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Design

Create a Mysterious Halloween Scene in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Halloween is a bewitching holiday that always brings us a lot of fun with its spooky, mysterious atmosphere! Join me in this tutorial to create a whimsical scene featuring a haunted house on a hill in Adobe Illustrator. We'll use the Pencil Tool, Gradient Tool, Blending Modes, and our boundless imagination. Sharpen your digital pencils and let’s get started!

1. Start from Scratch and Form Your Color Palette

Step 1

I usually start creating my artwork by making a rough sketch. When the sketch is ready, create a New Document of a comfortable size in Adobe Illustrator and set it to RGB Color Mode.

create a New Document

File > Place your sketch in the document and click twice on the layer in Layers panel to call out the Layer Options menu. Check the Template box, thus locking the layer and dimming the image.

Place your sketch in the document

Step 2

Go on and form a color palette, which will help us to create a proper mystical mood for our artwork. Start by creating two small, even squares, one above the other, using the Rectangle Tool (M). Fill the upper square with dark-blue color and the lower one with pink color. 

Select both squares and go to Object > Blend > Make or use the Blend Tool (W) to create a group of squares. You can change the Blend Options in Object > Blend > Blend Options and set the Spacing to Specified Distance of 60 px. 

Create a second Blend Group, using yellow and dark-orange colors, and then Object > Expand both groups.

form a color palette

Step 3

Select the dark-purple palette that we've just made and click the New Color Group button (a folder icon) in the Swatches panel, creating a group of swatches. Do the same moves with the yellow-orange palette.

create a group of swatches

Step 4

Let’s make our drawing process more fluid and comfortable. Place our Sketch Layer on top of the Layers panel and set the Blending Mode of the sketch image to Multiply (you will have to Unlock the layer for a while by clicking the lock icon). Use the lower layer for drawing, so that your sketch remains visible on top of all other objects.

set the Blending Mode of the sketch image to Multiply

2. Outline the Basic Shapes of Your Sketch With the Pencil Tool

Step 1

Let’s tweak and tune our digital pencil! Click twice on the Pencil Tool (N) icon in the Tools panel and set the Fidelity and Smoothness values to 2 in the pop-up Pencil Tool Options window. Tick the Fill new pencil strokes and the Edit selected paths checkboxes. Leave all other options as default.

Select the second-darkest color of our palette and freehand the silhouette of the haunted house, following the lines of the sketch.

edit pencil tool options and draw a house silhouette

Step 2

Create a rectangle for the background, using the Rectangle Tool (M), and Send to Back (Shift-Control-[). Fill the background with the radial gradient, applying the yellow and lilac tones of our palette. Move the center point of the gradient up and to the left, using the Gradient Tool (G) to create the proper environmental light for our future composition.

Create a rectangle for the background

Step 3

Proceed by outlining the quirky hill and filling it with linear gradient from dark blue to a lighter purple, creating a strong contrast with the background.

draw a hill

Step 4

Draw out another hill behind the first one. Make it slightly lighter to create a feeling that it is far away, thus emphasizing the perspective.

draw another hill

Step 5

Add a few tree silhouettes: a creepy crooked tree with bare branches in the foreground and a group of fir trees on the right-hand side of our haunted house. The scene is starting to look more interesting and eerie.

Add a few tree silhouettes

Step 6

Let’s add the brightest, most eye-catching element of our composition—the whimsy moon! A crescent moon, to be more exact. Trace its silhouette with the Pencil Tool (N), making as many bumps and dimples as you can. Add some fancy details, such as a piece of a moon stone levitating between the tips of the crescent, and some small drop-shapes to create the effect of a dripping surface.

make a whimsy moon

Step 7

Move on and add a few cloud silhouettes, partially covering the moon to make the image more intricate. Use the second brightest color from our blue-purple palette.

add a few cloud silhouettes

Continue adding clouds and making the picture more detailed. Put some of the clouds on top and hide the others behind the moon by Sending them to Back (Shift-Control-[).

add more clouds and rearrange them

Step 8

Now for the fun part! Take the Pencil Tool (N), set the Fill color to None and the Stroke color to the brightest yellow. Scribble around the moon with a circular movement of your hand, creating a rough, sketchy effect.

