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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Illustration
Design

How to Create a Crystal Formation Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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

In today’s tutorial, we’re going to take a close look at the process of creating a glass dome enclosed crystal formation, using some of Adobe Illustrator’s most basic shapes and tools.

So if that sounds interesting, grab a quick sip of that freshly poured coffee and let’s get started!

Before we start, I wanted to take a couple of moments and point out that I'll be using a custom line texture that I got from Envato Elements which proved to go really well with the rough shape of the crystals. The specific one I used is called "LineTexture07", which can be found within the pack once you download and decompress the archive.

example of the custom texture used

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

Assuming you already have Illustrator up and running in the background, bring it up and let’s set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N) which we will adjust as follows:

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

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen (72ppi)
  • Preview Mode: Default
setting up a new document

2. How to Set Up the Layers

Once we’ve finished setting up our project file, it would be a good idea to structure our document using a few layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one section of the illustration at a time.

So bring up the Layers panel and create a total of five layers, which we will rename as follows:

  • layer 1: background
  • layer 2: glass dome
  • layer 3: crystal formation
  • layer 4: texture
  • layer 5: overlay
setting up the layers

Quick tip: I’ve colored all of my layers using the same green value, since it’s the easiest one to view when used to highlight your selected shapes (whether they’re closed or open paths).

3. How to Create the Background

Now that we’ve finished layering our document, we can start working on the actual project by quickly creating the plain background.

Step 1

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 800 x 600 px rectangle which we will color using #ffb75a and then position in the center of the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.

creating the background

Step 2

Once you have the background in place, lock its layer from within the Layers panel and then move on up to the second one.

locking the background layer

4. How to Create the Glass Dome

Assuming you've already positioned yourself onto the next layer (that would be the second one), let’s start working on the glass dome, which we will build one section at a time.

Step 1

Create the top section of the wooden base using a 240 x 48 px ellipse, which we will color using #ffffff and then center align to the underlying Artboard, positioning it at a distance of 152 px from its bottom edge.

creating and positioning the upper section of the wooden base

Step 2

Give the shape that we’ve just created an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of it (Control-C), which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then adjust by flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X) and then making sure to set its Weight to 2 px from within the Stroke panel. Once you’re done, select and group the two shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline to the upper section of the wooden base

Quick tip: the reason why we added an outline of the same color to the current shape is to align the lower body's outer edges which we will be creating in the following steps.

Step 3

Create the base’s lower body using another 240 x 48 px ellipse (#ffffff), which we will position below the previous shapes as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the lower body of the wooden base

Step 4

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X) making sure to set its Weight to 2 px. Then, select its top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and immediately remove it by pressing Delete, drawing a new path with the help of the Pen Tool (P), using the reference image as your main guide.

adjusting the lower body of the wooden base

Step 5

Start working on the darker bottom section by creating a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the resulting shape, which we will adjust by flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X), making sure to set its color to #3a302e.

creating the main shape for the lower section of the wooden base

Step 6

Continue adjusting the shape by selecting its top anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then removing them by pressing Delete.

adjusting the darker section of the wooden base

Step 7

Create a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the resulting shape which we will position 8 px below it, and then unite the two paths into a single larger shape by selecting them and then pressing the Control-J (join) keyboard shortcut twice. Once you’re done, don’t forget to position the shape underneath the white outline (right click > Arrange > Send to Back) before moving on to the next step.

positioning the darker section underneath the lower body of the wooden base

Step 8

Add the bottom ring to the base using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the lower body’s outline, which we will adjust by selecting and removing its top anchor points, positioning the resulting shape at a distance of 8 px from its bottom edge.

adding the bottom ring to the wooden base

Step 9

Next, let’s take a couple of moments and add the little texture lines using a couple of 2 px thick Strokes with a Round Cap. The way I usually start drawing them is by choosing a corner and then getting a feel of the flow. As soon as I get at least two lines down, I then try to inverse the direction and then gradually make my way to the opposite side of the shape that I need to fill. Once I'm pleased with the result, I always making sure to select and group (Control-G) all of them together before moving on to the next step.

adding the texture lines to the wooden base

Step 10

Mask the texture lines that we’ve just created by using a copy (Control-C) of the lower body’s outline which we will paste in front (Control-F), and then with both the copy and the lines selected, simply right click > Make Clipping Mask.

masking the texture lines

Step 11

Add the ring insertion to the upper section of the base using a 224 x 40 px ellipse with a 2 px thick Stroke, which we will color using #ffbe57. Once you’re done, select and group all of the base’s composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the ring insertion to the upper section of the wooden base

