1. Design & Illustration
  2. Drawing/Illustration
  3. Illustration

Create a Magical Vector Landscape Using Illustrator

Scroll to top
Read Time: 10 min
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating
This tutorial was originally published October 2011 as a Tuts+ Premium tutorial. It is now available free to view. Although this tutorial does not use the latest version of Adobe Illustrator, its techniques and process are still relevant.

Today you have a great chance to learn the secrets of creating a real illustration. This artwork belongs to the series of illustrations called "Hanami" which will be participating in the illustration competition for a children's book. This tutorial will be useful for all vector fans, from beginners to professionals.

"Hanami" is Japanese for "festival of enjoying cherry blossoms." The "Hanami" series has been created by Catherine Dedova (great vector artist). In this tutorial, she will share the secrets of her skills with us.

Get inspired! Find more vector graphics for your illustrations on Envato Market.

1. How to Prepare the Illustration

Step 1

To set the mood for further work, I'm creating a color sketch. You can do this in any raster editor. I use Photoshop and the Wacom Graphics Tablet for these purposes. You can use any brush, usually I use a standard brush with soft edges. It's easy to mix colors with this kind of brush as it is half-transparent on the edges.

A raster editor allows us to have unlimited control over light and color. For example, for a sketch that is already done you can apply a filter, change the balance of colors in the shadows, increase or decrease the brightness and contrast, etc.

In this work, I was using a texture brush made from a standard set of brushes, just because it was helping me to get myself ready psychologically and convey the necessary mood. While working in Adobe Illustrator I was looking at the color sketch and kept saying: "I want the same feeling from the completed work".

Now I can only pick a color with an Eye Dropper Tool (I). Therefore, I will be drawing in a random order further on. I paste the color sketch in a separate layer of Adobe Illustrator, and lock it.

Step 2

Very often in the process of work I have to take the color with the Eye Dropper Tool (I) from a certain point. And at this point it is often already a bunch of objects with raster effects. In order not to adjust the Eye dropper Tool (I) in the process of work, I paste a totally white raster image into the workspace of the document and place it above all the objects.

Now you need to set the Multiply Blending Mode for this object.

If you turn off the visibility of the object in the Layers palette, the Eye Dropper Tool will be choosing the object properties, and if you turn on the visibility, you can only choose the color of any point of the image.

2. How to Create Texture Brushes in Photoshop

Step 1

I would like to achieve painting effect in my artwork, that's why I will be using texture brushes. Let's see how to make them. Create a new file in Photoshop (File > New). You can create brushes directly on the background layer. Take the Brush Tool and open the Brush panel.

Now open the Present Manager window and download the Dry Media Brushes.

Choose the Chalk Brush #36 or any other one that you like and click on the "Done" button in the dialog window.

Step 2

Now configure the selected brush. Set the Spacing parameter equal to 50%.

Tick Shape Dynamics and move the Angle Jitter slider so that the original shape of the brush rotates around its axis.

Tick Scattering and Transfer options. Set Opacity Jitter other than zero in the Transfer settings.

In this case, the brush will be heterogynous. Now create an arbitrary shape with this brush.

Step 3

I guess you understand the principle of creating a brush, now you are only limited by your imagination. Create another brush and add a few white strokes to the created shape, then add hatching with a standard round brush 2-3 pixels in size. To increase the contrast, go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness / Contrast...

The contrast should be increased, since all the gray areas will disappear after tracing in Adobe Illustrator. Pay attention to the "silhouette" of the created shapes – shapes with a ragged and complex edge will be easier to achieve the desired effect. Here are some examples of such shapes.

Save the file with the shapes in JPG format.

3. How to Start Working in Adobe Illustrator

Step 1

Paste the raster image with textures shapes in the workspace of Adobe Illustrator (File > Place). Keep the image selected, go to Object > Live Trace > Trace Options. Try to find such values of the parameters of the Threshold, Path Fitting and Minimum Area, as close as possible to preserve the contour of our shapes. Tick Ignore White and click on the Trace button in the dialog window.

Step 2

Go to Object > Expand. Ungroup all objects and Group them up again according to the shapes to which they belong.

Below are the examples of texture brushes after tracing.

The resulting brushes can be combined in various combinations: add transparency and gradients, overlap on each other. It is very easy to get painting effects or imitation of traditional stuff in Photoshop, it will be more difficult in Adobe Illustrator.

I'm creating the objects by duplicating shapes, combining them manually. Of course, we could have created and configured a Scatter Brush, but in my opinion, the result in this case would be unpredictable.

4. How to Create the Trees

Step 1

Take a look at the work with texture brushes on the example with a tree on the background of the composition.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the shape of the trunk and branches of the tree, Fill the shape with a Linear Gradient of two shades of brown.

