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Create a Detailed, Festive Christmas Wreath in Adobe Illustrator

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This post is part of a series called Christmas Illustration Content.
How to Create a Mario, Pixeled Holiday Ornament in Adobe Illustrator
Christmas Vector Pack

Have you already started to prepare for Christmas? In this tutorial we will learn how to create a festive and glittering Christmas wreath with the help of self-made brushes in Adobe Illustrator. Let's get started!


1. Create a Fir Branch Brush

Step 1

First of all, imagine yourself a fir branch. It consists of a thin piece of wood surrounded by hundreds of fir-needles which make it look soft and furry. To make the process of adding lots of fir needles to our branch less tedious, we will create a fir-needle brush.

Draw an extruded vertical shape (a squashed ellipse) using the Ellipse Tool (L) and fill it with a dark green color. Click on the upper anchor point with the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C) once to make a sharp corner. Duplicate this shape twice and make each copy slightly lighter than the other.

Drag each needle-shape to the Brushes panel and create three Art Brushes. I've left all settings as default, except of Direction. Set it to Stroke From Top To Bottom or Bottom To Top depending on how is it more convenient for you to draw.

1_xmas_wreath_brush

Step 2

Take the darkest brush you've created and start drawing fir needles. Draw them in different directions on both sides and don't forget to add a few in the middle. Take the lighter brush and draw the second "layer" of needles above. Finally, take the lightest brush and finish up drawing the needles.

2_xmas_wreath_brush

Step 3

Take the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a thin free shape of a branch in brown color. Don't make it perfectly straight and smooth. Let it be curvy and knotted. After that, Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[ ), under the needles.

3_xmas_wreath_brush

Step 4

Now let's make another brush out of the branch that we've just created. Select all the parts of your branch, go to Object > Expand and after that, keeping the selection, move your fir branch to the Brushes panel, creating an Art Brush again. Same with the settings here – set the Direction to your liking and keep other options as default.

4_xmas_wreath_brush

Step 5

Create two more brushes of the same type, slightly changing the colors to make our future wreath more dimensional.

6_xmas_wreath_brush

2. Form a Wreath Base Using the Created Brushes

Step 1

Draw a rough sketch of your wreath or just keep in mind how it should look like and start filling it with branches using your new brush. Move in circles from the center to the outer part, but don't make the wreath too thick. Keep some gaps to fill it with other branch-brushes as well.

5_xmas_wreath_brush

Step 2

Add more branches, putting the lightest on the top of the wreath.

7_xmas_wreath

Our basic wreath part is ready, now let's make it festive by adding some traditional holiday details.


3. Create a Sparkling Golden Star

Step 1

Take the Star Tool and draw a star. Make it more bloated, by holding the Control key and changing the sharpness of its angles. Fill the star with a linear gradient from yellow on the top to orange in the bottom.

Then go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset value to 2px. Fill the created shape with darker orange color. Finally, add a brown stroke to the main star-shape to make it pop.

8_xmas_star

Step 2

Now we need to add some facets to our star to make it more dimensional. Let's chop it up into slices! Take the Line Segment Tool (\) and draw several lines from each corner of the star so that they are crossing in the middle. Select the main star shape and all the lines and hit the Divide button in Pathfinder.

9_xmas_star_divide

Step 3

Now we can recolor each part separately. Leave the same yellow-orange linear gradient, but change the direction.

10_xmas_star_divide

Step 4

Duplicate a triangle part of a star twice and move the upper copy up a bit. Select two shapes and use Minus Front in Pathfinder to cut off the unneeded parts.

11_xmas_star

Step 5

Use the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) to delete one of the upper anchor points, thus forming a sharp "beam".

12_xmas_star

Repeat the same with other parts and be sure that all the beams are overlapping each other in the middle. Select all the beams and change the fill color to radial gradient from yellow to light-beige.

13_xmas_star

Step 6

Now let's add some reflections by drawing a free shape above the upper part of our star. Adjust it by cutting off the edges with Pathfinder. Then fill it with a linear gradient from yellow to black and change the Blending Mode to Screen. Add a few more shapes of this type.

14_xmas_star

Step 7

Add another highlight by putting an ellipse above the upper part of the star. Cut it off using Intersect in Pathfinder and set to Screen Blending Mode.

15_xmas_star

Step 8

Finally, draw a circle in the middle of your star, fill it with a radial gradient from light-yellow in the middle to black on the edges and set the Blending Mode to Screen, forming a sparkle.

16_xmas_star

Step 9

Group all parts of the star, make several copies and spread them around the wreath. Move some of the stars under the branches, hiding some parts of them. Finally, select everything and Object > Expand your wreath.

17_xmas_expand

4. Draw an Elegant Bow

In order to make our wreath more jolly, let's decorate it with a bright red bow.

Step 1

Use the Pen Tool (P) to form one part of the bow and fill it with burgundy red color. Add a loop above, filling it with a linear gradient, the left part of which is slightly darker.

18_xmas_bow

Step 2

Apply a linear gradient to the basic bow shape as well, making it more bright and add several folds on its right end.

19_xmas_bow

Step 3

Form a highlight by adding a shape above the bow and changing it into a Blending Mode Screen, as we did it with the star.

20_xmas_bow

Step 4

Now create the center knot of the bow, by drawing a simple shape and adding highlights for a more realistic look.

21_xmas_bow

Group all parts of the bow (except its middle part) and make a mirrored copy by using the Reflect Tool (O). Our bow is ready! However, we need to add a pair of curly ribbons to it.

