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Create a Garden Scene Using Brushes in Illustrator

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Read Time: 12 mins

In today's tutorial, I'm going to be showing you how to create this garden scene using the Appearance panel, Art and Scatter brushes. Along the way, you will see how Color Guides and using the Rectangular Grid Tool can help you put together a composition.


The stock images I'll be using can be found on Photodune from here and here.

Step 1

Start by creating a New Document with a Portrait Orientation.

In the Toolbar, hold click on the Line Segment Tool to access the other tools within. You're going to need the Rectangular Grid Tool. Double-click on this to bring up the Rectangular Grid Tool Options. Change the Horizontal and Vertical Dividers to "2" and click on OK.

With the Rectangular Grid Tool, draw across the canvas. This will act as a guide only.

Step 2

Go to File > Place... and place the reference image on the canvas below the grid. Using the Free Transform Tool (E) to rescale and position the reference image into the grid. The grid itself is going to be used as a guide for the "Rule of Thirds".

So I've positioned the reference so the arch is going through the centre and each one of the areas has some focal point. I don't want to be too busy so I'm going to remove some elements and balance out other areas so as not to confuse the viewer.

Step 3

I'm going to organize my layers in the Layer panel. The reference image will be contained within the "Reference" layer folder. Then Create New Layer and Double-click on it to rename it "BG". Within this layer folder I'll draw a white fill Rectangle (M) at 50% Opacity. Then the rectangular grid will be within a New Layer named "Grid".

I'll begin adding shapes to the illustration within another layer folder, which I'll rename "Bases".

Step 4

Throughout the tutorial, I'll be using colors which can be found in the Swatch libraries in Illustrator. To access them go into the drill down menu and go to Open Swatch Library > Nature and select "Foliage". You'll notice this in turn has a drill down menu of it's own, so go into that and tick "Persistent". This will allow you to have multiple libraries open at the same time.

Once ticked, open up the "Landscape" and "Flowers" libraries.

I'm going to use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw three shapes to divide the composition up. A light blue for the sky, dark green for the background and the light green for the foreground. Once done, Group these shapes together (Command + G).

If you notice on the screenshot, I've moved the "Grid" layer folder on top of the "Bases". I'll be doing that from time to time to help me with placing elements instead of using the reference image alone.

Step 5

Create New Sublayer within the "Bases" layer folder and rename it "Fence".

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a long slim rectangle with an off white fill.

Add a point on the center top face. Then use the Direct Selection Tool (V) to move the point upwards to create an arrow head. Within the Appearance Panel, click on FX and go to Stylize > Round Corners, then put in the value "2pt", and click on OK.

Step 6

Go into the drill down menu and Duplicate Item. Now drag and drop it below the off white fill. I'm going to apply another effect, this time from Distort & Transform > Transform Effect. I'm wanting to create a slight 3D effect, so I'll be moving the shape Horizontally by "0.5pt" and I'll be making 4 copies of this.

Apply a linear gradient to this fill, with a highlighting gray to where the corner is.

I'm then going to change the off-white fill to a subtle linear gradient and then apply a 3pt inside Stroke. Save the Appearance panel settings by going into the Graphic Styles panel and clicking "New Graphic Style".

Step 7

Duplicate the shape to create the fence, grouping it in two sections (Command + G).

Step 8

Create New Sublayer and rename it "Arch". Use the Arc Tool to create an arc at the top of the archway.

Using the Pen Tool (P) select the bottom point and then draw a straight line to the bottom of the canvas. Set the Stroke Weight to 20pt.

Step 9

Select both of the arch shapes and go to Object > Expand so you're left with shapes rather than strokes.

Apply the graphic style you created for the fence and modify the Transform effect to be copied "50" times and change the gradients accordingly.

Step 10

I'm going to use the same graphic style which was created for the fence to add slats on the fence and the gate. However, I will modify the direction of the gradients. These shapes will need to be placed below the existing vertical fence shapes.

Step 11

Now to create the slats in between the archway. This will be using the newly modified fence graphic style and I'll be using the Transform Effect again to duplicate the slats below the arc. I'll be moving them Vertically by "50pt" and creating 15 copies.

I'll need to copy and paste the shapes for the arc (as shown below).

Step 12

Duplicate the two groups for the fences and then Object > Expand them and use Pathfinder > Unite. Ungroup the group which has just been created (Command + Shift + G) so you have two Compound Paths.

Draw an Ellipse (L) and use Pathfinder > Minus Front to remove it from the gate shape.

Now reduce the Opacity to 10% and set the Blending Mode to Multiply to create an arced shadow on the gate.

Step 13

My favorite flowers are tulips and so I'd like to include those into the illustration. Specifically I like the dark purple variety. So I'm going to select a purple shade from the "Flowers" swatch. However I'm going to need some darker and lighter shades.

Go into the Color Guide panel and into the drop down menu and you can have access to a variety of similar palettes to help with such dilemmas. Specifically I'm looking at using colors from the Shades Color Guide.

Using the Ellipse Tool (L) and the Direct Selection Tool (V), I'm going to create a slim egg shape for the tulip petals. I'll give it a purple radial gradient fill with colors from the Shades Color Guide and than a 1pt Stroke Weight set to Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 50%.

Step 14

Duplicate the egg shape twice and use the Free Transform Tool (E) to slim it and rotate it. Then using the Width Profile 5 brush (which can be created/downloaded from this tutorial), add Blending Mode Screen strokes to the top and Blending Mode Multiply strokes to the bottom.

Group up all the elements (Command + G) and then duplicate them across the area for the tulips. I've used the Free Transform Tool (E) to rotate, scale and flip them to make them look slightly different.

