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Create a Sleek Car Design with Illustrator

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In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create a semi-realistic car that fades to black. We'll be using geometric forms, the Pathfinder tools, the Mesh tool, and adding volume with highlights, as well as the use of gradients. The basic design will be created with shades of gray, which makes the final coloring versatile. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

You can find the Source files in the directory labeled 'source' that came in the files that you downloaded. You may wish to look through them briefly before we begin. A preview of the final image is below. Also, note that this tutorial assumes intermediate to advanced knowledge of Illustrator's tools, especially the Mesh tool. Let's get started vector samurai.

Step 1

Create a new document. Mine is 800 pixels by 600 pixels. Select the Pen Tool (P) and start drawing the outline shape that will make up the engine hood.

Step 2

Select the Mesh Tool (U) and add mesh lines by clicking on the shape, as shown below.

Step 3

Let's make the shadow highlight color. Select the mesh points with the Direct Selection tool (A), and color them in with swatches using various tints of black. It's good to create a swatch palette that goes from 0 to 100% black using 5% increments. This will allow you to color quickly.

Step 4

Create another shape with the Pen tool (P), this one is for the headlight, then give it a fill of black.

Step 5

Draw a black stroked line with the Line Segment tool (\), and set it as a 1pt stroke. Next, go to Object > Expand. Select the object with the Lasso tool (Q) or Direct Selection tool (A), then vertically align center. Place the line on the engine hood.

Step 6

Draw a rectangle with the Rectangle tool. Give the shape rounded borders by going to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners. Next, reshape it with the Warp tool, and shade it with the Mesh tool. The order shown below is reverse chronological.

Step 7

Put the piece together over the headlight, as shown.

Step 8

Draw a shape with the Pen tool, as shown below. Then combine it with the line segment we created in Step 5 using the Add To Shape Area command found in the Pathfinder palette, then Expand the shape.

Step 9

Create two Ellipses. Use the Subtract From Shape Area Command to create the half-moon shape shown below. Duplicate the shape, place both copies inside the headlight area, and fill them with the linear gradient shown below.

Step 10

Let's create the shape of the mudguard. Use the Pen tool to make the shape, then use a Gradient Mesh to shade it. Once finished, place the mudguard onto the car design.

Step 11

Create a light reflection shape with the Pen tool, as shown below. Also, create a dark side area of the car to place below the mudguard. Use a gradient mesh to shade the dark side. Place the white light reflection shape and the dark side shape as shown below.

Step 12

Now we'll make the ventilation areas. Draw a rectangle using the Rectangle tool. Then use the Direct Selection tool to pull in the top-right corner, as shown below. Give it a black to gray to black linear gradient, and set the angle at 90 degrees or so, whatever looks right to you is fine. Now create the bottom area using the Pen tool, and apply a gradient mesh filled with black and dark gray.

Step 13

Now we'll make an air hole. Draw a rectangle with the Rectangle tool, then go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corner, and apply a setting that looks good, or just use the Rounded Rectangle tool. Next, apply a gradient mesh to add dimension to the shape, then position it over the car design.

Step 14

Let's add more dimension to the mudguard area. Create an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool. Copy (Command + C) and Paste (Command + V) it. Position the shapes over each other, as shown below. Use the Subtract From Shape Area command in the Pathfinder palette and Expand. Do the same thing using various shapes created with the Pen tool following the examples below. Position the resulting shape into the mudguard area, as demonstrated in the next shape.

Step 15

Use the Pen tool to make a window shape. Apply coloring and shading using the Mesh tool, then position the piece as shown. As you can see, we're following a similar path of construction and putting this design together one piece at a time. The car shape is starting to emerge.

Step 16

Now let's create the rim. First draw a circle. Grab the Direct Selection tool and drag the bottom most point down to create an upside down tear drop shape. Adjust the handles until the shape looks good to you, or follow the example shape below.

Select this new shape, grab the Rotate tool, then while holding down the Alt key click below the tear drop. The Rotate window opens, give it an Angle of 72 degrees, and hit Copy. After, hit Command + D three more times, which will give you five shapes. This will create a circular star pattern.

Center an ellipse inside the new shapes. Select the ellipse and the star shape, then go to Subtract From Shape Area and click Expand. Now draw an ellipse behind this shape that encompasses it, and Subtract the star shape from the ellipse. Then delete the star shape, and your rim is starting to take form, see bottom-right image.

Step 17

Color the rim dark gray, so we can see what we're doing. Draw another circle inside the rim that is just bigger than the inner circle area there now. Select both shapes and apply Subtract From Shape Area and Expand it, which will punch a hole through it.

