How To: Create a Long Shadow Using Blend in Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud

In 2013, one of most predominant graphic designs trends that emerged was the use of large, long shadows specifically in conjunction with flat vector graphics. Fast forward to 2015 and this trend is still alive and well. A recent example of this trend that immediately comes to mind is a motion graphics project for Public Citizen created recently by FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Digital Media students. The use of long shadows is one of the main aesthetics of these projects and are used in a functional way to make transitions more fluid.

Due to the fact this long shadow trend shows no signs of slowing down, I decided to share a simple easy-to-follow technique for producing this effect in Illustrator Creative Cloud with the blend function. The best part about using a blend is the fact you can go back and manipulate the color, opacity, and position of the shadow without having to start over each time. Scroll down to get started creating your own long shadow. When you are finished, we invite you share your finished project with us by leaving a comment below. Have fun!

Long Shadow Illustrator Tutorial: What You Will Be Creating

How To Create a Long Shadow In Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud

Tutorial Details

Programs Used: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud

Difficulty: Very Easy

Topics Covered: Object blend, clipping masks, opacity manipulation, and more.

Estimated Completion Time: ~10 minutes

Resources Used In This Tutorial

Step 1) Getting Started

Create a new document in Adobe Illustrator. The size and overall dimensions are completely up to you! Next, select the ‘Rounded Rectangle Tool’ from the toolbar and draw a square using what ever color you want the final design to be. For our example, we used #00acd3.

Quick Tip: The ‘Rounded Rectangle Tool’ is hidden behind the ‘Rectangle Tool’ on the main toolbar. To access it, simply click and hold on the ‘Rectangle Tool’.

How To Create a Long Shadow: Getting Started

Step 2) Add Your Icon

Now go ahead and add the icon you wish to use to the center of the square and make it white.

How to Create a Long Shadow: Add Icon

Step 3) Make Copies & Arrange Layers

Select the icon you just added and make a copy of it by using the keyboard shortcut ‘Command+C’ (MAC) and ‘Control+C’ (Windows) or by selecting ‘Edit -> Copy’ from the top menu bar. Next, paste the copy in the back of your document by hitting ‘Command+B’ (MAC) or ‘Control+B’ (Windows) or by selecting ‘Edit -> Paste in Back’ from the top menu bar. Repeat this step one more time so you have three total icons.

Next, open the ‘Layers’ window by selecting ‘Window -> Layers’ from the top menu bar. Then hide the top icon layer by clicking on the little eye symbol next to the layer itself. Your document and layers should look like the example below.

How to Create a Long Shadow: Arrange Layers

Step 4) Setting Up The Blend

With the middle icon selected (the layer below the one you just made hidden), hold shift and drag this piece down to the bottom right. Holding shift will lock a 45 degree angle into place ensuring your shadow is lined up properly. Your document should now look like the example below.

Create a Long Shadow: Setting Up The Blend


Now, select both objects and make them black as seen below.

Create a Long Shadow: Make Icons Black

The final step for setting up the blend is to set the bottom icon’s transparency to 0. To do this, open up the ‘Transparency’ window by selecting ‘Window -> Transparency’ from the top menu bar. Your document should now look like the example below.

Create a Long Shadow: Set Transparency to 0

Step 5) Creating The Blend

Now for the fun part. We finally get to create our blend! To get started select both icons and choose ‘Object -> Blend -> Make’  from the top menu bar as seen below.


How to Create a Long Shadow: Make Blend


After clicking on ‘Make’, your document should now look something like the example below.

How to Create a Long Shadow: Blend Example


Now we need to edit the blend’s options to achieve our desired look. To do this, select ‘Object -> Blend -> Blend Options’ to change your settings to match the example below.

Create a Long Shadow: Blending Options


We need to make this shadow a bit more subtle. To do so open up the ‘Transparency’ window once again. Set the blend’s transparency to 10% and change the blending more to ‘Multiply’. Your document should now look like our example below.

Create a Long Shadow: More Blend Options


Step 6) Final Touches

Open up the ‘Layers’ window and make the original icon visible by unhiding the layer. This will allow the original white icon to show.

Create a Long Shadow: Show Original Icon


Finally we will be hiding all that extra shadow that we no longer need. To do so, create a copy of the rounded rectangle and paste it in the front of the document.

Create a Long Shadow: Clipping Mask


To finish this process, select both the new rectangle and the blend then select ‘Object -> Clipping Mask -> Make’.


Create a Long Shadow: Create Clipping Mask


The Final Result


Questions, Comments or Concerns?

Let us know in the comment section below!


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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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  • Jimmy Jigglesworth

    This technique was so cool about a year ago

  • Susan

    The first two words in the article are “In 2013″….I think he is saying that it’s old, but still being used.

  • Arena Animation Dilshuknagar

    Great Tutorial. Well used Blend tool and transparency to get the output.

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