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How to Create a Boombox Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In today’s tutorial, we’re going to get down and funky and create our very own Boombox using some of Illustrator’s most basic tools and shapes.

So if you’re a true player, put on your party hat since things are about to get jamming.

Also, if you decide you want to expand the project, you can always find inspiration by taking a quick look over at Envato Market, where you can find the dopest illustrations ready for the taking.

That being said, let’s open up Illustrator, and get the party started.

1. Set Up a New Document

As always, the first thing that we’re going to do is create a new custom document (File > New or Control-N), which we will set up using the following settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 800 px
  • Height: 600 px
  • Units: Pixels

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen (72 ppi)
  • Align New Objects to Pixel Grid: checked
setting up a new document

Quick tip: most of the indicated settings can be triggered by setting the document’s Profile to Web; the only one that won’t be automatically set is the Size, which you will have to manually select.

2. Set Up the Layers

Once we’ve created our document, we can now prep our project by creating a set of individual layers in order to separate the different sections of our illustration.

So, assuming you know how to use the Layers panel, bring it up and create three layers, naming them as follows:

  1. background
  2. boombox
  3. note pattern
setting up the layers

3. Set Up a Custom Grid

Since Illustrator lets us take advantage of its Grid system, we will set up a custom one using the lowest possible values, and use the Snap to Grid option whenever we’re not in Pixel Preview mode, in order to ensure that all our shapes are perfectly snapped to the Pixel Grid.

The settings that we’re interested in can be found under the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid preferences submenu, and should be adjusted as follows:

  • Gridline every: 1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1
setting up a custom grid

Quick tip: now, I won’t go too much into details, since I’ve already written two separate pieces that explain how the Grid system works and how you can use various settings to adhere to a pixel-perfect workflow.

What I’m going to do is encourage you to read those, since they’ll probably answer all your questions and widen your technical skills when it comes to some of Illustrator’s more ambiguous tools and options.

4. Create the Background

The first thing that we’re going to be creating is the funky background, which, as you will see, will be a fairly easy task. 

Step 1

Make sure you’re on the first layer, and then using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a smaller 42 x 10 px shape (#3e4249) with a 5 px Corner Radius and another significantly larger 386 x 10 px (#3e4249) one using the same value for the corners. Vertically align the two, making sure to leave an empty gap of 8 px between them.

creating the base lines for the background

Quick tip: when dealing with precise positioning, I always recommend you turn on the Pixel Preview mode (View > Pixel Preview) so that you can have full control over your shapes by using the underlying pixel grid that becomes visible once you turn it on.

example of using the pixel preview mode

Step 2

Group the two lines that we created just a moment ago (Control-G), and then horizontal align them to the center of the Artboard, making sure to leave a gap of 168 px towards its bottom side.

positioning the backgrounds base lines

Step 3

Using the Ellipse Tool (L) create a 324 x 324 px circle, which we will color using #acd18c, and then horizontal center align it to the Artboard, positioning it over the two lines, a few pixels towards the bottom.

creating the main circle for the background

Step 4

Draw another set of three circles, one 284 x 284 px one, a smaller 244 x 244 px one, and an even smaller 204 x 204 px one, which we will color using black (#000000) and overlay onto the larger circle that we’ve created in the previous step by lowering their opacity levels to just 10%.

adding the rest of the circles to the background

Step 5

Since we want to hide the lower sections of the circles that go beyond the two lines, we will create a 328 x 256 px rectangle, which we will position just above the lines, and then use as a Clipping Mask by selecting both it and the circles, and then right clicking > Make Clipping Mask.

using a clipping mask to hide the lower section of the circles

Step 6

Once you’ve masked the circles, select both them and the two lines and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, so that if you need to move or reposition the background in the future, you can do so without worrying that some shapes were left behind.

grouping the backgrounds elements

Since we’re now done with the background, we can lock its layer, and move on to the next one, where we’re going to start working on the little boombox itself.

5. Create the Boombox Base

So far we’ve quickly created the background. Now it’s time to get our flow on and create the center piece. Yup I’m talking about the boombox yo! Let's start with the base.

Step 1

Position yourself onto the second layer, and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 216 x 6 px shape which we will color using #a0a5a8 and then give a thick 8 px outline (#3e4249) by applying an Offset Path to it (select > Object > Path > Offset Path).

Then simply select both the fill shape and its outline and position the two just above the background lines, making sure to horizontal center align them to the Artboard.

creating the base for the boombox illustration

Quick tip: if you’ve never used Offset Paths before, you should definitely check out this tutorial on how to create line icons using offsets, which explains the process that can be applied to any project, not just icons. 

