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How to Create a Retro, Vector Invaders Illustration

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In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create a retro 'Space Invader' style illustration using basic shapes and the Extrude & Bevel effect. This is relatively simple to create and loads of fun to make. It does require a little bit of planning for the composition and some other details. Let's walk through how to create this design.

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 Version CS3
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1.5 hours

Step 1

Start with an A4 landscape document and open the Grid Preferences (Illustrator > Preferences > Guides & Grid) set the Gridline to every 1.5mm, Subdivisions to 1 and tick the Grids in Black box.

Step 2

Turn on Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid) and turn the grid on (View > Show Grid). Then zoom into the grid in the top-left corner, and use the Rectangle Tool to draw a square with a black fill and no stroke in one of the grid squares. You'll find this easy to do with Snap to Grid turned on.

Step 3

Continue to draw squares in the grid to create the first spacey character.

Step 4

Next using the same method, draw the second character, starting three squares from the first character, as shown below.

Step 5

Ok, now we are going to create a row of these little bad boys. Select both the characters using the mouse and Copy/Drag them (Alt-Drag) to the right, positioning them three squares to the right of the second character, release the mouse and then the Alt key.

Step 6

Immediately after Step 5 select Object > Transform > Transform Again or (Command + D) and repeat this four times until you have a row of 12 invaders.

Step 7

Now we are going to use the Copy/Drag and Transform Again process to create more rows of invaders. First select all of the characters and Copy/Drag them (Alt-drag) downwards, positioning them two squares from the bottom of the first row (release the mouse and then the Alt key).

Step 8

Immediately after, select Object >Transform > Transform Again or (Command + D) and repeat this three times, so now you should have five rows of invaders, as shown below.

Step 9

Now we want to stagger the rows. Select the second and fourth rows using the mouse, then select Object >Transform > Move and enter: Horizontal of 13.5mm, Vertical of 0mm, Distance of 13.5mm, and Angle of 0mm. Lastly. Lastly, press OK.

Step 10

OK, you should now have something that looks like the image below. Check to see if the eyes of the characters are lined up underneath each other (as shown with the tinted strip). If not, then just select the second and fourth rows again and move them with the mouse until they snap into the correct position.

Step 11

Lets now create the defending spaceship. Use the Rectangle Tool and draw a square with a black fill and no stroke in one of the grid squares underneath the last row of invaders somewhere near the middle. Again this will be easy to do with Snap To Grid still on. Continue to draw squares and rectangles in the grid to create the character below with some extra squares for the shots.

Step 12

To blow up the invaders delete some of the squares and move others around. You can follow the pattern below or create your own.

Step 13

Now lets delete some of the invaders to set the scene, again you can follow the pattern below (delete the magenta ones) or choose your own.

Step 14

Now add some shots coming from the invaders, again you can follow the pattern below or choose your own.

Step 15

Now turn off Snap to Grid (View>Snap to Grid) and hide the grid as well (View > Hide Grid). Select all the artwork and Cut it (Edit > Cut). Then view the page at Actual Size (View > Actual Size) then Paste the artwork back in (Edit > Paste). This will place the artwork in the center of the page.

Step 16

Next, select any Space Invader character with the little sticking out legs and Copy/Drag it (Alt-Drag) to the left. While it is still selected bring up the Pathfinder Window (Window > Pathfinder), select the Add To Shape Area button on the Shape modes section (see below) and then press the Expand button. This will join all the pieces into one object.

Step 17

This is a repeat of Step 16, but this time select the other shape style of invader and Copy/Drag it (Alt-Drag) to the right. Again, while it is still selected, press the Add To Shape area button on the shape modes section, and then press the Expand button.

Step 18

Now select the two Space Invaders you have just created and Lock them (Object > Lock > Selection). Next, select the rest of the artwork and again select the Add To Shape Area button on the shape modes section, and then press the Expand button. Now Unlock the two extra invaders (Object > Unlock All).

Step 19

You should now have three separate objects (see below).

Step 20

Next we are going to apply the 3D effect. Select the main body of the invaders (No.2) and select the Extrude & Bevel Effect (Effects > 3D > Extrude & Bevel). Be sure to first tick the Preview box then enter: Rotation around X axis of 24°, Rotation around Y axis of -12°, Rotation around Z axis of -12°, Perspective of 120°, Extrude Depth of 15pt, and Surface of Plastic Shading. Don't press OK yet, first press the More Options button.

Step 21

In the More Options box change the Shading Color to None and drag the white circle on the sphere to the right as shown below (this will change the direction of the lighting).

Step 22

Now create a new light by clicking on the New Light Icon and drag the white circle on the sphere to the left as shown (this will give us a more dramatic look). Now click OK or you can play around with the Rotations, Perspective and Extrude Depth to create a look you may prefer first.

Step 23

Next select one of the other remaining invaders and apply the same effect (Effects > Apply Extrude & Bevel).

Step 24

Now selection the last invaders left and apply the same effect again (Effects > Apply Extrude & Bevel).

Step 25

Next we want to Expand the effect we have just applied. Select all of the artwork and select Object > Expand Appearance.

Step 26

Now lets add some color. First double-click on the Magic Wand Tool to bring up the preference box, then set the Tolerance to 4.

Step 27

Using the Magic Wand Tool select the darkest gray color on the base of any of the invaders (see below). This will now select all of the bases because of the setting we applied in the Magic Wands Tolerance.

Step 28

With all the bases selected, apply a color to them. I have gone for 50% cyan, 50% magenta, 50% yellow, and 100% black to give me a rich black color.

Step 29

Again using the Magic Wand Tool, select the lightest gray/white color on the side of any of the invaders (see below).

Step 30

With all the sides selected apply a color to them. I have chosen 0% cyan, 50% magenta, 100% yellow, and 0% black for a bright orange color.

Step 31

Once more use the Magic Wand Tool to select the light gray color on the face of any of the characters (see below).

Step 32

With all the sides selected apply a color to them. I have chosen 0% cyan, 0% magenta, 0% yellow, and 0% black, in other words: white.

Step 33

Next select the Direct Selection Tool.

Step 34

Use the tool to individually select the white faces of the defending spaceship and the shots coming from it (see below), remember to hold the Shift key down as you go.

Step 35

When all the faces are selected apply a color. I went for 100% cyan, 0% magenta, 100% yellow, and 45% black for a dark green color.

Step 36

Again using the Direct Selection Tool, select the orange sides of the spaceship and shots.

Step 37

Now apply a color to those selections. I went for 100% cyan, 0% magenta, 100% yellow, and 75% black for an even darker green color.

Step 38

You should have something looking like the image shown below. Now select the extra invaders (see below) one at a time, scale them up, and rotate them into positions that look good to you.

Step 39

Now it's time for the finishing touches. Select all of the artwork and Group them together (Object > Group). Now Copy the Group (Edit > Copy) and Paste in Back (Edit > Paste in Back). Next, scale and rotate the Copy, something similar to that shown below will work. Then change the fill color to none, the stroke color to 85% black, and set the stroke to a weight of 0.3pt.

Finally, using the Rectangle Tool to draw a box with a fill of 100% black and no stroke around the illustration. Now send it to the back (Object > Arrange > Send to Back).

Conclusion

I hope you found this useful and had fun making this design! The final image is below!

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