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Create a Fashionable Dress Shoe in Illustrator

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Read Time: 9 min

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create a dress shoe with the help of gradient meshes. We will also explore how to create custom vector textures.

Tutorial Assets

You can find this tutorial's reference photo, as well as other fashionable dress shoe reference photos, on Thinkstock.

Step 1

Start by opening up your image in Photoshop. Use the Marquee Tools to extract one shoe and save it as a separate image. I would normally recommend the Pen Tool; however, there's no need to be precise, as we are just using this image as a template.

Step 2

Copy and Paste the new image into Illustrator (I've flipped it for preference). In the Layers Panel, click the Flyout menu and select "Template."

Step 3

Next, create a new layer called "Colors" (This is where we will store the initial colors sampled from the shoe).

Step 4

With the "Colors" layer active, use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to sample a dominant color from the shoe and switch to the Blob Brush (Shift + B) to paint a swatch on your artboard (notice that the color is the original color from the shoe and not the screened color as it appears on the layer).

Step 5

Continue to select the major colors from the shoe. It may help to number the colors to keep track of which colors go where.

Step 6

Now we can add these colors to our swatches in groups, just select a group of colors at a time and click on the new Color Croup icon in to the swatches panel. Do this for all color groupings.

Here, all the color groups have been added. I also made sure that the colors were in orders as I have labeled on the "Colors" layer.

Step 7

Before we start working on building the shoe, we should plan out how we will approach the gradient maps. I've quickly drawn a grid that I think best follows the contours of the shoe. As you'll see by the red boxes, we will have four separate gradient maps that we need to create: One for the front of the shoe, two for the middle (due to the complexity of the shape) and one for the back.

Step 8

To start applying gradient maps, create a new layer called "Front" and use the Rectangle Marquee Tool to draw a shape over the front part of the shoe.

Step 9

Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh. Set the values as shown and Click OK. We want to start with a basic shape first. We will add additional control points later.

Step 10

Position four corners of the mesh in to the logical 'corners' of the shoe. It may help to use Outline Mode (Command + Y). Use the handles to manipulate the mesh to follow the outline of the shoe.

Step 11

Select the Gradient Mesh Tool and click on the edges of the Gradient Mesh to add additional rows and columns. As you add new mesh lines, adjust the handles so they follow the general direction of the grid we sketched out in Step 7.

Step 12

Now, we can start to color the mesh. We do this by assigning a color to a point on the mesh. Use a combination of the Direct Selection Tool and the Lasso Tool to select the points on your mesh, and use the Swatches Panel to add a color to the point(s).

Use the color guide we created in Steps 3-4 to help the process of assigning colors. You may need to manually adjust some points so that the colors match the reference image. To do this, simply use the Direct Selection Tool to move and use the handles to ease in and out.

Your colored mesh should resemble the following:

Step 13

Repeat Steps 8-12 with the back part of the shoe.

Step 14

The middle of the shoe is a little different. We have two gradient meshes we need to create (refer back to the image we sketched of the gradients):

Using previous techniques create a simple gradient mesh for both sections. The trick is to make sure both meshes have the same amount of rows and that they are relatively in line with each other.

Step 15

We need to connect both gradient meshes. First, make sure Snap to Point is on (View > Snap to Point). Next, Using the Direct Selection Tool, snap each point of the shared edge to its corresponding neighbor.

Step 16

To fix the gaps in between each point, you'll need to match up the handles of both points. To do this, it helps to have Smart Guides turned on.

Select both points, and use the Direct Selection Tool to move the handles of both corresponding points to the same location. Smart Guides will not only snap to the handle, but it will also let you know when you've reached the handle.

Step 17

Go ahead and add color to both meshes (make sure to add the same color to the points that overlap).

Step 18

To add Texture to the shoe, go back into Photoshop and create a new document 1000 px by 1000 px. Add Noise by going to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Use the settings shown below.

Step 19

Next, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur with the following settings.

