Growing Flash Branches
Using the Blend command along with a white shape can create some interesting effects in Adobe Illustrator now that we can export them to a Flash animation.
Place a photo image of a tree into Illustrator (File>Place). This one is from Istockphoto.com (CREDIT: Maurice van der Velden).
Apply a Live Trace from the Control Palette. I used the Black and White logo preset shown here.
The result is this image.
Select the Pen tool.
Draw a shape that completely covers the tree, with Stroke set to None and the Fill set to White.
Click the Eye icon on the Layers palette to hide the shape temporarily. Draw out another shape that is below and to the left (or above, depending on intended effect) that doesn't cover the tree but is close to it.
Go to Object>Blend>Make and then immediately go to Object>Blend>Blend Options. Change the blend to a specific number of steps. I used 30.
Click the New Layer icon on the Layers palette. Click-and-drag the blend onto Layer 2, so the tree is by itself in the original layer.
Go to File>Export and set the Type to SWF, a Flash movie. When exporting, make sure you have Layer 1 set to Use as Background. This way the tree is the background of the movie. Make sure Animate Blends is checked, so that each step of the blend is a different frame in the movie. Make sure Loop is not selected if you want it to only play once.
The result should look something like this (click Refresh in the browser to see the movie or right click and select "play"; it's not looped so it only plays once). This technique can be used to cover or uncover various objects for animated effects. A Flash animation could be used to create an eye-catching intro for your website.