I could as easily have chosen a metal or plastic object (and I'm sure I will do some of each to practice) but I would probably still be here asking the same question.

Blend_Tool_Problem.jpg

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1 Correct Answer

Contributor , Dec 06, 2013
KarynRH Contributor , Dec 06, 2013
Then shall I just assume every tutorial which shows (including in video) a smooth color transition while using the Smooth Color tool on a gradient is a bald-faced lie and the Smooth Color tool can't transition gradients smoothly?Y'all have fun trying to figure out how many steps it takes to create a smooth color transition between gradients using Specified Steps. Me, I'm going to assume I'm doing something wrong and keep trying to figure out what. I just won't bother looking for anyone here to h...

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Most Valuable Participant ,
Dec 04, 2013

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Karyn,

You may (also) start looking at Gradient Meshes.

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KarynRH AUTHOR
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Dec 04, 2013

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Jacob Bugge wrote:

Karyn,

You may (also) start looking at Gradient Meshes.

That's next. I was going in what seemed to me the order of complexity - gradients, blends, and then gradient meshes. I used a gradient mesh once before while following a tutorial but that gave me a barely passing understanding of it. Thanks!

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KarynRH AUTHOR
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Dec 05, 2013

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I could really use some help with the blend tool on this issue. Does anyone know why it's not making a smooth transition but is instead using a step image? Every tutorial I've seen says that it the color transition should be smooth when I use Smooth Color.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 05, 2013

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Open the options, set it to specified steps and enter any value you find appropriate

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KarynRH AUTHOR
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Dec 05, 2013

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Monika Gause wrote:

Open the options, set it to specified steps and enter any value you find appropriate

I find 0 to be appropriate. I'm using the Smooth Color option because I need there to be a continuous, smooth transition from one color to the next. Instead, it is acting as if I have selected 1 step.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 05, 2013

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It will be smooth, if you just use a sufficient amount of steps.

The Smooth color option can't work with some objects and you need to set the steps manually then.

You might of course also wait for a solution with "Smooth color", but there is none.

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Mentor ,
Dec 05, 2013

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I've never used a gradient on one end of a Blend.  I always considered a Blend between two colors.  The advantage to a Blend over a Gradient is you can blend shapes with the Blend option.  Smooth Color should work between 2 colors, but may depend on the actual size of the Blend and perhaps Document > Raster setting.  I'm not sure about the gradient being one of the colors and may be creating a problem.  Try creating a new Blend using the flesh color of one ellipse, and the darker pink as the other ellipse.  Dupe the ellipses and create one set using Smooth color, and the other ellipse set use Number of Steps ( depends on size, start with 12 ).

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 05, 2013

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To me it looks like there are two gradients. And this isn't a problem. Illustrator can blend two gradients.

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KarynRH AUTHOR
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Dec 06, 2013

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Yes, Illustrator can blend two gradients. Every tutorial I've read, and the Adobe website, say that one can blend two gradients. This is what it is supposed to look like when blending two gradients using the Smooth Color option.

Smooth_Color_Blend.PNG

It's not doing that for me. It's behaving as if I'm selecting one step. I'm not. With the Smooth Color tool, which should make the transition as above, there is no option to select the number of steps. That option is only available when selecting Specified Steps.

The Blend tool is not working properly for me. I'm trying to find out if I'm doing something wrong or if something is wrong with my program. Yes, I can find a workaround but it's important that this be resolved. If I'm doing something wrong, I need to know what it is so that I can do it properly. If something is wrong with my program, I need to find fix it. Workarounds aren't useful for either thing since the tool isn't behaving as expected.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 06, 2013

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"If the objects contain identical colors, or if they contain gradients or patterns, the number of steps is based on the longest distance between the bounding box edges of the two objects."

http://help.adobe.com/en_US/illustrator/cs/using/WS714a382cdf7d304e7e07d0100196cbc5f-6443a.html#WS71...

this implies to me that if you want the effect of a smooth blend (because after all, 'smooth' blends are just stepped blends with a large number of steps), you'll have to specify a suitable number of steps yourself.

