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Create a Sneaker Concept Illustration in Vector

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In today's tutorial, I'm going to show you how to create a conceptual sneaker illustration which has a commercial feel to it. I've been inspired by the kawaii style, which you can see in different areas of popular vector art communities. I used a consistent vector inner glow style via the Appearance panel that you'll learn about here.


Step 1

I'm going to set up my new document as I usually would, with a layer for the reference image, a "BG" layer for a white fill Rectangle (M) set to 50% Opacity, with layers for "Line Art" and sketching.



Step 2

I'm going to be using the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) to do my sketching, however first I'm going to modify the settings of the tool so it takes benefit from my graphics tablet.

In order to do this, Double-click on the Blob Brush Tool icon in the toolbar to get the Blob Brush Tool Options dialogue box. I've modified the "Size" to 2pt and selected "Pressure" in the drop down menu. I then changed the "Variation" to 2pt. Click on OK once done.


Then I sketched the basic concept I had in mind. I've drawn each one of the separate elements in a different color and then Grouped them (Command + G) to make it easier to move them around where I needed them.



Step 3

Now to begin drawing the line art for the sneaker. I'm going to use the black strokes throughout in the initial stages. I will be showing some strokes as different colors however, but this is only to show you which lines and shapes have been draw separately.

I'm going to start by drawing the overall outline of the sneaker with a 2pt Stroke Weight. This initial shape will have a white fill, whereas everything else will not have a fill to it.



Step 4

For the indents in the sole of the sneaker, I'm going to use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw four small lines with a 4pt Stroke Weight and Rounded Caps. I'm then going to select them and go to Object > Expand to convert them to shapes.


I'm then going to use the Pathfinder panel to Minus Front the four rounded shapes from the larger sneaker shape.



Step 5

Now to draw in the rest of the lines of the sneaker. These lines will have a 0.75pt Stroke Weight. However, there are parts where you're able to see the side of the overlapping leather of the shoe.

With this I've used 0.75pt strokes for the top surface of the leather and then used a 0.25pt stroke for the bottom of the side of the surface. As always, to make it easier when doing line art, use Smart Guides (Command + U) for intersecting lines.


After you've drawn the lines dividing up the sneaker, you'll notice that where some of the lines intersect with each other, the corners may not match up. You will need to move the lines around from perhaps some of the direct corners to further up a line to make the corners match. This will just give it an overall cleaner look to the line art.



Step 6

For the lace holes, I used the Ellipse Tool (L). First I drew the first shape for the outside of the lace hole and then used the Free Transform Tool (E) to rotate and modify the ellipse. Then I duplicated the shape and reduced it's size with the Free Transform Tool (E). These lines are set to 0.75pt Stroke Weight.



Step 7

The laces themselves can be a bit fiddly, however by following the stock image and understanding which piece overlaps which, you should be able to draw shapes for each part of the crisscrossing lace in the tongue area. You'll notice I've highlighted one of the lines along the edge of the tongue area. Duplicate this line and create a shape from it for the next part.


Don't worry about overlapping laces, this can be remedied by using the shape just recreated and using it to Pathfinder > Minus Front over the relevant shapes. Now be careful when doing this, I must admit it took me a couple of tries to make sure I got the correct lace sections! Always remember to Edit > Undo (Command + Z) or even duplicate shapes if in doubt. I actually have Undo programmed into one of the buttons of my actual pen stylus.


I then drew along the side of the laces with a 0.25pt stroke for added detailing.



Step 8

Using the sketch, I drew the lace with a white fill and a 0.75pt black stroke with the Pen Tool (P). Then using the Width Tool (Shift + W), I increased the size of the width of the stroke at the bottom points to 2pt. I then kept the 0.75pt Stroke Weight constant from the mid way of the lace to the top, so from the midpoint of the lace to the bottom it will slowly increase to 2pt.



Step 9

I've added the lace behind the shoe, with a 0.75pt Stroke Weight and then 0.25pt stroke for detailing.



