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I'm trying to blend the outline of some text, and I want the outline of it to kind of look like it has some depth, like in this picture.enter image description here

However, in illustrator, the blend tool never makes a proper infinite blend, just a really really high amount of steps that looks infinite. In practice there's not really a problem but I feel like this just isn't the best way, and it leaves behind a ton of anchor points doing it this way. enter image description here

I feel like this should be fairly simple thing to do, since to do it manually is as simple as adding a straight line tangent to the necessary parts of the shape and pathfinding it into a solid outline. However, I haven't been able to figure out how to do this without leaving behind thousands of anchor points.

Does anyone know of a way to produce what I am describing?

Thanks.

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  • Use gradient meshes expanded from gradient along stroke. But yes illustrator is missing a gradient mesh loft tool.
    – joojaa
    Mar 20, 2022 at 9:42
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    Be aware that an 8-bit monitor can't actually show you an 'infinite' number of steps, even if the software can generate one. You will always see some banding.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 20, 2022 at 10:02

3 Answers 3

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To answer your question directly, no. You can't have an infinite blend. However, you don't need to use a blend for this anyway.

Make the two shapes that you would normally apply the blend to, but instead draw two connecting lines, top and bottom, and use the Shape Builder tool to make a solid shape. Put the original graphic on top.

Example

enter image description hereclick to see larger

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  • I've tried this before, and for a few simple shapes it works very well, but once there's more than a few letters, it's very time consuming to get all of those lines in there.
    – Dwarkus
    Mar 20, 2022 at 17:42
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    @Dwarkus Well sure, but time may be what's required to get it right. Nothing is really going to do this without some effort.
    – Billy Kerr
    Mar 20, 2022 at 20:03
  • @Dwarkus there is a script by hiruyoki sato called common tangents that maks doing the lines a breeze. Script can be found here
    – joojaa
    Mar 21, 2022 at 19:45
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I think the closest thing you can get to what you want is using the 3D > Extrude & Bevel effect.

The problem is that you seem to want an oblique projection at 45 degrees where the front face is undistorted. the 3D > Extrude & Bevel effect only offers either orthographic or perspective projection:

In both cases the front face will be distorted and it's a different look than what you are going for.

(See the Wikipedia article on 3D projection.)

But there is a workaround in your specific case!

  • Make sure that the white shape and the offset path are grouped.

  • Apply a 3D > Extrude & Bevel effect and choose the Isometric Top preset:

    Set Surface to No Shading. The size of Extrude Depth depends on the size of your artwork.

    Now you have this result:

  • Apply a Distort & Transform > Transform effect with the following settings:

    Set Scale > Vertical to 173.21% (ideally 100 × √3) and Rotate > Angle to 45°.

    Now you have the oblique extrusion you want (with a tiny inaccuracy due to rounding):

  • Perform Object > Expand Appearance and Object > Ungroup three times.

    Now you have a quite messy bunch of paths:

  • Select the white shape and copy it to clipboard. With the white shape still selected, use Object > Path > Offset Path to make sure it overlaps the background shape a tiny bit. This is done to prevent unwanted stray points. Select all the paths of the object and perform Unite in the Pathfinder panel. Perform Edit > Paste in Front to get the white path back.

Now you have a clean simple object:

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  • I dont actually see any reason to use extrude for this. It generates a suboptimal file for something offsetting shape and comnecting tangents does better. I guess its nondestructive. But really we would need productive nodes to do nondestructive editing in illustrator. Anyway theres a plugin that does this cleanly
    – joojaa
    Mar 20, 2022 at 14:48
  • @joojaa, But how to easily find tangents? Imagine a complex object with lots of holes and curves. Can Illustrator snap to extremas? Or would you need a plugin like Astute?
    – Wolff
    Mar 20, 2022 at 14:59
  • thats what the find common tangents script by hiruyoki sato is for.
    – joojaa
    Mar 20, 2022 at 17:11
  • @joojaa, OK, I agree that if I was making a logo, I would probably do it all manually to make sure everything was tight, but for some decorative effect, I can't see what's wrong with this approach. It's way faster than doing it manually and I can't see how the file becomes "suboptimal" if I expand everything and clean up as shown.
    – Wolff
    Mar 20, 2022 at 17:34
  • its not much faster when you use the tangent finder script
    – joojaa
    Mar 20, 2022 at 19:14
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I guess you have already tried 3D effect Extrude & Bevel but it made a mess.

If you have only filled areas with no stroke and group the shapes before applying Extrude & Bevel you get easily this:

enter image description here

The letters will not get badly distorted if you select high extrusion depth and nearly zero viewing angle tilting. Playing with lights is essential to get good shading. There's another light to keep the letter bright.

If you extrude with no shading there's only the original colors:

enter image description here

But the extruded edge is still there. It's splintered to several pieces. You can recolor the edge pieces manually for more apparent thickness, if needed. To make the parts free to edit apply Object > Expand Appearance and then Ungroup several times. This needed 4 ungroupings before the edge was free:

enter image description here

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  • Also the answer I was about to give. Only problem is that the projection the OP wants is oblique and Illustrator can only handle orthographic or perspective.
    – Wolff
    Mar 20, 2022 at 12:13
  • If the extruded edge can have the same color as the front, it's easiest to just expand, copy the white shape to clipboard, select the whole object, unite and paste the white shape back. Sometimes it leaves a few stray points, so it might be best to offset the white part a bit before uniting to make sure there's an overlap.
    – Wolff
    Mar 20, 2022 at 12:13
  • The distortion caused by the projection can be in practice unnoticeable if one has big enough extrusion depth. But it's not exact zero.
    – user82991
    Mar 20, 2022 at 12:51
  • I've added an answer where I counter the projection. The upside is that you get a 45 degrees extrusion like in the OP's example.
    – Wolff
    Mar 20, 2022 at 13:24

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