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Design

How to Create a Desk Scenery Illustration Using Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In today’s tutorial I’m going to show you how to create a simple working space environment using Adobe Illustrator. The process is pretty simple as most of the steps will rely on using some of the basic shapes that come with Illustrator, with the help of which we will create almost all our illustration’s elements.

1. Create a New Document

As with any new project the first thing you should do is make sure that you set up your document properly. Assuming you already have Illustrator running, go to File > New (Control-N) and create a new document with the following settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 800 px
  • Height: 600 px
  • Units: Pixels

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: High (300ppi)
  • Align New Objects to Pixel Grid: checked
setting up a new document

2. Layer Your Artwork

Because layers improve our workflow by allowing us to lock and hide certain parts of the illustration, I recommend that you set up a couple of them so that while you’re moving through the creative process you won’t accidentally misplace elements. I’ve set up eight different layers and named them as follows:

  1. background
  2. delimitation line
  3. desk
  4. coffee mug
  5. macbook
  6. books
  7. trash can
  8. calendar
setting up the layers

3. Setting Up a Custom Grid

If you are familiar with the way Illustrator works, you should know that it gives you the option to snap your design to its Pixel Grid. That means that each anchor point will be positioned at the middle intersection of four pixels.

Because there are different situations that require different grid settings, sometimes you might find yourself in the position to adjust the ones running on your version of Adobe Illustrator.

I personally have gone for the lowest and at the same time the most accurate settings, because I feel I have more control over my designs.

To change these settings, you must go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid. From there, a little popup will appear, where we need to adjust the following:

  • Gridline every: 1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1
setting up a custom grid

Once you’ve adjusted these settings, all you need to do in order to make everything pixel crisp is enable the Snap to Grid option located under the View menu.

Quick tip: you should know that the Snap to Grid option will transform into Snap to Pixel every time you enter Pixel Preview Mode, but that’s totally fine, as most of the times you will be going back and forward with this display mode.

If you’re used to moving things around with the help of the keyboard’s directional arrow keys, you might want to change the Keyboard Increment to 1 px to get it as precise as possible. You can do this by going to Edit > Preferences > General > Keyboard Increment.

adjusting the keyboard increment settings

If your version of AI has the value set to px, just go to Units and change the General and Stroke units to Pixels and you’re good to go.

4. Creating the Background

The first thing we need to do is add a background onto which all the other elements will be laid out. To do that, simply select the Rectangle Tool (M), click anywhere in Illustrator, and then enter the same width and height values as our little Artboard (800 x 600 px). Once you’ve created the shape, change its color to #999999 and then center it both vertically and horizontally to the Artboard using the Align panel.

adding a background to our illustration

Quick tip: If your version of Illustrator doesn’t have the options visible, like the Distribute Spacing and Align To, you will have to click on the small down-facing arrow located on the top right side of the panel and select Show Options from there.

5. Adding the Delimitation Line

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a 554 x 4 px shape with a Corner Radius of 1 px. Color the line using #453F3C and then position it by entering these values (coordinates) into the Transform panel:

  • X: 400 px
  • Y: 445 px
positioning the delimitation line

6. Creating the Desk

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 336 x 10 px shape, set its color to #797270 and then position it using these coordinates:

  • X: 384 px
  • Y: 314 px
positioning the desks base shape

Step 2

Create a copy of the previously created shape (Control-C > Control-F), select it, and then give it an Offset Path effect (Effect > Path > Offset Path) of 6 px, making sure to set the Joins to Round.

creating the outline for the desks top section

Step 3

Change the offset’s color to #453F3C and then send it to the back of our desk’s top section by right clicking > Arrange > Send to Back.

sending the desks outline to the back

Step 4

Add a small highlight to the top section of our desk by creating a 336 x 4 px white rectangle, which we will adjust by setting its Blending Mode to Overlay and its Opacity level to 30%

Once you’ve added the highlight, select it, the outline and the lighter section of our desk, and group them using Control-G so that the elements won’t get moved by mistake.

adjusting the top section highlight settings

Step 5

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 10 x 112 px object, which we will position towards the bottom of our desk’s outline, at about 26 px to the interior from its left side. Give the shape the same #797270 shade, and then create an outline following the same process we used for the desk’s top section.

