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Creating Flash Animations in Adobe Illustrator CS5

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Brian Wood, contributor to Adobe Illustrator CS5 Classroom in a Book, demonstrates a handy technique for animating Illustrator artwork or creating simple animations without the help of Flash.
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Over the years, Illustrator has developed a closer relationship with Adobe Flash. For instance, we can import Adobe Illustrator files (.ai files) into Flash and retain layers, convert Illustrator symbols to Flash symbols, and much more. That's great, but what if you don't use Adobe Flash? Can you still create a simple Flash animation? Yes!

The technique described in this article is mainly for people who aren't Flash wizards, or who already have artwork in Illustrator and don't want to bother bringing that content to Flash to create a simple animation (see Figure 1). The simple animation will be generated as a published SWF file (.swf) that can be used on a website, for instance. The SWF format is ideal for the vector content, but you can also save raster images in SWF format or mix raster and vector graphics.

Figure 1 The Flash banner animation you'll create in this tutorial.

About Animation in Illustrator

Before you jump into creating the content that you'll export as a Flash animation, you need to understand that there are two main types of animations you can create in Illustrator:

  • You can animate blended objects in two ways–as a sequence, or as an animation that builds.
  • You can create a layer-based animation.

A "blend" animation is created from a blend object in Illustrator. You can create multiple types of blends, including a smooth color blend, a distance-based blend, and a step-wise blend. So, for instance, you can draw a star on one side of the artboard and a circle on the other side of the artboard. Using the Blend tool, you can create a blend between them (see Figure 2). This way, when you export to the SWF file, the animation will appear to morph the star into the circle.

Figure 2 Example of a blend-based animation (at a slow speed).

A layer-based animation works much like an animated GIF on the Web. When you export the Illustrator file as a .swf that's played in the Flash Player, each layer in the document is turned on and then off, starting from the bottom and working its way up in the layer stack (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Example of a layer-based animation. (The corresponding SWF is shown at a slow speed.)

You can also combine a blend animation with a layer-based animation for some interesting animation effects, and that's what we'll do in this article.

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