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Present Your Artwork in a Vector Frame in Adobe Illustrator

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In the following steps you will learn how to create a simple poster frame with a grungy brick wall background in Adobe Illustrator.

For starters you will learn how to setup a simple grid and how to create the main two frames using simple tools and effects along with the Pathfinder panel and some basic masking techniques. Next, you will learn how to add some subtle shading using the Appearance panel, the Inner Glow effect and basic blending techniques. Finally, you will create the brick wall background using simple rectangles, some raster effects, built-in art brushes, subtle Drop Shadow effects and two Transform effects.

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 box and 700 in the height box 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). For starters you will need a grid every 10px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 10 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Poster Frame

2. Create the Black Frame

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and simply create a 280 x 360px shape, the Snap to Grid will ease your work. Make sure that this new shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Make sure that there is no color set for the fill then select the stroke and set the color at black (R=0 G=0 B=0).

Keep focusing on your stroke and simply click on the "Stroke" piece of text to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Set the Weight at 10px and check the Align Stroke to Inside. In the end your rectangle should look like in the following image. Reselect it and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Poster Frame

Step 2

Make sure that your black shape is still selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select only the copy and replace the existing fill color with white (R=255 G=255 B=255). Move to the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and simply click on the little eye icon that stands for your white shape to make it invisible. You'll need this shape later.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a simple, oblique path as shown in the following image. Add a 1pt stroke for this new path and set its color at R=233 G=28 B=36.

Poster Frame

Step 4

Make sure that your red path is still selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (don't forget to check the Reflect X box) then click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 5

Make sure that your red path is still selected and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (don't forget to check the Reflect Y box) then click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 6

Make sure that your red path is still selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Move to the Layers panel and simply turn off the visibility for this fresh copy. You'll need it a few steps later.

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Step 7

Reselect the visible, red path and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting group of paths along with the black shape, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click the Divide button. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected and simply hit Shift-Control-G to Ungroup it.

Move to the Layers panel and focus on the newly created shapes. Select the one with no color set for the fill or the stroke (highlighted in the fourth image) and simply remove it using the Delete button from your keyboard.

Poster Frame

Step 8

Select the top, black shape focus on the Appearance panel. First, select the fill and replace the existing color with R=55 G=55 B=55.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a second fill for your shape using the Add New Fill button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image). Select the new fill, set the color at R=100 G=100 B=100 and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1px Offset and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 9

Make sure that the top shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the top fill and duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image).

Select the new fill, open the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient) and simply click on the gradient thumbnail to add the default black to white linear gradient. Keep focusing on the Gradient panel, set the Angle at 90 degrees then move to the gradient sliders. Select the left gradient slider and set the color at R=50 G=50 B=50 then select the right gradient slider and set the color at R=65 G=65 B=65. Make sure that the fill added in this step is still selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Focus on the Move section, drag the Vertical slider at 1px then click OK.

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Step 10

Next, you need to copy the properties used for the top shape and paste them onto the bottom, black shape. Here is how you can easily do it. Go to the Layers panel, focus on the right side and you'll notice that every shape comes with a little grey circle. It's called a target icon. Hold the Alt button from your keyboard, click on the target icon that stands for the top shape and simply drag onto the circle that stands for your bottom, black shape. Now, select your bottom shape and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the top fill, move to the Gradient panel and set the Angle at -90 degrees then return to the Appearance panel and open the existing Transform effect. Simply drag the Move-Vertical slider at -1px and click OK. In the end things should look like in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 11

Again, use the target icons to copy the Appearance attributes used for the top and bottom shapes and paste them unto the left and right shapes. Select the left and right shapes one by one. First, edit the angle set for the gradient then the properties used for the Transform effects as shown in the following image.

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Step 12

Focus on the Layers panel and turn on the visibility for your red path. Select it and simply hit Shift -Control- ] to bring it to front.

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Step 13

Make sure that your red path is still selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing stroke, replace the red with R=100 G=100 B=100 and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Focus on the Move section, drag the Vertical slider at 0.7px and click OK.