creating the desks left leg

Step 6

Add a small shadow by creating a 10 x 6 px rectangle and positioning it right next to the desk’s outline, making sure to horizontally align it to the leg. Color it black (#000000), and then change its Blending Mode to Multiply, lowering its Opacity level to 30%.

adding a top shadow to the desks leg

Step 7

At about 182 px to the right of the leg, create a 98 x 112 px rectangle, which will act as our drawer base.

positioning the desks drawer base

Step 8

Again, following the same process used before, add an outline and a shadow to the drawer’s base.

adding an outline and shadow to the desk drawer base

Step 9

Create the first drawer by drawing one larger 82 x 36 px rounded rectangle (#453F3C) with a Corner Radius of 3 px. Add a smaller 74 x 28 px rectangle on top of it, which we will use to create a cutout so that in the end we will have just the outline of the drawer. 

Once you have both shapes selected, use Pathfinder’s Minus Front option to subtract the top one (which I’ve highlighted with red) from the one underneath. 

Then add a 74 x 4 px highlight (white #FFFFFF with Blending Mode set to Overlay and Opacity set to 30%) towards the top, and a 10 x 10 px circle (#453F3C) in the middle, which will act as the handle.

creating the drawer

Step 10

Select all the elements forming up our drawer, and then group them (Control-G). Once you have them grouped together, position the drawer onto the cabinet at about 24 px from its top side, making sure to horizontally align it.

positioning the first drawer onto the base

Step 11

Create a secondary drawer, by selecting and then dragging the one we have towards the bottom while holding down Alt. Once you’ve created the duplicate, make sure to use the Align panel to distance it at about 8 px from the original.

positioning the second drawer onto the base

Step 12

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 176 x 18 px shape, color it using #797270, and position it between the drawer compartment and the desk’s leg.

creating the larger drawer

Step 13

Add a 176 x 6 px rectangle (#453F3C) underneath, which will act as the drawer’s outline. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), add the top and side shadows, which will have the Blending Mode set to Multiply and the Opacity lowered to 30%

Switch to the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 38 x 6 px shape (#453F3C) with a 3 px Corner Radius, which we will position just under the top section shadow, making sure to align it horizontally to the drawer.

adding details to the larger drawer

Step 14

Once we have created all the desk’s elements, select them and make sure to group them together using Control-G.

desk finished

7. Creating the Coffee Mug

Step 1

Move onto the coffee mug layer, and using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a 14 x 18 px shape with a Corner Radius of 2 px. Set its color to #CCC4C4, and then using the Direct Selection Tool (A) remove its top-center anchor points by selecting them and then pressing Delete

As soon as you remove the anchors, press Control-J to unite the remaining ones. Next, use the Offset Path effect to create an outline of 6 px, making sure to position it under the mug itself. Add a 14 x 2 px highlight (white #FFFFFF with Blending Mode set to Overlay and Opacity level set to 60%) and position it towards the top section. 

Create the handle by drawing a 7 x 14 px rounded rectangle with a Corner Radius of 2 px. Flip its fill with its stroke (Shift-X) and then change the stroke’s weight to 4 px.

If you’re using the CC (Creative Cloud) version of Illustrator, you can add rounded corners to any anchor points, by selecting it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then adding the desired value into the Corner Type option. If you’re using an older version of AI then try to use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the desired sections.

creating the coffee mug

Step 2

To create the coffee flavored steam coming out of the mug, you will have to be creative and draw a couple of rounded rectangles of different sizes and widths. For example, I created the base using an 18 x 4 px (2 px Corner Radius) shape, and then created a smaller 11 x 2 px one which has its left and right sections cut out using a 2 x 2 px circle. 

Then I added another 16 x 4 px (2 px Corner Radius) shape on top, and then I varied the size of both my round lines and cutout ones, making sure to color them using #797270. When you have something that you like, simply group all of its elements (Control-G) and send them to the back of the mug using the Arrange > Send to Back function.

creating the steam

Step 3

Group both the coffee mug and the steam (Control-G) and then position them on top of the desk, towards the left side at about 14 px from the edge.

positioning the coffee mug

8. Creating the MacBook

Step 1

Start by creating a 126 x 6 px rounded rectangle with a 2 px Corner Radius. Color the shape using #E2E0E0 and then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select and remove (Delete) its top-middle anchor points, uniting the remaining ones (Control‑J).