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create another 216 x 2 px shape, which we will color using #3e4249 since it will act as a subtle shadow, and then overlay onto the top section of the dark grey piece that we’ve just created by lowering its Opacity to 40%.

adding the top shadow to the boomboxs bottom

Step 3

Add a 216 x 2 px horizontal divider to the boombox’s base, which we will color using #3e4249 and position over the grey rectangle, aligning it towards its center.

adding the horizontal divider to the bottom section of the boombox

Step 4

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a small 2 x 2 px and larger 4 x 2 px shape positioned 2 px from one another. Color the shapes using white (#FFFFFF) and then make them act as a pair of highlights by setting their Blending Modes to Overlay and lowering their Opacity levels to 40%.

Once you’re done, position the highlights towards the right section of the base, and group the two (Control-G) so that they won’t get separated by accident.

adding a pair of highlights to the bottom section of the boombox

Step 5

Create a pair of three 12 x 2 px rounded rectangles with a 1 px Corner Radius, which we will color using #3e4249, group (Control-G) and then position onto each side of the boombox’s base, making sure to align them to the top section of the horizontal divider line and most importantly that the inner sections fully overlap the 8 px thickness of the outline.

adding the side sections to the bottom of the boombox

Since we’re pretty much done working on the base of the boombox, we can select all its composing shapes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut so that we won’t move them by accident.

6. Create the Boombox's Body

Step 1

Create the boombox’s main body by drawing a 232 x 120 px rectangle which we will color using a light grey (#eaeaea), and then give it a nice outline using an 8 px offset. Once you have both shapes, position them towards the upper section of the base that we’ve just created, making sure that the two outlines overlap.

adding the main shape of the boombox

Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create the upper section of the boombox by drawing a 232 x 12 px shape (#a0a5a8), which we will align towards the top section of the grey body, separating it using a 232 x 8 px rectangle (#3e4249) just underneath it as a divider line.

adding the top section to the boombox

Step 3

Add some subtle highlights to the upper section of the boombox, by creating two 232 x 4 px rectangles, which we will color using white (#FFFFFF) and then adjust by setting their Blending Modes to Overlay and lowering the Opacity level for the top most one to 40% and setting it to 90% for the second one.

adding highlights to the upper section of the boombox

Step 4

Start laying down details by creating a 212 x 4 px rounded rectangle with a 2 px Corner Radius, which we will color using #3e4249 and then position onto the darker grey section of the boombox, making sure to align it to its center.

adding the center detail line to the upper section of the boombox

Step 5

Add two more detail lines by creating two narrower 14 x 4 px rounded rectangles (#3e4249) using the same 2 px Corner Radius, and align one to each side of the boombox’s outline.

adding the secondary detail lines to the upper section of the boombox

Step 6

Finish off the upper section of the boombox, by creating a pair of vertical highlights, using white (#FFFFFF) as the fill color, Overlay for the Blending Mode and 40% for the Opacity.

Group (Control-G) and position the two highlights towards the right section of the main piece, making sure to align them to the other pair that we’ve created for the base section.

adding the secondary vertical highlights to the upper section of the boombox

Step 7

Create two 4 x 100 px rectangles (#3e4249) and position one on each side of the lower light grey section of the boombox, making sure to leave a 2 px gap between them and the thicker outline.

adding the two vertical dividers to the middle section of the boombox

Step 8

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) create two 2 x 96 px shapes (#a0a5a8), which we will position between the boombox’s outline and the two vertical dividers that we’ve just created in order to darken those areas.

adding the two darker sections to the boomboxs sides

Step 9

Next, add four 4 x 4 px circles to each corner of the center section of the boombox, which we will color using #3e4249 since they’ll act as little screws.

Position each circle so that you have a 2 px gap between them and the surrounding divider and outline.

adding the four little screws to the side sections of the boombox

Step 10

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), draw a couple of line segments (#3e4249) on each side of the middle dividers, and add subtle highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 60%) under each one of them.

adding the little line segments to the sides of the boombox

Step 11 

Draw two 96 px tall vertical highlights, using white (#FFFFFF) for the fill color, Overlay for the Blending Mode, and 90% for the Opacity, and position them onto the center section of the boombox, a few pixels towards the right.

Oh, and don’t forget to select them both and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the tall vertical highlights to the main section of the boombox

7. Create the Speakers

Step 1

Start working on the left speaker unit, by creating a 60 x 60 px circle (#c7c8c9) and giving it an 8 px thick outline (#3e4249) using the offset path method.

Position the two towards shapes the boombox’s left side, leaving an 8 px empty space gap towards the left and bottom side of the speaker’s outline.

positioning the main shapes for the left speaker

Quick tip: don’t forget to use the Pixel Preview mode (View > Pixel Preview) so that you can get that precise positioning and crispness that we want.

