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Create a Japanese Ukiyo-e Style Print

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In this tutorial we will learn how to create a landscape in the style of a Japanese Ukiyo-e print. You will get acquainted with lots of manual techniques, and learn how to make your job easier using the Art, Scatter, and Blob Brushes.

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.


About Ukiyo-e Artwork

Ukiyo-e -are paintings of an evanescent world and part of the fine arts genre in Japan, which developed in the second half of the 17 century.

Ukiyo-e has to be created by an artist, craftsman and printmaker. Ukiyo-e prints were made using a detailed procedure. The artist produced a master drawing in ink on a thin sheet of paper; craftsman glued the tracing face-down to a block of cherry or pear wood and cut away the areas where the paper was white, thus obtaining the first printed shape but destroying the drawing itself. Then a few black-and-white prints were made, which were marked by an artist specifying particular colors.

Craftsman make the required number of printed shapes (sometimes more than thirty), each corresponding to one color or tone. The print maker, having discussed the colors with an artist, applied oil or mineral-based paint to a set of shapes, and manually prints it on wet rice paper.

Hopefully, you will do this job yourself using mouse and keyboard :)


Step 1

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle of neutral gray. With this rectangle we only specify the size of the background.



Step 2

The basic element of our work is the blossoming cherry branch. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a curved line as the main branch.


Now let's create a brush to add thickness to the branch. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle, while holding down the Alt and Shift keys. The height of this circle will correspond to the maximum width of the branch of cherry blossoms. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the right anchor point of the circle to the right by holding down the Shift key.



Step 3

Move the achieved shape to the Brushes palette and save it as Art Brush.


Now select the curve that you have created in the previous step and apply this brush.


Keep the branch selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance.


Now we can work on changing the outline of the branch.


Step 4

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move the anchor points and anchor point handles in order to round the curves of the branch where needed.


After transforming the line into an object it contains a lot of anchor points, which makes it difficult to manipulate them. To reduce their number go to Object > Path > Simplify and set the values in the dialog box, as shown in the figure below.


The accuracy of the outline in our case is not very important, so you can easily move the Curve Precision and Angle Threshold sliders to significantly reduce the number of outline points. In my case, the number of points was reduced by four times.


Step 5

The bark of the branch at the most wide point may have a wavy shape, create it by moving the anchor points.


After giving the final shape to the branch, fill it with its main color - dark gray.




Step 6

To create chiaroscuro on the branch use the Gradient Mesh. Let's create a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M). The height of the rectangle should be approximately equal to the width of the branch at its thickest area. In order not to blunder through work, change the opacity of the rectangle, by setting it at 50% Opacity in the Transparency palette.


Keep the rectangle selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.



Step 7

Proceed to the mesh object transformation. We need to convert the rectangle so that its shape could resemble the shape of the branch. Take the Lasso Tool (Q) and select the grid points on the left side of the rectangle.


Now take the Rotate Tool (R) and put the center of rotation in the center of the right side of the rectangle. Using the same tool, bend the mesh object, as shown in the figure.


Working with such an object is the same as working with any other object - it's the same anchor points and handles. The rectangular shape of an object does not create confusion in the grid lines and is easy to predict. So we have created the first curve.


Step 8

To make a new bend create a new line of gradient mesh. Take the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and set a new point on the middle line of the grid where the branch curves.


Now rotate the object about this point, using the technique described in the previous step.


To create a corner point, as in the case of regular object, it is necessary to combine the end of the handle with this point.



Step 9

Continue working in the similar vein, by bringing the mesh object towards the shape of branch.






The main thing is not to intersect the final mesh object with the shape of branch. Now add another lengthwise line to the grid using the Gradient Mesh Tool (U). You can see how easily it lies into its placement.


Now we can make the mesh object opaque again.



Step 10

Using the Pen Tool (P) create a simple object on one of the middle curves. Turn it into a mesh object using the Gradient Mesh Tool (U).



Step 11

Copy and paste the shape of the branch in front (Command + C, Command + F) and move it so that it is above all the objects in the Layers palette.


Select this shape and the mesh objects, go to Object > Clipping Path > Make...


Thus, we have left a visible the part of the gradient mesh within the outline of the branch.


Step 12

Now we can start coloring the points of a gradient mesh. It will be more convenient if you lock the under layer with a Clipping Path in the Layers palette.


Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select the bottom nodes of the mesh (this part of the branch is located in the shadow) and change their color to a darker one, by shifting the slider corresponding to black to the right in the Color palette.





Step 13

Create two more grid lines using the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and repaint the grid line shown in the figure below in a lighter color by moving the slider in the Layers palette to the left while holding down the Shift key.


Thus we create light on the branch.


Step 14

The upper part of the branch will look darker. Replace the branch fill with a linear gradient from the basic color to a darker shade. We can get a darker shade using the technique described in step 12.



Step 15

This scene is happening in early spring. That is why the branch is covered with snow. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a shape with a white color similar to the one shown in the figure below.


Select the branch shape and the shape of the snow, now take the Shape Builder Tool (while holding down the Alt key) and click on the part of the white form, which comes outside the branch.


As a result, the excess snow is removed. If you're not working in Adobe Illustrator CS 5, use the Pathfinder palette for this procedure. You can learn how to use those tools in step 3 of the tutorial here.


Step 16

Select the shape of snow, and go to Object > Path > Offset Path .... Set a -1px value in the dialog box.


Now select the source shape in the Layers palette and remove it.



The corner points of the snow shape must be converted to a smooth one. Adjust the shape of snow using the Direct Selection Tool (A) if needed.


In fact, snow can be completely white only on bright sunlight. But in our case we are dealing with a foggy morning. Fill the shape of snow with light gray.



Step 17

Snow gets stuck in the wholes of branch bark. Create this effect. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a stretched across ellipse with a fill of the same color as the snow from the previous step. The height of the ellipse is 1-2 px. Move the created figure to the Brushes palette and save it as an Art Brush.


Now take the Brush Tool (B), and using this brush make strokes along the branch.


Use a variety of brushes shapes that will make it less dull. You can change the thickness and shape of the brush using the Stroke palette.



Step 18

Select all the created strokes and go to Object > Expand Appearance.


Snow on the shady side of the branch looks darker, so the color of these objects should be changed.


You can fill some objects with linear gradients that go from the basic color of snow to its darker one.



Step 19

Double-click on the Eraser Tool icon in the toolbar to call up a dialog with the settings of the instrument. Introduce the parameters indicated in the figure below.


Now use this tool to make the edge of the snow less smooth.




Step 20

Proceed to the creation of small branches belonging to the main one. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a curved line without fill, 12 pt thick, and with a stroke color that matches the color of the shadow on the main branch. Keep the object selected and apply Object > Expand.



Step 21

Using the Pen Tool (P) create a line in the direction of the second part of this branch.


Now create a shape of a deformed circle, the height of the circle must also be equal to 12 px. Save the shape as Art Brush and apply it to the second part of the branch.


Keep the object selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Now select both parts of the side branch and apply Unite from the Pathfinder palette.



Step 22

Working with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and Delete Anchor Point Tool (-), bring the curve of the side branch to the shape shown in the figure below.



Step 23

Using the same Art Brush, create smaller branches. Use the Stroke palette to reduce their thickness.



Step 24

Create thickenings on the tips of the branches. These are unexpanded Sakura buds. If you work in Adobe Illustrator CS5, such thickenings can be created using the Width Tool.


If you have earlier versions of the software you need to work with the Direct Selection Tool (A) after going to Object > Expand Appearance. Using the described technique, create all the branches located in the foreground from the main branch.



Step 25

Side branches located in the background will be less saturated with color. They just need to be brightened up, by moving the black slider to the left in the Color palette.




Step 26

This time of year leaves usually remain on the trees. Use the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) to create them. Double-clicking on the icon of the tool opens up the dialog box with its parameters. Key in the parameters that will be used to create large leaves.



Step 27

Like real artists let's try to create a brush somewhere on the side of our image. Note: the leaf shape is created with a single mouse click.


Do you like the brush? Now select all the elements of our artwork and group them up (Command + A; Command + G). Lock the group in the Layers palette. This should be done to make it easier to select the newly created objects. Now, using the Blob Brush Tool, put large leaves randomly on the branches. If you are not satisfied with the result, undo the previous action by pressing Command + Z.



Step 28

Now the leaves represent the points to which the Blob Brush is applied. Transform leaves into objects. Select them Command + A and go to Object > Expand Appearance.



