Advertisement
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Illustration
Design

How to Create a Detailed Key Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

by
Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a detailed key illustration in Adobe Illustrator, with a romantic message perfect for Valentine's Day. 

For starters you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create the main shapes using basic tools and techniques. Next, you will learn how to add shading and highlights for these shapes using basic blending and vector shape building techniques, along with a bunch of effects and the Appearance panel. Finally, you will learn how to add a nice ribbon using a simple calligraphic brush, some linear gradients, and the Type on a Path Tool.

1. Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the width and height boxes and 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 you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 5 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, and enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Don't forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

new document setup grid

2. Create the Main Shapes

Step 1

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the fill and then select the stroke and set its color to R=255 G=166 B=28. Move to your artboard and simply create a 55 px circle—the Snap to Grid should make your work easier.

Make sure that your shape stays selected and move to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Select the existing stroke and increase its Weight to 6 px. Reselect the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 10 px circle and place it as shown in the second image. Make sure that this new shape stays selected, return to the Appearance panel and add that same 6 px orange stroke.

Step 2

Reselect the two circles made so far and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting shapes remain selected, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click the Unite button. Move to the Layers panel, open the existing layer and simply double-click on the name of your shape. Rename it "rightRing" and then click the OK button.

create main shapes

Step 3

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), move to your artboard, create a 55 px circle and place it as shown in the first image. Make sure that this new shape stay selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Remove the color from the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=255 G=166 B=28 and increase the Weight to 6 px. Reselect the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 20 px circle, place it as shown in the second image, fill it with that same orange color and make sure that there's no color set for the stroke.

Switch to the Pen Tool (P), create a 120 px horizontal path, and place it as shown in the third image. Make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, remove the color from the fill and then focus on the stroke. Use that same orange for the color and then click on that "Stroke" piece of text to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Increase the Weight to 6 px and check the Round Cap button.

create main shapes

Step 4

For this step you will need a grid every 1 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box.

Focus on the left end of your horizontal path and pick the Rectangle Tool (M). Create two 10 x 15 px shapes and place them exactly as shown in the first image. Fill these new rectangles with that same orange color and then turn them into a compound path using the Control-8 keyboard shortcut.

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 5 px circle and two 6 px circles, place them as shown in the second image and set their fill color to R=96 G=56 B=19. Select these three circles and turn them into a new compound path using that same Control-8 keyboard shortcut.

create main shapes

Step 5

Reselect the two compound paths made in the previous step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shapes and turn them into a new compound path (Control‑8).

create main shapes

Step 6

Keep focusing on your compound path and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). First, select the four anchor points highlighted with the green annotation, focus on the top bar and enter 3 px in that Corners box. Next, select the eight anchor points highlighted with the purple annotations, return to the top bar and this time enter 1 px in the Corners box. In the end your compound path should look like in the second image.

The Live Corners feature is only available for CC users. The best solution to replace this effect would be the Round Any Corner script that can found in this 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 pointed anchor points and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter the values mentioned in the Corners box and click OK. The end result might look a bit different. Feel free to try a different value for the radius. In some cases you will have to increase/decrease the value mentioned in that Corners box.

create main shapes

Step 7

Return to gridline every 5 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box. Reselect the horizontal path and the circle highlighted in the first image and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Select the resulting shapes along with your compound path and the 20 px circle, and then click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel and rename this newly created shape "leftRing".

create main shapes

Step 8

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 55 px circle, and place it as shown in the first image. Make sure that this new shape stay selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Remove the color from the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=255 G=166 B=28 and increase the Weight to 6 px. Once you're done, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Move to the Layers panel and rename this newly created shape "topRing".

create main shapes

Step 9

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 55 px circle, and place it as shown in the first image. Make sure that this new shape stay selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Remove the color from the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color at R=255 G=166 B=28 and increase the Weight to 6 px. Once you're done, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Move to the Layers panel and rename this newly created shape "bottomRing".

create main shapes

3. Add Subtle Highlights

Step 1

Switch to gridline every 1 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box.

