The flare tool can be found in the Illustrator toolbox beneath the rectangle tool (rounded rectangle etc). The tool creates lens flares as well as a whole lot more in Adobe AI CC 2015 CS6 as well as in earlier versions.
Above, a standard flare using the tool in Illustrator with rings and rays
It is a slightly odd tool in that it is a two part tool, you first apply the initial flare (initial apply) and then you can re-position the rings (from the central
Tutorial by: Andrew Buckle
Works with: Illustrator
Platform: PC / MAC OS X
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Videos: Video tutorials
flare) to a point defined by the cursor (second apply) - you can just apply the first flare and totally ignore the rings by changing tools after the first pass. Though, if subsequently go back to the flare tool, the second pass will still be active and the rings will appear. It should be remembered that the flare tool is a live effect and most parts of the flare can be modified via the flare options dialog on selecting the flare tool. If you have created two or more flares, you can also select a flare and modify only that.
Personally, I find the default application of the flare against the default white background to be pretty dull, and perhaps one of the reasons why the tool seems to have few fans. If you apply it against a background or a solid color (black, comes to mind) then the artwork springs to life. Even more so when you apply 5 or more against a background and then the flare really starts to take on a true sparkle. As the flare can be applied large or small: small flares (to a confined space) make a wonderful sparkly background; large flares can fill an entire background in seconds. They are definitely multi-use.
You can interactively modify the generated art by using some of modifier keys such as UP / DOWN (number of rays) as well as CTRL (size of flare), SHIFT (constrains the tool to the same ratio of flare / ray size etc) and ALT (rotate). They are interesting and interactive but offer nothing that cannot be achieved via the dialog and the dialog does offer precision to the settings.
It generates a path and as a standard path it can be applied with a set blending mode such as normal or lighten. You can create multiple flares all with different blending modes as well as different opacity settings. To change the opacity and blending mode for the tool, just click on the opacity link on the top option bar. Many different color effect combinations can be created by using different blends which can also be in turn, blended with a background.
If you don't want any rays applied then create the flare and then double click the icon found in the toolbox and de-select the rays checkbox. You can also set the number of rays to 0 even if the checkbox is on. The maximum number of rays is 50 - you can't enter 100 or more into the rays field (sadly). The rays are very fine. The rays can be lengthened from 0 (again, no rays are seen) to 1000% of the size of the flare. There has to be said, little difference in the lines when the fuzziness is changed. All very subtle. Again, the rays come into their own when you re-apply a flare over and over. If you create multiple flares then you can generate more than the 50 ray lines. Four flares result in 200 lines filling the entire screen (if you use the maximum 50 rays). I am certain there is some overlap so perhaps not all 200 lines can be seen but it creates a far more dramatic flare than a single. You can also use the alignment tools and rotate the path as you would with any standard path. To do this, in a more repeatedable way, use the appearance panel and live effects - the transform command can generate more copies of the live flare (rays and all) and rotate them as well as add additional transforms.
The tool can be edited via the isolation mode (as symbols etc). Double click on any of the generated flares and you will be offered different layers of the flare to edit such as core gradient which can be modified such as changing the highlight of the centre gradient - though not, it appears, any color. You can position the core of the flare using the gradient tool (in isolation mode) as well as shrink the core or increase the size of the flare - you can also make the core more intense and sharper as well as a lot fuzzier - none of these options are available via the dialog. In isolation mode, you can also distort many of the paths using the direct selection tool such as the rings (individually)
They can be masked using a clipping mask. Generate a flare and then create a circle or other path and then use the object menu clipping mask command to clip the range of the flare. These paths are now filled with a dramatic flare.
You don't have to keep the flare tied down, it can be free. It can be pasted into Photoshop (for some reason as a pixel option seems to work better than the smart object) and re-pasted or duplicates of the flare layer can be created. As the flares are now just normal objects in Adobe ® Photoshop ®, you can apply layer effects such as metal and wood effects as well as live effects to the flares such as blurs and oil paint etc. The flare can be added as a dramatic effect to text objects or shape layers in Adobe ® Photoshop ® (though Photoshop has a lens flare filter - it doesn't come near to the range of options available to the Illustrator's flare). Below you can see an imported multiple object artwork that has had an oil paint filter effect added along with a color LUT adjustment added
Illustrator Live effects can be applied to the effect and also fills and strokes can be added to the flare. It is a path, not a standard path as it is made up of multiple components but it does allow for additional fills and strokes (not always effective) to be added. The 3D bevel effect can be applied to the flare though the result is a little poor (it is not a 3D flare by any means). The blur etc filters can be applied to the flare and they result in a blurry / fuzzy flare. As the flare and the live effects are live, you can create duplicates of the design and the effects and fill an entire document with blurred (perhaps different blurring) flares.
