Flare tool in Illustrator

How to use Flare tool for Adobe ® Illustrator CC 2019 2018 2017 2015 CS6 CS5 CS4 CS3 CS2 etc with lens flares, rings / halo / styles etc.


Quick guide to the flare tool

Where is the flare tool

How to edit paths

Backgrounds for flares

Using masks with the flares

Settings for the tool

Blending modes and opacity

Halo but no rings

Lighting effects with flare

Rows of paths

Use with rays

Use with appearance panel

Exporting the designs

Live effects

Transforming flares

How to warp them

Live transforms

Use as symbols

How to change color of flare

How to use rings

Rasterize them

Use multiple times

Use with opacity

Polar grid



How to quickly offset



  1. Create a black background using a rectangle for the flare tool

  2. Select the flare tool in Illustrator toolbar (beneath rectangle tool)

  3. Apply the initial flare by clicking on the artboard

  4. Drag outwards to define the center

  5. Click again to create the rings from the flare

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Where. The flare tool can be found in the Illustrator toolbox beneath the rectangle tool. The tool is a slightly odd one in that it is a two parter - most tools work in a single go but this takes two clicks. You can just apply the first central design and totally ignore the rings part by changing tools after the first pass. Though, if you subsequently go back to the tool, the second pass will still be active and the rings will appear. The tool is a live effect and editable even if you switch to other tools - you can still change the artwork over and over. It is live until you expand the artwork or delete it. If you have set the tool to an unusual design and want to revert back to the original default then hold down the alt key while you are in the options panel and then click the reset button (the cancel changes to reset).

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Edit. You can edit the generated design as it is a standard path and is not a special object. Select the vector artwork by using the selection tool and then go to the flare tool and double click that icon to display the settings for the current design and you will see alll the options tthat can be changed. The path is a live effect so it can be changed at any point (until you expand the design). Another approach is to go to the layers panel and expand out the layer to see all the paths associated with that layer. You should see the item listed with a very descriptive single name (unless you have renamed the path via the layers panel). Goto to the right side of the panel and click the little circle / target design and you will see your artwork has been selected. Go back to the toolbar and the tool and double click the icon and change the settings for the currently selected artwork. You can edit a single item or multiple items. Note that the new global editing in CC 2019 does not work with the path and I guess the path is fairly complex so I am not going to hold my breath to see that included). Once you have edited the work, you can then save the artwork to the library or preset's panel.

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Backgrounds. The tool works fine on its own (applying it to a standard no path background of white) but it is more amazing with a black background or a different colorful background. It does not need to black, of course, and you can fill the background path with gradients or patterns or perhaps an image of an actual night sky or a galaxy or two. Large artworks can fill an entire background in seconds. You can apply one or more and create super large artworks with the halos and rings and that can be used to totally fill the artboard or multiple artboards. It is definitely not a one click effect. Personally, I find the default application of the tool 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 the effect against a background or a solid color (black, comes to mind) then the artwork springs to life. Even more so when you apply 5 artworks or more onto a color background and then the tool really starts to take on a true sparkle. As the tool can be applied large or small. They are definitely multi-use. You don't have to create a huge design with the path. You can make a very small path. To do this interactively is a little tricky so it is probably best to create a basic path and then double click the icon in the tools and set the settings for that design such as setting the halo to 0 and setting the rings to Off and once you have a very basic bright star design, you can now either use the alt key to duplicate the current artwork and place that over the entire artboard or you can just click the artboard with the tool (though the options panel does appear each and every time you do that). You can then fill the entire artboard with this designs. Another option (but not so random) would be to use the live effects transform command. You can also use the standard transform / scale to resize the artwork so you don't end up with all the stars on the background exactly the same.


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Masks. Once you have filled the entire design with multiple paths of the flares in Illustrator, you can also just limit the whole artwork to perhaps a star shape or another path by using masks. Firstly you must add the flare to the artboard and then create a quick star (or any other shape over the paths). Select all the halos and rings etc as well as the star design via the select menu and select all (or use the selection tool) and then go to the object menu and clipping mask and select the make command. You will then have a flare filled star (or circle or rectangle etc) and go to the object menu and clipping mask to release or edit the contents of the mask. You can do this with any other generated paths such as type. Simply create the haloes and rings etc and then go to the type tool and then type out some text such as 'type' and then position that over the top of the rays and haloes and then go to the object menu and clipping mask and use the make command. Go to the same menu command to release or edit the contents. The generated characters are all live so you can edit the type mask at any point so instead of the word 'type' you could then change it to typeface or perhaps a whole paragaph of type. If you are using the font sets available on the site such as our borders / spirals etc designs stored in fonts then you can use those as clipping masks as well so all kinds of super colorful backgrounds can be added to those designs.