Step 10

Draw a white fill even circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) and add a 0.75pt black stroke. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and use the below values. This will create the basic effect for a cartoon style tree.


I've then used the Free Transform Tool (E) and the Direct Selection Tool (A) to modify the shape of the tree as shown below. Finally, I've added a modified Rectangle (M) with a curved bottom for the trunk underneath the leaves.



Step 11

I Grouped together the two elements for the tree (Command + G) and then duplicated it. I then used the Free Transform Tool (E) to modify the scale of the tree. The Roughen effect, which is on the top/leaves of the tree, will automatically adjust with the rescaling; therefore it will help make the trees look different from each other. The rescaling of the trees has also helped create an illusion of perspective and made it look like we have one huge sneaker.



Step 12

For the background, I added three Ellipses (L) with a white fill and a 2pt black stroke. Then I put a white fill Rectangle (M) over the top with a null stroke.



Step 13

I used the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) to modify the dimensions of the artboard. Throughout the illustration, I would hide and show the artboard by going to View > Show/Hide Artboard.

While I'm putting together an illustration, I try not to be restricted by the dimensions and work a lot more free with the canvas space. Then throughout, I'll modify the artboard and make it visible to give me a good idea of how the final composition may be put together.



Step 14

The clouds are made up using several circles I've created with the Ellipse Tool (L). I then used Align > Vertical Align Bottom and then Pathfinder > Unite to create one shape. With the Pen Tool (P) I then removed points from along the bottom of the cloud shape.


I created several of these cloud shapes to make them more random, then duplicated them, and Grouped them with other cloud shapes (Command + G). Once done, place them around the sky with a white fill and a 0.75pt black stroke.



Step 15

For the road, I created a quick dashed line. I didn't use the dashed line option within the Stroke panel, as it wouldn't match the perspective of the road. I drew a 10pt Stroke Weight line with the Profile "Width Profile 4" attached to create the tapering effect.


Then go to Object > Expand to expand the stroke to a shape. Give it a white fill and a 0.25pt black stroke.


I then used the Eraser Tool (Shift + E) to remove sections of the line to create the dashing. You'll need to make sure that all the other shapes are locked, otherwise you'll end up erasing chunks of those!



Step 16

As I'm going for a very cartoon looking illustration, I'm going to add a cheesy kawaii style sun. To do this, I'm going to draw a white fill, 0.75pt black stroke circle with the Ellipse Tool (L), and then add two black fill circles for the eyes and half an ellipse for the mouth. For the kawaii look, the eyes and mouth are all along the same horizontal line and south of the middle of the shape.


I've duplicated the semi circle mouth and used Pathfinder > Intersect with a Rounded Rectangle shape to produce the tongue. This will have a 0.75pt black stroke and a white fill.



Step 17

For the rays of light from the sun, I've drawn a horizontal line with the Line Segment Tool (\) using an 80pt Stroke Weight and Width Profile 4. I then went to Object > Expand to make it a shape and gave it a white fill and a 0.25pt black stroke.


Using Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform, I duplicated it 17 times at a 20 degree angle from the middle left side and clicked on OK.



Step 18

To finish off our line art, I'm going to add a dashed line around the sneaker for the stitching.



Step 19

I began to color the line art. For the sneaker, I made a Group of all the lines (Command + G) and then used the Live Paint Bucket (K) to add colors to the sneaker. For the rest of the illustration, I just used the Direct Selection Tool (A) and replaced the white fills. For the rays of light, I gave it a white fill and just reduced the Opacity to 50%.



Step 20

For each part of the illustration, I'm going to add similar shading via the Appearance panel. I'll be adding a vector inner glow, similar to the vector drop shadow I created in this tutorial. It's duplicating an inside aligned stroke and gradually increasing the stroke weight, while using Blending Mode Multiply and a lower Opacity. Pay attention to the screenshots as some elements will use different percentage Opacities.

The tree/leaves will use the below Appearance panel settings:


And then the trunk:



Step 21

For a cartoon effect detailing of leaves on the tree, I've used the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) to add crimped lines over the shape with a light green fill and an Opacity of 50%.