You can select a flare in Adobe AI and you can transform the design such as scale as well as rotate. You can also shear the flare as well as rotate and reflect it. The scale does not have to 100%, it can be 40% in the horizontal and 100% vertical creating a very differently shaped flare. Likewise, the object menu envelope command can be applied to the flare and various arch and arc and flag etc can be applied though the end results can vary. The free transform tool can also be applied and the results can be varied.
The best tool for dramatic manipulation of the flare tool in Adobe AI has to be the live effect (the key thing here as always is the live effect, you can modify the result at any point and create a completely different result in seconds). The flare needs to be selected. Go to the effect menu and distort and transform and transform. The transform dialog will appear and you can then create multiple copies of the flare (though note, they are all the same underlying flare) by entering a value other than zero in the copies field at the bottom. You might like to leave the preview off but if you have a fast machine then you can just put the preview on and play with the rotate, scale, move etc options. Change the move and scale (you can set to greater or less than 100% and you can also have different scales for the vertical and horizontal) as well as the rotation. One thing to remember, if you are filling a circle - 360 degrees, 10 copies.. you really should enter 9 in the copies field as you already have one copy, the original.
Would love to see a reset option. One way around this, simply save a default flare on another artboard or hide a flare; you can then restore the settings just by selecting this 'default' flare or duplicating this and continue to work from that initial state. You can use this if you have created an extreme flare and would just like to return to a more basic model. A 'reset' button would be nicer.
They can be saved as symbols. As symbols, they can be applied using the symbol sprayer tool. As a symbol, the flare can be re-used and they are identical. The symbols also take up less resources. As symbols, the flares can also be manipulated like any other symbol and fills / strokes and live effects can be applied to the instance. You can spray and splatter flares across the image
The flare tool dialog offers no means to change the color of the flare, so applying the flare results in the same color effect each and every time (whether large or small). You can change the color by using the edit menu and edit colors command and recolor artwork. You can also add a new color to the flare via the appearance panel by adding a new fill or more than one fill. You can use the edit menu edit color and color balance command to turn the flare into a red or blue flare.
The rings option adds an extra touch to the flare. The rings do not need to be applied in a particular direction, they can be just layered on top of the center of the flare - just set the path to 0pt. The number can also be set to 0 which is the equivalent of de-checking the rings option. The maximum size of the rings can be set by the largest option - you can have small rings as well as super large rings all relative to the actual flare.
Ultimately, the effect is made up of multiple paths (open and closed) and you can just ungroup the flare. Ungroup and the flare is no longer a live effect and can no longer be edited as a flare via the dialog. The flare can be broken into rings, rays etc. You can then modify each part such as adding additional designs to the flare or moving the origin of the rays and more. It is a decent and honorable end to the flare. Recycled.
You can, if you wish, rasterize the artwork via the object rasterize command and then you can apply a live image tracing to the design. You can then create a colorful trace or just a black and white trace. An alternative to this, pass the flare to Photoshop and apply various image adjustments and then re-copy the flare back into Illustrator and then apply the image trace.
I am not so keen on a singular burst as I always feel the flare tool really comes alive if you are willing to throw all caution to the wind and apply multiple bursts to a design and multiple applications that are applied with different blends. Millions of truly wow graphics can be created using multiple applies such as sparkly to starbursts to subtle blurry fog scenes and more. By just changing the opacity of the flares (or the blending mode for others), you can turn bright headlights into a misty badly lit scene - which would look even more misty if there was something blended into the background of the Illustrator artwork. The opacity of the flares are all set to 20% simply by selecting all of them and then setting the opacity in the options bar. If you are interested in this tool, there is also another really super useful tool in AI and that is the polar grid tool.
Illustrator symbols You may be interested in the symbols for use in your projects