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Design a Colorful USB Flash Stick with Tattoo Style Decals

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Read Time: 8 mins

In this tutorial, we'll explain how to create a semi-realistic flash stick with gradients and simple shapes. We will make our own custom brush to create tattoo style swooshes. Also, we'll review how to use Global Colors in Illustrator, which allows us to flexibly change the colors of an object on the fly.

Final Image Preview

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

Step 1

Before we begin, we will have a look at the Swatch Palette. We need to set up our Global Colors right from the start. I picked four colors as a base. I chose a white, black and two grays. Once I added them in my Swatch Palette, I deleted all other color swatches.

Now let's set up the Global Colors. Double-click on the Color Swatch. In the Swatch Options Menu, select the option Global. Leave the Color Type at Process Color, then click OK. The Color Swatch now has a small white triangle in the bottom right corner. This indicates that the color is now a Global Color. If we apply a Global Color to any object or path, we can later change the color on the fly and it will be applied where the Global Color was added.

Step 2

Create a rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (M). Use the size indicated in the image below.

Step 3

Let's start creating. Select the object and go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and apply a tiny amount to it of .018pt. This will give us small rounded corners.

Step 4

Create another rectangle on top of the other one, and use the size as indicated below.

Step 5

Select both rectangles and align them centered, both horizontally and vertically.

Step 6

Apply a linear gradient to the second shape. We have to make sure that we use the Global Colors that we have set up. To do so, drag the desired color swatch onto the gradient slider. If one is missed, the color change won't be applied.

Step 7

Create another rectangle on top and use the size indicated below.

Step 8

Apply yet another linear gradient and make sure that you use Global Colors. Align the shape centered to the others.

Step 9

Make a copy of the newly created shape, then transform it to the sizes 91pt by 60pt. You can do so using the Transform Palette. Just type in the numbers while the selection is active.

Step 10

Set the Layer mode of the small rectangle to Multiply.

Step 11

Align it with the bigger rectangle along the top and vertically in the center. This will be our cap.

Step 12

Create a tiny long rectangle with the sizes 76pt x 1.2pt and fill it with a gray linear gradient. Go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and choose a radius of .818pt.

Step 13

Make a copy of the shape, align them and place them on the bottom of the flash stick shape. They will be a small accent to the bottom part. Again, make sure that the gradients have Global Colors set.

Step 14

Make a copy of the cap we created in Step 9 and change the height to 1.5pt via the Transform Palette. Keep the gradient, but add a Stroke of 0.25pt in dark gray to it. Set the Layer Mode to Overlay and place it just below the cap shape.

Step 15

Create a small circle and fill it with the same gradient as the cap shape. Duplicate it and fill it with a pink, or whatever color you prefer. This is not a Global Color, as I don't want it to change later on. Set the Layer Mode to Overlay at 68%.

Step 16

With the pink circle still selected, go to Effect > Stylized > Inner Glow and set: the Mode to Normal, Opacity to 75%, a Blur of 2pt, and the color set to black. Also, center both circles.

Step 17

Create another smaller circle and fill it with a radial gray gradient. Don't forget to use Global Colors. Center all three circles and place them on top of the flash stick.

Step 18

Let's have some fun and create a custom brush. Draw a path with the Pen Tool (P) and fill it with black. No need for Global Colors here. Then drag it into the Brush Palette and choose New Art Brush from the New Brush Window. Select the Direction: Stroke From Left To Right and set the Colorization Method to Hue Shift.

Step 19

Now create a path with the Pen Tool (P) as you see in the image below, then apply the custom brush. Create another path and do the same. I aligned some of the paths and then mirrored them to built up the tattoo style design. It is important that you expand the brush appearance and click Add to Shape Area in the Pathfinder Palette before rotating or mirroring.

Step 20

I filled the tattoo shapes with a black (no Global Color) and a pink color (no Global Color) and a Stroke of 0.25pt. You can choose any colors you like.

Step 21

Let's create the opened flash stick. Duplicate the cap shape, the small band shape and the main shape, then choose Divide in the Pathfinder Palette. Ungroup them and move the cap to the other side. Scale the smaller gradient filled shape with the Scale Tool (E). Also, scale the gray shape with the round corners in height until it is behind the main body shape.

Step 22

Now create a rectangle with the same width as the previously scaled shape, then fill it with a linear gradient. This will be our flash stick tip.

Step 23

Zoom into the tip part and create a small square and fill it with a linear dark gray gradient. Duplicate it on top (Command + C +F) and scale it (E) slightly bigger than the original. Set the Layer Mode to Screen. This will give us an optical illusion that the tip has a metal cutout. Select both and copy them for the right side. Then create two small squares with a dark linear gradient and place them underneath the others.

Step 24

Let's apply our tattoo style design. Place your tattoo design on top of the flash stick. Then make a copy of the bigger shape and place it on top. Select both, the shape and the tattoo and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7). This will mask the tattoo design to the flash stick outline.

Set the Layer Mode to Color Dodge. Make sure that the circle shapes are on top. I placed another tattoo shape higher and applied another Clipping Mask. I set the Layer Mode to Normal.

Step 25

Now we will create another flash stick with different colors. Select your flash stick shapes (you might want to group them). Next, open another document, and paste the shapes onto the artboard. Then open the Swatch Palette and double-click the dark gray color swatch.

Since I have the document setup in RGB, I have three color sliders. I changed them to the settings you can see in the image below. This will give me a pinkish color. Make sure that you have the Preview selected, that way while you change the color, you can see how the color is instantly applied to your shapes. I changed the cap back to black by dragging the black color swatch back onto the gradient sliders. You can choose whatever color you'd like - experiment a little.

Step 26

Lets' create the final image. Create a rectangle in a new document or the just opened one. Fill it with a linear dark gray gradient.

Step 27

Select your colored flash stick and place it above the background.

Step 28

Now, assuming that you created more colored flash sticks and you copy them onto the artboard, a pop up window might appear, which says that there is a Swatch Conflict. Choose in the Options Add swatches, if not you will loose your colors since they think that they share a color swatch. The new color swatches will be added to your Swatch Palette.

Step 29

Place your second flash stick next to the other.

Step 30

Copy the third onto the artboard and place all of them side by side.

Step 31

Select all three flash sticks, duplicate them, and reflect them on the horizontal axis (Object > Arrange > Reflect).

Step 32

Select them and apply an Opacity Mask.


Here is my final image. I place the gray flash stick with the open cap in front of the others and applied an Opacity Mask again. I hope this tutorial gave a little insight into Global Colors. If you ever have a bigger project and you set it up with Global Colors, you can easily change the look of your design on the fly.

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