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Satisfy your sweet tooth with this tutorial on making a decadent ice cream sundae illustration. Working in Adobe Illustrator with heavy use of the Pen Tool (P), Gradient Tool (G), and a focus on building each element from the ground up, I'll combine a tasty treat and our favorite scalable medium.
I start with a basic sketch. I've defined various elements I'd like to use, possible color palettes, and a general idea of my composition.
This was doodled up in Adobe Photoshop. I won't be using it to trace, however. Each element in this piece is created entirely in Adobe Illustrator. Start with a simple vertical line for the center of the sundae glass and a horizontal line (not shown) defining the horizon of your picture plane.
I've used the Pen Tool (P) and have it stroked by 1pt. These lines are going to be construction lines and will be discarded later.
Make an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L). This will be the top of the sundae glass.
Your ellipses are "rounder" the further away they are from the horizon line and get flatter the closer they get. I'm not terribly strict about this in this piece, but the idea is there.
I've lined up three ellipses noting the change in shape of the glass. One for the bottom, one for the stem, and one for the top.
Group (Ctrl + G) for efficiency.
Using the Pen Tool (P) start at the top edge of the top ellipse and create a curve to the bottom edge of the middle ellipse to create the basic contour of your sundae glass.
Focus on the stem with two aligned ellipses (using the Ellipse Tool (L)) in the middle of the glass bottom and the stem bottom.
Add another ellipse between these two and continue your contour line down to the end. Note how the line hits the edge of all three outer ellipses.
Adjust your anchor points by manipulating the handles with Click-Shift while using the Pen Tool (P).
The following shows a different glass style.
I widened the curve of the contour and shortened it.
Start at the upper outside edge of the top ellipse and create a short curve with the Pen Tool (P). Hold down Alt in order to manipulate anchors while drawing.
Connect the two curved shapes by continuing to draw with the Pen Tool (P).
Group (Ctrl + G) your construction pieces so far (lock the mid-line and horizon line in your Layers panel) and Reflect over a vertical axis.
Align your two sets of construction lines for the full glass piece.
Focusing on the base of the glass, make a larger ellipse outside of the two already present.
Draw a curve from the outer edge of this new ellipse to the curve of the stem. Note how mine keeps the curve flowing rather than an abrupt break to a new line. Copy & Paste for the other side.
This glass is slightly fluted in my design. Draw straight lines using Line Segments (\). Note how their angle changes as they head further out on the glass. Copy & Paste for the other side of the mid-line.
Using the angled lines as a guide for the fluted shapes, draw rounded rectangles that are wider at the top than at the bottom.
Copy & Paste, flip over a vertical axis, align on the other side.
Added another ellipse defining the edge of the glass's rim. It's less of a construction line and more of a note to myself for rendering.
Group and lock all of your construction lines. Using the Pen Tool (P) it's time to start tracing the contour of the glass. Start a little past the mid-line and follow the contour.
You can either trace both sides, or stop with half done, Copy & Paste, and Reflect over a vertical axis to cut your work in half.
Align the two shapes and Unite using the Pathfinder panel. I have my shape underneath the construction lines for better visibility in this tutorial.
Using a light periwinkle, I've made a solid ellipse at the bottom of the glass.
In order to define the glass's rim better, I'm using a shape made with the Pen Tool (P) and a Gradient going from my glass color to my chosen shadow color.
Change the Opacity on the lighter blue to 0% and alter the gradient's angle to 90 degrees.
The top edge of the rim is easily rendered with another gradient shape. This one goes from the glass's base color to "nearly white" blue.
Adjust Opacity to 75%, or so.
Copy & Paste the fluted shapes made earlier and set them as a linear gradient similar to the one from under the rim. Unite these shapes in the Pathfinder panel.
Copy & Paste the glasses base shape and place it under the fluted shapes. Select both shapes. Use Intersect in the Pathfinder panel to delete the bits of shapes outside of the glass.
Shot of the glass with the construction lines hidden. I added gradients to the ellipses defining shadows under the glass and stem bottoms.
The fluted bits need some highlights. Using the Pen Tool (P) create quick rectangles on the edges of the flute shapes. Unite in Pathfinder.
Go from the base blue (set to 0% Opacity in the Gradient Palette) to that "nearly white" blue and back to the base blue again. My angle was set at -91 degrees.
Draw a funky teardrop shape with a gradient similar to the one from the top of the glass's rim. Lower its Opacity to 50% or so.
Then create a thin sliver shape to define even more of a highlight on this glass. The gradient is similar to the highlights from the fluted bits. Adjust Opacity to your liking.
Draw a smaller version of the stem shape. The gradient will go from base blue to light periwinkle back to base blue again.
See the Gradient panel for specific angle, Opacity, and placement. The idea is for the darker color to extend from the small ellipses in the stem to the base
Another highlight shape using the same gradient from the top of the rim.
The glass as it is now without construction lines being visible.
