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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Halloween
Design

How to Create a Dead Rising Illustration in Affinity Designer

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

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to show you how to create a dark "dead rising" illustration in Affinity Designer.

If that sounds interesting, follow me as we take a close look at the process of creating the entire composition, using nothing more than some basic shapes and tools.

Also, if you want to expand the project later on, you can always do so by heading over to GraphicRiver, where you'll find a great selection of vector assets.

That being said, let’s jump straight into it!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

As we do with every new project, we’re going to start by setting up a New Document by heading over to File > New (or by using the Control-N keyboard shortcut), which we will then adjust as follows:

  • Type: Web
  • Document Units: Pixels
  • Page Width: 600 px
  • Page Height: 800 px
  • DPI: 72
setting up a new document

2. How to Set Up the Layers

As soon as we’ve created the document, we need to take a couple of moments and structure our project using a few layers, so that we can maintain a clear and steady workflow throughout the entire process.

To do this, simply open up the Layers panel, and then create five new layers using the Add Layer button, naming them as follows:

  • first layer: background
  • second layer: sky
  • third layer: forest
  • fourth layer: hands
  • fifth layer: gradient overlay
setting up the layers

3. How to Create the Background

Now that we’ve finished setting up our project file, we can start working on the actual illustration, and we will do so by creating the colored background.

Step 1

Position yourself on the bottom layer, and then create an 800 x 480 px rectangle, which we will color using #F46742 and then center align to the underlying page using the Arrange panel’s Align Center and Align Middle options.

creating the background

Step 2

Lock the current layer using the little Lock / Unlock toggle, moving on to the next one once you’re done.

locking the background layer

4. How to Create the Moon

Assuming you’ve positioned yourself on the next layer (that would be the second one), let’s start working on the sky.

Step 1

Create the moon using a 160 x 160 px circle, which we will color using #FEF2D7 and then center align to the page, positioning it 80 px from its top edge.

creating the moon

Step 2

Give the shape that we’ve just created an outer glow, by clicking on Layer Effects (the little fx button) and then checking the Outer Glow checkbox and adjusting it as follows:

  • Blend mode: Screen
  • Opacity: 74%
  • Radius: 8%
  • Intensity: 50%
  • Color: #FEF2D7
adding the outer glow to the moon

5. How to Create the Clouds

Once we have the moon in place, we can start adding the little clouds, which we will create using a couple of ellipses, as you'll see in the following steps.

Step 1

Create the main shape for the first cloud iteration using a 40 x 12 px ellipse, which we will color using #FEF2D7 and then convert to curves using the context toolbar’s Convert to Curves operation in order to be able to edit its outer nodes later on.

example of converting a shape to curves

Step 2

Start adjusting the ellipse by selecting its left and right nodes using the Node Tool (A), and then pinching them using the context toolbar’s Convert to Sharp operation.

example of pinching the nodes of a shape

Step 3

Continue adjusting the shape by covering up its bottom half using a rectangle (highlighted with green), and then cutting it in half by removing the overlapped area using the Subtract function.

example of cutting a shape in half using the subtract operation

Step 4

Create the next section of the cloud using a 40 x 40 px circle (#FEF2D7), which we will adjust as we did with the previous one by pinching its side nodes and then removing its bottom half, positioning the resulting shape on the right side, so that the two overlap as seen in the reference image.

adding the second section to the first cloud

Step 5

Add the third section using a smaller 24 x 24 px circle (#FEF2D7), which we will adjust and then position on the right side of the previous one, so that they overlap by 4 px.

adding the third section to the first cloud

Step 6

Finish off the cloud by adding a 48 x 8 px ellipse (#FEF2D7), which we will adjust and then position on the right side, so that it overlaps the previous shape by 8 px. Once you’re done, make sure you select and group all four shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

finishing off the first cloud

Step 7

Take a couple of moments and add the remaining clouds following the same process, making sure to vary the width and height values of the shapes in order to produce a more interesting result.

Once you’re done, quickly label each group by opening up the Layers panel and then simply clicking on them, making sure to lock the current layer afterwards.

adding the remaining clouds

6. How to Create the Forest

Position yourself on the third layer, and let’s start working on the next section of our composition. You'll learn how we can turn a couple of simple rectangles into a set of terrifying trees.