Step 2

Next, create the actual cone by drawing a smaller 44 x 44 px circle (#6e787c) and another even smaller 20 x 20 px one (#3e4249) and positioning them over the previous shapes, making sure to align them to their center.

adding the secondary circle pair to the left speaker

Step 3

Create the little inner ring, by drawing a 32 x 32 px circle (#3e4249) and then another smaller 28 x 28 px one (#3e4249), which we will then use to create a cutout from the larger one using Pathfinder’s Minus Front option.

adding the inner ring to the left speaker

Step 4

Start adding details to the speaker unit by creating a 6 x 6 px circle (#FFFFFFF) which we will overlay onto the center piece of the cone by setting its Blending Mode to Overlay and lowering its Opacity to 40%, positioning it a few pixels towards the right upper corner.

adding the small reflection onto the cones nose

Step 5

Next, add an inner ring-like shadow onto the cone, by creating a copy of it, and then adding a smaller 36 x 36 px circle, which we will then use to create the cutout. Change the color of the resulting shape to #3e4249, and then lower its Opacity to just 20% to make it look an actual shadow.

adding the inner shadow to the speakers cone

Step 6

Create another 36 x 36 px circle (#FFFFFF) which we will then adjust by removing its top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and setting its Blending Mode to Overlay while lowering its Opacity to just 30%.

Once we have our adjusted shape, make sure to position it underneath the cone’s ring and nose, so that it won’t overlap them.

adding the half cone highlight to the left speaker

Step 7

Give the speaker some dimension by adding a top ring shadow and a bottom highlight. To do this, first create a 60 x 60 px circle (#FFFFFF) from which we will cut out a smaller 56 x 56 px one. Then, using a rectangle, cut out the bottom half section, and create a copy of the resulting shape which we will reflect horizontally (right click > Transform > Reflect > Horizontal) and position underneath the original.

adding the main shape for the speakers highlight and shadow

Step 8

Adjust the top half ring by setting its color to #3e4249 and lowering its Opacity to 20%.

adjusting the top half shadow for the left speaker

Step 9

Then, select the bottom half highlight and change its Blending Mode to Overlay while lowering its Opacity to 30%.

adjusting the bottom half highlight of the left speaker

Step 10

Finish off the left speaker unit by adding four 4 x 4 px circles (#3e4249) onto the corners of the surface surrounding the cone.

Then, select all its composing elements and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

left speaker finished

Step 11

Since we now have our left speaker unit, we need to add the little tweeter cone. To do this, first grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a 6 x 6 px circle (#6d6f70). Give the shape a 4 px outline (#3e4249) and a small reflection (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 30%) and then position the two towards the left upper corner of the speaker.

positioning the left twitter cone

Step 12

Select and group both the tweeter and speaker (Control-G) and create a copy of them (Control-C > Control-F) which we will then reflect vertically (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical) and position onto the right side of the boombox.

creating the right side speaker

Quick tip: you can create a duplicate of any shape by selecting it and then dragging in a direction while holding down the Alt key (which creates the copy) and the Shift key (which lets you drag in a straight line).

8. Add the Buttons and Dials

Step 1

At this point, we can start working on the front of the boombox by adding the little function buttons. First, select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 42 x 12 px shape (#3e4249) which we will position onto the center section of the unit, about 4 px from its bottom outline.

adding the main outline for the boomboxs buttons

Step 2

Zoom in on the shape that we’ve just created, and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create six 4 x 4 px squares (#a0a5a8), which we will position 2 px from one another and then center onto the larger underlying rectangle.

creating the main front buttons

Step 3

Color the first, third, and fifth squares using #7a7f82, and then give each button a 4 x 2 px highlight (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 40%). When you’re done, select all the composing elements and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding details to the boomboxs front buttons

Step 4

Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create a 50 x 2 px shape (#3e4249) with a 1 px Corner Radius and position it just above the buttons, leaving a 2 px gap between them.

adding the little divider to the front buttons

Step 5

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 34 x 20 px shape (#9e8dce), give it a 4 px outline (#3e4249) and then position the two above the line that we’ve just created, leaving the same 2 px gap between them.

adding the main shapes for the cassette slot

Step 6

Add a 34 x 2 px highlight (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 40%) towards the top side of the purple rectangle, and another 34 x 2 px shadow (color: #3e4249; Opacity: 40%) towards its bottom.

adding details to the cassette slot

Step 7

Draw two diagonal highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 40%) using the Pen Tool (P), one thinner and one thicker, and position them towards the center of the purple rectangle.

adding the diagonal highlights to the cassette slot

Quick tip: you can get perfect 45 while drawing with the Pen Tool (P) if you hold down the Shift key.

