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How to Create a Vector Series of Linear Effects

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As seen in previous tutorials, a mixed use of distortion filters often yields surprising results. In this tutorial, we will create a bunch of messy hair using distortion filters in quick and easy steps. In the end, we'll use the same technique to obtain a "Knife Scratches" effect, a "Spider Web" effect and a "Grunge texture." Let’s get started!

Final Preview Images

Below are some examples of the effects we'll be working towards in this tutorial. 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 CS3
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1 hour

Video Tutorial

Cheryl Graham created this video tutorial to compliment this text + image tutorial.

Step 1

Create a new document of 500px by 500px size. Next, grab the Spiral Tool from the Tools Palette and click on the artboard to open the Spiral Options. Enter 115px for Radius, 90 for Decay and 200 for Segments, as shown below.

Stroke the Spiral with a black color and assign a weight of 0.1pt. Note: We could use any random or hand-drawn shape. For consistency and ease of understanding, we will use a Spiral here.

Step 2

Select the Spiral and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter 4 for Size and 30 for Detail. Select "Smooth" from the Points option and hit "OK".

Step 3

With the Spiral still selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Tweak. Enter 30 for Horizontal and Vertical values and keep the rest of the values as shown in the red regions below.

Step 4

Select the Spiral and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Next, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Zig Zag. Enter 6px for size and 6 for Ridges per segment. Select "Smooth" from the Points option and hit "Ok" to continue.

Keep a backup copy of this result, as we'll use it later.

Step 5

Select the result and expand it again using Object > Expand Appearance. Next, with Selection Tool (V), resize the entire shape to approximately 1000px by 1000px size, so that it extends the artboard boundaries.

Step 6

The messy hair bunch is almost ready. To make it denser, duplicate the result and place it along the corners of the artboard. Try to play with stroke weight, color and size of the shape to make the result semi-realistic. In the result below, I have used 90% black for corner copies, and 100% black for the main copy. Finally, group everything (Command + G) and mask it within 500px by 500px clipping rectangle.

Next, we will proceed ahead for another effect.

Step 7: The "Spider Web" effect

Grab the backup copy of Step 4 and open the Appearance Palette using Shift + F6. In the Appearance Palette, double-click on Zig Zag effect.

Next, enter the values as shown in the red regions below and select "Corner" from the Points option.

Step 8

Select the object and expand it using Object > Expand Appearance. Next, with the Selection Tool (V), resize the entire shape to approximately 1000px by 1000px size, so that it extends the artboard boundaries.

Step 9

Next, change the stroke color to White and use this result on any contrasting background, so that it looks like a spider web. Below are some results of this effect on a contrasting background.

Step 10: The "Knife Scratches" effect

With the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle 500px by 500px and fill it with a linear gradient, as shown below.

Step 11

Grab the output of the Spider Web effect and place it above the rectangle. Next, change the Opacity of the "Spider Web" to 80% and blending mode to "Overlay." The output should be something like below.

Step 12: The Grunge Effect

Select the output of Step 5 or Step 8 and click on "Divide" in the Pathfinder options (Command + Shift + F9). Next, ungroup all using Shift + Command + G.

Step 13

Select everything, remove the stroke and fill it with black. Next, go to Object > Transform > Transform each, and enter the values as shown below.

Hit "Ok" to continue. The grunge result will be something like below.

Conclusion and Scope

We have seen some quick and easy techniques to obtain the hair effect, spider web effect and the grunge effect. The results shown in this tutorial are a few possibilities of this technique.

We can create beautiful backgrounds, colorful threads, broken glass effects, torn papers, bacteria effects and much more using this distortion technique. Hope you enjoyed this quick and easy tutorial.

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