In this tutorial I am going to show you how to use blends to create a watercolor fall leaf in Illustrator. 

 

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Step 1:  Start by drawing out a simple leaf silhouette.  Here I have my background color set to #E2D4B5 and the leaf fill is #F1B01D.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 2: Make a copy of your leaf and paste in front (Ctrl + F).   Clear the fill color and set the stroke color to #AB1F23.  I have the stroke set to the basic brush with the Variable Width Profile #2.  I also want the stroke to be fairly thick, so I set it to 8pt.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 3:  Change the Transparency to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 8-10%.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 4:  Now to create some blends.  Here are the three blends that I am going to make.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 5: Starting with the top left blend.  You will want to draw out three loose shapes.  The larger of the shapes will be “behind” the smaller shapes with the smallest of the three on “top”.  For this blend, the largest shape is #FEE20D set to normal transparency at 0%.  The middle shape is #F4AC1C at 60%.  The smallest shape is #E92F24 at 100% opacity.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 6:  With all three shapes selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options.  Change the spacing to Specified Steps and enter 35 for the number.  You may need to adjust this higher or lower depending on the size of your artboard.  Hit OK.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 7:  With all three shapes still selected go to Object > Blend > Make.  Move this blend off to the side for now.  We are going to use the same steps to make 2 more blends.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 8:  For this blend, set the largest shape to #F1B01D at 0% Opacity.  The middle shape is #DF4026 at 60% Opacity.  The smallest shape is #E37E25 at 60%.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 9: The third blend is #F1B01D at 0% for the largest shape.  #D75A27 at 100% for the middle shape. #AB1F23 at 100% for the smallest shape.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 10:  Take the first blend and move it over top of your leaf.  Change the Transparency mode to Overlay at 100%.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 11: Move the second blend over and change the Transparency mode to Darken at 100%.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 12:  Finally, move the third blend over and leave the Transparency at Normal 100%.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 13:  Make a copy of your original leaf shape and paste in front (Ctrl + F) above all the blends.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 14:  Select everything on the artboard (except your background).  Then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.

 watercolor fall leaf

Step 15:  You are done!  With the clipping mask you can still edit the blends if you want to.

watercolor fall leaf

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