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Create an Artistic Vector Fish with Layered Effects

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In this tutorial we explore Combinations of Adobe Illustrator tools, such as effects, and especially the expressive ways to use Transparency. We will "down and ready" with the use of Opacity and Clipping Mask too.

With these easy to follow instructions, we'll bring out the creativity within you. Learn how to use transparency, blends and effects to create clean, stylized, semi-realistic vector artwork with great depth. Take the plunge into these vector artwork enhancing techniques!


Step 1

First, place the scanned drawing on the page.



Go to the fly-out Menu from the Layers Palette and click Template to turn the placed image into a template layer.


Again go to fly-out Menu and choose New Layer. Use the Pencil Tool and Draw a line-drawing sketch as shown below.



Step 2

After finishing the line sketch, we need to choose a light direction. I decided that the light is coming from this direction shown below (top left).

Now draw some squares and fill them with desired colors for this illustration. Make a wide range starting from a light color and ending with a dark color to use as a theme for the artwork. This can be done according to your own preferences.




Step 3

Make a Copy of the body of the fish as shown.


Fill the body with the darkest color from your theme colors.


With the Mesh Tool Selected, choose one of the lighter color from your theme colors and click once inside the fish's body area as shown. Note: It's good that the path for the fish body is a closed path.



Now keep clicking where you want to assume to be the best place to depict how the light and dark should be according to the light source.







Now you can use your Direct Selection Tool and click on the paths to adjust to your likes and desired look. Now take a look at what we have now. Note: A little artistic sensibility for color is needed here.



Step 4

Make a Copy of the body as shown. Always keep the first pencil drawing close at hand, as this is our main drawing for copying parts from. Use the Pen Tool to draw lines, then cut out the line as shown.


Now use the Direct Selection Tool and select by dragging over the open paths and join. Click Smooth and OK.


Fill this path with a dark color from your theme colors. Use Mesh Tool as we did previously.




Select this path and align it on top of the main body as shown. Now go to the Transparency palette and set it to Multiply.




Step 5

Select the base part of the body and move it down (see below). Using the Lasso Tool select the edge of the path and fill it with a darker color from your theme colors. Now move the edited path back on top of the body and align.


Use the Pen Tool to draw path as shown. Now go to Effects > Bur > Gaussian Bur and adjust until it looks something like what you see here. Now change the Transparency to Overlay.


Use the Pencil Tool and draw around the top path, fill with a Linear Gradient. Select both the drawn path and the path with the Linear Gradient, then go to Transparency > fly-out menu > Make Opacity Mask.


Note: To edit the Opacity Mask, click on the chain link. When finished with editing chain back up by clicking. To come out of the opacity mode, click on the first box and then on to the artboard. Now select the entire artwork and lock it.




Step 6

Copy the line from the first drawing as shown. Use the Pencil Tool to free hand draw the fish lip. Using the Direct Selection Tool, click on the open paths and join them. Now use the Pencil > Smooth Tool to clean up the lip path.




Step 7

Select fish lip and fill with a dark color. Change to the Mesh Tool and select a lighter color. Here we are just applying Mesh Effects as shown previously.


Next select the fish lip and go to Object > path > Offset path, following the steps as shown.




Next fill the Offset path with a Gradient as shown.


Select the Offset path, then use the Gradient Tool to adjust to your heart's desire. Take the Lasso Tool and select the end of the Offset path as shown. Now fill it with a lighter color from your color theme. Adjust until you get what you like.



Step 8

Just follow the same method as in Step 7. Note: Make sure to arrange the lip of the fish to be in front of this path.






Step 9

Copy the fish's tail fin from the original line drawing.


Fill it in with a light color from your color theme.


Using the Pen Tool or Pencil Tool draw the lines shown below. With all the lines selected, double-click the Blend Tool and apply as shown.



Step 10

Grab the Direct Selection Tool, then click on the path and set point size to 0.1 pt. Select the paths you want and change to different point sizes.



Step 11

With the same idea of making the fish's tail fins, you can make the fins at the side.


