In this tutorial, I'll explain how to create a pattern chain link brush in Adobe Illustrator. Creating pattern brushes can save time and is a great technique to add to your design skills. After completing this tutorial, you'll be able to create a great chain brush to add to your design arsenal. Use this brush to learn how to draw a gold necklace! Let's get started!
Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
What You'll Learn in This Adobe Illustrator Tutorial
- How to draw a gold chain in Adobe Illustrator
- How to create a chain link brush
- How to draw a gold chain using reference photography/images
- How to apply color, highlights, and shadows to your chain illustration
What You'll Need
You'll need the following stock photo in order to complete this project:
- Golden Cuban Link Chain Photograph (no longer available)
1. How to Use Reference Images
Before we begin to learn how to draw chain links, first we need to find some reference images. Either use the above photo or search through image websites for a nice gold chain reference. It can be any size—all we're doing is looking for a chain to reference for its shape and shadows. The example below is of a cuban link chain and is a good reference. It clearly has shadows and highlights that we can duplicate.
Place your reference image, File > Place. Double-click layer 1 in the layers palette, and name the layer "chain reference." Check Template and Dim Images To: 70%. You can chose to dim your image to any percentage; this is just my personal preference.
Create three new layers and name them "Highlight," "Shadow," and "Midtone." Make sure they are in the same order as below. Keeping your layers well organized is a great habit—it tends to make things run smoother.
Now we are going to learn how to draw chain links. We're going to start with our midtone layer.
Select the Pen Tool (P). Then select a yellow
#EFD225 fill and a deep brown
#332E15 stroke. We are going to trace the chain in two sections.
With a fill and stroke selected, we won't be able to see what we are doing, so we need to switch to outline view. Select View > Outlines (Command-Y). Now trace two paths. Make sure you trace the two sections of chain that meet in the middle. Where the two paths meet, keep them on the same path or as close as possible.
2. How to Draw a Gold Chain
Now we can look at what we have so far in our cuban link chain vector. Select View > Preview (Command-Y). Select the two sections and Alt-drag to duplicate. Make sure to hold Shift so that the sections don't move up or down. Select the bottom right section and send to back (Command-Shift-[).
We need to separate our fill and stroke. Select all four sections of the chain, and go to Object > Expand > Stroke. While the four objects are still selected, apply Object > Ungroup (Command-Shift-G).
Now we need to place the fill and stroke on separate layers. Select all the expanded strokes of our cuban link chain vector shapes. Make sure not to select the fills. Copy the expanded strokes: Edit > Copy (Command-C). Delete the expanded strokes after they have been copied.
Create a new layer and name it "Trapping." Select the "Trapping" layer and Edit > Paste in Front (Command-F).
We need to get rid of the excess brown that is overlapping. There are a number of ways to do this, but in this case the Knife Tool will be the quickest. Select one section at a time and use your Knife Tool to break apart the excess brown.
Now the excess brown can be selected on its own. Select the excess brown sections and delete them.
Now you should have an image similar to this: a midtone layer containing only the yellow fill, and a trapping layer containing the expanded stroke. Make sure you are saving after major steps.
3. How to Draw Gold Chain Details
Now that we have our cuban link vector shapes ready, it's time to learn how to draw gold chain details. Only focus on the middle link. The two side links are place holders, and we'll be deleting them later. Using your reference image as a guide, add some details to the "Trapping" layer, as I have done below. You can add more or less depending on your image.
Now add shadows to our cuban link vector shapes (
#B09132) and highlights (
#F6ED55). Be sure the correct layers are selected.
Now we can delete our placeholders. Select the two outer sections and delete them.
Select the entire chain link and Alt-drag. Hold Shift to keep it from moving up or down. While the new chain link is still selected, press Object > Transform > Transform Again (Command-D) twice. Now you should have a total of four links for your cuban link chain drawing.
4. How to Create a Chain Link Brush
This will be the overall appearance of our chain. You can add more detail here if desired. At this point, save this as a separate file. Keep it as your working file in case you ever want to come back to it and make alterations. Now we are going to place our guide lines where the chain will repeat. Make sure you place the guides in the same spot on each end of the chain.
Now we are going to create a clipping path over the chain. Select the "Trapping" layer. Use your guides to create a box over the chain.
Select > All (Command-A). Then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command-7). When you create a clipping mask, it will put everything on one layer. That is why we saved the file with layers as a working file.
Now, using the Pathfinder, select Divide.
Drag the entire chain into the Brushes panel and select New Pattern Brush.
Check the pattern brush options and make sure that the cuban link chain drawing at the bottom has the correct corner options. Then select OK.
Now you can use the Brush Tool (B) or Pen Tool (P) to create a seamless cuban link drawing.
Awesome! You've successfully created a gold chain vector brush in Adobe Illustrator. Now you have the skill it takes to create pattern brushes in Illustrator. Have fun making your own cuban link drawing brushes, and I'll see you next time!
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