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Create an Abstract, Textured Artwork in Illustrator

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Ever wondered how to create a textured, abstract piece of art only using Illustrator. Well, here your challenge is to learn how to do it! We'll be using mostly the Blend Tool, Paintbrush Tool and textures to enhance the image. A basic understanding of each and every tool is advised.

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS4
  • Difficulty: Basic
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30-60 minutes

Step 1

First, we'll start off with looking for some textures. Deviantart is always a good place to start the hunt. I found just the one I wanted here: Texture Pack 1 by Cetrobo (usage of these textures is restricted, however the artist gave permission for us to use here in this tutorial).

Create a square document (I made mine 1800 by 1800 pixels), inside Illustrator. Open up (Command + O) the texture in Illustrator, or Copy then Paste it inside your document.

Step 2

Add some grungy watercolor splats to give it that traditional painted feeling. I found some great ones on Bittbox. I've used two of them from here: Free High Res Texture Pack Grungy Watercolor.

Place them on top of the texture and use the blend modes Darken or Multiply to blend them on top of the texture. Changing the Blend Mode is easily done inside the Transparency palette. The first one was set on Darken, and the second on Multiply.

Step 3

It's time to create an art brush for the abstract forms. We'll be using Rectangles, Ellipses and the Blend Tool.

  1. Draw a square using the Rectangle Tool (M), while holding Shift to constrain it's dimensions. On the right of it you create a circle using the Ellipse Tool (L), also while holding Shift.
  2. Make sure your Smart Guides (Command + U) are on, which will help line both shapes up horizontally.
  3. Use the Blend Tool (W) to create a sort of metamorphose from a square to a circle.
  4. You can set the amount of steps by pressing Enter on the keyboard (while the Blend Tool is still selected) and the Blend Options will pop up.

If you did that, press OK select the blend and go to the Brushes tab (F5) and press the New Brush-button. Select New Art Brush, and press OK on both windows.

Now you can use it as a brush inside Illustrator. I took it up the experimental way, to create some abstract artwork, go wild with the Brush Tool (B)! First Lock the textures you made, to select the brush strokes and group (Command + G) them.

Step 4

I wanted some sort of wave coming out of this forms, so I made another brush using only two lines and the Blend Tool.

  1. Create a 10pt. line, duplicate (Command + C) the line and place the duplicate beneath it (Command + B) and make it have a 1pt stroke.
  2. Use the Blend Tool, and make sure to set the amount of steps to 5 again.

Make a new art brush once again. If you like to change the color of the lines afterwards, you can put the Method of the Colorization on Tints and the Key Color on black, since the lines are black. Black is the color that you'll be able to change.

Draw the outline of the abstract forms real simplified using the Brush Tool (B) with the last brush you made. Put the Blend Mode on Overlay and the Opacity on something around 50.

Step 5

For the sake of craziness duplicate the group of the abstract shapes and place the duplicated group above the "wavy lines" you created in Step 4. Select the group and put the stroke width on 2pt instead of 1, and put the Blend Mode of the entire group on Multiply.

Step 6

Let's color this stuff up some more. Using another texture from the same ">Bittbox texture pack. Place it on top, and set the Blend Mode on Color Burn and the Opacity on 50%.

Step 7

Place in another texture from Cetrobo's Texture Pack. Transform it to fill the canvas. And put the Blend Mode on Multiply and the Opacity on 30%.

I only want the texture visible on the abstract shapes, and not on the background. That's easily solved with masking. In the Transparency tab you see this small thumb of the layer you have selected. Double-clicking the empty spot right next to it makes you an Opacity Mask. Make sure the Clip is selected.

  1. Click back on the thumb of the texture, to get out of the mask.
  2. Copy the first abstract form group (Command + C)
  3. And paste it inside the mask (Command + F).

Step 8

I want some lighting coming from the left-top corner. We will be doing this using a gradient (going from white to full transparency). So the first thing you'll need is a shape, and we'll use a circle here because we'll be using a Radial gradient. Take the Ellipse Tool, and hold Alt and Shift at the same to create a perfect circle.

Go to the Gradient tab and create a Radial gradient. Fill both sliders up with white, though the second one needs 0% Opacity. Looking like a light already, isn't it?

To let it more blend in, I changed the Blend Mode to Overlay.

Step 9

For a more grungy-feel I chose to put an old film texture above the entire piece. Lost And Taken has posted some extremely good looking ones here, 11 Old and Grungy Film Textures. I placed it on top of the piece, transformed it to the canvas size and set the Blend Mode on Multiply.

Step 10

I created an overall color adjustment by making a rectangle above the entire piece and experimenting with colors, gradients and blend modes. It was trial and error until I got something that looked good to me. These gradient colors might look strange to you (so do they to me) but they felt right with a Color Burn as Blend Mode. There's nothing wrong with some random experimenting in my opinion, on the contrary it's what makes creating pieces like this more fun.

Conclusion

You can finish up the piece by experimenting with more Blend Tool use and Brush ninja trickery! Have fun, and be original in everything you do! This is how my finished piece looked like after a bit of sharpening inside Photoshop.

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