Step 1

Start by creating the main shape for the left tree’s trunk using a 36 x 480 px rectangle, which we will color using #537987 and then center align to the page’s left edge. If you’re wondering why we went with a lighter color value, well, that’s because the shape will act as the highlighted section, which we’re going to use in order to mask the darker one later on.

creating the trunk section for the first tree

Step 2

Convert the shape that we’ve just created to curves using the Convert to Curves operation. Then select its top-right node using the Node Tool (A), and push it to the inside by 20 px using the directional arrow keys.

adjusting the shape of the trunk for the first tree

Quick tip: you can easily adjust the position of a selected node using the Transform panel’s X and Y coordinate input fields, which allow you to quickly add or remove the desired distance using simple mathematical operations such as addition or subtraction.

example of adjusting the position of a node using the transform panel

Step 3

Create a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the resulting shape, which we will then adjust by first changing its color to #1F3744, and then pushing it 8 px to the left. Once you have the shape in place, select its bottom-right node using the Node Tool (A) and then push it 4 px to the right.

adding the darker section to the first tree

Step 4

Mask the darker section by opening up the Layers panel and dragging its shape onto the trunk’s lighter shape.

masking the darker section of the first tree

Step 5

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and quickly draw the upper branch, making sure to color the resulting shape using #1F3744. As a general rule, make sure you draw rougher lines with hard angles in order to give it a spookier appearance. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

adding the top branch to the first tree

Step 6

Finish off the current tree by adjusting the transition between the tree’s lighter and darker sections. You can do this by drawing a couple of smaller shapes using #1F3744 as your Fill color. Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group all of the resulting sections together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, making sure to do the same for the entire tree afterwards.

finishing off the first tree

Step 7

Create the main shape for the second tree’s trunk using a 24 x 480 px rectangle (#537987), which we will adjust by first converting it to curves, and then selecting and pushing its top-right node to the left side by 12 px. Once you’re done, position the resulting shape as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the second tree

Step 8

Add the darker section using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the shape that we’ve just created, which we will push 4 px to the left and then adjust by selecting and pushing its bottom-right node to the inside by 4 px. Once you’re done, make sure you mask the resulting shape by opening up the Layers panel and dragging it over the trunk’s main body.

adding the darker section to the second tree

Step 9

Create the left branch using a 16 x 4 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will adjust by first converting it to curves, and then selecting and pushing its top-right node to the outside by 12 px, and its bottom-right one by a smaller value of 8 px. Take your time, and once you’re done, position the resulting shape as seen in the reference image.

adding the branch to the second tree

Step 10

Finish off the second tree by adjusting the transition between the darker and lighter sections as we did with the first one, making sure to select and group (Control-G) all of the resulting shapes together, doing the same for all its composing shapes afterwards.

finishing off the second tree

Step 11

Add the remaining trees by following the same process, making sure to use different width and height values and directions for all the different shapes in order to get a nice variation. As you go along, don’t forget to select and group each individual tree’s composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

adding the remaining trees

Step 12

Create the background trees using a couple of trunks and branches, coloring all of them using #B73D29, making sure to individually group each and every one as you go along. Once you’re done, select all of the resulting shapes and position them underneath the colored trees, by simply right clicking > Arrange > Move to Back.

adding the background trees

Step 13

Next, we’re going to add to the composition by creating two thicker branches extending from the sides to the center of the illustration.

We’re going to start with the left one, which we will draw using the Pen Tool (P), making sure to color the resulting shape using #537987. When you go through your lines, make sure you use rough angles as seen in the reference image in order to give it that “creepy” feeling.

creating the main shape for the left branch

Step 14

Add the darker section using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the resulting shape, which we will adjust by first changing its color to #1F3744, and then pushing it to the bottom by 4 px, making sure to adjust the position of some of its top nodes in order to let more of the lighter section go through. Once you’re done, mask the darker section by opening up the Layers panel and dragging its shape on top of the lighter one.

adding the darker section to the left branch

Step 15

Further adjust the angles of the darker section by drawing a couple of smaller segments, which we will color using the same #1F3744 value. Once you’re done, don’t forget to select and group all of the branch’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adjusting the darker section of the left branch

Step 16

Create the right branch following the same process, making sure to select and group (Control-G) all of its composing shapes once you’re done. Also, since we’re pretty much done working on the forest, you can lock the current layer before moving on to the next section of the illustration.

creating the right branch

7. How to Create the Hands

Assuming you’ve already positioned yourself on the next layer (that would be the fourth one), zoom in on the center of the page, and let’s start raising the dead.

