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I need the gradient to flow out in all directions from a un-uniform 'blob' roughly in the middle.
Shape Blends. Draw the blob in the middle, select it, then also select the outer border using the blend shape tool. Once the belnd has been created, adjust its parameters and appearance using the Object --> Blend menu options. Look for details in the help. Blends work best with similar shapes, so make sure eitehr your country borders are a closed area or, if separate edges are used, you only create matching lines/ curves as the start of the blob.You could also use gradient meshes of course, which are also explained in the help.
Ideally I would like to borrow the other path line for a time then leave it as it continues on it's own route.
You can simply copy&paste items (Paste in front to retain exact positioning). Ideally you would create separate layers first, so one for Scotland, one for England. When you paste, the layer where you want to insert your path must be selected (you can of course re-organize it later as well).
Illustrator also have a mask feature similar to Photoshop:
Here is the link that will tell you how to use it: http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Illustrator/14.0/WS2D8B6C1E-A2C8-4902-89C8-E5D04A6B314Ba.html
And this is the sample of the mask I used for the sample:
So you can copy the same mask for every item you want (Train lines, Patterns, etc.).
I hope this helps!
You beat me to the punch!
Thanks Mylenium. I've certainly learnt something from both replies. I have now finished tracing the countries using your paste and cut method. It was quite a tedious job! I also found using the lasso tool and direct selecion tool that I could highlight just the area that bordered the next county/country. My the latter stages I had to select multiples, join them and then add, delete more anchor points. I'm sure there must be an easier way to trace an image!
I tried the live trace, but the map I was using was too detailed it traced geography and not the borders. Anyway, I'm there now. Thanks for the advice.
I think I'm on the wrong track with the 'blob'. I didn't mean the blob tool on AI, but was referring to the middle content of my map following the railway line, which is the bit I wanted to 'stand out' from the rest. I have perservered and think I'm getting somewhere with the gradients.
Thanks also Skullmaster for the idea of gradient. It wasn't working how I need, but from your link I found how to make a 'transparent opacity mask' which I have used with a photo in the background to some effect.
It is a feature rich software and hard to know what to look for when I'm not sure of the terms. Unfortunately I have a deadline for what I'm doing and this map is only a small part of it. It will have to remain a work in progress as I slowly learn more techniques.
I'm sure I'll be back with more ...