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I am currently trying to recreate the "drop shadow" appearance effect as a vector. As suggested by this tutorial, I tried supplementing the benefits of stroke-gradients. While it did work with other objects of my project the following trees are giving me some troubles:

Illustration of two trees

Especially at the ends of the branches artefacts are visible:

end of branch with shadow-artefacts

When further analysing the mesh illustrator is using for the shadows the problem becomes clear:

enter image description here

the lines of the mesh weirdly follow a circle pattern which isn't much of a surprise given that I made the stroke have round corners, however they kind of seem to be overzealous doing that, actually breaking with the flow those lines should have.

I have also tried changing corner- and cap-properties of the stroke, however to no avail.

Editing the mesh itself also proves to be difficult, up to impossible, since illustrator slows to a crawl whenever I expand the appearance (probably because of the many vector points the mesh creates). Does anybody here maybe know a different approach to creating a vectorised shadow which would be viable for the more complex form of these trees? Or maybe some solution as to how I may avoid the weird mesh behaviour?

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  • From a branch copy, add a stroke as wide as the shadow will be, aligned outside

stroke

  • Menu Object > Expand Appearance
  • Keep only the outer and inner line of the shape

Expand appearance

  • Menu Object > Compound Path > Release
  • Select both shapes and fill them with black 100%
  • Select the outer shape > send it to back > Transparency Panel > Opacity = 0%

Transparency

  • Select both shapes > Menu Object > Blend > Make
  • Menu Object > Blend > Blend Options > Specified Steps = 150

blend

  • Align the shadow blend behind the branch
  • Set the shadow blend Blend Mode to Multiply, and change the opacity

Shadow

Result

Branch with shadow

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