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Settings for tool. You can interactively modify the generated art by using some of modifier keys (while the flare tool is selected) such as UP / DOWN (number of rays) and CTRL (size) and SHIFT (constrains the tool to the same ratio of ray size etc) and ALT (rotate). The modifiers are interesting and interactive but offer nothing that cannot be achieved via the dialog and the dialog does offer precision to the settings. If you want to change the settings for the Illustrator flare tool, double click the tool icon in the toolbar and change the settings for center and halo etc. That will become the settings for any newly created design (only if you just click the artboard) and the sections are Center + Halo + Rays + Rings. The settings can generally used independently so you can de-select the rays, rings etc (see the little check-boxes in the dialog) and just use the halo etc. You can also set the numbers to low as well as high values for the rays etc to create a range of different artworks from the same basic tool.

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Blending modes. You can create unusual designs with the flare tool by changing the opacity and blending mode of the artwork. The tool 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 artworks 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. With the latest version of the application (CC 2019), you can select your top path and then go to the properties panel and click the opacity entry and you will see the opacity setting as well as blending mode and you can then change it to difference or darken or multiply etc.

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Halo no rings. You can create a flare with a halo and no rings. You can create an interesting halo by de-selecting the rays and rings and then set the opacity etc high as well as the growth etc to high values. The result is single basic circle with a fuzzy bright light center. You can generate multiple designs and circles by using the alt key to duplicate the path and then re-size and shift the designs as required.

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Lighting effects. You can create all kinds of wonderful lighting effects with the flare tool. Set the brightness setting to a high value (you end up with a very large circle of bright light) or low (generates a highlight effect such as could be added to a path). The fuzziness settings is an odd one, I am certain it does something (probably more path related and perhaps comes into its own if used with other paths). Set the halo growth to high and fuzziness to 0% and diameter to 120 and opacity to 100% and brightness to 0% and clear the rays and rings. Go to the layers panel and select that flare. Go to the right side menu of layers and duplicate that design and while selected, go to the tool and set the diameter to 100. Duplicate that design via the layers panel and then change tool setting for diameter to 80% etc (obviously the percentages can be varied depending on the end result of the contour).

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Rows, whole backgrounds. You can also use the Illustrator flare tool to create a row of halos as well as a starfiend or a splattering of the designs. You can also shift the individual artworks and perhaps fill an entire image with the designs or perhaps align the halos in a line or perhaps create a circle of halos and more. Of course, you could just use two halos with opacity set to 100% and fuzziness to 100% and create two car headlights heading towards the screen. For example, create a single design via the tool. Hold down the option / alt key and then duplicate that design. Now move the path to a different position and then again hold the alt / option key down and create another duplicate of the artwork. You can fill the entire design with the paths. As you can scale the individual paths, select one of the generated artworks and then re-size that. You can repeat that multiple times. You can also create a single design via the tool and then hold the alt / option down and then duplicate and shift that path. Repeat multiple times but in row with roughly even spacing. You can also select all those generated paths and then go to the align tools in the properties panel and click the vertical align tool and horizontal distribute (via the ...) to create a lovely equally spaced row of these designs. Unfortunately the new global editing feature does not work with these complex paths so you can't select a single entry and use the global edit to control the size etc of the artworks.



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Rays. If you don't want any rays applied then just de-select that in the options. Double click the icon found in the toolbox and de-select the rays check-box. You can also set the number of rays to 0 even if the check-box is on. The maximum number of rays is 50 - you can't enter 100 or more into the rays field (sadly). But personally, I like the rays so I generally keep the rays settings ON. The rays are very fine. The rays can be lengthened from 0 (again, no rays are seen) to 1000% of the size of the core. There has to be said, little difference in the lines when the fuzziness is changed. All very subtle. The rays come into their own when you re-apply the design over and over. If you create multiple bursts then you can generate more than the 50 ray lines limit. Four artworks result in 200 ray lines filling the entire screen (if you use the maximum rays). I am certain there is some overlap so perhaps not all 200 lines can be seen but it creates a far more dramatic artwork than a single application of the tool. You can also use the alignment tools and rotate the path as you would with any standard path. The quickest ways to actually see the rays is to use the appearance panel.