Make sure that your "bottomRing" shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 67 x 1 px shape, make it black (R=0 G=0 B=0), and place it as shown in the first image. Select this thin rectangle along with the copy made a few moments ago, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected, and move to the Appearance panel. Lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

add subtle highlights

Step 2

Make sure that your "bottomRing" shape is selected and make a new copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 67 x 1 px shape, make it white (R=255 G=255 B=255) and place it as shown in the first image.

Select this thin rectangle along with the copy made a few moments ago and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. Lower the Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

add subtle highlights

Step 3

Make sure that your "bottomRing" shape is selected and make a new copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 67 x 1 px white shape and place it as shown in the first image.

Select this thin rectangle along with the copy made a few moments ago and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. Lower the Opacity to 25% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Now select the compound path made in this step, along with the other two compound paths made in the last two steps, and simply hit the Control-G keyboard shortcut to Group them.

Move to the Layers panel, find this new group and simply rename it "subtleSeparator".

add subtle highlights

Step 4

Duplicate your "subtleSeparator" group (Control-C > Control-F), select the copy and place it as shown in the following image.

Step 5

Again, duplicate your "subtleSeparator" group (Control-C > Control-F), select the copy, rotate it 90 degrees and place it as shown in the first image. Duplicate this rotated group (Control-C > Control-F), select the copy and place it as shown in the second image.

add subtle highlights

4. Add Shading and Highlights for Your Main Shapes

Step 1

Disable the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-') and then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1 px.

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down using the down arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected and turn it into a compound path (Control‑8).

shading highlights

Step 2

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape is selected and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1 px Offset and click OK. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy and move it 1 px down. Reselect both shapes made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group into a simple compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple white (R=255 G=255 B=255), lower its Opacity to 75% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

shading highlights

Step 3

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up, using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group of shapes into a simple compound path, make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill and replace the existing color with R=231 G=120 B=17.

shading highlights

Step 4

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape is selected and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1 px Offset and click OK. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy and move it 1 px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both shapes made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group into a simple compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple white and chnage its Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading highlights

Step 5

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape is selected and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1 px Offset and click OK. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy and move it 2 px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both shapes made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Turn the resulting group into a simple compound path (Control-8), make sure that it stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=145 G=67 B=25 and change its Blending Mode to Soft Light.

shading highlights

Step 6

Make sure that your "rightRing" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and select the existing stroke. Set its color to R=145 G=67 B=25, increase the Weight to 2 px, align it to inside and then lower its Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Make sure that this stroke is selected and duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the newly added stroke and simply decrease its Weight to 1 px.

shading highlights

Step 7

Now, focus on your "leftRing" shape and repeat the techniques used for the "rightRing" shape. In the end things should look like in the first image.

Move to the "topRing" shape and do the same thing. Once you're done, things should look like in the second image. Finally, focus on your "bottomRing" shape, repeat those same techniques, and things will look like in the third image.

shading highlights

Step 8

Reselect your "leftRing" shape, focus on the Appearance panel, and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill, replace the existing color with a simple white, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -4 px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 1 px Radius and click OK.

shading highlights

5. Add a Tiny Diamond

Step 1

Enable the Snap to Grid (Control-'). Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 10 px circle, fill it with the linear gradient shown below, and place it as shown in the following image.

tiny diamond

Step 2

Make sure that your tiny circle is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down. Reselect both shapes made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with R=145 G=74 B=29, lower its Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

tiny diamond

Step 3

Reselect your tiny circle and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK, return to the Appearance panel and select the existing stroke. Set its color at R=145 G=74 B=29, make sure that the Weight is set at 1 px, align it to inside and then lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

tiny diamond

Step 4

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 6 px black circle, place it as shown in the following image and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and click OK.

tiny diamond

Step 5

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 6 px red circle and place it as shown in the following image. Switch to the Pen Tool (P), create a 10 px vertical path, and place it as shown in the second image. Add a white stroke for this path only, to make it more noticeable. Make sure that this path stays selected and go to Object > Transform > Rotate. Set the Angle at 90 degrees and then click the Copy button. This should create a horizontal path as shown in the third image.

tiny diamond

Step 6

Select your horizontal and vertical paths along with the red circle and click the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shapes one by one and simply replace the existing fill color with the colors shown in the second image.

tiny diamond

Step 7

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 6 px circle, place it as shown in the first image and focus on the Appearance panel. Make sure that there is no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Make it black, make sure that the Weight is set at 1 px, align it to inside and then change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Reselect the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 2 px white circle, change its Blending Mode to Overlay and place it as shown in the second image.

tiny diamond

6. Add Extra Shading and Highlights

Step 1

Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the shapes made so far, select these copies, and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that this new shape stays selected, send it to back (Shift-Control-[) and then focus on the Appearance panel.