Arrange the side fins to the front then lock this. Now use the Warp Tool to adjust the side to your likes, and click while holding down your mouse then release when you see what you like.



Select your created side fin and Copy > Paste In Front. Unlock everything on the page. Now select the copy of the side fin and the lines, then align and apply a Clipping Mask. With both paths selected, you can right-click and use the Clipping Mask as shown.




Just take a look below and make your artwork look something close to it.



Step 12

Select the Clipped Mask side fin, then go to Transparency and set it to Screen at 25% - 30% Opacity and lock.


Select the side fin's color fill, which is at the back of the Clipped Masked fin. Change it to a Normal Blend Mode at 25%-30% Opacity range.


Create two oval paths and fill one with a dark color and a the inner one with a light color. Now make a Blend using the Blend Tool as shown.



Select this Blend, go to Effects > Bur > Gaussian Bur. Adjust until desired. Now apply a Transparency > Overlay.




Unlock all, select the side fin Group. Using the Pencil Tool, draw around the side fin. Now fill in a gradient as shown. Select both the side fin and Gradient fill and apply an Opacity Mask from the Transparency palette.





Now you can adjust the Opacity Mask Gradient fill using the Gradient Tool. Remember to unchain when you need to edit and chain back when done.





Step 13

Within the side fin Opacity Mask use the Pen Tool or Pencil Tool to draw as shown. Now fill it with the default Black and White Gradient, then adjust to suit.





Next go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust to your preferences. Now chain link the Opacity Mask back and click out.



Step 14

Select the side fin, then go to Transparency and unchain the link. In the Opacity Masking side, draw a circle and fill it with the default black to white Gradient. Adjust and move around the circle until you like what to see. When done just link-up the Opacity Mask again and click out.





Step 15

Copy the tail fin shaped path. Grab the Wrinkle Tool, and set width and height to .75. Click and drag around the edges of the tail fin shaped path. Select the tail fin line blends and move them away for now. Fill the tail fin shape with a dark color and with a lighter color using the Mesh Tool as shown.






Use the Lasso Tool, select the edges as seen and fill with a light color.


Using the Pencil Tool draw around the tail fin blends. Fill the drawn path with a black to white gradient. Select both the tail fin shape and tail fin blend and gradient fill shape and apply an Opacity Mask. Adjust until you like what you see.




Copy the tail-fin shape and scale it a little bigger. Align as shown. Now apply a gradient Opacity Mask just like what we did previously. Your tail fin should look something like what is seen below. Also if you want to use the Wrinkle Tool, then select it and click-drag around edges of Scaled tail-fin. Select a copy of the tail fin and scale the path, as well as the tail fin blends, and apply a Clipping Mask.




Make a copy of the tail. Select this copy along with the blend and scale the tail fin and apply another Gradient Opacity Mask. Adjust the Gradient to a radial Gradient and using the Gradient Tool to get the Opacity Mask the way you want.




Step 16

Use the Pen Tool to draw the bottom lip. Now fill it in with a dark color. Use the Mesh Tool again and use a light color to blend as shown below.



Create an Offset path and fill it with a gradient that goes from a light color to a dark color from your color theme.


Using the Pencil Tool, draw paths as seen here. Fill the path in black, go to Effects > Bur > Gaussian Bur. Now apply Multiply from the Transparency Blend Mode.






Step 17

Using the Pencil Tool to draw paths as seen below. Fill the path with a dark color. Now go to Object > path > Simplify to neatin-up the path.






Fill the path with a default Gradient that goes from black to white. Go to Transparency > Normal > Multiply. Make a copy of the body from the first line drawing.




Align the path as shown. Select the path and the pencil drawn shape, then apply a Clipping Mask.




Step 18

Draw an oval over the body. Select the pencil path with a Clipping Mask Circle and apply an Opacity Mask. Make sure the Circle (Oval) is filled with a Linear Gradient. Adjust until you are comfortable with the results.



Inside the Opacity Mask make sure the chain-link is broken then select the pencil drawn path and Go to Effects > Outer Glow and apply as shown.



Select as shown and apply the following: Make a copy of the body of the fish from the line path. Align on the fish's body. Arrange to bring it to front if needed.