Step 1

Since I’m not all that good at drawing hands, and the style of the illustration allows it, I ended up creating all three of them using basic rectangles, which I then took the time to adjust until they felt “right”. While this approach might not work all the time, it’s a good trick that might come in handy for future projects.

That being said, let’s start working on the center hand’s forearm by creating an 88 x 124 px rectangle, which we will color using #1F3744 and then center align to the page’s bottom edge.

creating the main shape for the center forearm

Step 2 

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by first converting it to curves, and then individually selecting its nodes using the Node Tool (A), adjusting their position using the Transform panel's X and Y coordinates as follows:

  • top-left node: X + 16 px
  • top-right node: X - 24 px / Y – 20 px
adjusting the shape of the center forearm

Step 3

Create the main shape for the palm using a 96 x 42 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position on top of the resulting shape’s top-right node as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the center palm

Step 4

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by first turning it to curves and then adjusting the position of the following nodes:

  • top-right node: X - 4 px
  • bottom-left node: X + 48 px / Y + 20 px
  • top-left node: Y + 26 px
adjusting the shape of the center palm

Quick tip: for the connecting nodes of two different shapes, you can easily make them overlap by simply selecting them using the Node Tool (A) and then dragging them into place.

Step 5

Add the main shape for the lower section of the thumb using a 60 x 42 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position onto the upper-right node of the shape that we’ve just adjusted.

creating the lower section of the thumb

Step 6

Convert the shape that we’ve just created to curves, and then quickly reposition its nodes using the following values:

  • bottom-left node: X + 4 px
  • top-right node: X - 20 px / Y – 12 px
  • bottom-right node: Y - 46 px
adjusting the lower section of the thumb

Step 7

Create the upper section of the thumb using a 20 x 60 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position onto the resulting shape’s right node as seen in the reference image.

adding the upper section to the thumb

Step 8

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by first converting it to curves, and then individually selecting and repositioning its nodes as follows:

  • bottom-left node: Y - 8 px
  • top-right node: X - 16 px / Y - 4 px
adjusting the upper section of the thumb

Step 9

Create the main shape for the lower section of the index finger using a 36 x 90 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the lower section of the index finger

Step 10

Grab the Node Tool (A) and quickly adjust the position of the shape’s nodes as follows:

  • bottom-left node: Y - 26 px
  • top-right node: X - 24 px / Y + 10 px
adjusting the lower section of the index finger

Step 11

Add the upper section of the finger using a 44 x 10 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the upper section of the index finger

Step 12

Convert the shape to curves, and then adjust it by individually selecting and pushing its nodes using the following coordinates:

  • bottom-left node: X + 12 px
  • top-right node: Y - 14 px
  • bottom-right node: X + 4 px / Y - 20 px
adjusting the upper section of the index finger

Step 13

Create the main shape for the lower section of the middle finger using a 40 x 80 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the lower section of the middle finger

Step 14

Quickly adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by individually selecting the indicated nodes using the Node Tool (A) and then repositioning them as follows:

  • bottom-left node: X + 12 px / Y + 4 px
  • top-right node: X - 28 px / Y + 12 px
adjusting the lower section of the middle finger

Step 15

Add the upper section of the finger using a 48 x 12 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position on top of the previous shape as seen in the reference image.

creating the upper section of the middle finger

Step 16

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by taking a couple of moments and repositioning the indicated nodes using the following coordinates:

  • bottom-left node: X + 12 px
  • top-right node: Y - 16 px
  • bottom-right node: X + 4 px / Y - 24 px
adjusting the upper section of the middle finger