This Sundae needs ice cream. Create a circle using the Ellipse Tool(L) while holding down Shift.
In order for the ice cream to look like it's inside the glass, you'll have to have the rendered bits over the top of the glass, along with the base shape (at a reduced Opacity). Copy & Paste the base shape and align it with the glass. This will be placed behind the glass so the reduction in the base's opacity doesn't change the glass color when we add in a background.
The initial base shape's Opacity was reduced to 36%.
It's time to delete part of the glass to items look like they're inside of it. Delete that periwinkle shape if you drew it (I skipped over, as it was superfluous).
Draw an ellipse that matches the curve of the top of the rim. Use Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel to delete the overlapping shape from the glass's base shapes (remember, there's two of them now).
Add another scoop of ice cream.
Add more scoops of melted shapes inside the glass.
Using the Pencil Tool (N), draw out some squiggle lines for the melted part of the ice cream. Follow the contour of the glass's rim.
Connect the ends and fill with the ice cream's color.
Repeat for the other scoop.
To render the ice cream scoops, create a shape with either the Pen Tool (P) or Pencil Tool (N) like that in the picture above. This will be placed behind the teal ice cream shapes.
The gradient goes from a sweet purple to the ice cream's rosy pink.
Reduce the pink Opacity in the Gradient panel to 0%. Reduce the entire shape's Opacity in the Transparency panel to your liking.
The gradient has been set to -55 degrees.
In order to fit the gradient shape to the ice cream shape, Copy & Paste the ice cream shape. Align with the first pink circle.
Place the gradient shape on top of the ice cream and hit Intersect in the Pathfinder panel.
Repeat this process with the other shadow shapes.
For some shiny ice cream, make an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L) in a nice cream color.
This will be set as a gradient going from cream to teal (set to 0% Opacity) at a -66 degree angle.
Repeat for the other scoop. Both gradient shapes had their overall Opacity reduced as well.
Time to make a quick, item-specific pattern. Create a triangle with the Pen Tool (P).
Select it and go into Effects > Stylize > Round Corners... Set the Radius (with preview) to 0.09 inches, and hit OK.
In the Pathfinder panel (with the triangle still selected) click on the other options (top right corner) and hit Make Compound Shape.
Then click on Expand. You're now got a rounded triangle.
Copy and Paste several of these little shapes around your teal ice cream scoop.
Unite them in Pathfinder. Just like the process you went through for the shadows on the ice cream scoops, Copy & Paste the teal ball and set it behind the triangles shape. Hit Intersect in Pathfinder.
Repeat for the melted parts of the scoop.
Using the Pen Tool (P), draw a shape to define the separation between the melted part of the ice cream and the scoop itself.
Reduce Opacity to 34%.
Add more highlights to the scoop with either the Pen Tool (P) or Pencil Tool (N). The swirl shape has a gradient added to it going from the scoop's teal color set to 0% Opacity to the same cream color from earlier. Adjust the angle of the linear gradient to your liking.
Copy & Paste the melted shapes, set them to the same purple being used for shadows on the ice cream scoops and set them both behind the melted shapes.
In case you fancy adding some soda to this sundae, it's time to build a striped straw. Start with an ellipse, Copy & Paste it and Align so they're parallel.
Rotate them 90 degrees and space them out so your straw is long enough. Fill with a light purple or blue.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle that extends from the top and bottom edges on each ellipse.
Copy&Paste another ellipse and align with the one on the right side (this will be the top of your straw).
Select two ellipses and the rectangle and Unite them in Pathfinder panel. Change your shape's color to a lighter purple or blue.
Select the united shape and apply a linear gradient going from a darker purple to the light base color you chose and back to the dark purple.
Move the sliders so the shadow colors are closer to the edges of the shape. Set the gradient's angle at 90 degrees.
To add stripes, draw a curved shape as shown. Copy & Paste and edit its size by playing with the anchor points' handles.
Copy&Paste this larger shape across the straw. Select the stripe shapes and Unite in Pathfinder.
Copy & Paste the straw base shape and set it to the same color as the straw's stripes.
Align with the main straw. Select both the new straw shape and the united stripe and hit Intersect in Pathfinder.
Group (Ctrl + G) your straw's shapes together and add it to your sundae.
Next part is that fancy little cookie sticking out of the ice cream. Start with a circle (Ellipse Tool (L)) set to whatever brown or neutral tone you wish. Draw three more of various sizes. This sort of looks like a lumpy croissant. Unite in Pathfinder.
Draw triangles between the curves of your shape. Apply a linear gradient going from the base color (set to 0% Opacity) to a dark tan. Draw a wiggly shape that mimics the top contour of your image. Apply the same gradient as the triangles and follow the steps from previous elements to keep the intersecting shape.
This is basically layering various transparent gradients on the cookie shape. Try a creamy yellow for the highlight and add more shadow shapes.
Group (Ctrl + G) and set behind the ice cream once done.
