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
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’.
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.
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.
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.
Now, select both objects and make them black as seen below.
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.
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.
After clicking on ‘Make’, your document should now look something like the example below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To finish this process, select both the new rectangle and the blend then select ‘Object -> Clipping Mask -> Make’.
The Final Result
Questions, Comments or Concerns?
Let us know in the comment section below!
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