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Contributor ,
Dec 06, 2013

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Then shall I just assume every tutorial which shows (including in video) a smooth color transition while using the Smooth Color tool on a gradient is a bald-faced lie and the Smooth Color tool can't transition gradients smoothly?

Y'all have fun trying to figure out how many steps it takes to create a smooth color transition between gradients using Specified Steps. Me, I'm going to assume I'm doing something wrong and keep trying to figure out what. I just won't bother looking for anyone here to help.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 06, 2013

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all i did was quote adobe's own document on blends...

(and I tried it a few ways too)

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 06, 2013

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KarynRH wrote:

Then shall I just assume every tutorial which shows (including in video) a smooth color transition while using the Smooth Color tool on a gradient is a bald-faced lie and the Smooth Color tool can't transition gradients smoothly?

There is no "smooth color tool". Smooth color is just one of the 3 options of a blend.

A new blend is created with whatever option has been set the last time.

So assuming that people who make tutorials, also do a test-run, this is what happens:

1. they make a test-run and create a blend.

2. Get the result you got.

3. Set "specified steps" and enter whatever number they like.

4. end their test-run and record the video.

5. create a blend.

6. Get the correct result magically.

7. Don't tell you in the video.

8. publish the video.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Dec 06, 2013

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to corroborate that, i made a 100 step blend while testing this topic, and then got on with a drawing involving blends with gradients that i was working on, forgot about making the 100 step blend and started thinking "wait a minute... you CAN make smooth blends between gradients!". then i checked my blend settings and remembered what i'd done earlier.

but now all my blends are much, much larger than they need to be

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 24, 2015

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Hopefully you've found the answer to this by now, this was happening on my CC install too. It is the "align to pixel grid" option which causes the jagged 1980's edges. You can uncheck it in the transform panel to get your nice smooth blends back. Thanks to for providing this answer here:

jagged edge with blend tool

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Community Beginner ,
Mar 29, 2015

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I'm still having this problem. I'm using Illustrator CC 2014. This is the problem I'm having. Sounds like the same problem as the original post. (And I don't have Align to Pixel Grid on - rats. I was hoping that was it.) I tried two different methods of shape combinations, and I tried with both the Blend Tool and Object>Blend>Make, and got the same results.

What I don't understand is why the Smooth Color option doesn't work. It only gives me one step.

blend.gif

I'd appreciate help on how to get Smooth Color working. It used to. Thanks.

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Community Beginner ,
Nov 10, 2017

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OH MY GOD, I've finally got a solution to this problem (for flat colors, sorry for you gradient blend people). That's one of the most exciting things that's happened to me this year. It was such a frustrating problem, I've even been on this thread multiple times in the past 'cause it's the first result on Google.

The answer is hidden in @Virides's epically long post, but they've even got extra steps that you don't need. At least what's working for me.

Just select your 2 objects and "Expand Appearance" (object > expand appearance for the newbies) for them, then the "smooth color" option should work.

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New Here ,
May 11, 2018

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My god brianamacarthur - I've been using the Blend Tool for *years* and didn't realize this had to be done until today (it just stopped working as expected for me one day for some reason and I had to google and was getting super frustrated). Bless you for the answer, and thank you!

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New Here ,
Jun 05, 2018

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thanks for the answer. But another case when i change the transparency 0% one part of object, it is not working properly. can you help me?

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Explorer ,
Nov 18, 2019

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@brianamacarthur wow thank you and @Virides!  This has bothered me now and again for years!  Used to mind the colors I used and set both objects to 'compound paths' which I think helped one time, but certainly wasn't this morning.   Saw your post and it worked immediately!  Brilliant!  The 'correct' answer should be updated to save others time as well.

 

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New Here ,
Jul 31, 2018

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In the event that anyone is still looking for a solution.

Create your two shapes and give them two different color fills. Use Smooth Color blend and then Object > Expand. Then you can turn the new shape into a single color. Kind of a work-around, but I thought it might be helpful.

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Mentor ,
Dec 06, 2013

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I did a test with 2 2.25"w x .3"h rectangles, each with a separate gradient fill, no stroke.  I created a blend 2 ways: 1 with specified steps, the other using smooth color.  The rectangles are 2 inches apart vertically.  The smooth color version had separation lines and only stepped 7 times.  The specified steps version I set for 72 per inch or 144 steps.  I was able to achieve what appears in your latest screen grab.  The smooth color failed.  The specified steps succeeded.

