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Create a Jellyfish with Brushes in Adobe Illustrator CS5

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Read Time: 6 min

In today's tutorial, I'm going to show you how to create a stylized jellyfish using blends and brushes within Adobe Illustrator CS5. Being as I'm not an expert on the anatomy of a jellyfish, please forgive my lack of terminology on naming the parts correctly. This jellyfish is just a sparkling critter from the deep sea depths! So let's get right into it.

Step 1

To start off our jellyfish, I'm going to draw a Rectangle (M) across the canvas and fill it with a black to dark blue (C=100, M=100, Y=25, K=25) radial gradient. Use the Gradient Tool (G) to modify the circle ratio of the gradient and for scaling (as shown below).

Step 2

To create the initial shapes of the jellyfish body, I'm going to use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the distorted round shape as shown and use a black fill. Then go to Effects > Stylize > Inner Glow and use the options below.

Now set the shape to Blending Mode Color Dodge. This will create a translucent effect for the main body.

Step 3

Copy (Command + C) and Paste in Front (Command + F) the body shape and then use the Free Transform Tool (E) to decrease the size. Go into the Appearance panel and click on the "fx" button at the bottom, then go to Stylize > Outer Glow. Use the settings below and then set the shape to Blending Mode Color Dodge, with Opacity 50%.

Step 4

I'm going to add glowing and sparkling elements to our jellyfish, to give the impression it is one of those deep sea jellyfishes you often see on nature documentaries. In order to do this, I'm going to create some brushes to help me create these effects.

We'll need two different sorts of Blend brushes. The first is created using two Rectangles (M), the first being much smaller in height than the other, but with the same width. This rectangle will be 100% Opacity. The second rectangle will be much larger and underneath the smaller and set to 0% Opacity. Both rectangles will have a black fill.

With both selected, create a Blend (Alt + Command + B). Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and change the Spacing to Specified Distance and the value to "1pt," then click OK.

In the Brush palette, click on New Brush and select Art Brush. I've changed the width to 50% and the direction of the brush as well by setting the Colorization to Tints. This will be Blend Brush 1. Click on OK when done. You can delete the shapes now as they won't be needed.

Step 5

The next blend brush is created in a very similar way, however this time using Ellipses (L). The smaller circle is on top of the other, both black fill and the smaller shape is 100% Opacity with the smaller set to 0%.

Now use the same settings to create an Art Brush. This will be Blend Brush 2. Keep this blend for another brush later on.

Step 6

Now we'll use our Blend Brushes to add features to our jellyfish. You often see four rings on the top of a jellyfish, I'm guessing they might be some sort of organs or veins, let's regard them as rings for the sake of argument. I'm going to use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw these rings and then apply the Blend Brush 1 to them with a light blue stroke color. Now set the Transparency to Screen and the Opacity to 75%.

Step 7

I'm going to add veins to the jellyfish using the Blend Brush 2. I'll use the Paintbrush Tool (B) to draw curved vertical lines around the body with the same light blue stroke color. I've reduced the Stroke Weight to 0.15pt and applied the Profile "Width Profile 5" to give it the tapered effect. The strokes will be set to Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 75%.

Step 8

Time to start working on the tentacles. Using the Blend Brush 2 again, however with a larger Stroke Weight of 3pt and the Profile of Width Profile 4, I'm going to add some loose translucent tentacles that flow from the middle of the body to just below the bottom. These will have a darker blue (C=97, M=73, Y=27, K=10) stroke color and be set to Blending Mode Screen with Opacity 100%.

Step 9

I'm wanting to add some sparkles on the body and the soon to be longer tentacles. To do this, I'm going to create a Scatter Brush. With the Line Segment Tool (\) create a cross with two black lines as shown below with the Profile "Width Profile 1".

Then in the Brush palette, click on New Brush and select Scatter Brush. Use the settings shown below.

Step 10

I want the jellyfish to look as if it's swimming through the water, so I'm going to Select All (Command + A) of the shapes and then use the Free Transform Tool (E) to rotate it.

Now to draw the initial strokes for the long flowing tentacles. I'll use the Paintbrush Tool (B) to do this with the Blend Brush 2 using a light blue stroke color and the settings as shown. Change the Blending Mode to Screen and Opacity to 50%.

Step 11

Copy (Command + C) and Paste in Front (Command + F) the tentacles and change the stroke color to a lime green (C=20, M=0, Y=100, K=0). Apply the scatter brush to it, then change the Opacity to 100% and Blending Mode to Color Dodge.

As there is a slight scatter effect to the brush and it's overlapping a stroke which is varied in shape and opacity (due to the blend), the scatter brush will give a random sparkling effect which is what I'm aiming for.

Step 12

Using the same settings, use the scatter brush with the Paintbrush Tool (B) to draw lose strokes around the veins, rings and tentacles to give an added sparkle to the body.

Step 13

With the Blend Brush 2 group (the circle blend), create a New Brush > Scatter Brush (use the settings below).

Step 14

I'm going to use our new glowing scatter brush to add glowing/highlighted particles in the water. Using the same lime green and with a 1pt Stroke Weight, draw a random swirl line across the canvas with the Paintbrush Tool (B). Set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge with Opacity 100%.

Now draw another line with the same Blending Mode but set to Opacity 75%. Then finally another, however set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and Opacity 25%. This is to give a subtle impression of depth.

Step 15

I'm going to use the Blend Brush 2 to add some extra highlights to the body of the jellyfish and some larger floating particles. These will be the same lime green and set to Blending Mode Color Dodge with Opacity 75%.

Step 16

Finally, I'm going to use the Blend Brush 1 to brush the background using the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw strokes across the canvas. These will have a dark blue stroke color and be set to Blending Mode Multiply with Opacity 60% and the Stroke settings shown below.


I hope you've learned some great ways to use blends and brushes to create a glowing effect within an illustration, as well as how you can create random sparkles where required.

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