Remove the color from the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=231 G=132 B=23, make sure that the Weight is set at 1 px and align it to outside. Move to the Layers panel, find the shape made in this step and rename it "Shadow".

extra shading and highlights

Step 2

Make sure that your "Shadow" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, and add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button. Select this new stroke, make sure that the Weight is set at 1 px, align it to outside, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and then replace the existing color with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Keep in mind that the yellow numbers from the Gradient image stand for Opacity percentage.

extra shading and highlights

Step 3

Reselect your "Shadow" shape, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the attributes shown in the top left window (in the following image), click OK and then add the other four Drop Shadow effects shown in the following image.

extra shading and highlights

7. Add a Red Ribbon

Step 1

Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and click the New Brush button. Check the Calligraphic Brush box and click OK. Name your new brush "Red Brush", enter all the attributes shown in the following image, and then click the OK button. Pick the Brush Tool (B), select your "Red Brush" from the Brushes panel, move to your artboard and draw a simple path roughly as shown in the following image. Don't forget to set its color at R=237 G=28 B=36.

red ribbon

Step 2

Return to gridline every 5 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 5 in the Gridline every box. Make sure that your "Shadow" shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 15 x 10 px black shape and place it as shown in the first image. Select this rectangle along with the copy made in the beginning of the step, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

red ribbon

Step 3

Reselect the black shape made in the previous step along with your red path and focus on the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency). Click the Make Mask button and then uncheck that tiny Clip box. In the end things should look like in the second image.

red ribbon

Step 4

Make sure that your "Shadow" shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 15 x 10 px shape, set the fill color at R=57 G=181 B=74, and place it as shown in the first image. Select this green rectangle along with the copy made in the beginning of the step, and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

Disable the Snap to Grid (Control-'), grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a simple path roughly as shown in the third image. Add a 1 px green stroke for this path, and make sure that the fill is disabled.

red ribbon

Step 5

Reselect your masked red path and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select it and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting group is selected and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.

red ribbon

Step 6

Now select the shape made in the previous step along with your green shape and green path, focus on the Pathfinder panel, and click the Divide button. Make sure that the resulting group is selected, and simply hit Shift-Control-G to Ungroup it.

Move to the Layers panel and focus on the set of shapes and paths made in this step. Remove the tiny ones and then select the three main shapes one by one and replace the existing fill color with the colors indicated in the second image.

red ribbon

Step 7

Select the orange shape that makes up your ribbon and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill, lower its Opacity to 20%, and then replace the existing color with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Don't forget that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage, while the blue number stands for Location percentage.

red ribbon

Step 8

Select the green shape that makes up your ribbon and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill, lower its Opacity to 30%, and then replace the existing color with the right linear gradient shown in the following image. Add a second fill for this shape, lower its Opacity to 20%, and use the left linear gradient shown in the following image.

red ribbon

Step 9

Select the blue shape that makes up your ribbon and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill, lower its Opacity to 10%, and then replace the existing color with the right linear gradient shown in the following image. Add a second fill for this shape, lower its Opacity to 30%, and use the left linear gradient shown in the following image.

red ribbon

Step 10

Reselect your masked path, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected, and simply add the five Drop Shadow effects shown in the following image.

red ribbon

Step 11

Reselect your masked path, make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F) and bring it to front (Shift-Control-]).

Make sure this copy stays selected, grab the Type on a Path Tool and simply click on the selected path. Add your piece of text, make it white and then open the Character panel (Window > Type > Character). Select the Ignis et Glacies Extra Sharp Bold font and then enter the rest of the attributes mentioned in the following image.

red ribbon

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

final product
Advertisement
Advertisement
Looking for something to help kick start your next project?

Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.