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There are a number of amazing tutorials out there that teach you how to create some really awesome futuristic light wispy effects. I’ve always found this type of design very interesting, but everything you see is almost completely created in Photoshop. I recently had a project where I wanted this effect, but had to use only vector graphics. The following is the technique I used to get that nifty effect using Illustrator.
Step 1: I began by setting up an artboard (8 inches wide by 4 inches tall). Choose the rectangle tool and fill the artboard with a plain black background.
Step 2: Select your object and make a gradient mesh out of it (Object > Create Gradient Mesh). Put in 1 for rows and columns with ‘Flat’ as the appearance. We’ll add our own mesh lines in the next step.
Step 3: Select the mesh tool (U). Start adding in a couple of mesh points. We’ll want more color differences on the left and right sides, so place a couple extras there.
Step 4: Start putting in some random colors at each of the mesh points. I’ve listed out the colors I used, but you can use whichever colors you want. You’ll see in later steps what effect this has.
Step 5: Draw another black rectangle and place it over top of your gradient mesh. Set the transparency mode to “Color Burn” and lower the Opacity to about 75%.
Step 6: Add in your text. We’ll need this so that we can tell where to draw in our elements.
Step 7: Create a new layer to hold our blend shapes. It will be helpful to lock the background gradient mesh and black square to make it easier to select the blends we are about to make.
Step 8: To make the blended shapes start out by drawing a wide flowing shape that moves into the text. Then, draw another flowing shape inside of this one. This stage of the process is all about experimenting until you get the desired effect. You can either use the pen or pencil tool, but you’ll want to make sure that you have a closed path for both of them before you make the blend. Also, when you are drawing the smaller shape, make note that this shape will be the most visible.
Step 9: To make the blend, select the larger outer object and set the opacity to 0. Select the inner shape and change it to the same color as the outer shape and lower the opacity to the desired setting (somewhere between 40 and 60 is generally where I put it). Set the blend options (Object > Blend > Blend Options) set it to specified steps and put in a higher number (I chose 25). Then go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt + Ctrl + B).
Step 10: Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have the desired number of curves on the left side of the text. Choose the colors you like and experiment with lowering the opacities until you get what you want. Below are the colors I used:
Step 11: The bits on the right side are the same process with the blends, but you are going to change the shapes to give it more of an “exploding” look. Create the blends the same way we did in Step 9 and continue adding more until the desired affect is achieved.
Step 12: After adding in as many shapes and you like, you should have something similar to the image below. When you are making the blends, make sure to vary the colors as this is what gives us the depth. You can also notice how the gradient mesh we created in the beginning comes into play. Changing the colors or moving them around on the gradient mesh at this point should alter how the top blends appear.
Step 13: Now that we have the base of our design, it is time to do something with the text. First thing you will want to do is convert your text to outlines. Select your text, go to Type > Create Outlines. With your text still selected go to Object > Ungroup. Then, pull up your pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder) click “Add to shape area” and then Expand. This will make your text act as one complete object, which we will need later on.
Step 14: Change the text color to match with one of the colors you used for the previous blends (I chose C:6, M:100, Y:42, K:1). Set the blend mode to Color Dodge and the Opacity down to 55%. You can see our great bottom gradient mesh at work here, which will give us some more interesting outcomes as we alter the text.
Step 15: Copy and paste a new copy of the text behind the first copy (Ctrl + C to copy Ctrl + B to paste in back). Change the color to pure white. Then go to Object > Transform > Scale. Click on “Non-Uniform” leave the Horizontal at 100% and change Vertical to 150%. Finally, change the blending mode to overlay and the opacity to 65%.
Step 16: Select the original text and make another copy of it. This copy needs to be place behind both of the two previous copies. So, after you make the copy, paste in back again (Ctrl + B). You will need to move it one more position back, so either hit (Ctrl + [ ) or go to Object > Arrange > Move Backward. I set the color for this one a light yellow (C:3, M:1 Y:22, K:0) set the blend mode to “Color Dodge” and the Opacity to 25.
Step 17: Really, we could probably just leave the text like this, but let’s continue to give it more. Make a copy of the very top text again, but this time, paste it anywhere away from the main design where you can easily work with it. Change it to the same light yellow color you used in the previous step. Set the Blending Mode to “normal” and the Opacity to 65%.
Step 18: Make a copy of this text and paste behind. Move the text to where it sits above, and barely touches the top the light yellow text. Change it to a darker color (I chose C:6, M:100, Y:42, K:1) and set the opacity to normal 0%. Select both texts and make a blend.
Step 19: Place your new blend over top of the rest of the text. Where you place it will depend on your own preference. I chose to offset it a little to give a blurred look. Finally I made one more copy of the text and put it on top with the light yellow fill and a 70% normal opacity. In the next step we will add in some more details.
Step 20: First, we’ll make a special brush for the glowing lines. To do this, select the ellipse tool and draw an oval. Select the “Convert Anchor Point Tool” (Shift + C) and click on the side anchor points so that your oval is pointed at either end.
Step 21: Make a copy and paste in front. Then, go to Object > Transform > Scale. Make sure to check “Uniform” and change the percentage to 25%. Click OK. Change the colors for both objects to white. Change the opacity of the larger shape to 0% and the smaller to about 50%. Make a blend with the two ovals (object > blend > make).
Step 22: Double click on your blend so that you can edit it. Select the smaller oval shape and copy it and paste in front. Then go to Object > Transform > Scale and lower the size to 80%. Change the opacity to about 80% (higher if you want the line to have a brighter highlight).
Step 23: To make the brush: drag the blend into the brushes palette and make a new art brush. You may have to scale it down depending on what size you made the shape. To do this – In the brushes palette select your brush, open up the menu and choose brush options. Under “Size” check the box next to Proportional so that it is on and either lower or raise your percentage. You can make several different brushes with different colors if you wish.
Step 24: Add in some more details using your new brush until you are happy with the results. Try playing around with different blend modes. I like to set a few of them to Overlay. Color Dodge also has a great effect.
Optional Step 25: If you want to add a little bit more sparkle, we can make a simple scatter brush. The same steps apply that we used when making the detail line brush. But, Instead of making an oval, make a circle. Follow the same steps 20 through 23. But, instead of making an art brush, we are going to make a scatter brush. Make all of the settings random except for rotation. Play with the sizes on the scatter. Again, play with your blending modes until you are happy.