Step 12

Start working on the actual dome by creating a 224 x 320 px rectangle with a 2 px thick Stroke (#ffffff), which we will position on the upper half of the base and then adjust by setting the Radius of its top corners to 112 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties.

creating the main shape for the glass dome

Step 13

Since we want the bottom sections of the glass dome to be distinguishable from the base, we will create a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the insertion ring, which we will then adjust by removing its top anchor point. Then, using the Pen Tool (P), we will need to extend the resulting path so that it goes outside of the base’s surface, making sure to mask it afterwards (right click > Make Clipping Mask) using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of it.

adding the lower side sections of the glass dome

Step 14

Finish off the current section by adding the subtle detail lines using a couple of 2 px thick Strokes (#ffffff) with a Round Cap. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure you select and group (Control-G) all of the glass section’s composing shapes together, doing the same for the entire dome afterwards.

adding the detail lines to the glass dome

5. How to Create the Crystal Formations

Now that we’ve finished working on the dome, we can lock its layer and then move on to the next one (that would be the third one), where we will gradually create the crystal formations.

Step 1

With the help of the Pen Tool (P), draw the main shape for the center crystal using #7b7bef as your Fill color, following the reference image as your main guide. Since this part of the illustration is based on looser shapes, you don’t have to create an exact copy, so feel free to get creative and create something new and unique.

drawing the main shape for the center crystal

Step 2

Take a couple of moments and shade the resulting shape by drawing the different sections seen in the reference image, using #9c9cff for the lighter shape, #6363d3 for the darker shapes, and #5252c1 for the darkest one. Once you’re done, select and group all of them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the shades to the central crystal

Step 3

Outline the crystal using a couple of 2 px thick Strokes (#ffffff) with a Round Join, making sure to select and group (Control-G) them together afterwards. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the shapes that we have so far and group those as well.

adding the outlines to the center crystal

Step 4

Following the same process, add the remaining crystals using the reference image as your main guide. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure you select and group all of them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut before moving on to the next step.

adding the remaining crystals

Step 5

Using a 2 px thick Stroke (#ffffff), quickly draw the organic path that goes around the crystal formations, making sure to position it underneath afterwards by right clicking > Arrange > Send to Back. Since we’re pretty much done working on this part of the illustration, we can select and group (Control-G) all the shapes before moving on to the next section.

adding the organic line to the back of the crystals

6. How to Add Texture to the Crystals

At this point, we’re going to start adding the finishing touches to our little illustration, and we'll start with the texture.

Step 1

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select all of the crystals' main shapes and then copy (Control-C) and paste (Control-F) them onto the next layer (that would be the fourth one), making sure to lock the previous one.

creating a copy of the crystals for the texture

Step 2

Since we’ll want to use the copies as a Clipping Mask for the texture, we’ll have to make them behave as a single larger shape by turning them into a Compound Shape using the Pathfinder panel’s hidden option.

turning the crystals copy into a compound shape

Step 3

Next, we need to grab a copy (Control-C) of the custom texture and paste (Control-F) it onto the current layer, making sure to position it underneath the Compound Shape once we’ve set its color to white (#ffffff) and adjusted its size.

positioning the texture onto the crystals

Step 4

With the texture in place, we can now select both it and the Compound Shape and then simply right click > Make Clipping Mask in order to hide the sections going outside of the crystals' surface. Once you’re done, we can lock the current layer and then move on to the last one.

masking the texture

7. How to Add the Overlay to the Crystals

We are now down to the last part of the process, where we will see how easy it is to add some polish to the crystals’ colors using Blending Modes. This part is kind of optional, but I really hope you try and play with it, since sometimes you can get some interesting color variations using a couple of simple steps.

Step 1

Start by pasting (Control-F) another copy of the crystals from the Clipboard onto the current layer, which we will then adjust by setting the color to black (#000000).

creating the copy for the color overlay

Step 2

Open up the Transparency panel, and set the resulting shape’s Blending Mode to Overlay, which will immediately shift the colors from purple to an interesting blue.

adjusting the blending mode

Step 3

Adjust the Opacity level by lowering it until the effect isn’t all that powerful (in my case 40%), and that’s pretty much it!

finishing off the illustration

Great Job!

There you have it—a nice and easy tutorial that should shine a light on the process behind these sorts of illustrations.

As always, I hope you had fun working on the project, and if you have any questions, feel free to post them within the comments section and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

finished project preview
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