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Create a Vector Tape Measure in Illustrator CS5

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In the following tutorial you will learn how to create a vector tape measure. Learn to use professional pixel perfect vector shape building techniques, break shapes apart as needed with Pathfinder tools, and color your graphic elements with highlights and gradients, resulting in a metallic tape measure illustration.


Step 1

Hit Command + N to create a new document. Enter 800 in the width box and 350 in the height box, then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unchecked before your click OK. Now, turn on the Grid (View > Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid).

Next, you'll need a grid every 5px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. You can also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.


Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 435 by 40px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below and make sure that there's no color set for the stroke. Move to the Layers panel, Double-click on this new shape and name it "Tape".


Step 3

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid), then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set to 1px. Select "Tape" and make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F).

Select the top copy and hit the down arrow twice. Reselect both copies, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Minus Front button. Fill the resulting shape with R=247, G=238, B=152.


Step 4

Again, select "Tape" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and this time hit the up arrow twice. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=247, G=238, B=152.


Step 5

Re-enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). For the following step you will need a grid every 2px. So, go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 2 in the Gridline every box. Pick the Pen Tool (P), and draw 10 vertical paths as shown in the first image. The Snap to Grid will ease your work.

Select all these paths, remove the color from the fill and add a 0.25pt stroke. Set its color at R=60, G=36, B=21. Group all these paths (Command + G), make a copy of the group (Command + C > Command + F) and drag it down (as shown in the second image). Again, the Snap to Grid will come in handy. Reselect this group copy and go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Check the Horizontal button and click OK. Now your group copy should look like the third image shown.


Step 6

Return to "Gridline every 5px". This means that you need to go again to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box. Reselect the two groups created in the previous step, group them (Command + G) and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the data shown below and click OK.


Step 7

Select "Tape", make a copy in front (Command + C > Command + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Command + ] ). Fill this copy with white and open the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency). Select this white shape, along with the group created in the previous step, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel and click on Make Opacity Mask.


Step 8

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Reselect "Tape", make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F) and bring them to front (Shift + Command + ] ). Select the top copy and hit the down arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=221, G=204, B=137.


Step 9

Reselect "Tape", make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F) and bring them to front (Shift + Command + ] ). Select the top copy and hit the up arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=165, G=146, B=63.


Step 10

Pick the Type Tool (T) and add the one to ten numbers. Use the Franchise Bold font with a size of 15pt, then set the color to R=133, G=107, B=0. Select all these numbers, group them (Command + G) and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown in the second image and click OK.


Step 11

Re-enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20px square and drag it below the numbers group. Fill it with R=252 G=244 B=112 and add a 1pt stroke. Align it to outside and set its color at R=242, G=204, B=61. Reselect this shape and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 2px radius and click OK.


Step 12

Reselect "Tape", make a new copy in front (Command + C > Command + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Command + ] ). Select it, change its blending mode to Multiply and replace the existing linear gradient with the one shown in the second image. Note that the yellow zero from the gradient image stands for opacity percentage.


Step 13

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on the left ending of "Tape". Create a 5 by 40px shape, fill it with a random color and place it as shown in the first image. Continue with the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a second shape. Make it 5px wide and 20px tall, fill it with a random color and place it as shown in the second image.

Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on this second rectangle. Select the top, right anchor point and move it 5px down, then select the bottom, right anchor point and move it 5px up. In the end your shape should look like the third image shown below. Reselect the two shapes created so far and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.

Next, you'll need the Round Any Corner script. You can find it in the Vectortuts+ article 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts. Save it to your hard drive, return to Illustrator and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the four anchor points highlighted in the fifth image and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter a 1px Radius and click OK. In the end your shapes should look like the sixth image shown.


Step 14

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 by 10px shape and place it as shown in the first image. Fill it with a random color and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting shape, along with the shape created in the previous step, and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.


Step 15

Reselect the shape created in the previous step, replace the flat color from the fill with the linear gradient shown below, and move to the Appearance panel. First, add a white stroke. Make it 1.5pt wide and align it to inside. Next, add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button. It's the little black square icon located at the bottom of the Appearance panel. Select this new stroke, make it 0.75pt wide, align it to inside and set its color at R=152, G=148, B=152.


Step 16

Switch to "Gridline every 1px". Again, this means that you need to go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box. Pick the Pen Tool (P) and draw a simple path as shown in the first image. Make sure that there's no color set for the fill and add a 2pt, white stroke. Add a second stroke for this path, make it 0.75pt wide, and set its color at R=152, G=148, B=152.

Reselect this path and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1px radius and click OK. Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 4px circle and place it as shown in the second image. Fill it with white and add a 0.75pt stroke. Align it to inside and set its color at R=152, G=148, B=152.


