1. Design & Illustration
  2. Designing

Create a Retro Style Poster with Shapes, Patterns, and Eagles


In this tutorial, we'll show the inspired Adobe Illustrator artist how to create a retro style poster. We'll learn how to create shapes by using the Pathfinder tools, by joining paths, and by applying graphic patterns. We will also take advantage of the Appearance Palette and have some fun with applying multiple strokes to objects.

Final Image Preview

To begin with let's have a look at the image we'll be creating.

Step 1

Let's start by opening a new document and place the image of the eagle that we'll be tracing. As a source image for the eagle, I chose a photo from Stock.xchng. Double-click the layer were you have placed the photo. Then set the Layer Options of Dim Images To 50%. Then click OK, and Lock the layer.

Step 2

Create a new layer above and name it "eagle." Then drag horizontal and vertical guides onto the Art Board. This will give us a center point. We only need to draw one side of the eagle and then reflect and duplicate it. Then we will add a head and join all the paths together.

Let's get it started. Start by tracing the right side of the eagle's wings and tail with the Pen Tool. You can trace it exactly as it is in the photo or be more liberate with the Pen Tool. This part can never be done wrong, since as an artist you have the freedom to incorporate your own style.

Step 3

Once you have traced the right side, select it with the Black Arrow Tool(V), and choose the Reflect Tool(O). Click once on the bottom point of the path, hold down the Shift+Alt keys, and drag counterclockwise 180 degrees. Let go of the mouse key. We now have the left side of the eagle. Move both sides close together.

Step 4

Now zoom in on the bottom points where both meet and with the White Arrow Tool(A) select both points. Then hold down Ctrl+Alt+J and choose from the Average Palette the horizontal axis. Click Ctrl+J and from the Join Palette choose to join as corners.

Step 5

Now trace the head of the eagle and repeat Step 2. You might have to drag and alter your paths in order to align the joining points.

Step 6

Repeat the Average Tool and the Join Tool, as we did to join the head to the body (See Step 2).

Step 7

Draw lines across a wing in order to create wing segments.

Step 8

Reflect and duplicate the lines just like we did in Step 3. This will give us a symmetrical shape.

Step 9

Select all the lines and the "eagle" layer. Then choose the Divide option from the Pathfinder Palette. This will join our lines with the eagle outline.

Step 10

Now select the shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and fill them with a color. I selected black and white, as shown below.

Step 11

Make a new layer under the "eagle" layer and call it "emblem." Draw a polygon just like in the image below. You only need to draw one side. Then use the reflect and duplicate method again.

Step 12

Select the two joining points and click Ctrl+Alt+J to open the Average Palette. Choose the Horizontal axis and click OK.

Step 13

With the points still selected, click Ctrl+J and choose to join the points as a Corner.

Step 14

Select the polygon shape and open the Stroke Palette. Choose 9pt as the weight and align the Stroke to the outside, as shown below.

Step 15

Then draw a circle and center it with the polygon. Then move it upwards so its center is aligned with the stroke.

Step 16

Now select both shapes and select the Shape Modes of Add to shape located in the Pathfinder Palette. This will join both shapes. Then set the fill color as white.

Step 17

Select the polygon, go to Object > Path > Offset Path, and Choose -8pt. Then deselect the shapes.

Step 18

Select the new inner shape and set the Stroke to 4pt and Align in to the Outside.

Step 19

Now go the Appearance Palette and click on the small arrow on the top left and choose Add New Stroke. Select 6pt and Align it to the Inside. I chose a blue color. Feel free to choose whatever color you like.

Step 20

Create a new layer under the "emblem" layer and call it "bg." Create a circle with a beige fill and a blue stroke and place it slightly upwards.

Step 21

Create a new layer above and call it "eaglebg." Then make a copy of the eagle shape and scale it 55%. You can do this by double-clicking on the Scale Tool (S). Make sure you choose Uniform in the Scale Palette and check the Options of Scale Strokes & Effects. Align the new smaller eagle with the vertical center and move it upwards.

Step 22

Now while still selected, choose the Rotate Tool (R). Then click once in the center of the circle, hold down the Ctrl+Alt key, and drag clockwise 45 degrees. Then let go of the mouse key. Click Ctrl+D six times. This will fill up the circle with the smaller eagles. Select all the small eagles and set the Opacity to 30% in the Transparency Palette.

Step 23

Select the big circle on the "bg" layer and change the stroke to black. Then set it to 12 pt. Then add a stroke via the Appearance Palette. Set it at 4pt and choose to Align it with the Inside. Fill it with a linear gradient (in this case the beige and the blue) and set the angle at -90 degrees.

Select the big circle and make a copy above by clicking Ctrl+C+F. This shortcut will automatically copy the shape on top of the other. Scale it slightly smaller by selecting the Scale Tool(E), click Shift+Alt, and drag the bottom middle handle upwards.

Step 24

Select the scaled circle, remove the strokes via the Appearance Palette, and it set it to Hard Light in the Transparency Palette.

Step 25

Create a new layer below the "bg" layer and call it "rect." Draw a rectangle and fill it with the same linear gradient as the circle, but set it at 90 degrees instead of -90 degrees. Then set the stroke to black. Make sure that the size aligns with the top of the circle and the bottom of the polygon.

Step 26

Create a new layer on top of everything and call it "banner." Draw a banner shape and fill it with black, as in the image below. Leave the stroke unfilled. Offset the path and choose -8pt. Select the new smaller banner shape and fill it with the same gradient as the background. Choose Radial as the Type instead of Linear.

Step 27

Now skew it slightly by selecting the Scale Tool (E). The click one of the corner points and press Ctrl and drag in either direction. Skew until you have a preferred shape. Add a new stroke of 4pt via the Appearance Palette and set it to Align with the Inside.

Step 28

Go back to the "rect" layer and add a black rectangle behind the gradient filled one. Make it a bit taller and align it at the top of both shapes. Create a copy of it on top.

Fill it with the Medieval Cross Pattern. You can find these patterns by clicking on the arrow on the right hand side of the Swatch Palette. In the drop down, choose Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Decorative > Decorative_Ornaments.

Set the shape layer transparency to Color Dodge. It is important to copy the shape on top and fill it with the pattern of your liking. If you don't copy it, the pattern will delete the fill color.

Step 29

Go wild and add more patterns to the other shapes. Just make sure that you make a copy on top and set the transparency to Color Dodge (or try other transparency effects like Overlay).


Add some text on the bottom or in the banner. And let you imagination run wild.

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