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How to Create a Flat Winter Scene in Adobe Illustrator

This post is part of a series called Learn Adobe Illustrator.
Create a Hill Scene Using Gradients in Adobe Illustrator
27 Amazingly Detailed Adobe Illustrator Tutorials
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial we’ll be creating a cozy winter forest scene in a trendy flat style. We’ll be using various basic shapes and Pathfinder operations of Adobe Illustrator, building a lovely scene that can be used as a header for your blog or website, as a greeting card or an illustration for print. The process is very easy and comprehensive.

Flat vector scenery has become a very popular design element that is widespread in advertisement banners, website layouts and brochure templates. You can find plenty of it on Envato Market and combine several different concepts into a series. In this tutorial we will make one piece of such a set of scenes: a flat winter forest. 

If you're interested, you can purchase the end result and the different variants of this flat style forest vector illustration, you can buy it on GraphicRiver.

Flat Style Forest Vector Illustration

1. How to Make a Flat Fir Tree

Step 1

Let’s start by making a trunk for our first tree. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a thin stripe of 7 x 90 px size. 

Fill it with brown color. Use the Live Corners feature to make the corners of the stripe fully rounded by pulling the circle markers to the center. If you’re using an earlier version of Adobe Illustrator, feel free to use Effect > Stylize > Round Corners.

Add another thin shape with rounded corners of 7 x 60 px for the fir branch, and fill it with light-blue color.

make a tree trunk with rectangle tool

Step 2

Hold Alt-Shift and drag the created blue shape to the right to make a copy. Press Control-D a few times to make more copies. And let’s add some diversity to the branches. Copy the first one and Paste it in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Squash the shape, making it shorter, but preserving the initial width of 7 px.

make a fir branch with rectangle tool

Step 3

Make each stripe a bit longer then the other by selecting their bottom anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and dragging them down. Leave the width the same for all the shapes. Add shorter copies on top of each stripe. Recolor the stripes, gradually darkening the lower shapes, as shown in the screenshot below.

make a fir branch with rectangle tool 2

Step 4

Group (Control-G) the pieces of each stripe to form the branches, and place our stripes vertically. And now let’s select the upper branch and double-click the Rotate Tool (R) to open the Options menu. Set the Angle value to 30 degrees and repeat the same action for every stripe, rotating it at the same angle.

rotate the branches

Step 5

Place the rotated branches on the left side of the tree, Group (Control-G) them and double-click the Reflect Tool (O) to open the Options menu. Select the Vertical Axis and click Copy to flip the mirrored group to the other side of the trunk.

reflect the branches

Step 6

Finally, let’s make the trunk a bit more detailed. Copy the trunk shape and Paste it in Front (Control-C>Control-F). Make the copy a bit lighter. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and click the top and bottom anchor points to split the shape into two halves. Delete the left half of the copy.

Wonderful! Our first tree—the winter fir—is ready! Let’s move on to the next one!

use the scissors tool for the trunk

2. How to Render the Second Tree

Step 1

Let’s make the second tree taller. Start by forming a two-colored trunk. You can make a new shape, changing its length and width to your liking, or just copy the trunk from our first tree and make it taller.

Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make two small light-blue shapes on top of the trunk, forming a stylized crown of the tree.

Select the blue shapes together with the trunk, and use the Align panel to align the shapes, selecting Align to Key Object and clicking Horizontal Align Center.

make a rounded rectangle tree crown

Step 2

Duplicate both blue shapes (Control-C > Control-F) and make their color a bit darker. Then use the Scissors Tool (C) to split the upper copies apart by clicking their side anchor points and deleting the unneeded halves.

Here is how the second tree should look in comparison with our first tree. We make it taller in order to make the whole composition more diverse. 

use scissors tool on the rounded rectangle shapes

Step 3

And let’s add a couple of branches to this tree as well. First of all, duplicate one of the rounded pieces from the crown and place it at the right side of the trunk. Then take the Pen Tool (P) or the Line Segment Tool (\) and make a squared shape.

Set the Stroke color to brown in the Color panel, and head to the Stroke panel. From here, set the Cap and Corner to the middle positions, making the corner and the ends of the line a bit rounded. And set the Stroke Weight to 3 pt.

use strokes lines to make branches

You can make the corner even more rounded using the Live Corners feature.

make the corners rounded with live corners feature

Step 4

Let’s add some more branches here. Duplicate the one that we’ve made and vary the sizes and positions of the copies. We may need to make the tree even taller to have more space for the additional branches.

copy and add more branches

Step 5

Let’s add a small, rounded bush, consisting of two circles made with the Ellipse Tool (L). Attach a dark-brown trunk. This little fellow will help us to fill in some blank spaces of our illustration.

