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Create a Blue Planet Using Adobe Illustrator


In this tutorial we'll be exploring an interesting technique of creating a pattern of hexagons for the objects of any shape, which was designed by my friend Iaroslav Yemz. Beside this, we will be using 3D modeling and Gradient Meshes.

The tutorial contains plenty of useful professional tips. Let's get started!

You can find the source files in the directory labeled 'source' that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin.

Step 1

Let's start with the creation of a vector map of any continent. Mine is North America. You can find a lot of maps online, copy one of them to your hard disk, then paste it into your document (File > Place...). Lock the layer with the image of the map in the layers palette and outline its contours with the Pen Tool (P). I confess I was a little overdone when detailing (01).

You can be more creative and only show your country on the globe ;)

Step 2

Now take the Polygon Tool and create a hexagon. The radius is set according with what degree of detailing you want to achieve.

Keep the hexagon selected, go to Object > Transform > Rotate... and rotate the object at 90 degrees.

Now duplicate the hexagon (drag to the side, holding down the Alt key).

Step 3

Select the top point of one of the hexagons with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and delete it by pressing the Delete button.

In further designing we will use the height and width of this shape. Therefore, write them down, or how I did copy them from the Transform palette and paste into your workspace of the document.

Remove the last figure, we do not need it anymore. Slightly reduce the source hexagon by using the Selection Tool (V) or Transform palette.

Step 4

Transfer the hexagon to the Brushes palette and save it as a Scatter Brush, without changing the parameters set by default.

Remove the hexagon remaining on the artboard.

Step 5

Select our vector map, do not forget about the islands, if there are any, and go to Object > Rasterize..., without making any changes to the dialog box.

Now apply shear to the raster map, setting the angle at 30 degrees in the Transform palette.

Step 6

Keep the map selected, go to Object > Create Object Mosaic... Key in the height and width of the map in field of the Number of Tiles, and divide these values by the values saved by us in step 3, the height and width of a truncated hexagon.

Step 7

Apply the Shear to the created mosaic at -30 degrees to restore the right type of the map. Do it again using the Transform palette.

Now take the Magic Wand Tool (Y) and click on the empty cells behind the area of the continent, selecting them by clicking on the Delete button.

Step 8

Select the mosaic cells that remained after removal, ungroup them (Shift + Command + G). Go to Object > Transform > Transform Each, and reduce the size of the cells to zero.

Now, while keeping it selected, apply the brush that you created in step 4 to all the cells.

Step 9

If you do not like the distance between the hexagons, you can adjust it by reducing or increasing the size of the brushes. Click on the image brush in the Brushes palette, and in the dialog box, to adjust the size of the brush.

Step 10

Keep the map selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance. Now move the map into the Symbols palette and save it as a new symbol.

Step 11

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle. Copy it and paste it back (Command + C; Command + B). Lock the lower circle in the Layers palette and make it invisible. We will need this circle later to create light and shadow on the globe in step 18.

Step 12

Take the Scissors Tool (C) and cut the circle at the top and bottom points. Now select and delete the left part of the circle.

Select the right half of the circle and go to Object > 3D > Revolve, and set the parameters shown in the figure below.

Click on the Map Art button in the same dialog window, select the symbol with the map, and place it on the sphere evolute as shown.

Turn on the preview option in the dialog box to see what result will be reached after the effect is applied. You might need to change the proportions of the symbol map, as it is in my case.

Step 13

Proceed to the creation of a composition. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a background, picking the color on the picture is random.

The Clipping Mask is usually used to hide unnecessary details of the composition, but it's a little unhandy because it relocates all objects of the composition into a single group and makes it difficult to access the objects. We can go another way, by just hiding the unnecessary objects behind the white rectangles with no stroke.

Then the rectangles have to be locked in the Layers palette. This is a professional technique that does not complicate your workflow. At the end, you can apply the Clipping Mask and remove the white rectangles, of course, if it is required by the customer.

Step 14

Now create a coordinate grid on the globe. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a square without fill with a stroke of any color.

Take the Scissors Tool (C) and cut the square at all its corners. Select the sides of the square and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options..., set the number of steps of the blend equal to 20, then go to Object > Blend > Make.

As you can see, we got not get what we wanted; the fact is that the sides of the square have different directions. It can be fixed easily, take the Pen Tool (P) and click at any end of the segment, changing its direction at the same time. Lock the lower and upper segment in the layers palette so that they do not interfere with the access to the ends of the vertical segments.