Step 22

For the sun I used a 2pt yellow inside aligned stroke on top of a magenta to yellow radial gradient.


The tongue I've used a similar style, this time with a white to purple radial gradient.



Step 23

For the clouds I made use of the vector inner glow effect with three duplicated, Opacity 10%, with Blending Mode Multiply, and inside aligned strokes of 1pt, 2pt and 3pt. I've used a subtle white to light blue radial gradient to add a slight blue effect to the fill of the clouds.



Step 24

I used the same effect with the hills with a slight change. I got duplicated inside aligned strokes for 2pt, 3pt, 4pt and 5pt set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 10%. Then two further strokes at 7pt and 9pt Stroke Weight set to Blending Mode multiply and Opacity 5% to give a softer edge to the inner glow effect.


For the hill in the back, I added an additional fill of a white to dark green radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 40%.



Step 25

I used the vector inner glow process for the lace/road and also used the "USGS 21 Intricate Surface" pattern to give it a subtle texture. You can find this by going into the drop down menu in the Swatch panel, then to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures.



Step 26

With the sneaker, duplicate the Live Paint group and then Object > Expand (unstick stroke). You'll have a group which contains two groups, one will be the line art and the other the filled shapes.

Duplicate the filled shapes group and then remove the shapes for the sole of the shoe. In the Appearance panel I'm going to add two fills with the "Burlap" pattern, which you can find in the Basic Graphics_Texture gallery as before. However, with one of the fills, I'm going to move the pattern slightly using Object > Transform > Move and using the below settings.


The reason I'm doing this is one fill is going to be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 20% and the other is to be set to Blending Multiply with Opacity 10%. If they were overlapping each other (not using the move) then it would cancel out the effect I want to create.



Step 27

Using the vector inner glow effect, I'm going to apply this to each of the colored shapes of the sneaker. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to first select the color, then go to Select > Same > Fill Color to get all shapes, which have this fill color. Below are the Appearance panel settings for each color:





Step 28

The inside of the sneaker has the same process, however this time with an additional gray transparent radial gradient toward the bottom of the shape to add shadow.


The same gradient is used for the inside of the shoe's tongue area.



Step 29

The remaining laces will use the vector inner glow effect.



Step 30

I modified the stitching to the sneaker by changing the stroke color to white. However, I added a subtle outline around the stitching. I've done this by duplicating the stroke and have a 2pt round cap gray stroke behind a 0.75pt round cap white stroke. Both strokes are a 3pt dashed line as before.

You'll need to then drag and drop the group of the dashed lines into the group of the sneaker shapes. It will need to be below the line art and above the Burlap textured shapes.



Step 31

I changed the stroke color around the sneaker to a dark gray. I still want the shoe to stand out above everything else, however I felt the black outline was a bit too powerful for the entire shoe. I have kept the black stroke on the laces and road/lace.



Step 32

I used a gray transparent radial gradient as a fill in an Ellipse (L) to add subtle shadows underneath the trees. These are set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 50%.


I used the same gradients for the shadow under the toe of the shoe and the shadow cast by the lace. These are set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 80%.



Step 33

I went back to using the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) and altered the dimensions to a portrait A4 ratio artboard. I wanted to keep the height of 600pt, so I needed to find out what the width would need to be.

As I don't know this off hand, I Googled the paper size, which was 210 x 297 in millimeters. 297 divided by 210 is 1.4. Therefore 600 divided by 1.4 will give me the width required... 428 which I've entered into the width value. I then moved the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) around the canvas to the crop I find best.



Step 34

With the new crop, I'm going to change the placement of some of the elements. This includes the sun...


Then I added some more trees to the surrounding areas...


And then I modified the placement of the clouds.



Step 35

Finally, I've added a subtle blue, inverted, transparent radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply to add a slight variation in color.



Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed today's Premium tutorial on creating this conceptual illustration. I've had a lot of fun creating it and found myself more interested in trying out a kawaii style of graphics... maybe we might see some more tutorials of that at a later date!


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