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Appearance panel. If you select the flare and then go to the appearance panel you can add a new stroke via the right side menu - you will then see the rays instead of a very faint line, it will be a colored line or multiple ones (depending on the number of rays). You can set the color of the rays to red or green or blue etc. You can also add multiple strokes to the rays via the appearance panel (though they will all be the same length if you don't add multiple paths to the mix). You can also rotate and scale the paths by using the live transform command relating to that stroke. Select the stroke in the appearance panel and then effect menu and distort and transform command and set the scale to 50% etc as well as angle to 5 degrees etc and change the color of the rays. All kinds of wonderful multi-colored ray themed designs can then be generated via the flare. The design is still live so it can be changed at any point.


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Export. The flare can be exported for use into Photoshop and then combined with Photoshop effects. You don't have to keep the tool tied down, it can be set free and used elsewhere. You can export the artwork by using the file save as command as well as the export commands. You can also simply copy and paste the design into Photoshop. You can also export the artwork to Photoshop via the CC libraries found in the window menu. Once the design has been added to the library, it can accessed via a number of applications such as After Effects and Premiere and Indesign as well as Photoshop. Once in Photoshop as a smart object, you can add all kinds of effects to it such as blurs and camera raw filter. You can also add brush strokes to the designs as well and add patterns to the object. Exporting the art, the design is now just a normal object in Adobe ® Photoshop ® and you can apply layer effects such as metal and wood effects as well as live effects to the design such as blurs and oil paint etc. The art can be added as a dramatic effect to text objects or shape layers in Adobe ® Photoshop ®. You can also export the results of the tool to other applications such as Affinity Photo and Flame Painter 3 Pro

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Live effects. Standard Live effects (via the effect menu) can be applied to the artwork and also fills and strokes via the appearance panel. The generated artwork is not a standard path as it is made up of multiple components but the appearance panel does allow for additional fills and strokes (not always effective) to be added. To add an additional fill to the design, go to the appearance panel with the path selected and then right side menu and add a new fill. The default color can be changed perhaps to a different solid color or to a gradient (though you cannot use a freeform gradient with the path). If you wish to apply live effects to the artwork then you can go to the effect menu and then add all kinds of effects such as radial blurs and dry brush effects and many others. Some of the effects such as the vector twirl will add nothing to the design but the distort and transform and free distort command can be used to create interesting live distortions of the designs. The 3D bevel effect can be applied though the results are not always great. The blur etc filters can be applied to the artworks and they result in a blurry design. You can add multiple effects. You can tweak the results at any point via the appearance panel. You can still edit the path itself by selecting the path and double clicking tool and changing the settings such as brightness, number of rays etc. With CC 2019, you can add effects to the path via the 'fx' link in the properties panel as well as add additional fills via the '...' link on the properties panel in the apperance section.

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Transformations. You can select the generated artwork and you can transform the flare such as scale as well as rotate. You can also shear as well. The scale does not have to 100%, it can be 40% in the horizontal and 100% vertical creating a very differently shaped graphic. You can set the shear for the object to 50% etc. The probably least useful being the rotate option.

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Envelope. Likewise, the object menu and envelope command can be applied to the Illustrator flare tool generated paths 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.

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Live transform. You can generate multiple live copies of a single flare. The key command here is found in the effect menu and distort and transform command. Set the preview to ON (why is it always off). The result of the transform is live so can be edited at any point via the appearance panel (see the selected object in the appearance panel and you will see the transform effect beneath the contents (you cannot apply the transform to just the rays, it is applied to the whole artwork). You can create lines and contours and spirals (as in the example by using a combination of scale and copies and angle) and much more (you can also apply multiple transforms for even more amazing designs such as circular spirals and more). All can be tweaked further via the effects and the appearance panel. One thing to remember with the live effect transform and you want a circle of the designs - 360 degrees, 10 copies.. you really should enter 9 in the copies field as you already have one copy, the original.