Lastly, select the pencil shape drawing as shown, along with the line path and apply a Clipping Mask.



Step 19

Draw a circle and cut it in half to create a scale shape. Make multiple copies and align as shown. Just step and repeat this until it looks close to what is seen below.






Step 20

Select Scale Pattern we just created and drag it into the Brushes as shown.


Using a copy of the line path, take your Pen Tool, draw a line, and apply the new scale brush.




Select the path with the Scales and Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh.




Using the Direct Selection Tool, adjust the Mesh as shown. Now select the Scales and line path, then apply a Clipping Mask.




Step 21

Select the scales and align as shown.


With the scales selected, go to the Transparency palette and set the blend mode to Overlay at 64% Opacity. Now take the Pencil Tool and draw around the Scales on the fish's body, then fill the path with a Radial Gradient that goes from black to white. Apply an Opacity Mask and Adjust the Gradient until it looks good to you.



All this is to be done within the Opacity Mask: Use the Pen or Pencil Tool to draw around the side fin. Fill the path with Black, Go to Effect > Bur > Gaussian Bur and apply.



Now double-click until to edit the Scales. Go to Object > Expand Appearance, then fill the stroke with white.





Step 22

Get a Copy of the line path and shape as see here. Select the Scales, then apply Object > Expand > OK.




Now go to Object > Live Paint > Make, and apply fills as shown below.





Select the live painted scales and Align as shown, then apply a Clipping Mask.




Step 23

Here again, use the Pencil Tool to draw around fish's body as shown. Fill the path with a Radial Gradient that goes from black to white.



Select both the colored scales and gradient fill, then apply an Opacity Mask and adjust as needed.



Within the Opacity Mask, use the Pencil Tool to draw around the side fin.



Fill the path in with black and apply a Gaussian Blur. Turn on the Chain link Opacity Mask. After, click onto the artboard.




Step 24

Draw a path on the fish's head, as shown, and fill it with white. Then apply a Gaussian Blur. Now add an Overlay from the Transparency Blending Mode options.



Repeat this for the following area of the fish.





Adding more highlights as shown.





Step 25

Use the Pencil or Pen Tool to draw the eye paths.


Fill the eyes as shown seen below, then use the Mesh Tool to Blend the colors.





Select the eye, then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and apply as shown.



Now duplicate the eye.


Draw a path, select the path and eye, then apply a Clipping Mask.




Step 26

Draw a path and fill it in with a Radial Gradient. Select both the path and lips, then apply an Opacity Mask. Adjust until you like it.





Step 27

Make a copy of the line path, and use the Pen Tool follow these steps.





Double-click the Blend Tool and apply as shown.


Apply blends to the lines. Adjust the lines to different stroke weights.



Step 28

Make a copy of the paths as shown here.


Select line Blends and move them aside for now


Select the line Blends and double-click on the Blend Tool, change the Specified Steps to 30, and hit OK.




Now select the path on top of the fish and apply the Mesh Tool as shown.


Use the Pencil Tool here to create another shape.


Select both paths and apply an Opacity Mask. Adjust to suit.



Step 29

Select the blended lines and fill them with a white stroke, align and apply a Clipping Mask. Now end by applying a Blend Mode of Multiply.






Step 30

Make a Copy as seen here.


Align the copy as shown.


Draw a path, fill it with a Radial Gradient and apply Opacity Mask.


Adjust to suit.


Draw a path as shown.


Fill in Black, then apply a blur by going to Object > Bur > Gaussian Blur.


This is all done within the Opacity Mask. When done, turn on the chain link and click out.



Step 31

Make a copy of the top fin.


Apply Mesh Effects.


Blend this using a Soft Light blend mode from the Transparency palette. Make another Copy and use the Wrinkle Tool by dragging it around the path's edges as shown. Align on top, then apply some Mesh Tool Effects as shown.






Now apply an Opacity Mask.




Conclusion

There we have have it! We used quite a few techniques and effects in this tutorial. Have fun applying them in your own work!



You can of course add your own background to finish off this illustration. Below is an example.