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Create a Big Money Illustration Using Simple Shapes

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Learn to create stylized stacks of money in Adobe Illustrator. We'll cover how to use gradients and shading to create simple and effective art. Let's get started!

You can find the source files in the directory labeled "source" that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.


Step 1

Start by using the Pen Tool (P) to draw a rectangle shape with some perspective to it. For this particular illustration I am using a style that is more whimsical and illustrative. I'm not going for a realistic look. So, the lines are more exaggerated.



Step 2

Copy and paste the shape and make it smaller. This will be the base of the stack of money.



Step 3

Still using the Pen Tool, draw the side of the stack of money. Ensure that you zoom in to get your corners lined up perfectly.

You can pick colors as you create the basic shapes of the illustration or go back and add them later. I usually go back and add color later as picking colors can be a tedious process. If you decide to add color in a later step just give each face of the stack a slightly different gray shade to make it easy to distinguish areas.



Step 4

Draw in the last side of the stack of money. Again, notice that the entire stack has a cartoonish feel. This is accomplished by using curved lines instead of straight lines.



Step 5

Draw in a couple more stacks. Don't be lazy and copy the other one! Making each stack original will give the illustration more appeal. Also, observe how all three stacks come together to form a balanced unit. Play around with the placement of each stack until it feels right. Group each stack to make it quick to move around. Group objects by selecting them and going to Object > Group.



Step 6

Using the Pen Tool again, draw on the top of the stack a wide strip. This will become the band that wraps around the stack.



Step 7

Draw the band for the front too. Tip: Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to fine-tune the position of each point.



Step 8

Draw in the other bands on the other stacks as well.



Step 9

Create a sack of money by either using the Pencil Tool (N) or Pen Tool to draw the shape below.



Step 10

Instead of drawing the Dollar sign by hand simply find a font that you like and use that.



Step 11

Add dimension to it by selecting the text and going to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. Select whatever option you want in the drop down and adjust the Horizontal or Vertical Distortion to suit your needs.



Step 12

In order to further work with objects that have been distorted you need to expand them. Go to Object > Expand and press OK on the resulting dialog. Position the dollar shape over the sack.



Step 13

Draw another unique shape and repeat the process for the other dollar sign.



Step 14

Next we'll create the single dollar bills. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a rectangle, as shown below.



Step 15

Draw another smaller rectangle and give it a stroke.



Step 16

Select both shapes and inside the Align palette select the vertical and horizontal align center buttons.



Step 17

Expand the center stroked shape by selecting it and going to Object > Expand and selecting OK in the resulting dialog box.



Step 18

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a circle over each of the corners. Hold down the Shift key while drawing each circle to ensure you're drawing perfect circles.



Step 19

Select the circles and the outline shape, then in the Pathfinder Palette click Divide. With the objects still selected, go to Object > Ungroup.



Step 20

Once your objects are ungrouped you can now get rid of the extra shapes that you no longer need. Select all the tan shapes and in the Pathfinder Palette and click Unite.



Step 21

Use the Ellipse Tool to draw an oval and give it a thick stroke.



Step 22

Using rectangles and circles, finish adding in all the little details that make the bill look complete. Observe that I did not add too much detail, as that would make the bill stand out from the rest of the design.



Step 23

Draw the silhouette in the center by using two ovals that overlap.



Step 24

Once you have the bill shape drawn select it and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. Select whatever options look good to you. Tip: Keep a copy of the bill with no distortion off to the side, which you can use to make other distorted versions with.



Step 25

Giving your illustration color is a critical factor in the overall look of the design. To create a tenuous gradient, in the Color palette select the flyout menu in the upper-right corner and change the values to HSB. The key to getting a smooth gradient is to use the same color for both points on the Gradient palette and change the B slider in the Color Palette to be darker. Afterwards, you can change your values back to RGB if you like.



Step 26

Apply the gradient in the direction shown below.



Step 27

When you're applying the gradients to the other sides of the stack make sure to have an idea of where your light source is coming from. For this design the light source is coming from the upper-left. Having said that, I ensure that the top and left side of the stack is brighter in color.

When you want to achieve a large transition from one color to another, you should add more points on the gradient slider. Notice I've added three.



Step 28

Change the angle and direction of the gradient depending on which side of the stack you're applying the gradient to.



Step 29

Use a Radial Gradient to achieve a nice transition on the bag of money.



Step 30

This is what your artwork should look like right now.



Step 31

Place the other individual bills throughout the illustration to help complete the look. Note that I've given the bills unique distortions instead of using the same one over and over.



Step 32

Using the Pen Tool draw some simple shapes that represent other bills floating farther back in the distance. Give them a pale greenish-grey color since they're supposed to appear farther away from the viewer.



Step 33

We'll create a shadow by using the Pencil Tool (N) and drawing an arbitrary shape like the gray one shown below.



Step 34

In the Transparency Palette select Multiply so your shape blends with the object behind it.



Step 35

Go to Effects > Blur > Gaussian Blur and enter a value that looks good to you.



Step 36

Bring the stack of money in front of the shadow by going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front.



Step 37

Repeat this same process for the other elements that need a shadow.



Step 38

Draw each of the shadows separately so you can give each one a different amount of blur if necessary.



Step 39

Give shadows to the floating bills as well.



Step 40

This is what your artwork should look like right now.



Step 41

We'll create a subtle color around the bottom of the illustration by first drawing a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L). Make sure you draw a perfect circle so the outer edge of the shape gradates to 100% white. Apply a white to blue Radial Gradient.



Step 42

Using the Selection Tool (V) condense the circle into an oval like below. Send the oval behind all the other elements by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back. If your other shadows aren't blending well with the blue oval behind them, then make sure the shadows are set to Multiply in the Transparency Palette.



Step 43

We'll create a halo around the stack of money by drawing a free flowing shape that moderately follows the shape of the stacks of money.



Step 44

Select the shape and go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow. Select a bright yellow color and increase the Blur until it extends out past the edge of the stacks of money. Send the shape to the back of the stacks of money by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back.



Final Image

Here's the final illustration. You've just learned how to use simple shapes to create a whimsical, big money illustration!


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