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Design a Vintage Nintendo-style Controller and Cartridge

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Vintage meets modern with this unique video game tutorial. This tutorial is perfect for the beginning Illustrator artist who wants to take their skills to the to the next level. Step your game up and get started now!

Final Image Preview

Below is the final design we will be working towards. 

Step 1

Start by using the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Make a rectangle that looks similar to this.

TIP: You can adjust the radius of the corners by holding the up or down arrow while you draw the shape.

Step 2

Inside the rectangle draw three smaller shapes.

Step 3

Use the Pathfinder to trim off one edge of the rectangle so only the top two corners have rounded edges. Layer the shapes on top of each other and click the Subtract from Shape Area option followed by Expand, as shown below.

Step 4

Place the shape at the bottom, then duplicate and place a rotated version of the shape at the top.

Step 5

Continue to use simple shapes to compose the main portions of the controller. To make the directional pad, layer two rectangles on top of each other and merge them using the Pathfinder.

Step 6

Depending on what kind of shape you are working with, making a smaller or larger version of the shape may not be as simple as reducing the size. This is the case with the dpad below. If you were to simply copy, paste and scale it smaller there would not be an equal amount of space between each side. Using the following technique it's easy to create a slightly smaller version of a complex shape.

Select the object and go to Object > Path > Offset Path… Enter the amount of Offset you would like and press OK.

Step 7

Give offset to the rectangle, around the two middle buttons and the circles on the right.

Step 8

Give the main rectangle that makes up the controller an offset too.

Step 9

Small details go a long way. Using a red to white gradient, fill the circles as shown. Notice that my gradient has three points: white, red and darker red. The darker red color is a minor detail that helps give the button more of a dynamic range. Upon first glance it may not be noticeable but it makes a difference.

Step 10

Give the background of the controller a grey to black gradient. Be sure to use a rich black and not a grayscale black. Rich black is the color black that is comprised of "R," G," and "B" values. To take it one step further, use a zero value for "R," G," and "B."

Note: If this illustration were going to be printed at a printing facility you would use a CMYK model. Rich black for that model would be C=40, M=30, Y=20 and K=100. The chart below shows a rich black color model for RGB artwork.

Step 11

Make the arrows that go on the dpad by using simple shapes. Use the Star Tool to make the triangle.

TIP: Adjust the number of points on the Star Tool by pressing the up or down arrow while you draw the star.

Step 12

Align your shapes vertically and click Add to Shape Area, as indicated below, followed by clicking Expand.

Step 13

Place the arrows over the dpad. Use the Align Palette to ensure everything is perfectly lined up.

Step 14

Give the inner-most rectangle and two buttons an inner glow by going to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow…

Make sure the fill color of the two buttons is light enough so the inner glow is visible. Also, ensure you select Multiply for Mode.

Step 15

Do the same thing for the inner-most circle on the other buttons.

Step 16

And again on the arrows, alter the Opacity and Blur to fit each element you are adding an Inner Glow to.

Step 17

To quickly create highlights on the edge of the arrows, first select all four arrows and merge them in the Pathfinder using the Add to Shape Area option. After that, duplicate the arrows and stagger them as shown below. Select both sets of arrows and again click Subtract from Shape Area followed by Expand.

Step 18

To add to the overall realism of the controller, we'll add a reflection to the dpad. Draw a rectangle and rotate it slightly. Layer the rectangle over the dpad, select both shapes and click Divide in the Pathfinder. Go to Object > Ungroup. Delete the leftover shapes around the outside of the dpad.

Step 19

Give both halves of the dpad a subtle gradient. Remember to use a rich black instead of a grayscale black.

Step 20

Add some text of your choosing. In order to give text a gradient you will first need to select the text and go to Type > Create Outlines. Now, fill the text with a gradient of your choosing.

Step 21

Create the highlight over the buttons in the same manner that we did for the highlight on the dpad arrows. Start by overlapping two circles.

Step 22

Place the highlight over the buttons and adjust their Opacity to about 50%.