Step 20

Go to Image > Adjustments > Posterize and set the levels to 5.

Your image should now look like this:

Adjust the Levels (Command + L) to increase the contrast.

Step 21

Copy and paste this image into a new layer in Illustrator and use Illustrator's Live Trace to bring up the Live Trace settings.

For this texture, we will keep the default settings. Click Expand to covert it to a vector and drag the newly created texture into the Symbols Panel. A property dialogue box will open, you may want to rename the symbol, but any other changes are unnecessary, just click OK to complete.

Step 22

We can now start applying this texture to each part of the shoe. To do this, select the front section of the shoe and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Set this to 0. The result will be 2 new shapes, the original gradient, and the offset path. We will be working with the offset path.

Step 23

Drag the Texture symbol from the Symbols Panel onto your document and position it so it covers the entire front of the shoe. Since order matters when working with clipping paths, send the texture to the back of the layer stack (Object > Arrange > Send to Back).

Select both the texture and the offset path, then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. You now have texture in the shape of your shoe, but it is in the back of your layer stack. Just go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front to fix this.

Step 24

In the Transparency panel, set the Opacity of the texture to 3% and set the Blend Mode to Hard Light.

Step 25

Repeat steps 22-24 to add texture to the remaining sections of the shoe (Note: The middle has two shapes; these should be combined into one shape using the Unite option in the Pathfinder Panel before applying the texture). The result should look like this:

Step 26

The next step is to add the seams on the shoe. On a new layer called "Seams," use the Rectangle Tool to create a thin rectangle. Next, use the Direct Selection Tool to move each corner into position. Lastly, convert these corner points to end points, then use the Direct Selection Tool to manipulate the shape to follow the seam on the reference image.

Step 27

Select the Mesh Tool and start to add mesh lines as shown.

Step 28

Using the reference image, add color to the new mesh.

Step 29

Repeat these steps for the remaining seams.

Step 30

Following the same techniques that we just learned, go ahead and create the shoe's tongue on a new layer. Do the same for the inside of the shoe (the inside does not require a texture).

Step 31

To create the shoe's sole, start by creating a rectangle. Then, use the Mesh Tool (U) to add mesh lines as shown.

Step 32

By sticking to the basic rectangle shape, we can add a gradient mesh with much more control. Go ahead and use the additional points to help fine-tune the contours of the shoe's sole.

Step 33

Use the same techniques to build the shoe's heel.

Step 34

Use the reference photo to add more mesh lines around the treads. It may help to view in Outline Mode (Command + Y).

Step 35

Once you're done with the treads, go ahead and add some more definition to the gradient mesh. Use the reference image to add color.

Step 36

To add texture to the sole, select each shape and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain.

Use the following settings:

Your image should resemble the following:

Step 37

The sole still seems flat. Since the shoe will be resting on the ground, the sole should naturally appear darker closer to the ground plane. To achieve this effect, first make a copy (Command + C) of both shapes that make up the sole, and paste them in front (Command + F).

Next, change the color of the gradient mesh to all white. Now, use the Mesh Tool to add a horizontal mesh line halfway up the one shape (this does not need to be done to the heel shape). You can now add black to the bottom points of the sole.

Change the two new meshes to a mode of Multiply with a Transparency of 55%.

Step 38

Now, we'll continue to build the rest of the sole using the techniques from Steps 31 and 32. Add another rectangle and use the Mesh Tool (U) to add lines. Form this shape and add colors to the mesh.

Step 39

Follow the same techniques to add another shape to act as the seam for the shoe leather and rubber sole. This time, add the Film Grain Effect (like we did in Step 36).

Step 40

To finish the shoe, we will add some stitching. Do this by drawing a path next to each seam and giving it a dark brown color with a dotted line stroke.

Step 41

Do the same for the inside of the shoe.

Step 42

Lastly, add a gradient mesh underneath the shoe for the shoe's shadow.

You're Done!

Your final image should resemble the following:

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