Step 29

Edit the shape of leaves with the Warp Tool (Shift + R). Double-clicking on this tool opens the dialog box, set the parameters of this tool.


Now deform some leaves to give them the required shape.



Step 30

Create another Blob Brush for smaller leaves.


And scatted these leaves over the branches.


The leaves that are on the branches of the background, should have the same color as the background branches.



Step 31

Before creating the flowers and buds on the branches of the Sakura create a background. This must be done because it would be difficult to choose the right color of flowers without the background. Fill the background with a linear gradient consisting of various shades of gray, which will rotate. It will create the illusion of mist.



Step 32

Keep the background selected, go to Object > Expand and choose the Expand Gradient to the Gradient Mesh in the dialog box.


Lock the underlayer with the Clipping Path in the layers palette and slightly deform the grid lines, using the Direct Selection Tool (A).




Step 33

Now you can create buds. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an ellipse with a red color. The color should not be too bright.


Copy and paste the ellipse in front (Command + C; Command + F). Reduce the size of the upper ellipse and change its fill to a brighter red color. Now select both ellipses and go to Object > Blend > Make.



Step 34

Drag the created object to the Brushes palette and save the brush as a Scatter Brush.


Set the brush parameters in the dialog box as shown below.



Step 35

Using the created brush, cover the branches of Sakura with buds (working with the Paintbrush Tool (B)). Select all the strokes started and go Object > Expand Appearance.


Buds, which are in the background, will look lighter then the buds on the foreground. To change the colors after selection go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork... Proceed to the Edit mode in the dialog box, click on the Link harmony colors button and move all color sliders to the left, while holding down the Shift key.



Step 36

Buds located in the shadow have darker shades of red. After changing their color after they were selected go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork... Proceed to the Edit mode in the dialog box, click the Link harmony colors button and move the brightness slider to the left.



Step 37

It's time to create flowers. Take the Star Tool and click on the workspace to open the dialog box. Set the parameters shown in the figure below.


Select the star tips using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and convert corner points to smooth ones.



Step 38

Adjust the shape of the flower, if you think that it is needed. Create a circle with a dark red color in the center of the flower. Now select both objects and go to Object > Blend > Make.




Step 39

Create a brush in the shape of the flower stamen. The shape consists of an ellipse stretched horizontally and circumferentially, which are aligned horizontally and united with the Pathfinder palette.


The created shape must be filled with a dark-brown color. Move the shape to the Brushes palette and save it as an Art Brush.



Step 40

Using this brush, create a bunch of stamens on a flower, and then select all the stamens and go to Object > Expand Appearance.



Group up all the elements of the flower and drag it to our work. Change the sizes of the flower to match the size of other elements of the composition.


Now move the flower to the Brushes palette and save it as a Scatter Brush.


Set the brush parameters, as shown below.


Apply flowers to branches of Sakura using the brush strokes (Paintbrush Tool (B)).



Step 41

The same with the flower buds, flowers depending on location have different shades of red. There is at least one more way to change shades of color. Select the objects and go to Edit > Edit Colors > Saturate... Moving the Intensity slider, achieve to the desired color shade.



Step 42

Create a solar disk. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle, while holding down the Shift key.


Fill the circle with a linear gradient made of subtle shades of gray.


Add a stroke with 1 pt width and apply the Chalk-Scribble Art Brush to it. Select the sun and go to Object > Expand. Now change the stroke color from black to light gray.


Set 70% Opacity for the stroke in the Transparency palette.



Step 43

Proceed to the creation of the falling snow. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle of light gray color. Save this circle as a Scatter Brush, with the parameters indicated in the figure below.




Step 44

Take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and create horizontal strokes that go from the top to the bottom of our work.



Step 45

Take the Lasso Tool (Q) and select the top snowflakes. Now, set 45% Opacity for them in the Transparency palette.



Using the same tool, select the middle snowflakes and set 65% Opacity for them in the Transparency palette.


Thus, we have created aerial perspective of the falling snow.


Step 46

We just have to hide parts of objects protruding beyond the background. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle the same size as the background. Unlock all the under layers in the Layers palette, if any. Select all the objects Command + A and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.



Conclusion

Ukiyo-e absorbed philosophical contemplation and emotion, admiring the fullness of earthly existence:

  • White sun...
  • Mist quietly moving...
  • Morning of hope...

The final image is below and I hope you enjoyed creating your own.


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