Scribble around the moon with pencil tool

3. Fill the Basic Elements of Your Artwork With Details

Step 1

Let’s make the moon more realistic and dimensional. Pencil a shape inside the crescent, following its lower part, but making it a bit smaller. Fill the newly created element with linear gradient from bright yellow (the same as the crescent color) to darker yellow, so that it blends nicely with the main shape.

Pencil a shape inside of the crescent and fill with gradient

Step 2

Add another shape for the upper part of our crescent and fill it with linear gradient from yellow to black. Switch the Blending Mode to Screen, making the moon slick and shiny.

Add another shape for the upper part of the crescent in Screen mode

Step 3

Add a small, elliptical shape, forming a dimple. Switch to Multiply Blending Mode and fill the shape with linear gradient from yellow to white, creating a shadow and the impression of deepness.

form a dimple

Step 4

Duplicate the created dimple and place it on the other side of the crescent, adding more holes. Make the dimple embossed by placing a bright, thin stripe in Screen Blending Mode along the edge of the hole.

add another hole

Step 5

Copy the shape that we created earlier in the lower part of our crescent and fill it with a darker tint of yellow. Go to Effect > Stylize > Feather and apply a gentle blurring effect with 30 px Radius value.

apply Feather effect

Finally, our crescent looks like a sugar candy and attracts the viewer's attention with its smooth shapes! Let’s move on and decorate other elements of our artwork in the same shiny style.

check the finished moon

Step 6

First of all, we need to add some details to each cloud. This process might seem a bit tedious, but if you're keen on freehand drawing, you will enjoy watching your picture get fleshed out. Draw the swirls and twirls on each bulge of the cloud—lighter for the highlights and darker for the shadows.

add details to a cloud

Step 7

Fill the darker shape with linear gradient, one end of which has the same color as the cloud, while the other end is slightly darker. As for the highlight shapes, use the Screen Blending Mode and a linear gradient with bright-orange color on one end and black on the other. 

Rotate the gradients using the Gradient Tool (G) so that they blend seamlessly with the basic cloud shape.

make the cloud parts glossy with Multiply and Screen modes

Step 8

Add smaller reflections to intensify the moonlight, creating a glossy effect on the bulgy parts of the cloud.

Add smaller reflections to intensify the moonlight

Step 9

Work more on the other clouds, paying attention to their colors: make those lower clouds darker than the upper ones, as if they are hidden in the lowlands and don’t reflect as much light from the moon.

compare the clouds colors

Continue adding luminance to the upper part of our composition.

add luminance to the upper part

Draw those tiny swirls and paw-like shapes with the Pencil Tool (N) with a flowing movement of your hand.

Draw swirls with the Pencil Tool

Step 10

The colors of the overtones should match the environment lighting. In fact, the lower clouds should have a cool, bluish highlight, while the clouds that are closer to the moon keep their warm, yellow-orange tones.

Create the environment lighting

Step 11

Let’s take a look at the overall composition to ensure that we haven’t missed anything.

take a look at the overall composition

Use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to fix the parts of the clouds that are overlapping with the hill, or simply press Control-[ to rearrange the objects, moving the cloud under the hill.

Use the Shape Builder Tool Shift-M to fix some parts

Step 12

Edit the color of the trees in the same way, making their lower edge blend with the ground.

Edit the color of the trees

Step 13

Add a path leading to the haunted house. Make its lower part much wider to emphasize the perspective and to show that the house is located far away from the viewer.

Add a path leading to the haunted house

Step 14

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create thin stripes and combine them into a group of planks, forming a supporting structure for the house.

form a supporting structure for the house

Step 15

Let's create an illusion of a bright light coming through the windows of the house, adding a touch of mystery. Our sketch already contains some windows, so we just need to outline them. For this step I use the Pen Tool (P) to create a half-ellipse shape, but you can use the Pencil Tool (N) if you prefer, or just erase a part of an ellipse to create the same window aperture as you see on the screenshot below.

use the Pen Tool P to create a window

Step 16

Fill the created shape with dark-blue linear gradient and add a smaller copy of the same shape above, filling it with linear gradient from pale-orange to dark-orange.

