Adobe Illustrator’s Blend Tool is an extremely useful element of the software; allowing you to transition separate shapes or paths into one another – creating patterns or complicated gradients with ease.

the illustrator blend tool icon

The Adobe Illustrator Blend Tool icon

One thing I use it for is to help build colour palettes. With this tool you can very quickly take two colours and find new hues in between them.

Create a shape filled with your first base colour. For this example, let’s make a circle and fill it with red.

a red circle drawn in illustrator

Now duplicate that shape and apply the second colour. I want to find lighter tints of the red, so the second colour will be white.

a red and white circle drawn in illustrator

Select the Blend Tool and click once on the red circle, and then on the white one.

a red and white circle blended with a gradient in illustrator

As default, the tool will likely produce a smooth gradient between the two shapes. We don’t want this on this occasion – if you hit Return, then the Blend Options window will appear (alternatively, go Object > Blend > Blend Options).

the blend options window in illustrator

The Illustrator Blend Options Window will look something like this.

Change the Spacing to Specified Steps and put the value as five. Press OK and you will have something like this, with five steps in between the two initial shapes.

Five ‘steps’ have been added in between the two initial shapes.

While the blend is still live, you can make changes either of the base elements. I have decided now to see how the red might look mixed with a purple colour. Use the Direct Selection Tool to pick up the shape, and apply the new colour.

One of the base shapes has changed in this live blend effect, and so the intervening shapes have adjusted to suit.

You can obtain your new colours using the Eyedropper Tool; or you can break it apart into individual shapes. With the blend selected, go Object > Expand, and then Object > Ungroup to release all the shapes.

Header Image: Portrait of a Man from the quite brilliant Everett Collection on Shutterstock.