The blend tool in Adobe Illustrator is often used to create abstract wave graphics, but I’ve been experimenting with some additional adjustments and discovered some handy tricks to create sci-fi inspired digital particle waves. This kind of imagery perfectly complements hi-tech interface designs with colourful data visualisation effects, or it could be used to create abstract art in its own right. We’ll create the initial effect in Adobe Illustrator, where I’ll show you a few options for randomising the result, then switch over to Adobe Photoshop for some extra colour enhancements to really boost the vibrancy.

How to create digital particular waves in Adobe Illustrator

The artwork we’ll be creating as part of this tutorial is an abstract array of particles that flow in various directions. Bright colours that transition across the waves and subtle glow effects add to the sci-fi appearance. The complexity of the final result all depends on the number of adjustments you make to the vector paths. You could create chaotic pieces with particles flowing in all directions, or carefully draw paths to replicate a graph or soundwave.

Begin by opening Adobe Illustrator and create a new document. These effects work best against a dark background, so draw a rectangle to cover the artboard, then give it a black fill. Lock the shape in place to avoid accidentally selecting it by using the CMD+2 shortcut, or Object > Lock > Selection menu.

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  1. Thank you for sharing! Never would have thought this is possible in Illustrator.

    Only problem I found while following the steps above was that I had to put a larger value in Specified Steps to see the effect. I had to put 1000 (it can’t go over 1000).

    • That’s a lot of steps! At first I wondered if the document size or ruler measurements made a difference, but whatever I try the scale stays the same. Does a simple blend between two shapes in a new document work with less steps?

  2. I see something like this and think, “No way!” Then, I see you show how and, suddenly, it is do-able! LOL
    Thank you, Chris!


    • Thanks Su! I actually surprised myself with this effect. I’ve used dashed lines and blends individually but never thought to combine them before now

  3. This is awesome! Thank you. Would love to see a modification for creating a similar effect on white!

  4. When it comes to programmatic digital media I tend to gravitate towards the Centro Blog though just because it is good to have that very detailed information.
    This is a good starter article by them if you want to get yourself familiar with their blog info.

  5. Hi Chris, thanks for this – all went well until the replace spine and scallop thing! I messed that up royally…otherwise a great result (I started again)

  6. Very cool! Couldn’t wait to have a go. I always find your tutorials well explained and easy to follow. I made a version of the Digital Particle Waves and posted on my blog today. Mine is different, which is the beauty of the technique. Thanks for the tutorial.

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