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Step 14

Make sure that your grey path is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second stroke using the Add New Stroke button (pointed by the blue circle in the following image). Select the new stroke, set the Weight at 1px and the color at R=30 G=30 B=30 then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Focus on the Move section, drag the Vertical slider at -0.7px and click OK.

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Step 15

Focus on the Layers panel, turn on the visibility for your white shape and bring it to front (Shift -Control- ] ). Reselect this white shape along with that oblique path, open the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency) and simply click the Make Mask button. In the end things should look like in the third image.

Poster Frame

Step 16

Select all the shapes made so far and simply hit Control-G to Group them. Move to the Layers panel, double-click on your new group and rename it "blackFrame".

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3. Create the White Frame

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 260 x 340px shape and place it as shown in the following image. Add a 20px stroke for this new rectangle, set the color at R=247 G=172 B=64 and align it to inside. Make sure that your shape does not have a color set for the fill then go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke.

Poster Frame

Step 2

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a new oblique path as shown in the following image. Add a 1pt stroke and set its color at R=233 G=28 B=36.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Make sure that your red path is still selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (don't forget to check the Reflect X box) then click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 4

Make sure that your red path is still selected and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (don't forget to check the Reflect Y box) then click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 5

Reselect your red path and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Select the resulting group of paths along with the orange shape and click the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected and Ungroup it (Shift-Control-G). Move to the Layers panel, select the shape with no color set for the fill or the stroke and simply delete it.

Poster Frame

Step 6

Select the top, orange shape and replace that flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

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Step 7

Select the bottom, orange shape and replace that flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

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Step 8

Focus on the remaining orange shapes and replace the orange with the colors pointed in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 9

Reselect the four, grey shapes and Group them (Control-G). Move to the Layers panel, double-click on this new group and rename it "whiteFrame".

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4. Add Subtle Shading and the Image

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 220 x 300px shape and set the fill color at white. Place this new rectangle as shown in the following image then send it to back (Shift-Control- [ ). Move to the Layers panel, simply double-click on this new shape and rename it "imageMask".

Poster Frame

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 260 x 340px shape, set the fill color at white and place it as shown in the following image. Make sure that this new rectangle is selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Reselect the rectangle with the Inner Glow effect and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel and open the newly created group of shapes. Delete the white rectangle then Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) the remaining masked shape. In the end things should look like in the third image.

Poster Frame

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 260 x 340px shape, set the fill color at black and place it as shown in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 5

Make sure that your black rectangle stays selected and simply hit Shift-X to transfer the color properties from the fill to the stroke.

Focus on the Appearance panel, select that stroke, set the Weight at 3px, align it to inside then simply click on the Opacity piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel. Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 10%.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the stroke is still selected and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the new stroke, increase its Opacity to 20% and set the Weight at 2px. Duplicate your 2px stroke, select the copy, increase its Opacity to 30% and set the Weight at 1px. In the end things should look like in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 6

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 220 x 300px shape, set the fill color at black and place it as shown in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 7

Make sure that your black rectangle stays selected and hit Shift-X. Focus on the Appearance panel, select that stroke, set the Weight at 4px, align it to inside and lower the Opacity to 2%. Duplicate this stroke, select the copy, set the Weight at 2px and increase the Opacity to 3%. Duplicate your 2px stroke, select the copy, increase its Opacity to 5% and set the Weight at 1px.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a fourth fill for your shape using that same Add New Stroke button. Select the new stroke, set the Weight at 1px and the color at white, align it to outside then lower its Opacity to 75% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. In the end things should look like in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 8

Drag the image that you wish to frame inside your document and send it to back (Shift-Control- [ ). Try to resize your image and if it exceed the boundaries of the frame use the "imageMask" rectangle to mask it.

The image I'm using for this example is from Monika Zagrobelna's tutorial on how to draw horses.