Fill the created shape with linear gradient

Step 17

Duplicate the dark shape and select its upper anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Drag the anchor point down to put the shape flat on the ground.

put the shape flat on the ground

Step 18

Adjust the gradients, creating a sense of light pouring on the ground out of the open window (or it is more likely to be a front door).

create a sense of light pouring on the ground

Use the Reflect Tool (O) to mirror the created element over the Vertical Axis. Make several copies of the reflected window and place them on the opposite wall, decreasing their size.

Use the Reflect Tool O to mirror the created element

Step 19

Create multiple copies of the windows and put them in the appropriate places.

Create multiple copies of the windows

Step 20

Move on and form the left side wall by adding a curved rectangle shape. Fill the shape with a gentle lilac-white linear gradient and switch it to Multiply Blending Mode, thus creating a shadow and making the house dimensional.

make the house dimensional

Render the roof of the house in the same way as the wall.

Render the roof of the house

Add a sharp, zigzagged shape above the roof. Select both objects and use the Minus Front function in Pathfinder to form some cracks.

use the Minus Front function in Pathfinder to form cracks

Work over the other parts of the house in the same way, rendering shadows and creating a realistic look.

render shadows

4. Add a Touch of Magic

Step 1

To create a mysterious, Halloween atmosphere in our image, we're going to add some minor details. Individually, they'll barely be noticeable at first glance, but they'll all come together to create the effect we're looking for. Let’s add some of these tiny elements here and there to make our artwork more intricate.

First of all, add more light to the windows, by adding a conelike shape and filling it with a bright gradient in Screen Blending Mode.

dd a conelike shape and fill it with a gradient in Screen mode

Step 2

Now let’s make a small but very important element, which produces a subtle, magical effect—the sparkle! Sparkles always create a feeling of something mysterious and supernatural. 

Making a sparkle is quite simple: create two even circles and fill them with radial gradients as shown on the screenshot below. Use yellow-black gradient with a small center for one circle and orange-black gradient with a larger center for the other. 

Put one circle above the other and switch them to Screen Blending Mode. The black color will become transparent, creating a warm glow. Magic indeed!

make a sparkle in Screen mode

Step 3

Spread the sparkles in front of a doorway as if they are flying out of the house.

put the sparkles in front of a door

Decorate several more windows using the same technique. However, avoid adding sparkles to all of the windows so as not to overload the picture with small details, because they create “noise” which can be very distracting for the viewers.

Decorate several more windows with sparks

Step 4

Our picture is almost complete! Let’s add some interesting elements, which will attract more attention and enliven the composition. We need some characters suitable for a Halloween theme. As you remember, we already have a naked tree in the foreground, so let’s add a bat hanging upside-down on one of the branches.

Draw a whimsy curved shape using the Pencil Tool (N) to depict the left part of a bat's silhouette. Reflect the shape over the Vertical Axis and combine the halves, forming a single silhouette. Add a darker shape above, forming a wing, wrapped around our bat. Add two red eyes, making them sharp-pointed to create an evil look.

create a simple bat character

Step 5

Let’s fit our bat on the tree. Make it darker, if needed, to emphasize the contrast between the character and the background.

put the bat on a tree

Use one of the sparkles that we created a few steps ago and put it over the bat’s eye, making it glow bright red.

create glowing eyes with a spark

Step 6

Draw out a scribbled shape, imitating the tree bark. Use the same filling gradient as we have on the walls of the house, switching to Multiply Blending Mode.

draw tree bark

Step 7

We have the last move left! Let’s add brightness to our image, making it more vivid and saturated. Make a big rectangle, covering the whole Artboard, and fill it with radial gradient, consisting of orange, pink and dark-purple colors, as shown on the screenshot. 

Switch the Blending Mode to Overlay and decrease the Opacity to 30%. This simple method gives our image a bright, candy-like look! Now the colors look much better.

add an Overlay object to brighten the colors

Step 8

Create another rectangle the same size as our Artboard and put it above all other elements by clicking Shift-Control-]. Select everything (Control-A) and right‑click to call a pop-up menu. Make Clipping Mask to hide the pieces outside the Artboard.

make a clipping mask to hide the unneeded pieces

Yay! Our Creepy House on the Hill is Finished!

Congratulations! You’ve just finished building a mysterious Halloween scene and should be proud of yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed following these guidelines and found some useful tips and tricks for your future work. Happy Halloween, folks! 

final image
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