Step 18

Let's follow a similar procedure as we did in Step 16. Draw a rounded rectangle, then pull the bottom sides in with the Direct Selection tool, as shown in the following top-left image. Repeat the Rotate at 72 degrees copy, then Command + D three times to create our new star shape. Then add a small circle in the center of the star shape, and place it as shown top-right below. Also, Expand that shape.

Now create a triangle shape with the Star tool set to three points, then go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners, and apply an amount that looks good to round off the triangle shape. Spin multiple copies using a similar process as outlined above, which begins with the Rotate tool, then Subtract From Shape Area, and again click Expand.

Step 19

Now apply a gradient to each shape separately, then use the Free Transform tool to place the rim as shown below.

Step 20

Create an ellipse with the Ellipse tool, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh, in the dialogue set the rows as 6 and the columns as 4, then apply it by hitting OK. Apply shading similar to that shown below with various tints of gray.

Step 21

Let's add more dimension to the rim. Copy each shape and place behind, then move it slightly to the left. Next, apply gradients at differing angles.

Step 22

Now we'll create the car door shapes. Draw three separate pieces with the Pen tool.

Step 23

Color the pieces with gradients and apply light feathering, by going to Effect > Stylize > Feather, and apply a minimal amount that looks good to you, or follow the examples below.

Step 24

Combine these pieces as shown.

Step 25

Place the pieces into the car design as shown. Copy all the pieces and paste in front, combine them into one shape using the Pathfinder Merge command, then send the shape to the back.

Step 26

Now we'll begin making the brake disc. Create a circle with the Ellipse tool, then apply a liner gradient with a 45 degree angle as shown. Next, create a smaller black circle. Open the brushes window and drag the small black circle in. Set the brush type option as New Scatter Brush, leave the settings at the default.

Step 27

Create a circle and apply the Scatter Brush we created in the previous step using a 1pt stroke. Click the top right arrow in the Brush palette and go to Option of Selected Object, then increase the spacing as shown below, and apply it by hitting OK. Copy (Command + C) this circle and Paste in Front (Command + F), then scale it down. Do this twice, as shown below. If your settings are lowering the size of the stroke, then just set it back to a 1pt stroke.

Step 28

Use the Free Transform Tool to manipulate the piece to fit into the car design behind the rim, then set the Opacity at 50%.

Step 29

Use the Pen tool to create a mirror shape. Also, create a triangle with the Pen tool, apply a gradient, and place it as shown to add a highlight.

Step 30

Create a rectangle with the Rectangle tool 1px in height, then go to Object > Path > Offset Path, and apply the settings shown below. Set the larger rectangle's fill to black and set the Opacity to 0.

Step 31

Go to Object > Blend, and use Spacing of Specified Steps set at 8, then apply it. Next make this into a new Art Brush using the default settings.

Step 32

Create free lines with the Pen tool, as shown below. Make sure to stroke it with the new special brush created in the previous step.

Step 33

Now us the Pen tool and create the car window, as shown below. Color the window white for now. Arrange these pieces with the mirror.

Step 34

Let's add some more details to the rims. Create a rectangle with the Rectangle tool, distort it, and then apply Feather. Form an ellipse with the Ellipse tool. Copy (Command + C) the Ellipse and the Paste in Front (Command + F). Use one ellipse to subtract form the shape of the other to achieve the shape shown below. Make sure the new shape is expanded. Also, set it's transparency to 30 percent. Arrange the shapes in the rim as shown using Free Transform to place the shapes.

Step 35

Now let's create just a hint of the car's body, as the rest of the body fades to black. Create the shapes shown below with the Pen tool and then use the Mesh tool to shade them.

Step 36

Place the pieces created in the previous step into your car design.

Step 37

Let's create the shadow under the mirror. Draw a shape similar to that shown below with the Pen tool and color it black. Apply a Feather and drop it's Opacity to 90%, then position it below the mirror.

Step 38

Let's illuminate the headlights now. Create an ellipse that is 15px in height by 15px in width using the Ellipse tool. Apply Object > Path > Offset Path, and offset by 10px. Next, drop the outside shape Opacity down to 0%, and apply a blend using 20 Specified Steps.

Step 39

Create a new shape using the Pen tool (P) to represent light reflecting off the glass of the headlight. Apply a gradient to the new shape. Now place the lights created in the previous step and then this reflection over them.

Step 40

We have completed the basic design of our auto. Now it is time to give life to it. We'll create an outline for this. Be sure to subtract the headlight area out of the outline shape.

Step 41

Fill this outline 100 percent with the color of your dream car and place it over the design.

Step 42

Select the Overlay option from the Transparency window and set its Opacity to 80 percent. And now your dream auto is ready. Also, being that we used shades of gray to create the basic design, we can easily change the color if need be, which makes this a versatile technique.


To illustrate the car of your dreams you need just some basic technical ability. After developing that, you can create anything. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and added new techniques to your skill set while following along.

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