Using the Offset Path effect, create an outline of 6 px and make sure to send it to the back of our MacBook’s base. Then add a subtle highlight towards the top by creating a 128 x 3 px rectangle, which we will position onto the main shape, and then mask by pasting a copy of that onto it and then right clicking and choosing Make Clipping Mask

Finish the base of the MacBook by adding a 28 x 8 px rounded rectangle (#453F3C) with a Corner Radius of 2 px on top of all the other elements, making sure to horizontally align it to the top section of the outline. As always make sure to group all the elements using Control-G.

creating the base for our MacBook

Step 2

Position the MacBook’s base onto the desk, towards the left side, at a distance of 14 px from the mug’s handle.

positioning the MacBooks base

Step 3

Start working on the screen section of the device, by creating a 106 x 72 px rounded rectangle (#CCC4C4) with a Corner Radius of 6 px. Remove its bottom-centered anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then create a copy onto which you will apply an Offset Path effect of 6 px

Send the resulting outline to the back (right click > Arrange > Send to Back) and make sure to change its color to #453F3C.

creating the lid for our MacBook

Step 4

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 94 x 54 px shape which will act as the screen. Change the color to #453F3C and make sure to position it right in the center of the top section lid.

adding the screen section to our MacBook

Step 5

Now, let’s start adding some details by creating a 106 x 3 px black rectangle and positioning it right at the bottom side of the lid. Change the shape’s Blending Mode to Multiply, and then lower its Opacity to 30%.

adding the bottom shadow to the MacBooks lid

Step 6

Move towards the top section of the lid, and using the Ellipse Tool (L) create a 4 x 4 px circle which will act as our webcam. Color the shape using the same outline shade #453F3C, and then position it towards the center of the top side of the lid.

adding the webcam to the MacBook

Step 7

Create another 108 x 4 px white rectangle which will act as a highlight, and position it towards the top side of the lid so that it covers half of the webcam circle. Change the shape’s Blending Mode to Overlay and lower its Opacity level to about 60%.

Once you have the rectangle positioned in place, create a copy of the entire lid (not the outline) and paste it on top of highlight, and then with both selected right click > Make Clipping Mask.

creating a Clipping Mask for the lids highlight

Quick tip: In case you’re wondering why the shape is wider than our actual lid, I found that creating larger shapes and then masking their surface to that of the shape underneath creates a more reliable option for when you decide to scale your artwork.

Step 8

Finish up the MacBook by creating two diagonal highlights (one narrower and one slightly wider) and positioning them towards the center of the screen. I’ve created one 4 x 108 px rectangle for the first and another 8 x 108 px for the wider one. 

Then I grouped (Control-G) and rotated them at a 45 angle towards the right by pressing R and then dragging their top sections to the right. I then colored them white, setting their Blending Mode to Overlay and their Opacity to 30%.

After positioning them onto the screen, I created a copy (Control-C) of the display, and pasted (Control-F) it on top of the highlights, and used that to create a Clipping Mask.

The result is a nice looking MacBook that anybody would love to use.

MacBook finished

9. Creating the Books

Step 1

Because essentially all the books have the same width, height and outline, we will create the first one, and then create variations based on it to get the rest.

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a 60 x 8 px shape, which we will color using #B86F52. Create a copy of the object (Control-C > Control-F) and then give it a 6 px outline using the Offset Path effect, making sure to set the Joins to Round. Group the two and then position them on top of the desk, towards the right side at about 51 px from the MacBook.

positioning the first book

Step 2

Enter Isolation Mode by double clicking on the book (or right click > Isolate Selected Group) and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 60 x 2 px black shape. Set its Blending Mode to Multiply while lowering its Opacity to 30%. Then create a bunch of decorative elements using rectangles of different widths, coloring all of them using #453F3C. Once you’re done, simply press Escape to exit Isolation Mode.

first book finished

Step 3

Make a copy of the book that we’ve just created (Control-C > Control-F) and then move it towards the top left side using the Move tool. To do that, simply select the duplicate right click > Transform > Move and enter -7 px for the Horizontal value field and -14 px for the Vertical one.

positioning the second book using the Move tool

Step 4

Select the second book and enter Isolation Mode so that you can tweak its appearance, by changing the color of the cover to #797270 and modifying the decorative elements to something different.

second book finished

Step 5

Create the third and last book by using the same trick with the Move tool. First, create a duplicate from the first book and then position it by entering 5 px into the Horizontal value field and -28 px into the Vertical one. 