Step 23

To make an intense highlight on the bottom of the button we'll start by drawing an Ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (L.)

Step 24

Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp… Select Arc from the Style drop down and enter a negative value for the Bend. Click OK.

Step 25

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to fine-tune the handles and points of the shape.

Step 26

We can create a realistic drop shadow for the objects by blurring a shape that is similar to the object that we'd like to create a shadow for. Make a shadow for the two buttons in the middle by blurring a rounded rectangle by going to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

TIP: Make sure your artwork is at the scale you'd like it to be at before you apply any blur effects as blur effects do not scale regardless of any options you select in Illustrator's Preferences.

Step 27

Place the shadow behind the buttons, set the mode to Multiply and adjust the Opacity to about 50% (in the Transparency Palette).

Step 28

Create highlights and lowlights for the top and bottom of the controller by using the basic controller shape as a starting point.

Layer two shapes on top of each other and in the Pathfinder Palette select Exclude Overlapping Shape Areas followed by Expand. If you need to break the shapes up after that, Select Divide then go to Object > Ungroup.

Step 29

Place the highlight at the top and the lowlight at the bottom. Give each shape a tenuous gradient.

Step 30

To create the impression of a recessed area, give the shape highlighted below a slight gradient that is darker on the top.

Step 31

To make the video game cartridge use rectangles that have been merged together as a starting point.

Step 32

Use the rounded corner rectangle as we did in several previous steps to create the more detailed areas.

Step 33

To easily create a pattern of multiple rectangles simply draw two rectangles and place them the desired distance apart.

Step 34

Select both rectangles and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options… Select Specified Steps and enter a number of around 20. Click OK.

Step 35

Go to Object > Blend > Make and the result will produce something similar to the image below. In order to continue to edit the shapes you will need to go to Object > Expand.

Step 36

Give the cartridge a radial gradient.

Step 37

The label will also need a simple grey to white gradient.

Step 38

Give the triangle an inner glow by going to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow…

Step 39

Add a hairline (thin) stroke to the triangle by using the Stroke Palette.

Step 40

Select the pattern of rectangles and apply a slight gradient to them too.

Step 41

Give the impression of depth by duplicating the rectangle pattern and filling it with a darker gray color. Since we're not going for an intense black, you do not have to worry about using rich black.

Step 42

Select the rectangle that's near the top edge of the cartridge and give it an Opacity of about 85%.

Step 43

Add small highlights to the edge of the cartridge by giving the rectangle a faint gradient.

Step 44

Give the side a gradient too.

Step 45

Creating the feather is easier than you may think. Use the Pencil Tool (N) and draw an organic feather shapes as shown.

Step 46

Draw the areas that cut into the feather using the Pencil tool as well. It may be easier to draw a couple of these shapes at a time, instead of all of them at once.

Step 47

Use the Subtract from Shape Area option to remove the shapes from the main part of the feather.

Step 48

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the middle part of the feather and give the feather a brilliant red gradient.

Step 49

It's virtually effortless to give the impression of the feather as being an illustration on the cartridge label by using the following technique. Copy the cartridge label and remove both the stroke and fill. Make sure this shape is in front of the feather, select both the feather and the cartridge shape and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Now, everything outside of the cartridge area will be masked out!

Step 50

Create the background by using the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Fill it with an intense blue gradient.

Step 51

Select the main shapes that comprise the controller and the cartridge. Go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow… Be sure to set the Mode to Screen, so your outer glow is visible.

Step 52

Create one shadow for both the controller and cartridge by blurring a rectangle whose fill is a gradient with white on both edges. In the Transparency Palette, set the mode to Multiply and adjust the Opacity to about 90%.

Step 53

Finish the illustration by blurring a rectangle and placing it behind the controller. This will give the illusion of the controller floating in front of the cartridge.

Final Image Preview

Here is the final illustration! Since the surfaces and overall style of the controller and cartridge are flat and square, this style of vector illustration works perfect. Are you ready to step up your vector game?

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