22_xmas_wreath

Step 5

In order to make a smooth ribbon fast and easy, we'll use a default Adobe Illustrator brushes, modifying them a bit. Go to the Brushes Library and find Artistic Calligraphic brushes there. Choose one of the inclined Flat Brushes. Double-click on the chosen brush (30pt. Flat brush in our case) in the Brushes panel to call a pop-up Options window. Change the settings as shown on the screenshot below:

23_xmas_wreath_ribbon

Step 6

Now take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and make a few free flowing strokes filled with dark burgundy color.

24_xmas_wreath_ribbon

Step 7

Choose the stroke that you like most and Expand it. Copy the shape and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Fill the upper shape with bright red color. Select the upper shape, take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) and carefully erase those parts of the ribbon, which will remain dark.

25_xmas_wreath_ribbon

Step 8

Move on and turn our ribbon into several separate shapes, by selecting both shapes and clicking Divide in Pathfinder panel.

26_xmas_wreath_ribbon

Step 9

Add more realism to the ribbon by filling the "upper side" parts with a complex linear gradient of brighter red. Fill the "back side" parts with a darker gradient.

27_xmas_wreath_ribbon

Make a reflected copy of the ribbon and put both shapes under the bow. Our image looks more complete now, but we'll move further and add some more Christmas details!

28_xmas_wreath_ribbon

5. Draw a Realistic Christmas Ornament

Step 1

A glass bauble is one of the most popular Christmas items, so we'll create it as well. Start with forming a dark burgundy circle (hold Shift key to make it perfectly round). Add a smaller bright red circle above and move it up and to the left. Select both circles and go to Object > Blend > Make. Smooth Color is set by default in Blend Options, so you'll get a nice gradient-like result.

29_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 2

Add some highlights and reflections to the ball to make it more glossy and glass-textured. Use Screen and Multiply Blending Modes with different varieties of linear gradients as we did it before.

30_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 3

Let's add a simple decorative pattern onto the ball. In our case it will be a group of stars. Take the Star Tool, set the Points quantity to 4 and use the Control key to make the star more thin and sharp. Duplicate the shape, make it a bit smaller and turn to 45 degrees, by holding down the Shift button and rotating the star. Combine these two stars to turn it into a single eight-pointed star.

31_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 4

Make a pattern by grouping the stars together and distributing them to your liking. After that, select your group of stars and drag it to the Symbols panel. Keep the settings as default in a pop-up window.

32_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 5

Time to apply the pattern to our ball. This is not as complicated as it may seem. Copy the basic shape of the bauble (the one which you can find in the blend group). Bring to front (Shift-Control-] ), take the Scissors Tool (C) and click on the upper anchor point, and second click on the anchor point in the bottom. Delete the left side of the ball! This is very important, because you need particularly the right side for our future effect.

33_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 6

Select the half which left from the circle and go to Effect > 3D > Revolve. Hit the Preview box and you will see how your shape turns into a dimensional 3D sphere.

Click the Map Art button and enter the Map Art options. And here is what we need to do: go to the Symbols folding menu, find in the list and select the symbol that you've just created. Distribute it above the white space on the map, you can make it smaller or larger or move closer to the edges. Click OK when you are satisfied with the result. Voila! The pattern for the ball is ready. Expand the created sphere and now you can delete the unneeded object, leaving the star-pattern.

34_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 7

As long as the group of stars is expanded, you can recolor it into a sparkling golden color and put above the ball that we've formed earlier.

35_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 8

The last but not the least is a bracing on the top of the ball. Draw an appropriate shape with the Pen Tool (P), make a copy and Paste to Back. Fill the first shape with a linear gradient imitating golden texture, and the second shape – with darker metallic-brown gradient.

36_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 9

Add dimension to the bracing by drawing two ellipses and a highlight on top of the first shape. Now it looks like a cylinder.

37_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 10

Add a small loop on top and a few highlights on it.

38_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 11

Finally, group all parts of the bracing together, duplicate them and reflect the copy over the Horizontal axis using the Reflect Tool (O). Fill the reflected shape with linear gradient from white to red and switch it to the Multiply Blending Mode.

39_xmas_wreath_ball

Step 12

Add several baubles to the wreath. As we can see, it has became even more colorful!

40_xmas_wreath_balls

6. Add Sparkling Accents to the Wreath & Background

Step 1

In order to make the picture more vivid and glittery, we'll create a set of gentle sparks. Create a circle and fill it with a radial gradient from black on the edges to light-yellow in the middle. Change the Blending Mode to Screen. You will see how it looks like if you put the spark on a background filled with some contrast color.

41_xmas_wreath_sparkles

Step 2

Put some sparks that we've made above the wreath.

42_xmas_wreath_sparkles

Add some smaller sparkles, varying the size of each spark.

43_xmas_wreath_sparkles

Step 3

Now we need to add a background. Draw a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M) and apply a radial gradient to it with light-yellow color in the middle and light-brown on the edges to imitate the golden surface.

44_xmas_wreath_bg

Step 4

Add some circles of various sizes around the background. Let some of them overlap each other.  Fill them with a very light yellow color and switch to Multiply Blending Mode to imitate a gentle bokeh effect.

45_xmas_wreath_bg

Ho-Ho-Ho! You've Finished the Festive Christmas Wreath!

Congratulations! Our wreath looks shiny and vivid. I hope this tutorial was useful for you and granted you the sense of holiday joy! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

christmas_wreath_600
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