Whenever the need arises to create realistic effects or textures for a design, Photoshop is the tool that most people immediately turn to. However, Adobe has brought Illustrator a long way since its early days, and with each new version it comes closer to matching (and in some ways surpasses) its raster-based cousin.
In this tutorial, we'll create an aluminum and glass emblem that can be customized with any logo or shape. And since all the effects will be done entirely in Illustrator, the whole graphic will be fully scalable. So, let's get started!
Final Image Preview
Below is the final design we will be working towards.
Note: This tutorial is presented using the recently released Adobe Illustrator CS4, and therefore uses some of the new features and tools as shortcuts. However, all of the techniques and effects used can be done in CS3 (or earlier) as well, and details will be given on how to do so.
The first thing to do is create a new document of whatever size you'd like. Once you have it, create a rectangle the same size as your document and fill it with a light gray to dark gray radial gradient. Then, lock down the rectangle (Command + 2).
Create a white, 276px circle and center it relative to the document, and then nudge it a few pixels up vertically.
Copy and paste the white circle in front, and center it vertically and horizontally. Then, fill it with a dark gray.
Next, copy the white circle again and paste it in front (Command + F). Next, center it on the document and nudge it down a few pixels. Finally, fill it with black. When done, you should have a stack of three circles, slightly offset vertically from one another.
Now, create another circle, 234px wide and high. Now, if you have CS4, you can simply fill it with a gradient that goes from completely transparent in the center to solid black. If you're working with CS3 or earlier, then you can achieve the same thing with an opacity mask. If you're unfamiliar with opacity masks, check out this tutorial which makes heavy use of them.
We'll now create a sort of mesh pattern for what will be the inner glass area. Start by using the Polygon tool (located under the Rectangle tool) to create a hexagon 13px wide by 11px high. Then, select the hexagon and go to Object > Transform > Move... and set the distance to 17px horizontally and 0px vertically. Then, click Copy to move a copy of the hexagon to the right.
Once, you've copied the hexagon once, you can simply select Object > Transform > Transform Again (Command + D) to duplicate the move command again. Do this 13 more times so that you have a horizontal row of 15 hexagons. Then, select them all and group them.
Select the group and go to Object > Transform > Move... again. This time though, we're going to move the row down 17px, so set the horizontal distance to 0px and the vertical distance to -17px. Then, click Copy.
Finally, repeat the transformation 13 more times. When finished, you should have a grid of hexagons, 15 wide by 15 high. Group all of the rows.
The last thing to do now is mask the grid so that it fits within the circular shape of our emblem. To do this, create a 228px circle, and center both the circle and the grid relative to each other. Then, with the circle above the grid, select both and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make to mask the grid with the circle.
So far we've created the grid using black hexagons to more easily see them on the artboard. However, we want our final mesh to be white, so remove the clipping mask temporarily, change the fill of the hexagons to white and reapply the mask. Then, select the mesh and center it in the document.
And finally, set the blending mode to Overlay and the Transparency to 50%.
We'll now create the aluminum effect for the metal parts of the emblem. Start by drawing several oddly sized triangles pointing toward a center point. They should not be symmetrical to each other. Draw a small circle that covers the point where the triangles meet, and make some of the triangles (and the circle) a dark gray and the rest white. Then, group the shapes.
Next, add a Radial Blur to them (Effect > Blur > Radial Blur...) with the Amount set to 60 and the method set to Spin. The Quality can be set to Good or even Draft for now, as it will speed up the rendering the effect, and can be changed to Best later on, before you export the design as a raster graphic.
Once you've blurred the group, add a Film Grain to it. Use the values of 10, 0 and 10 for Grain, Highlight Area, and Intensity, respectively.
The last step in creating the aluminum effect is to mask it with a circle, as we did earlier with the mesh pattern. Create a 276px circle, bring it above the texture object, select them both and create a clipping mask.
Since we'll be using this texture several times in our design, make a copy of it and move it off to the side on your artboard.
We'll start putting our shiny new texture to use right away. Make a copy of it and center it in the document. Then, send it all the way to the back, and then bring it forward six times. If done correctly it should look like the image below.
While the texture looks good now, we'll want to deaden that bright center a bit so that it doesn't take away from our logo later on. To do so, create a 134px circle, fill it with black, and feather it by 65px. Then center it in the document.
Now we'll add some depth to the aluminum frame around the glass. Create a 276px circle and a 234px circle, and center them relative to each other. Then, select them both and choose the Subtract Shape Area command from the Pathfinder palette. You should then have a ring shape.
Remove the stroke from the shape, and fill it with a transparent to 50% opacity black, 135 degree gradient. Again, if not using CS4, this can be accomplished with an opacity mask.
Center the shape in the document, and then copy and paste it in front of itself. Then, switch the gradient to a 50% white to transparent gradient.
When finished creating these two shapes, your image should look like the one below.
To give the center area of the emblem a glass appearance, we'll add a reflection to it. To do so, create a half-moon shape and fill it with white to transparent gradient, and then lower the opacity of the entire shape. Use an opacity mask instead, if necessary.
Time to add our logo. I just drew up a simple, stylized VT logo for VECTORTUTS, but any shape or logo can be used. Once you have your logo, fill it with a light gray.
Make another copy of the metal texture we created earlier as well as a copy of your logo. Then, create a clipping mask with the texture and the logo copy.
Finally, to add a set-in or engraved effect, copy the solid light gray shape on the bottom and paste it in back twice. Then, nudge one copy up a few pixels and fill it with black, and nudge the other copy down a few pixels and fill it with white.
This is what your logo should look like.
Group all of the shapes that make up the logo, and center them in the document and emblem. Make sure the logo is above everything but the half moon reflection.
Now we'll create the little chrome bolts in the aluminum frame. Create a 12px circle and fill it with a light gray to white to black gradient, with a sharp transition from the white to black.
We'll add the same engraving effect we did earlier to the bolts. Copy the circle and paste it in back twice, nudging one copy up and one down. Then fill the top copy with dark gray and the bottom with white.
Group all of the circles together that make up the bolt, and create five more copies of them. Then, distribute them evenly around the metal frame.
That's it! The last finishing touch is adding some glare to the metal frame. Just create a small white circle, shrink it vertically, rotate it, and feather it. Then place it in the top left and bottom right edges of the frame. I've also added a drop shadow to the base white circle to add a little more depth.
While powerful, Photoshop isn't the only solution for creating realistic and stylish graphics for designs, and that Illustrator can be just as powerful.