In this new tutorial you will learn how to draw a colorful salad on a plate, but let's choose a different angle because that means more fun. At the beginning, we will create a simple plate, and after that it's time to get creative in arranging the ingredients of this salad: rocket leaves, pieces of red and yellow peppers, onion rings, tasty slices of tomatoes, radishes, and black olives. At the end, it's all about the shadows in order to give it a more realistic look. Let's start the fun!
1. How to Create a New Document
Launch Illustrator and go to File > New to open a blank document. Type a name for your file, set up the dimensions, and then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode. Make sure that Align New Objects to Pixel Grid is not checked.
Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1 px and while there, go to Units to make sure they are set as in the following image. I usually work with these settings, and they will help you throughout the drawing process.
2. How to Draw a Simple Plate
Let's start with an ellipse about 610 x 75 px Filled with the Linear Gradient shown (1). Next, draw another ellipse slightly bigger only at the bottom and send it behind the first (2).
To create the center of the plate, draw a new ellipse about 480 x 58 px (1). Now, select the first ellipse and Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) in order to make a copy of it (2). While this copy (the black ellipse) and the red ellipse stay selected, press Intersect in the Pathfinder panel. Fill the new shape with the Linear Gradient shown (3).
Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a shape like the one below. The important part is the curve at the bottom which is a bit lower than the rest of the ellipses and creates the thin border. Use the Gradient shown and then send this shape behind everything.
Next, draw the bottom of the plate like in the following image. Use the Gradient shown and then send this shape behind everything.
Draw another shape like earlier, where the bottom curve is a bit lower than the rest of the plate, in order to create a darker thin border (1).
Continue with the last ellipse at the bottom of the plate about 280 x 58 px Filled with the Linear Gradient shown, and then send it behind everything (2).
To add a highlight on the bottom of the plate, draw a very thin shape with the Pen Tool (P) following the bottom edge, and Fill it with the Linear Gradient shown.
Now, follow the outer edge of the plate and draw two new thin shapes as shown. After that, the plate is ready, and you can see the final result in the image below (3).
3. How to Draw the Rocket Leaf (Arugula)
It's time to draw the components of this tasty salad, and the first ingredient is rocket, also known as arugula. Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a leaf shape similar to the one below. Once you are happy with the shape, Fill it with the Linear Gradient shown (1).
Next, draw a thin shape through the middle of the leaf and Fill it with the Gradient shown (2).
That's it! The leaf is ready. Group (Control-G) the two shapes and name the group “rocket”.
4. How to Draw the Onion Ring
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw two shapes and arrange them as shown in the next image (1). The size is not important because you will scale all of the ingredients later anyway. While the two ellipses stay selected, go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Control-8) and Fill the resulting shape with a pale purple (2).
Select the ring and then Copy and Paste in Back (Control-B) to make a copy of it. Move this copy 2-3 px downwards with the help of the Down Arrow key on your keyboard (3).
Select the original ring again and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make another copy of it. Having this new copy of the ring selected along with the black ring, press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel. Send the resulting two shapes in the back (4) and Fill them with the two shades of purple shown (5).
The onion ring is ready. You can create another version, but this is optional. Just make a Copy of the onion ring and then use only two out of the three shades of purple.
Group (Control-G) the shapes and name the groups “onion ring 1” and “onion ring 2”.
5. How to Draw the Piece of Red Pepper
Next on the list of ingredients is the red pepper. Draw a shape similar to the one below with the help of the Pen Tool (P) and use red as the Fill color (1). While this shape stays selected, go to Object > Transform > Scale, type 105% in the Scale field, and then hit Copy. As a result, you will get a slightly bigger shape. Use a darker shade of red to Fill it and send it behind the first (2).
Grab the Pen Tool (P) again and draw a new shape in front of the two Filled with a lighter shade of red (3). Fix the ends of the pepper if necessary and align the points with the Direct Selection Tool (A). The piece of red pepper is ready now (4).
This step is optional, but if you want more color in your salad, you can create a piece of yellow pepper. Simply make a Copy of the red pepper and replace the Fill colors.
Group (Control-G) the shapes and name the groups “red pepper” and “yellow pepper”.
6. How to Draw the Slice of Tomato
Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the tomato slice and Fill it with a dark shade of red. While the shape stays selected, add a New Fill in the Appearance panel above the first and use an orangey-red color. Select this Fill attribute, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and apply the settings shown. As a result, you will get the darker edge at the bottom of the slice.
Next, draw a similar but smaller shape on top and Fill it with red. Add a New Fill below the first and use a darker shade of orange. With this Fill attribute selected in the Appearance panel, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform and apply a 1 px Vertical Move.
Take the Pen Tool (P) again and draw a shape like the one in the next image, Filled with dark orange (1). Continue with a similar shape but slightly smaller, filled with white. Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light (2). You can see the result in the image below (3).
For the seed of the tomato, you need two tear-drop shapes. Fill the bigger one with dark orange and the smaller one with yellow. Group (Control-G) the two shapes and Multiply to obtain more seeds; then Rotate and arrange them on the tomato slice.
Now, draw a curved path next to the bottom edge of the slice (1). Give it a 5 pt red Stroke; then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and apply a Radius of 2 px. Reduce the Opacity to 70% (2).
Select the slice shape and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) in order to make a copy of it in front of everything. Set this copy to stroke-none and fill-none. Now, select the curved path along with the copy of the slice and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). Name the resulting group “tomato slice” and you are done (3). You can see the final result in the image below (4).
7. How to Draw the Slice of Radish
Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw the slice shape, and after that, draw a similar shape but bigger only at the bottom in the back (2).