Step 17

Switch back to "Gridline every 5px". Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 200 by 70px shape and place it as shown in the first image. Fill it with a random color and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 10px radius, click OK, and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Continue with the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 10 by 40px shape, and place it as shown in the second image.

Select it, along with the large, rounded rectangle and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. Enter the data shown in the final image, click OK and apply Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, Double-click on the resulting shape and name it "Body".


Step 18

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select "Body" and make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the left arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35, G=31, B=32.


Step 19

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the left arrow twice. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=116, G=118, B=120.


Step 20

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the right arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path and fill it with R=35, G=31, B=32.


Step 21

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the right arrow twice. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path and fill it with R=116, G=118, B=120.


Step 22

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the up arrow three times. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. This will create a group with two simple shapes. Delete the top shape, then select the other shape, fill it with black and lower its Opacity to 15%.


Step 23

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the down arrow three times. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. This will create a group with two simple shapes. Delete the bottom shape, then select the other shape, fill it with black and lower its Opacity to 15%.


Step 24

Select "Body" and make a copy in back (Command + C > Command + B). Select this copy and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. Enter the data shown in the second image, click OK and move to the Appearance panel.

First, replace the flat color from the fill with the linear gradient shown below. The white numbers from the gradient image stands for Location percentage. Next, add a stroke for this shape. Make it 1pt wide, align it to inside, and set its color at R=93, G=94, B=97.


Step 25

Let's add some extra color for "Body". Select this shape and fill it with the linear gradient shown below. Remember that the white numbers from the gradient image stand for Location percentage.


Step 26

Reselect "Body", focus on the Appearance panel and add a new fill using the Add New Fill button. It's the little, white square from the bottom of the Appearance panel. Select this new fill, lower its Opacity to 20%, change the blending mode to Overlay and use the linear gradient shown below.


Step 27

Reselect "Body" and add a third fill. Select it from the Appearance panel, make it black, lower its Opacity to 3%, change the blending mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the data shown below and click OK. Make sure that "Body" is still selected and add a 1pt stroke. Align it to inside and set its color at R=152, G=148, B=152.


Step 28

Select "Body", make a copy in front (Command + C > Command + F) and bring it to front (Shift + Command + ] ). Select this copy and simply hit the "D" key from your keyboard. This will add the default properties (white and a 1pt, black stroke) for your shape. Just remove the color from the stroke.


Step 29

Re-enable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Pick the Pen Tool (P) and draw a simple horizontal path as shown in the first image. Select it, along with the white shape created in the previous step and click on the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel. This will create a group with two separate shapes.

Select the bottom shape, fill it with the left linear gradient shown below, and change its blending mode to Color Burn. Select the other shape, fill it with the second linear gradient and change it blending mode to Color Burn. Remember that the yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity.


Step 30

Switch to "Gridline every 1px". Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 193 by 1px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it as show in the following images.


Step 31

Pick the Rectangle Tool(M) and create a new 193 by 1px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it directly below the shape created in the previous step.


Step 32

Switch back to "Gridline every 5px". Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 35 by 30px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient show below and place it as shown in the following image.


Step 33

Pick the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on the shape created in the previous step. Select the top, left anchor point and move it 5px down. Select the bottom, left anchor point and move it 5px up. Now, your shape should look like the second image shown.

Make sure that it is still selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 10px radius, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, Double-click on the resulting shape and name it "Button".


Step 34

Disable the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the shape created in the previous step and make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the left arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=35, G=31, B=32.


Step 35

Reselect "Button" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the left arrow twice. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=152, G=148, B=152.


Step 36

Reselect "Body" and make two new copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the right arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=15, G=15, B=15.


Step 37

Re-enable the Snap to Grid and switch to "Gridline every 1px". Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 1 by 32px shape and a 2 by 32px shape, fill them with R=35 G=31 B=32, and place them as shown in the first image. Select these two rectangle and hit Alt + Command + B. This will add a simple blend between these two shapes.

Next, you need to edit it. Make sure that you blend is selected and Double-click on the Blend Tool from the Toolbar (or got to Object > Blend > Blend Options). Select "Specified Steps" from the Spacing drop down menu, enter 5 in the box and click OK.

Now your blend should look like the second image shown. Reselect it and go to Object > Expand. Turn the resulting group of shapes into compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make) and make sure that it is filled with R=35, G=31, B=32.


Step 38

Reselect "Button" and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -3px Offset and click OK. Select the resulting shape and move it a few pixels to the left.

Now, select it, along with the compound path created in the previous step, and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Again, turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path, make sure that it is filled with R=35 G=31 B=32, and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown below and click OK.


Step 39

Reselect "Button", move to the Appearance panel, add a new fill and drag below the existing fill. Make it black, lower its Opacity to 30%, and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the data shown below, click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 2px radius and click OK. This should add a discrete shadow effect for your button.