Step 17

Create the main shape for the lower section of the ring finger using a 52 x 80 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the lower section of the ring finger

Step 18

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by grabbing the Node Tool (A) and then using it to adjust the indicated nodes as follows:

  • bottom-left node: X + 32 px / Y + 16 px
  • top-right node: X - 40 px / Y + 8 px
adjusting the lower section of the ring finger

Step 19

Add the finger’s upper section using a 44 x 8 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position on top of the resulting shape’s top-left node.

creating the upper section of the ring finger

Step 20

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by individually selecting the indicated nodes and then adjusting their position as follows:

  • bottom-left node: X + 12 px
  • top-right node: X - 4 px / Y - 24 px
  • bottom-right node: Y - 28 px
adjusting the upper section of the ring finger

Step 21

Start working on the last finger by creating the main shape for its lower section using a 56 x 36 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the lower section of the pinky finger

Step 22

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by first converting it to curves, and then individually selecting and repositioning the indicated nodes using the following values:

  • bottom-left node: X + 48 px / Y + 32 px
  • top-right node: X - 40 px / Y + 4 px
adjusting the lower section of the pinky finger

Step 23

Add the finger’s upper section using a 38 x 4 px rectangle (#1F3744), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

creating the upper section of the pinky finger

Step 24

Convert the shape that we’ve just created to curves, and then individually select and adjust the position of the indicated nodes using the following values:

  • bottom-left node: X + 16 px
  • top-right node: X - 2 px / Y - 26 px
  • bottom-left node: X + 48 px / Y + 32 px
  • bottom-right node: Y - 22 px
adjusting the upper section of the pinky finger

Step 25

Fill in the empty section of the palm using the Pen Tool (P), making sure to color the resulting shape using #1F3744. Also make sure that its nodes overlap those of its neighbouring shapes.

adding the inner section of the palm

Step 26

Select all of the hand’s composing shapes and then unite them into a single larger one using the Add operation.

uniting the shapes of the center hand

Step 27

Now that we’ve finished creating the hand, we can take a couple of moments and give it some highlights using the Pen Tool (P), coloring the resulting shapes using #537987. Once you’re done, select and group all of them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, making sure to mask them afterwards if they go outside the surface of the hand.

adding the highlights to the center hand

Step 28

Since zombies usually have ripped flesh wounds, take a couple of moments and draw a few holes of your own using #F46742 as your Fill color. Give the resulting shapes some subtle highlights (#537987), making sure to individually group (Control-G) each and every one of them, doing the same for the entire hand afterwards.

adding the flesh wounds to the center hand

Step 29

Create the main shapes for the smaller hands using a copy (Control-C > Control-V) of the larger one’s fill shape, which we will scale down and then adjust by repositioning their fingers as seen in the reference image. Take your time, and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

adding the main shapes for the side hands

Step 30

As we did with the larger hand, give the smaller ones some highlights and flesh wounds, making sure to group (Control-G) each detail and the hands together. Once you’re done, lock the current layer before moving on to the next step.

adding details to the side hands

8. How to Add the Gradient Overlay

Now that we’re pretty much done working on the composition, we can add some finishing touches that will make it pop.

Step 1

Create a copy (Control-C) of the background shape, and paste (Control-V) it on the top layer (that would be the fifth one).

creating the main shape for the background overlay

Step 2

Apply a linear vertical gradient onto the shape, with the help of the Fill Tool (G), using #F15A24 for the top color and #1B1464 for the bottom one.

creating the gradient

Step 3

Adjust the resulting gradient by opening up the Layers panel and setting its blend mode to Lighten.

finishing off the illustration

Great Work!

As always, I hope you had fun working on the project, and now that we’ve reached the end, I encourage you to make it your own by getting a little bit creative and adding some subtle details as I did. Whether it’s a flying witch or some spooky bats, insert a little bit of your own Halloween spirit, and make sure you share the final result with the rest of us!

finished project preview

Unleash Your Affinity Designer Skills!

Want to expand your craft and improve your Affinity Designer knowledge base? Well, you're in luck, since we took the time and handpicked a set of tutorials that will help you do just that!

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