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Save as symbols. The Illustrator flare tool paths can be saved as symbols and that can be done by selecting the artwork on the artboard and then dragging the design to the preset panel. You will then have to select whether or not they are static or dynamic (the latest type of preset). Once you have added the artwork to the panel, the artwork is transformed into an instance so if you want to continue to work with the design as a live effect / path then I would suggest making a duplicate of the design and then dragging it to the preset panel. The application will display a message saying that the artwork will be expanded (which is done automatically). As symbols, they can be applied using the symbol sprayer tool and then re-sized and rotated and stained by using tools found in the sprayer tools. As a symbol, they can be re-used and they are identical. As symbols, they can also be manipulated like any other symbol and fills / strokes and live effects can be applied to the instance (via the appearance panel). You can spray and splatter the glowing artwork across the image. The flare tool's panel offers no means to change the color of the glow, so applying the tool results in the same color effect each and every time (whether large or small). If you want to quickly re-color the haloes and rays etc then the stainer tool found in the sprayer tools can be used to stain the designs (turning them blue or red etc via the fill color) .

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Change color. You can change the color by using tools such as the color guide. Select a flare and then go to the edit menu and then edit colors and recolor artwork. Once you are in the recolor artwork panel, go to the middle section and then click the 'randomly change color order button or random change saturation and brightness or go to the top of the panel and select the active colors dropdown and select something like triad or high contrast 3 etc. You will then see the path change colors. You can also go to the limits the color group to a swatch library and select earthtone or scientific or baroque swatch library. Another option is the adjust color balance. Select a path and then change the color by using the edit menu and the adjust color balance command and set the preview ON and set the red to 50% or blue to -50% and you will end up with all kinds of amazing colorful designs. Generate a default path with haloes and rays etc and then go to the adjust command and set the red to 40% and blue to -60% to create a lovely golden burst of energy. If you want to just change the saturation, select the path and then go to the edit menu and edit colors and saturate and reduce the saturation to create a grayscale design (set the intensity to a low value). With CC 2019, with the path selected you can go to the properties panel and click the 'recolor' button and you can tweak the colors in all kinds of ways. If you have the plugin set Phantasm (Astute graphics) you can use the color tools in that set of amazing tools to manipulate the color of the artwork in countless ways.

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Rings. The rings option adds an extra touch of class to the art. The rings do not need to be applied in a particular direction, they can be just layered on top of the center of the design by just setting the path setting to 0pt. The number of rings 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 glow. Adjacent, you can see the result of adding multiple rings (four) and changing the angle of the applications of the rays. You can also change the settings of the rays via the settings panel and creating a powerful intense light show by just using a single burst. Of course you can also create multiple paths and combine them with blending modes etc

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Rasterize. 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 design to Photoshop and apply various image adjustments and then re-copy the artwork back into AI and then apply the image trace. You can see the result of an image trace applied in black and white on the right

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Multiples. I am not so keen on a singular burst as I always feel the 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.

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Opacity. By just changing the opacity of the artwork (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 artwork.

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Offset the artwork. The flare tool can be used as is in Illustrator but with the latest release, CC 2019, you can quickly add additional offsets to the selected design (you can add additional offsets in earlier versions as well via the object menu but the properties panel makes it so much easier to quickly access the feature). The colorful design works best if you add the design to a black or dark background or at least something that is not a very light background. Once you have created your background then you can add the design via the toolbar. Go to the properties panel. Go to the bottom section and click the offset path button for an immediate offset to the selected design. Set the value to 10pt but it can be any value. You can also vary the value to 40pt or 120pt etc. If you repeat the offset with 10pt you can create a lovely blurry effect. You can also select the individual offset paths and move them and rotate them and transform them in all kinds of ways to create a more abstract lighting design. The result of adding multiple offsets generates a more intense glow design. You can also select all the paths (the flare and the background) and then go to the recolor (in the quick actions in properties panel) and then click the 'randomly change color order' (middle set of controls) as well as go to the harmony rules at the top of the panel and select a different rule (such as a monochromatic entry) to change the design in all kinds of ways. You can also load a different swatch library via the panel (bottom of the panel) such as baroque and impressionism and then use the randomly change color order to run through the color combinations for that library. You can also select the individual paths of the offseted design and then offset only those parts such as one of the haloes or some of the rays



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Find out more about the flare tool via Adobe