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In this very detailed tutorial you will learn how to create a waving checkered flag vector graphic using two very useful Adobe Illustrator features: the Pen Tool and the Blend Tool. The creation process is quite simple. We just need to focus on the realistic look of the waving flag. We'll create an illusion of 3D in this illustration, which is very important. You can achieve a nice and semi-realistic look by creating an illustration in perspective and applying nice color gradients. Let's get started creating these race flags.
Set up the document size to 800 by 500 pixels. Select the Pen Tool (P) from the Tool Panel and draw the curvy line as is shown in the picture below. The line is representing the form of the race flag. It is actually the upper side of the waving flag.
To complete the shape of the flag select the path from the previous step and hit Command + C for copy and Command + F for paste-in-place. Rotate it and move it downwards. It is very important to make sure that endpoints are matched.
Select both paths and under Object select Blend > Make. To set the number of lines you want to create between these paths select the Blending Options (Object > Blend > Blend Options) and set the value for Specified Steps to 5. The horizontal lines will be used to divide the flag on the small squares.
Before we continue with creating vertical lines, it is necessary to convert the shape from previous step to editable paths. To do that under Object select Expand, which allows us to modify each path individual. If you are not quite happy with the position of the lines you can change it by adjusting anchor points.
To create a vertical lines grab the Line Tool (/) from the Tool Panel and create a line as shown. Set the angle and the position of the line so that it's touching the right side of the flag.
Duplicate (Command + C, Command + F) the line from the previous step and place it on the left side of the flag. These two lines will be used to create many vertical lines for dividing the flag to small squares that will be colored in white and black.
When you are happy with the position of the lines select them both (to select both lines just hold the Shift key and click on each line). Now we use the Blend Tool again. Under Object select Blend > Make. To set the number of the lines we want to create select Object > Blend > Blending Options.
Set the value for Specified Steps to 20. You may have to enter a different value for Specified Steps in your case. It depends on the length of the lines you've created in Step 2.
The shape we've created in the previous step contains a lots of lines. Those lines are going to help us to divide the flag and create small squares, but first we have to expand them in order to convert the shape into editable paths. Select the shape and under Object select Expand.
Feel free to adjust the position of some lines if that will lead to better results. In our case we had to add a few lines in order to create equal squares.
To do that we need to ungroup (Shift + Command + G) the lines from the previous step and move them around until we are satisfied with the result.
Now it's the time to divide our flag into small squares. Select all the lines we've created so far and under the Pathfinder Panel hit the Divide button.
This will create the final shape of our checkered flag graphic, divided into the small squares, but without colors.
It is time to apply colors to our vector flag. We'll start with a solid black and white color. Ungroup (Shift + Command + G) the flag and set the Fill color of the squares to white and black, just like on a chessboard.
Even with colors the flag looks quite flat. There is not a required depth that will give us the illusion of 3D illustration. Since the flag is waving we have to try to create the highlights for the folded parts. The easiest way is to apply a linear gradient only to some squares in a group (Command + G) of the squares with the same color in the same row. It will allow us to work faster.
In order to create the highlights we need to apply a linear gradient to the parts of the flag that are most exposed to the light. The color for the rest of the flag need to blend with the gradients. For the black squares we will use a black to gray linear gradient. Make sure to apply the gradient under the same angle the flag is waving. It will create a nice color transition caused by the influence of the light.
For the white squares we need a gray to white linear gradient. The most important thing in this step is to create the highlight that should match the
highlight on the black squares.
Repeat the previous steps and apply necessary gradients to the other folded parts of the flag as well.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool Panel. Click anywhere on the working area to bring up the Rectangle dialog box. Set the value for width and height to 800px by 500px. Set the Fill color to black and send it back (Shift + Command + [). In the Layer Panel lock the background. This way your actions will not affect the background and the black background enables us to work easier.
Select all the parts of the waving flag artwork and group them (Command + G). Duplicate it by hitting Command + C and then Command + F (Copy and Paste In Front). Now Ungroup (Shift + Command + G) the copy we have just created and under the Pathfinder Panel hit the Unite button.
It will create the new shape of the flag, but without black and white squares. Set the Fill color of the new shape to white. Send the white flag behind the checkered flag (Command + [), nudge it downwards and to the right a few pixels. This will create a thickness for the flag.
We're almost done. Now we need to create a handgrip for the flag. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool Panel and create a rectangle as shown. You can find amazing metal gradients under the Swatch Library (you can find it under the Swatch Panel). Choose a nice one and apply it to our handgrip.
Rotate the handgrip and connect it to the flag. Select all the elements, group them (Command + G) and under Object select Transform > Reflect. Select vertical reflection and hit the Copy button. It will create a mirror image for the flag. Hold down the Shift key on the keyboard and drag the flag to the right.
Feel free to be creative and try out some other colors. You can achieve amazing results. Colors like red can really give it a race flag feel.
In this tutorial we had an opportunity to use the Blend Tool. It is a powerful feature that allows us to create many interesting shapes. Don't forget to pay attention on the visualized light source. Light influence plays a major role in the creation process and will contribute to the realistic look of your illustrations. I encourage you to experiment with colors and gradients. It's great fun. Thank you for following along with me in creating this waving checkered flag graphic.