Step 8

Using the Rectangle Tool (M) draw two 2 x 20 px vertical dividers (#3e4249), which you will position on each side of the purple rectangle, leaving a 2 px gap between them and the thicker outline. Then add another 26 x 2 px shape (#3e4249) towards the bottom side, leaving that same 2 px empty gap.

adding the divider lines to the cassette slot

Step 9

Finish off the cassette holder by adding the two wheels that spin the band and a 6 x 4 px rounded rectangle with a 1 px Corner Radius (#3e4249) to give it more detail.

Once you’re done, don’t forget to select and group all its composing elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding finishing touches to the cassette slot

Step 10

Move a few pixels towards the top, and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create an 84 x 16 px shape (#3e4249) which we will position above the cassette holder, about 8 px from its top side. Since the shape now overlaps the speakers, we will have to select them and bring them to the front by right clicking > Arrange > Bring To Front.

adding the main outline for the eq indicator

Step 11

Add a 42 x 8 px rectangle (#e87979) on top of the shape that we’ve previously created, making sure to position it towards its center.

adding the inner fill shape for the eq

Step 12

Since this red section will act as a radio tuner, add a couple of highlights using the same values that we’ve used for the cassette holder.

adding highlights to the eq

Step 13

Add a couple of 2 px thick lines (ten more exactly) with two variable heights (five with 4 px, and the others with 2 px), which you will have to position 2 px from one another and color using the same value used for the outlines (#3e4249).

Also, don’t forget to group all of the tuner’s components so they won’t get misplaced (Control-G).

eq finished

Step 14

For this next step, I’m going to let you get creative and create the rest of the boombox’s details on your own, since they’re pretty easy to create.

Take your time, and depending on whether you want the exact same look or something unique, use the reference image to make your way and get it done.

adding finishing touches to the boomboxs front section

Step 15

Assuming you’ve aced the previous step, let’s move on up to the top section of the boombox, and start working on the little buttons.

First, create a 4 x 6 px rectangle (#eaeaea) and give it a 4 px thick outline (#3e4249). We will use these two shapes to create two more copies (buttons) towards their right side positioned 2 px from one another. For the fourth button, we will just create a 12 x 12 px square (#3e4249) which will make it look as if it has been pressed. For the fifth and last button we’ll want to create a wider 18 x 6 px rectangle (#e5d37a) which will use the same 4 px thick outline.

Once you have all five buttons, positions them towards the center of the boombox, making sure to send them to the back (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

adding the top buttons to the boombox

Step 16

Give the buttons a little depth, by adding a small shadow to all but the fourth one.

At this point, I would also recommend that you individually group (Control-G) each button and then select and group them all as a whole.

adding shadows to the top side buttons

Step 17

Move towards the left side of the boombox, and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 4 x 18 px shape, which we will color using #e5d37a, give an 8 px outline (#3e4249) and then position towards the top left side, leaving a gap of 38 px between it and the larger outline.

adding the main shapes for the left dial

Step 18

Add a 2 x 12 px rectangle (#3e4249) towards the left side of the yellow dial’s outline, a 2 x 18 px shadow (color: #3e4249; Opacity: 40%) where it meets the outline of the boombox, and a 4 x 4 px square (#3e4249) towards its top, which will act as gain indicator.

Once you’re done, group all the dial’s elements together (Control-G) and create a copy for the right side of the boombox.

adding the right side dial to the boombox

Step 19

Finish off the boombox by adding the top handle, and then group all of its elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

boombox finished

Since at this point we’ve finished working on the main sections of our illustration, we can now move on to the final part, where we’re going to be adding the little musical note pattern.

9. Create the Musical Note Pattern

Now, what would a boombox be without a little sound to make it pop? In the following moments we’re going to wrap things up by creating a nice little pattern that will bring our illustration to life.

Step 1

Move on to the third and last layer, and using the Ellipse Tool (L) create a 10 x 8 px shape (#3e4249) which will act as the note head (1), to which we’re going to add a 2 x 14 px rectangle (#3e4249) towards its right side (the note stem) (2). Add another small diagonal rectangle (#3e4249) to its top (the flag) (3) and then group all three shapes together (Control-G).

creating the simple musical note

Step 2

Using the same note head and stem, create a double note.

creating a double musical note

Step 3

Grab the musical notes that we’ve just created and start adding them around the boombox. Take your time, and play around with them until you get an interesting pattern that you can use.

Color the notes that go outside the green background using a light grey (#e5e5e5) to give the composition a little twist.

Once you’re done, select and group them (Control-G) so they’ll stick together.

illustration finished

It’s a Wrap!

There you have it: a good old boombox that you can use in any new project to make your work stand out. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and managed to learn something new and useful along the way.

illustration preview
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