make a circle tree

3. How to Make a Bushy Oak

Step 1

We’ll start by making the crown of our oak. Form a 90 x 45 px rectangle of a light-blue color and make its corners fully rounded. Make two more rounded rectangles of a smaller size and form a pyramid, placing one on top of the other.

form the oak crown from rectangles

Step 2

Group (Control-G) the shapes and duplicate them (Control-C > Control-F), making the top copy a bit darker. Keeping the top group of shapes selected, take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold down Alt, and stretch the selection over the right half of the tree-crown to delete it.

add a shadow with the eraser tool

Step 3

Add a dark-brown tree-trunk in front. Take the Polygon Tool and set the Sides value to 3 to make a tiny triangle. Copy the created triangle and spread the copies over the left side of the crown and over the trunk, making the tree textured.

add a trunk and triangle details

4. How to Make a Fancy Pine

Step 1

Let’s use the very first tree that we made in this tutorial—the fir—to form a tall, detailed pine. First of all, make its trunk much taller, dragging its bottom anchor points down with the Direct Selection Tool (A). 

Then select all the branches, except the top ones, and press Enter to open the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 0 px and the Vertical value to 10 px in order to move the selected group of branches 10 px down.

Deselect the upper branches from the group that we’ve just moved and repeat the same action, moving the rest of the branches 10 px down.

move the branches down

Step 2

Now recolor the branches, applying a brown tint to make them fit the trunk. And let’s start forming the pine needles. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to place a tiny vertical shape at the left side of the upper branch.

add pine needles with rounded rectangle tool

Step 3

Move the created needle beneath the branch (Shift-Control-[). Hold Alt-Shift and drag it to the right and up a bit, making a copy. Press Control-D several more times, filling the upper branch with stylized needles. Vary the shades of blue, making the branch more diverse.

add pine needles with rounded rectangle tool 2

Step 4

Group (Control-G) the needles that we’ve made for the upper branch, copy the group and paste it multiple times to fill all the empty branches. Make the bottom needles a bit longer by selecting their bottom anchor points with the Lasso Tool (Q) and moving them down with the Down Arrow key.

You can make the left side of the pine a bit darker to make it look more detailed. And let’s move to our last tree!

add details to the pine

5. How to Make a Stylized Fir

Step 1

Finally, let’s make another needle-leaved tree, but this time it will be very simple and stylized. To start with, make three triangles, using the Polygon Tool. Vary the size and the color of the triangles, making the top one small and light blue and the bottom one large and dark blue.

Combine the triangles, placing them one beneath the other, forming a pyramid.

make a fir tree from triangles

Step 2

Add a trunk and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[). Finally, make a set of tiny dark-blue triangles and speckle them above the blue shapes of the fir-tree, adding a textured touch.

add texture to the fir tree with triangles

6. How to Make a Winter Forest Scene

Step 1

Let’s place our trees in a row, duplicating some of them and varying the sizes to form a well-balanced composition. Add a long horizontal stripe with the Rounded Rectangle Tool at the bottom of the forest, forming the ground.

You can rearrange the trees, placing one object above the other by using the Control-[ and Control-] key combinations.

Select all the trees and head to the Align panel. From here, select Align to Key Object and click Vertical Align Bottom.

align the trees to key object

Now all the trees are aligned evenly to the ground! 

make a balanced composition

Step 2

Let’s add a light-beige rectangle for the background beneath the trees so that we’ll be able to make some white, snowy details. Recolor the horizontal ground to white and add a small white circle at the left side of the ground shape. Press Alt-Shift and drag the white circle to the right, making a copy. Press Control-D several times to create more copies, covering all the ground shape with circles.

add white circles for the ground

Step 3

Keeping the circles selected, Unite them in Pathfinder. Take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold Alt and drag the selection rectangle over the bottom half of the circled shape in order to delete it.

unite the circles in pathfinder

If you combine the circles with the ground stripe, it should look like this.

flat forest scene composition

Step 4

And now let’s add a few finishing details to the sky to fill the empty space of our composition. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to form a 50 x 15 px shape. Place a smaller shape on top, moving it to the left and thus forming a stylized cloud.

Make more clouds and distribute them at the top part of our illustration. Now it looks complete!

add clouds with rounded rectangle tool

Congratulations! Our Winter Forest Flat Illustration Is Finished!

Great job, everyone! Our flat-style winter forest scene is ready! We’ve added a tiny finishing touch here: snowflakes falling from the clouds to make the illustration look more detailed. I hope you've discovered some new tips and tricks that you can use in your future work.

flat forest scene composition

You can get the source file for this flat winter forest vector illustration to check out how it was made and see what other color schemes you can apply to it in order to make the image more diverse and to expand its field of use. Following this example, you can try recoloring the image, depicting various seasons of the year or different lighting, or showing day and night scenes.

Flat Style Forest
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