Step 40

Switch back to "Gridline every 5px". Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 40 by 10px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient show below and place it as shown in the first image. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on this new shape. Select the bottom, left anchor point and move it 10px to the right, then select the bottom, right anchor point and move it 10px to the left.

Now, your shape should look like in the second image. Reselect it and go to Effect Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the data shown in the final image and click OK.


Step 41

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create an 80 by 10px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient show below and place it as shown in the first image. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on this new shape.

Select the bottom, left anchor point and move it 15px to the right, then select the bottom, right anchor point and move it 15px to the left. Now, your shape should look like the second image shown. Reselect it and go to Effect Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius and click OK.


Step 42

Reselect the two shapes created in the previous two steps, group them (Command + G) and send the group to back (Shift + Command + [ ).


Step 43

Switch to "Gridline every 1px". Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 10px circle and place it as shown in the first image. Fill it with none and add a 3pt, aligned to outside stroke. Make sure that this new shape is selected and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Fill the resulting compound path with the linear gradient shown below, then make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the left arrow once. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path and fill it with R=35, G=31, B=32.


Step 44

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 5 by 15px shape. Fill it with the linear gradient shown below and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 3px radius, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.


Step 45

Reselect the shape created in the previous step and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -0.5px Offset and click OK. Select the resulting shape and make a copy in front (Command + C > Command + F). Select it and hit the left arrow once. Reselect the two shapes created in this step and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=152, G=148, B=152.


Step 46

Reselect the the rounded rectangle created in step 44 and add a 0.5pt stroke. Align it to inside and set its color at R=93, G=94, B=97. Select this rounded rectangle, along with the shape created in the previous step, and group them (Command + G). Rotate this new group and place it as shown in the third image.


Step 47

Disable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select all the shapes created in the last four steps, group them (Command + G) and send the group to back (Shift + Command + [ ).


Step 48

Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and Double-click on the first calligraphic brush. Increase the size to 4pt and click OK. Pick the Brush Tool (B), select the edited calligraphic brush and draw simple path as shown in the following image. Set its color at R=147, G=149, B=152.


Step 49

Select the path created in the previous step and make a copy in front (Command + C > Command + F). Select this copy, remove the brush from the stroke, and replace it with a simple stroke. Make it 5pt wide, set the color at R=88 G=89 B=91, and open the Stroke panel (Window > Stroke).

Check the Dashed Line box, enter 1 in the dash box and 5 in the gap box. In the end you should have a nice dashed path. Reselect it and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Select the resulting group of shapes and turn it into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).


Step 50

Reselect the compound path created in the previous step and make a copy in front (Command + C > Command + F). Select it, move it 1px down and fill it with R=188, G=190, B=192.


Step 51

Reselect the path with the calligraphic brush and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Select the resulting shape and make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F).

Select one of these copies, along with the compound path created in step 49, and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting group of shapes and turn it into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).


Step 52

Select the other copy created in the previous step, along with the compound path created in step 50, and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting group of shapes and turn it into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make).


Step 53

Reselect the expanded brush and make two copies in front (Command + C > Command + F > Command + F). Select the top copy and hit the up arrow and the left arrow. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder pane. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Object > Compound Path > Make), bring it to front (Shift + Command + ] ) and fill it with white. Also, lower its Opacity to 80% and change its blending mode to Overlay.


Step 54

Reselect the expanded brush and add a 1pt stroke. Align it to inside and set its color at R=116, G=118, B=120. Add a second stroke for this path, make it 0.5pt wide, align it to outside and set its color at R=65, G=64, B=66.


Step 55

Select all the shapes created and edited in the last seven steps, group them (Command + G) and send the group to back (Shift + Command + [ ).


Step 56

Select all the shapes created so far and make a copy in back (Command + C > Command + B). Select all these copies and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black, lower its Opacity to 15% and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 5px radius and click OK.

Reselect the path created in the previous step and make a new copy in back (Command + C > Command + B). Select it, hit the down arrow ,and the right arrow three times. Make sure that this copy is still selected and move to the Appearance panel. First, remove the existing Gaussian Blur effect, then lower the Opacity to 5%.


Step 57

Finally, let's add a simple background for this thing. Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a shape the size of your artboard and send it to back (Shift + Command + [ ). Fill it with white and add a second fill. Select it from the Appearance panel and use the radial gradient shown below. Return to the Appearance panel and add third fill for this shape. You will need a nice built-in pattern for this new fill.

Go to the Swatches panel, open the fly-out menu and go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures. This will open a new window with a nice set of built-in patterns.

Return to the Appearance panel and select that new fill. Lower its Opacity to 7%, change the blending mode to Multiply and use the "Diamond" pattern. Make sure that this new fill is still selected and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the data shown below, click OK and you're done.


Conclusion

Now your work is done. Here is how it should look.

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