Step 15

Using the same technique, create horizontal lines of the coordinate grid.

Select the entire grid and go to Object > Blend > Expand. Now our grid represents a set of horizontal and vertical lines. Select every other line using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and change their width in the Stroke palette. The grid should consist of lines 0.25 px 0.5 px in width, as shown in the figure below.

Step 16

Now select the entire grid and go to Object > Expand, then to Unite from the Pathfinder palette.

Replace the fill color of the grid with white and move it into the Symbols palette.

Step 17

Return to our 3D model of the planet. Select the 3D object, copy and paste it back (Command + C; Command + B).

Keep the object selected, open the Appearance palette and click on the 3D effect to open a dialog box for editing.

Proceed to the dialog Map Art and delete the map symbol.

Now select the symbol of the coordinate grid and apply it to the 3D object.

Step 18

The basic geometry of our composition is built. Proceed to the coloring of its elements. Unlock and make visible the circle created in step 11. Fill the circle with a radial gradient, consisting of dark blue and light blue colors (the visibility of other objects are turned off for better demonstrative purposes).

Step 19

Fill the background with a radial gradient of light blue and black colors, in order to create the illusion of the atmosphere.

Select the 3D object that contains a map in the Layers palette and go to Object > Expand Appearance. After this operation, in addition to those that we need, we obtain a bunch of unnecessary objects. Select the unnecessary objects in the layers palette and delete them.

Now fill the map with a radial gradient, consisting of blue-green aquamarine color and its very light shade, almost white. You can set the right position of the gradient at the surface, consisting of a set of objects, with the help of the Gradient Tool (G).

Step 20

Select the 3D object that contains the coordinate grid in the layers palette and go to Object > Expand Appearance. After removing the unnecessary objects in the layers palette, apply the Overlay Blending mode to the grid in the Transparency palette.

Step 21

Copy the circle from step 18 and paste it in front. Place the new circle above all the objects moving it in the layers palette and pressing the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command + Right Bracket key. Fill this object with a radial gradient that goes from light blue to light blue color with 0% Opacity.

Step 22

Create stars in the sky. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle with a diameter of 2px. Transfer the created circle to the Brushes palette and save it as a Scatter Brush with the parameters specified in the figure below.

Step 23

Take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and with two strokes create all the stars of our composition.

Move the stars in the layers palette so that they are located above background, but below all the objects.

Step 24

Take the Flare Tool and create a rising star. The settings of the tools are shown in the figure below.

Step 25

If you do not achieve the desired result with the settings of the Flare Tool Options dialog window, then select the object and go to Object > Expand, that will transform the glow into a group of simple objects that you can easily operate (move, delete unnecessary ones, and change the colors of the radial gradients).

That's the method I used.

Step 26

Now create the rays of the rising sun. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle of black color. Take the Gradient Mesh Tool and create a simple vertical grid by clicking with the tool on its top or bottom sides.

Color the grid nodes with a dark blue color in no particular order. You should get something like this.

Convert all the nodes of the created mesh from smooth into corner ones. This operation is performed using the Convert Anchor Point Tool.

Step 27

Now we need to collect the lower nodes in a single point so that the rectangle turns into a triangle. You can move nodes using the Direct Selection Tool (A), of course, but it will take you too long. For this operation we will be using the Pucker Tool. Double-clicking on the icon of the tool in the sidebar, brings up a dialog box with the settings of the tool.

Set the height and width of the brush so that the radius of the brush is approximately equal to the height of the mesh object. Align the center of the brush with the center of the lower side of the mesh object, and click with the mouse button. That's it, the issue is solved in no time.

Step 28

Place the created object in the Layers palette so that it is located above the background and the stars, but lower than other objects, and set the Screen Blending Mode in the Transparency palette.

Step 29

The rest of the rays are obtained by duplicating the first and rotating according to the common center. You can duplicate objects and simultaneously rotate them with the Rotate Tool (R), while holding down the Alt key during the rotation. To create diversity, you can change the width and height of the new rays with the Selection Tool (V), as well as overlapping the rays one over the other.

Select and group up the rays.

Step 30

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle the size of the background. Fill it with a black and white radial gradient.

Now select the rectangle and the group of rays, and then go to Make Opacity Mask from the menu of the Transparency palette.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Do not hesitate to ask any questions if you are confused about a step, I'm always open for communication, and anyway that's my job. Feel free to visit the comments on the news post associated with this tutorial on Vectortuts+ blog.

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