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Mentor ,
Dec 06, 2013

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KarynRH wrote:

Jacob Bugge wrote:

Karyn, You may (also) start looking at Gradient Meshes.

That's next. I was going in what seemed to me the order of complexity - gradients, blends, and then gradient meshes. I used a gradient mesh once before while following a tutorial but that gave me a barely passing understanding of it. Thanks!

KarynRH wrote:

I'm using Illustrator CC (on a Win7 Pro machine) at a beginner level, probably halfway to intermediate. I'm trying to learn how to blend colors together for highlights of various types (skin tones, clothing, light on objects, etc.) so that when I'm making a graphic for a project I'll have a decent idea of which tool/technique is best for the specific effect I need.

Not to take away from the topic and issues being discussed concerning blends but I think Jacob's suggestion in the very first post is the direction you need to head concerning the objectives you outlined in your initial post. You may also wish to look into the free plugin "Mesh Tormentor" for working with gradient meshes more indepth. I believe to achieve the results your ultimately striving for which you mentioned "(skin tones, clothing, light on objects, etc.)" then gradient meshes in general are where you need to spend your time and learning efforts for such things.

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New Here ,
Sep 15, 2015

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@KarynRH

This issue has plagued me for years!

Today I was having this problem again and I found this thread as a means to see if there was a solution. It basically told me what I do already - manually define steps.

However it got me thinking that there must be a reason why it works sometimes and not others.

The answer is - the tool needs data from which its calculations can derive the proper outcome.

What data does it need?

If you have a square with the colour R0 G0 B0 and another square of R255 G255 B255 and a Smooth Colour Blend is applied, then the tool's coding will get the larger of the value sets and minus the lesser of the value sets. In this case, 255 - 0 = 255. It then gets the distance between the two objects and divides this distance into value sets which define the best transition between the objects, perhaps R5 G5 B5 > R10, G10, B10 > R15 G15 B15, etc.

If both of the colours present in the squares were R255 G255 B255, then 255 - 255 = 0. Now you can't divide 0 with anything, or divide by 0 itself, so to stop Illustrator crashing, there would likely be some coding to the effect of "if X = 0 then X = 1". This is why you would be presented with 1 step when Smooth Colour Blend is used.

This can be made apparent when you create two squares with both R0 G0 B0, create a smooth blend, then change one of the squares to R2 G0 B0. 2 steps are created. Change this to R1 G0 B0 and you get 1 step. Change it to R0 G0 B0 and you are left with 1 step.

The Smooth Colour option for the Blend tool doesn't make a smooth colour based on visual aesthetics of a continual non-stepping graduation, but rather a calculated and approximated representation that does the thinking for you.

Why do some objects not blend correctly or despite ample colour value variation, still step incorrectly?

Perhaps you have some text "Smooth Blend" on two lines. These were create using the type tool, they were then expanded into shapes. You then copy it and change its colour. You create the blend and it steps badly. Why, if I have the required amount of variation in the colour values, does it still step badly?

Part of the Blend tool is not just about colour but also shape. So if the tool can't calculate a smooth transition between the shapes, it likely still has the clause "if X = 0 then X = 1". While I can't expand on how it would calculate this (I would assume it is based on X,Y coords for each node assigned on a path with some other algorithms to approximate transition shapes), but that's beyond me ; there is a way to fix it and make it work.

If you delete the copied expanded text, leaving the original in place, you can copy and paste it directly on top of the original. Selecting the two expanded text objects directly over eachother, you then use pathfinder (I like pressing alt here while clicking the Unite button then click "Expand" to ensure the operation has worked the way I want it). Now you have effectively made a new object with no "history". This object no longer holds the seperate node groupings of the expanded text object since it is likely that the expand command runs left to right, top down in creating the objects.

Now when you create your objects to blend, it will smoothly blend the shape and the colour.

Note: This "fresh object creation" trick can be used in any instance where an object isn't behaving properly.

@Cydward: With your example showing the stepping, you might need to apply this "fresh object creation" to overcome this fault in your transition.

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