Poster Frame

5. Create the Hanger

Step 1

Focus on the top side of your frame. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 260x 50px shape and place it as shown in the following image. Add a 1px stroke for this new shape and set its color at R=55 G=55 B=55. Switch to the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-), focus on the top side and simply click on the left anchor point to remove it. Grab the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the remaining top anchor point and drag it 130px to the left. This should turn your rectangle into a triangle.

Poster Frame

Step 2

For this step you will need a grid every 1px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box. Focus on the top corner of your triangle. Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 6px circle, set the fill color at R=55 G=55 B=55 and place it as shown in the following image.

Make sure that this tiny, new shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select the new fill, set the color at R=100 G=100 B=100 and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1px Offset and click OK.

Return to the Appearance panel and add a third fill for your circle. Select it, set the color at R=55 G=55 B=55 and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -1px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Focus on the Move section, drag the Vertical slider at 1px and click OK.

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Step 3

Return to gridline every 10px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 10 in the Gridline every box.

Reselect your triangle along with the tiny circle and Group them (Control-G). Make sure that this new group stays selected, send it to back (Shift-Control- [ ) and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the left window (in the following image), click OK and go again to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the right window and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 4

Select all the shapes made so far and Group them (Control-G). Move to the Layers panel and simply rename this new group "posterFrame".

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6. Create the Main Background Shape

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 620 x 720px shape, set the fill color at R=237 G=237 B=237 and send it to back (Shift-Control- [ ).

Next, you need to center this grey rectangle, so open the Align panel (Window > Align). Set the aligning to Artboard (open the fly out menu and go to Show Options if you can't see the Align To section as shown in the following image) then simply click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons. In the end your rectangle should cover the entire artboard. Move to the Layers panel and simply rename it "bg".

Poster Frame

Step 2

Make sure that your "bg" shape is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select it, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 5%, change the Blending Mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Make sure that your "bg" shape is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a third fill. Select it, set the color at white, lower its Opacity to 30%, change the Blending Mode to Multiply and go to Effect > Artistic > Sponge. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Poster Frame

7. Create the Bricks

Step 1

Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and focus on the top, left corner of your artboard. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 60 x 20px shape and place it as shown in the following image.

Open the fly-out menu of the Brushes panel, go to Open Brush Library > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil and a new window with a bunch of built-in brushes will open. Reselect the rectangle made a few moments ago, select the stroke, add the Pencil - Thin art brush and set its color at R=125 G=125 B=125. Make sure that the stroke stays selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the left window (in the following image), click OK and go again to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the right window and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 2

Reselect the rectangle with the art brush, focus on the Appearance panel, select the stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Focus on the new stroke, open the two Drop Shadow effects and replace the existing attributes with the ones shown in the following image.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Reselect the rectangle with the art brushes, duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F), select the copy and place it as shown in the first image. Reselect both rectangles and Group them (Control-G). Move to the Layers panel and name this new group "bricks".

Poster Frame

Step 4

Focus on the Layers panel and drag your "bricks" groups below the "posterFrame" group. Select the "bricks" group and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 5

Make sure that your "bricks" group is still selected and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Poster Frame

8. Add Extra Shading for Your Poster Frame

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 280 x 360px shape, set the fill color at black and place it as shown in the following image. Move to the Layers panel and name this new rectangle "shadow".

Poster Frame

Step 2

Focus on the Layers panel and drag your "shadow" rectangle below the "posterFrame" group. Make sure that this black rectangle stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the fill and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the top, left window (in the following image), click OK then add the other three Drop Shadow effects shown below.

Poster Frame

Step 3

Reselect your "shadow" rectangle, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select it, make sure that the color is set at black, lower its Opacity to 15% and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (make sure that you check the top, middle reference point), click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 15px radius and click OK.

Poster Frame

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 280 x 170px shape, fill it with the linear gradient shown below and place it as shown in the following image. The yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage. Move to the Layers panel, name the rectangle made in this step "longShadow" and drag it below your "posterFrame" group.

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Step 5

Reselect your "longShadow" rectangle, lower its Opacity to 15% and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 5px radius, click OK and you're done.

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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.

Poster Frame
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