Step 15

I'm going to use the Appearance panel to create the stalks, by using three shades of green with the Stroke Weights of 6pt, 4pt and 2pt.

Step 16

Using the brush I created for the Bamboo Leaves in this tutorial, I'm going to add leaves to the tulips, behind and in front.

Step 17

Then I'm going to Group all of the elements together (Command + G) and duplicate them. Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to scale, flip and position them.

Step 18

Duplicate both sets of the tulips and then go to Object > Expand. Use Pathfinder > Unite to create one shape. Position this shape to be the shadow cast onto the fence.

Unhide the Compound Path for the fence and use Pathfinder > Intersect. Change the fill to black and set the Blending Mode to Multiply and Opacity to 10%.

Step 19

Within the tulip groups, I've duplicated the leaves in the back and Object > Expanded them. I've filled them with a transparent radial gradient and set it to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 50% to add different shades to the leaves.

Step 20

I'm going to create a Clematis traveling up the archway. First I'm going to create a Scatter Brush for the leaves. Here is a quick tip on creating a leaf:

Draw an oval with the Ellipse Tool (L) and then use it as a guide to draw jagged edges around it with the Pen Tool (P). With Smart Guides enabled (Command + U), you can create an effortless leaf shape in seconds!

Step 21

Similar to the stalk of the tulips, I've used the same effect but instead of changing the Stroke Weight of the stalks, I'm using Offset Path. Using minus figures to contract the shape accordingly with lighter colors. Then using Pathfinder > Minus Front to split the left in half.

Then I've used the Width Profile 5 brush to add veins to the leaf. I used the Line Segment Tool (\) to give smooth, straight lines and then set it to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 50%.

Finally, duplicate the original shape and create a shadow with Blending Mode Multiply and Opacity 10% with a black fill. Once done, Group all the elements together (Command + G).

Step 22

In the Brush panel, select New Brush and opt for Scatter Brush. The left is going to be used for Clematis leaves so set the options as shown below:

Using the Paintbrush Tool (B), I've drawn several lines between the two arches to create a climbing clematis effect.

Step 23

The flower for the clematis is pretty easy to create. You can use the Polygon Tool and then the Pucker & Bloat effect to create the petals.

Then in the Appearance panel I've added an Inside aligned Stroke and a gradient to the petals.

Step 24

Using the Width Profile 1 brush, I've added creases on the center of the petals, then using a yellow transparent radial gradient, added a pollen center with the Ellipse Tool (L).

I've then grouped the flower (Command + G) and duplicated it between the strokes of clematis leaves. Using the Free Transform Tool (E) I've scaled and positioned them along the arch.

Step 25

I've used the Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) with a black stroke and set to Blending Mode Multiply, Opacity 20% to create a shadow underneath the leaves.

Step 26

I'm going to create another leaf brush, however this time with a modified Ellipse (L). This shape is more common to rose bushes. However I've kept the leaf in black and this is because of the Colorization mode in the brush options.

When you create a new brush, you can select the Colorization mode as "Tints". As long as the original fill color of your brush shape is black, it will take on any color you select as your Stroke color.

Step 27

Within the background, I've used the Rose Scatter brush to add leaves to the edges of the dark green shape using the Paintbrush Tool (B).

I've then Object > Expanded the brush strokes and then Pathfinder > United them with the dark green rectangle. I've changed the fill to a subtle linear gradient.

Step 28

I've then added 0.5pt Stroke Weight strokes behind the Compound Path with a lighter green and then used the same dark green within the gradient in front of the brush. This is to give the illusion of density in the bush.

Finally, I've added some lighter green leaves on top, set to Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 25%.

Step 29

I've modified the fill to the blue rectangle for the sky by adding a gray to light blue radial gradient and used the Gradient Tool (G) to position it.

Step 30

I'm going to add some pampas grass to the section under the arch. This is another element I can create using Art brushes, however I'll be creating two different looking ones to add variety to the pampas grass.

Using the Width Profile 5 brush, I've added yellow and two different green strokes on top of a uniform basic line as shown below.

Step 31

Then when creating the New Art Brush, I've selected the option to "Stretch Between Guides" around the stalk of the pampas grass. What this will do is leave the flowering grass at the top unmodified when applied to a stroke, but it will stretch the stalk along the length of the line as it would any other Art Brush.

Step 32

I've added the pampas grass in a New Sublayer below the "Arch".

Now use our Bamboo Leaf art brush to add 5pt Stroke Weight lines on top of the stalks to complete the effect.

Step 33

Using an emerald green transparent radial gradient, I've added shading between the leaves and stalks to add some depth. These will be set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 50%.

Step 34

To finish off the composition, I'm going to add a small bird illustration.

First I'm going to Create New Sublayer on top of the "Fence" and File > Place the stock image within. Then use the Free Transform Tool (E) to position our bird on the fence.

Step 35

Using the Eyedropper Tool (I), select colors from the main areas of the bird and draw the base layers.

Step 36

Now use the Width Profile 1 brush to add Blending Mode Screen strokes to the yellow areas to add highlights. Then apply Blending Mode Multiply strokes to the head and wing to add details there. Once done, Group all the elements (Command + G).

Step 37

Using the "Grid" as a guide, I've decided to reposition the bird so it's near center of one of the sections. You can also see here how each square has a different element to draw your eyes too.

Step 38

Finally, I'm going to add some gradients to soften different areas of the illustration. The first is set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 80%.

Now add a light gray to blue radial gradient set to Blending Mode Color Dodge, Opacity 60%, positioned over the edges of the leaves to add a glare of light in the corner.


I hope you've enjoyed today's Premium tutorial and learned new ways to use the Art and Scatter brushes. I've said it many times, they are possibly my favorite tools within Adobe Illustrator, as they have unlimited options!

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