Step 2

Now with the help of the Pen Tool (P) create the shape of the shadow on the tree trunk.

The shape that goes beyond the contours of the trunk can be removed with the Shape Builder Tool or the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

I'm creating small objects on the trunk using the Pencil Tool (N). In order to draw quickly, Double-click on the icon of the tool, turn off the Keep Selected option and turn on the Fill New Pencil Strokes in the dialog box.

I'm using this technique for any small objects. It can be leaves, grass, etc.

Step 3

Creating tree trunk, first I create a shadow. Create a V-shapes and Fill them with Linear gradients of dark colors. A linear gradient has two identical color, Transparency of one of the sliders is equal to 0%.

Step 4

Now add texture brushes, and also Fill with similar gradients.

Use texture brushes of different shapes, fill them with a solid color, set different transparency for some of them.

Step 5

Then gradually I'm creating the illuminated parts of the crown, using the same technique, but lighter shades of color.

To create a crown shape I'm also using ellipses with half-transparent Radial Gradients.

I'm creating part of the crown using the Pen Tool (P) and apply half-transparent gradients to the shape or using Opacity Mask.

Step 6

Finally, using the Pencil Tool (N), I create separate leaves and small twigs. You can read about the settings of the Pencil Tool (N) in previous steps.

To create light spots, you can also use a raster effect Feather (Effect > Stylize > Feather), combining it with the transparency of the entire object.

5. How to Add Glow and More Leaves

Step 1

Now let's see how to create a glow. Light halo around objects have a very reviving effect on the artwork. I imitate the glow through transparent light yellow ovals with the radial opacity and set the Overlay Blending Mode for them in the Transparency panel.

Sometimes I use Feather effect on the objects of arbitrary shapes. Remember that the blurring of the contour depends on the number of pixels, and therefore the size of your image. Set the Resolution for raster effects equal to 300 dpi (Effect > Document Raster Effect > Settings).

Step 2

To create flowers of the Sakura tree in the foreground, I'm creating a few ellipses using the Ellipse Tool (L). Then I combine them with the help of Unite from the Pathfinder panel and Fill with simple Linear Gradients.

Add texture brushes.

Now, using the Pencil Tool (N) add leaves and make a few strokes to, then apply the Feather effect.

6. How to Create the Mountains and Plants

Step 1

You have to understand the sequence of creation of the elements of the composition. I'll write it again:

  1. Create objects shapes.
  2. Create shadows shapes.
  3. Create the shapes of light and penumbra.
  4. Use texture brushes.
  5. Create light strokes, then apply the Feather effect.

That was the sequence I used to create mountains.

Step 2

I created a waterfall in the same order. In order to imitate jets of water, I applied Radial Blur (Effect > Blur > Radial Blur) to some vertical smears.

Step 3

Now let's learn how to create plants.

It's very convenient to create fern and stems of plants with the help of Art Brushes. I only use two types of brushes, but all-purpose ones. Create an elongated triangle and an ellipse. Create an Art Brush of each of the shapes, saving them in the Brushes panel.

Now we can create a plant with the help of simple lines.

Step 4

These brushes come in handy for creating the complex shape of the fern leaf. With the help of the Pen Tool (P) create the shape of the leaf.

Now, using a triangular Art Brush, create curves in places of cuts on the leaf.

Step 5

Select all the curves and go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Select the shape of a leaf and all the red top shapes, then click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

With the Pen Tool (P) create a line that will divide the leaf into two halves.

Select the leaf and line, then click on the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel.

Now we only need to fill halves of the leaf with different gradients of green shades.

With these simple techniques you can create all the plants in our composition.


Using the technique of our color sketch preparation, you can create artwork in any sequence. Figuratively speaking, you can start with a seagull in the window, and finish with the main character. That's the main charm of the finished sketch - a solution already exists, it just needs to be carefully transformed into vector!

But some things are best drawn by the principle "from general to specific." That means that first you create a silhouette of a tree with branches, then light and shadow, etc., You create an image of the bark in the very end. If we start to create the bark first, then the larger shapes have to be moved down.

And half of the time we will spend locating the objects. Therefore, in order not to increase the amount of work it is better to create objects in the right sequence.

In this case it is easier to correct mistakes. Besides, the layers must be kept in order, especially if your artwork has a lot of objects. Draw a tree, then merge all the objects related to it in one layer and lock it.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and you found something new and useful in it. Good luck!

How to Create a Magical Vector Landscape in IllustratorHow to Create a Magical Vector Landscape in IllustratorHow to Create a Magical Vector Landscape in Illustrator

Zzanthia on Web

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Design & Illustration tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
One subscription. Unlimited Downloads.
Get unlimited downloads