Once you’ve done that, change the cover’s color to #F78764, play around with the decorations, and then make sure to change the top section shadow to a highlight by coloring it white and then setting its Blending Mode to Overlay and its Opacity to 30%.

third book finished

10. Creating the Trash Can

Step 1

Make sure you’re on the trash can layer, and using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a 46 x 68 px shape with a Corner Radius of 6 px. Color the object using #453F3C, and then using the Direct Selection Tool (A) remove its top middle anchor points. 

Next, add a 34 x 66 px rectangle (highlighted with red) with a Corner Radius of 2 px on top, leaving a gap of 6 px between it and the bottom side of the previously created object. 

With both of the shapes selected, use Pathfinder’s Minus Front option to create a cutout which will act as our trash can interior. Create another shape that covers the top rounded corners and remove these also, so that in the end your shape resembles a tall “U"-like shape.

creating the trash can

Step 2

Once you have your base shape, add a bunch of rectangles: 12 vertical (with the Height set to 2 px) and eight horizontal (with the Width set to 2 px), spacing them at 2 px from one another. Color them using #797270 and then make sure to send them to the back of the trash can’s outline (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

trash can finished

11. Creating the Calendar

Step 1

Start by creating a 64 x 56 px rectangle with a Corner Radius of 2 px. Color the shape using #E2E0E0, duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F), and then create an outline by applying an Offset Path effect of 6 px to the copy, making sure to change its color to #453F3C and send it to the back afterwards (right click > Arrange > Send to Back). 

With both of the objects selected, press Control-G to group them, and then position them using these coordinates into the Transform panel:

  • X: 469 px
  • Y: 199 px
positioning the calendars base shape

Step 2

Enter Isolation Mode by double clicking on the calendar, and then create a copy of the lighter section and color it using #797270. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A) select its bottom middle anchor points and remove them by pressing Delete. Unite the remaining anchors using Control-J, and then with the bottom ones selected, right click > Transform > Move. Enter -46 px into the Vertical value field, leaving the Horizontal one set to 0 px.

adding the top darker section to the calendar

Step 3

Add a 64 x 4 px rectangle underneath the previously created shape and color it using #453F3C.

adding the bottom delimiter to the top section

Step 4

Add a 4 px tall highlight and shadow to give it the same visual treatment as we used on the other objects.

adding the highlight and shadow to the calendar

Step 5

Using the Ellipse Tool (L) create two 4 x 4 px circles, color them using #453F3C, and then distance them at 40 px from one another, making sure to group (Control‑G) and then horizontally and vertically align them to the darker top section of our calendar.

adding the bullet holes to the calendar

Step 6

Create four rows of seven 4 x 4 px squares (#453F3C), distancing both the elements and the rows at 4 px from one another. Remove the first square of the top row and the last one of the bottom row, and then apply some different colors (#797270 for the slightly lighter ones and #F78764 for the orange highlighted one) to some of the day indicators to make it more interesting. Group all the squares together (Control-G) and then both vertically and horizontally center them to the lower empty section of our calendar.

adding the day indicators to the calendar

Step 7

Finish off the calendar by creating a 2 x 2 px circle (#E2E0E0) with a 2 px outline (#453F3C) which will act as our wall pin. Then using the Pen Tool (P) trace the string starting from the left bullet hole’s center, going up to the center of the pin and then back down to the second bullet hole, setting the stroke to 2 px.

calendar finished

And It’s a Wrap!

That's it! If you followed each step correctly you should now have a cute looking desk scenery, which you can further tweak by adding or rearranging objects depending on your personal taste. I hope you had fun doing this little illustration, but most importantly I hope you learned something new along the way.

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