Using the Pencil Tool (N), draw a loopy, wiggly shape for your sundae's dollop of whipped cream.
Set as white or a light creamy tone.
Draw a little cherry (similar to the top-side of a heart) and set it behind the whipped cream shape.
The shadows of the whipped cream follow the curves of the shape itself. All gradients go from a transparent white to the same purple being used on the ice cream scoops. Follow the same steps from previous shapes to only keep the intersecting shapes (using Pathfinder).
An optional effect is using the same highlight color from the ice cream scoops on the whipped cream.
And since it's white, it's likely to reflect the ice cream scoop's color as well. This gradient shape was made with the Pencil Tool (N) and goes from transparent white to the same teal as the scoop itself.
Once again, Copy & Paste the base scoop shape, Align to the main whipped cream, select both the gradient shape and the cream shape and Intersect in Pathfinder.
The straw needs to stand out more from the ice cream. A dark purple shape (with opacity adjusted) should do the trick.
Don't forget the cherry's stem. Shadows and highlights were added as well.
Adding a brown shadow allows the stem to look less like it's sitting on top of the cherry and more like it's growing through it.
Using the same dark brown and the Pencil Tool (N) draw some chocolate sauce. Remember to keep it drippy and follow the changes in curves of the shapes it's been poured onto.
To let it pop a bit, I've added a highlight gradient. Light tan to dark brown (see image).
Repeat for all instances of chocolate sauce you've added.
To create a simply orange slice, use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a wedge shape.
Add a yellow-orange shape for the inside of the fruit.
Draw a light cream strip lining the contour of the yellow-orange shape.
Continue using the same cream color to define the orange's sections and highlights. Group (Ctrl + G) together all of your orange's shapes and set your little fruit slice behind the ice cream.
In order to make a quick and easy heart for the locket, draw a circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) (hold down Shift while forming said circle to keep it even). Copy & Paste the circle and place it beside the first one. Draw a shape definite the bottom curve of your heart. Copy & Paste and Reflect over a vertical axis. Edit the overall shape to your liking and Unite all four pieces in Pathfinder.
Place your heart on the outside of the sundae glass. Draw a curved shape for the top loop of the charm.
Add a darker brown (or golden color) behind both the top link shape and the heart.
For the first chain link, draw an ellipse inside an ellipse, select both and Intersect in Pathfinder. To create the gradient shape seen above, Copy & Paste the heart and set the linear gradient from the same dark brown color used above to the base heart color.
Check out the gradient here. I Copy & Pasted the main heart shape and set a very dark bronze color to a slightly lighter one to the base color to a light cream and back to the very dark bronze again followed by the heart's base color again.
Reduce the Opacity to 50%.
Repeating the steps above, I made a smaller heart set inside the larger one. Note how the gradient is less dramatic than the previous one. A couple highlight shapes were added too (simply a transparent cream color).
The aim is to play with the gradient angles so they all align.
Copy the first chain link, paste repeatedly, and rotate accordingly.
Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool, create a small one that will serve as the links between the chain loops.
Copy & Paste accordingly.
With the Pencil Tool (N), draw a smaller shape inside the chain links to add a simple highlight. The gradient goes from the base chain color (set at 0% Opacity) to the creamy color used in the heart locket and back again.
Add other highlights where you deem necessary.
Group (Ctrl + G) your locket and chain shapes together, Copy & Paste, Unite in Pathfinder, and set it as the dark shadow color with the Opacity reduced to 50% or less. Set this behind the bracelet and slightly off so it serves as a simple shadow.
Draw little curved nut shapes in the chocolate sauce.
Our sundae is complete. Let's work on the background.
I've chosen a bright purple for the main background. Copy & Paste the rectangle shape and set to a radial gradient going from a light purple to a darker purple (or whatever colors you choose).
Remember our horizon line? Create a rectangle extending from the horizon down to the end of the picture plane. Set a linear gradient at -91 degrees going from dark purple to a transparent lighter purple.
Create yellow and pink rectangles extending from the horizon line to the top of the picture plane (you can always go outside this line). Set them behind the radial gradient rectangle so they don't compete with the sundae.
Continue the stripes but add a little forced perspective. Adjust the stripes so the purple shapes don't suddenly go against the perspective you've set up.
Add an ellipse with a radial gradient going from a dark purple to transparent. Adjust the angle of the ellipse as you see fit. Reduce Opacity and set it behind the sundae.
Finish off your sundae with some sparkles and highlights. Draw sparkle shapes with the Pencil Tool (N) and use circles of white and cream in various sizes and opacities to create a shiny look to your ice cream.
Your sundae is ready to be served! Add a shadow behind your glass by Copy & Pasting the sundae using the same method from the shadow behind the locket's chain. Push your sweet treat further by adding more embellishments, shadows/rendered areas, or outlines.
If you dig the colors of this tutorial, check out this bright portrait piece from last month.