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Create a Soaring Vector Landscape

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Soar high when you follow this step-by-step tutorial for creating a fun vector airplane landscape. Learn to create opacity paths that show flight direction and other above the edge of the world tricks. Pull a chair and get ready, this tutorial skews toward the advanced end of "intermediate.


Step 1

Note: Throughout the tutorial I recommend using a variety of layers to keep your document easy to navigate. I'll avoid pointing out when I use new layers in this tutorial though to keep things concise.

Start by drawing a Rounded Rectangle (you can also give your square-edged rectangle rounded corners by going to Effects > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Give it an aqua green to white gradient too.



Step 2

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw an oval for the basis of the Earth.



Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), draw a rectangle that you'll use to cut the Earth in half.



Step 4

Select the oval and rectangle shape, then click Minus Front in the Pathfinder.



Step 5

This is the shape you should be left with.

Note: I'm using a layer with a white shape around the edge of my artwork to keep it looking aligned and clean. Simply keep this layer on top of all the other layers and you won't have to trim every shape to the exact size of your background. Of course, this technique will only be suitable sometimes.



Step 6

Use a radial gradient to give the Earth a shadow that appears closest to the viewer. This creates the illusion of light coming from behind the Earth.

To achieve the effect, I've started drawing my gradient in the center of the Earth and dragged the angle outward as highlighted below.



Step 7

To create the continents, use the Pencil Tool (N.) Draw arbitrary shapes as shown below. It's best to go outside the edge of the Earth to ensure that the continents go all the way to the edge. We'll clean up the edges in Step 9.



Step 8

Unite all the individual continent shapes by clicking Unite.



Step 9

Select the Earth and continents and click Divide. After that go to Object > Ungroup (you may need to ungroup the shapes up to four times for them to be fully ungrouped.) Now, delete the extraneous parts of the continents that fall outside the edge of the Earth.

Once you've deleted all the extra parts that you don't need, Unite the remaining shapes using the Pathfinder.



Step 10

Give the continents a green fill, then go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter 5 for the X axis and 0 for both the Y and Z axis. Leave the Extrude Depth set at 50. Click OK.



Step 11

In order to further edit the shape you'll need to Expand it by going to Object > Expand Appearance. Finally, go to Object > Ungroup. Again, you may need to ungroup your shape up to four times in order for it to be fully ungrouped. Now, you should be able to select each individual shape that comprises the continents.



Step 12

Give the sides of the continents their own linear gradient to add even more detail.



Step 13

To match the shading that we've applied to the water on the Earth, give the continents a similar green to dark green gradient.



Step 14

Let's add more depth to the illustration by giving the Earth a drop shadow. Apply Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow, and enter the values below. Note that I've used a color that's similar to the background color in my illustration so the shadow blends well.



Step 15

We'll take the detail of the continents one step further by giving it a subtle texture by going to Effect > Texture > Texturizer. Select Sponge and change the variables on the right to reflect that look that you're after.


Step 16

Small details go a long way in creating a cool final illustration. To draw the airplane use a series of simple shapes. I'm using the Pen Tool (P) to draw the basic outline of the plane.



Step 17

When you break the plane down into shapes it's easy to see how it was made. Continue adding other elements like windows and panels.



Step 18

Last, draw the wings. You'll also notice that I'm using a tenuous gradient to add a hint of volume to the airplane.



Step 19

Draw a flock of birds as well.



Step 20

To make the clouds use the Pencil Tool (N) and draw random shapes. Inside of the cloud draw a smaller arbitrary shape and fill it with a light gray color.



Step 21

When you look at the overall composition of the drawing you'll observe that it has a circular feel. I'm making sure to keep this in mind as I draw each element of the illustration. If something doesn't feel right when you draw it, don't be afraid to just get rid of it and draw it again, or change its position by rotating it, and skewing it, until it looks good to you.



Step 22

I'll draw trees in the far distance by first using an Ellipse.



Step 23

Use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) and click the top point to make it turn into an angle. After that, use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag the point upward.



Step 24

Select the tree shape and use the Rotate Tool (R) to drag the cross-hair to the "center" of the Earth, as shown below. Note: You'll have to click directly on the cross-hair to move it. If you're slightly off, it won't move, it'll just rotate your shape.

Once you move the cross-hair down, ensure that you do not click on anything else just yet.



Step 25

Hold down Option and click and drag the tree shape to the left or right. Once you release the mouse, your shape will be duplicated and will follow the curvature of the Earth. Repeatedly hold down Option and click and drag (releasing the mouse when you want to create an instance of a tree.)



Step 26

Vary the size of some of the trees to create a more natural look. Adjust their color and opacity so they blend well with the background.



Step 27

Create shadows for the clouds by drawing a shape using the Pencil Tool, setting the Transparency to Multiply and changing the Opacity to about 20%.



Step 28

To create the paper airplane use a similar step-by-step process that we used for the airplane. Use the Pen Tool to make pleasing lines.



Step 29

Draw the other wing.



Step 30

Draw the center of the plane.



Step 31

Layer shapes on top of each other to create folds in the plane.



Step 32

Draw another shape over the plane that you'll use to divide the plane into pieces with. Before you divide the shapes, I'd recommend making a copy of your plane and keeping it off to the side. Once you divide the shapes you can just place the blue shapes over the top of the plane.



Step 33

Select all the airplane shapes and click Divide in the Pathfinder.



Step 34

Ungroup the shapes and get rid of all the extra shapes around the edge that you don't need. Now, place the blue shapes over the copy of the airplane and set the mode to Multiply.



Step 35

Draw a plus shape.



Step 36

To distort the shape go to Effect > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh. Enter 1 for both options.



Step 37

Drag the corners and handles of the mesh in order to warp the shape slightly.



Step 38

Make a couple unique versions or copies of the plane and adjust their positions.



Step 39

To create the swirls I started by drawing an arbitrary loop using the Pencil Tool.



Step 40

I drew the other half of the loop shape using the Pen Tool as I find it easier to draw a natural shape using the Pencil Tool. I switch to the Pen Tool because mimicking the first loop shape that was drawn is much easier when you have something to reference.

As you're switching from the Pencil Tool to the Pen Tool, make sure your shape is closed once completed.



Step 41

Give the loop shape a white to transparent fill and no stroke.



Step 42

To add some interest to the loop, give it a ragged edge by going to Effect Stylize > Scribble. Try using some of the pre-existing settings as a base and customizing them to suit your liking.



Step 43

Draw several other loop shapes and give some a dark fill to create the impression that they're farther away.



Step 44

I've also added a slight shadow where the loop overlaps itself. Simply draw a shape and fill it with a subtle green to transparent gradient.



Step 45

To complete the illustration I've darkened the edge of both the left and right of the illustration using a black to transparent linear gradient.



Final Image

This is what the final illustration looks like!


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