Select the blue shape and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it in front of everything. Having this copy selected along with the orange shape, press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel. As a result, you will get the shape at the bottom as the skin of the radish (3). Fill the two shapes with the Radial Gradients shown, Group (Control-G) them, and the slice of radish is ready (4).
8. How to Draw the Black Olive
The olive is pretty easy, and you only need two shapes: a 50 x 38 px ellipse (1) and the highlight shape on the upper left side (2). Fill them with the Radial Gradients shown; then Group (Control-G) them, and you can see the final result in the image below (3).
9. How to Compose the Salad
First, select the “plate” group and Rotate it as shown in the following image to make things more interesting. And now, it's finally time to compose the delicious salad. Grab the “rocket” group and make a few copies. Arrange them as shown below, or you can put your creativity to the test.
There are plenty of shadows in this salad, and you can choose to add them at the end once you see the final picture, but that might be a bit overwhelming because there are so many components involved. In order to make things easier to understand, I will show you the settings for the Drop Shadow effect as we go along. The settings are slightly different from step to step because they depend on the position of each ingredient.
Some of the ingredients don't even need a shadow. From the three rocket leaves in the image below, only one has the Drop Shadow effect applied because the other two will be covered with the rest of the ingredients by the end so it's not really necessary.
Next, grab the “red pepper” group and move it on the plate. Apply the Drop Shadow effect to create a shadow. The same thing goes for the “yellow pepper” group.
It looks weird for the moment, but at the end we'll use a Mask to hide the ingredients that go over the edge of the plate.
Duplicate and arrange more rocket leaves. For the leaves that are up in the air, you don't need to apply the Drop Shadow effect because the shadow should exist only on the plate and not outside and around the plate.
Next, put an olive on the plate and apply the Drop Shadow effect.
Also, put an onion ring and a yellow pepper on the left side but without the shadow this time, because they go over the edge of the plate. We will create more detailed shadows later in the tutorial for ingredients like these.
Following the technique explained in the previous steps, place more leaves and other ingredients on your plate.
Arrange another piece of red pepper, another slice of tomato, more olives and another copy of the onion ring plus a bunch of leaves in between and on top, as many as you want.
In the image below, you can see the Drop Shadow settings for the onion ring on the right side and for the rocket leaf on top of it.
Don't add a shadow under the slices of tomato because we'll take care of that later in the tutorial.
It's time to arrange a few radish slices. Scale them so they are not the same size because that is more natural. Add more leaves on top and start to go upwards with the ingredients.
Add another piece of yellow pepper and another slice of tomato up in the air between the leaves. The last two ingredients are the red pepper and another onion ring.
10. How to Add Shadows Between the Ingredients
If you are happy with your salad and the position of each ingredient, you can now add more detailed shadows between them for a realistic look.
Focus on the slices of tomato and draw a path following the bottom edge, one for each slice that you have. Give them a 3 pt black Stroke and then apply a 3 px Gaussian Blur. After you are done, send each path right behind the corresponding slice of tomato.
Now, focus on the ingredients that are up in the air and especially on the areas where they overlap because you need a shadow there. Take your time, zoom in as much as you need, and draw a small path where two ingredients are overlapping following their contour, but don't go over the edges (into the white background). You can see a few examples in the close-ups. The more paths you draw, the more detailed and realistic your salad will be.
Select a 2 pt black Stroke for all these paths and apply a 2 px Gaussian Blur. Some of them are at 100% Opacity, and some of them are at 75% Opacity, depending on the area and the colors. Don't forget to move each path between the two ingredients that are overlapping in the Layers panel because the correct order is very important in this case.
11. How to Clean Up the Edge of the Plate
Select the ellipse from the inside of the plate and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) in order to make a copy of it in front of everything (1). Grab the Scissors Tool (C) and click on the two end points of this copy to cut the shape in two and keep only the half in front (2). Use the Pen Tool (P) to close this path and create a new shape around the salad (3).
Set the shape from the previous step to Stroke-None and Fill-None. Now, select all the ingredients of the salad along with this shape and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). Now, the front side of the plate is clean, as it should be.
If you want to add a leaf that goes over the edge of the plate for a more realistic look then now is the time to do it, outside the mask. Arrange it in the desired place and then apply the Drop Shadow effect.
12. How to Add Highlights on the Salad
Focus on one of the tomato slices and draw two short paths as shown in the next image. Stroke them with the Black Blend Art Brush from another tutorial of mine dedicated to Blending Brushes and how useful they are: How to Create a Set of Multi-Use Blend Brushes. I use these brushes all the time to add highlights and details in my drawings. Set the color as indicated and set the Stroke Weight to 0.75 pt. Keep the bigger path at 100% Opacity but for the shorter path reduce the Opacity to 50% to make it more discreet.
Do the same thing for the rest of the tomatoes to make them shinier. You can also do this for the other ingredients if you want but for me, this was enough.
13. How to Create the Shadow Under the Plate
Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a shape like in the next image on a New Layer behind the plate, and give it a white Fill. Continue with a similar but smaller shape Filled with light gray and set it to 75% Opacity.
Draw another ellipse under the bottom of the plate and Fill it with gray. The last ellipse is much smaller and filled with a darker gray.
While the four shapes stay selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 50 Specified Steps. Hit OK; then go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B).
Set the resulting blend group to Blending Mode Multiply and reduce the Opacity to 75%, but this depends on the color of your background.
Congratulations! You're Done
The colorful salad on the plate is ready now. Grab a fork!
Let me know if you enjoyed this tutorial, and don't forget to share an image of your recreation with us if you decide to have fun with it. I would love to see it.