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A few times a each month we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of Vectortuts+. This tutorial by Jonathan was first published on July 14th, 2008. This tutorial shows how vector can be used to create deep and complex illustrations with a few well placed techniques. If you haven't done this tutorial yet, then get to it now!
In this tutorial, we'll show the intermediate to advanced Adobe Illustrator artist how to make a fairy-tale inspired magical vine that is shaped like a hand. You should have a basic understanding of Adobe Illustrator tools before you begin this tutorial.
Take a photo of your hand or have someone else pose for you. The more interesting the hand position, the more interesting your final artwork will be. Make sure you take the photo at a high enough resolution. This way it's easy to see where the details of the hand are.
Once you have the photo placed inside Adobe Illustrator, you can put it on its own layer. Then turn the visibility of that layer off. Using the Ellipse Tool (L), draw a condensed ellipse. Select a nice rich brown color for the fill.
Select the Gradient Mesh Tool (U), pick a second slightly lighter brown color, and make one or two points inside the ellipse. This will give the vine some depth (notice how the edges on the vine are darker.) Also, make a copy of the vine, and keep it off to the side of your artboard.
Turn the layer that has the image of your hand on. Place the vine on an angle, and make sure it doesn't exceed the length of the hand and arm. In the next step, we'll use the Warp Tool (Shift+R), and it has a tendency to elongate any shape you manipulate with it.
Select the Warp Tool(Shift+R), and match the contour of the hand. You do not have to match every contour perfectly, considering the final artwork is intended to look somewhat natural. You will need to repeatedly warp each piece of the vine to get it in the right position.
Power Tip: Double-click on the Warp Tool to change its pressure or size. You can also change its size without double-clicking by holding down Shift+Alt, while you click-and-drag.
Continue following the contour of the hand.
It's easiest to trace the entire edge of the hand before adding vines within the body of the artwork. Again, the Warp Tool will significantly stretch the overall length of your vine. When making vines that contour around smaller shapes, like fingertips, it's important to use a much shorter vine to start off with.
Follow the contour of the fingers.
Take some creative liberties with how you trace each shape. You may decide to trace each finger instead of how I've illustrated below. The main point is that you trace the basic shapes first.
Turn off the layer that has the image of your hand on it. This is what your artwork should look like once you have the basic shape defined. Throughout the process of building up vines, continually turn the layer with your hand photo on and off. This makes sure everything looks good.
Continue adding more and more vines to fill in your image. Follow the flow of the artwork so that your vines don't look haphazardly placed. However, use your creative intuition when needed. You'll know when and where to break the rules if need be.
Below you can see I took some creative license with how I made the vine. Obviously the finger isn't wobbly like the vine I drew, but it still looks good. Remember, when filling in small areas with vines, you must use a short vine to start off with.
You do not have to fill in every little area. You can place a minimal amount of vines in areas where your photograph has dark shadows, since when things are in shadow you can't see them anyhow. This is evident in Step 14 where the ring finger connects to the main part of the hand. See how there are a limited number of vines there.
Once you're done filling in the hand, add some stray vines around the edges to give the artwork a slightly more natural look; as if the vines are growing off into a new direction.
Add a deep blueish black gradient behind the artwork. Then place it on its own layer. By simply adding this background you can see how the mood and effectiveness of the artwork changes.
This is what your artwork should look like so far.
On a new layer make a leaf shape. You can find a maple leaf online and trace it or roughly draw in your own shape, as shown below.
Giving the leaf variations in color will add to its realism. Using the Pencil Tool (N), draw a shape that looks like mine below. Use the Pathfinder Palette and break-up the leaf into sections. Then delete the leftover shapes that aren't part of the leaf.
Select each section of the leaf and give it a subtle color change. This simulates light hitting different parts of the leaf.
Copy several of the brown vines we used for the hand. Then adjust their color by going to the top and selecting Edit > Edit Color > Adjust Color Balance. Adjust your variables to match your leaf's color as best as possible. We change the color of several different vines at once so that the color is the same on each one.
Make a few copies of the newly colored leaves and vines. Then vary their sizes and place them throughout the structure of the hand.
Make a new layer behind the brown vines. Copy a few leaves and green vines and adjust their color to be slightly darker by going to the top and selecting Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Color Balance.
We're creating the impression of leaves that are in shadow, so make sure all three numbers are the same. Your numbers may not be exactly the same as mine. As long as all three match, you're good to go.
Vary the leaves sizes and rotations. Then place them throughout the structure of the hand.
This is what your artwork should look like.
Make sparkles by using the Ellipse Tool and drawing a condensed ellipse. Copy the ellipse and cross it over the other shape to make a star shape.
Duplicate the shape several more times. Adjust the opacity of some of the sparkles to achieve the effect of each sparkle twinkling.
Make an elegant "S" shape instead of arbitrarily clumping the sparkles together, giving the sense of movement.
Put the sparkles in front of and behind the vines to achieve the effect of the sparkles swirling around the hand.
Don't go overboard with the sparkles!
Draw an arch shape using the Pen Tool.
Adjust its opacity and enlarge it to give the impression of stylized wind or general atmosphere.
Make several more arches in varying sizes, shapes, and opacities.
Alas, the completed fairy-tale inspired vine is complete!