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How to Create a Retro Funfair Vector in Adobe Illustrator

This post is part of a series called Grease Movie Week.
How to Create a 50s Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Wanna have some fun in the amusement park? Then join me in this tutorial and create a retro-style flat funfair scene, inspired by the Grease movie! No special drawing skills are required here—we’ll be working with simple geometrical shapes and the Pathfinder operations of Adobe Illustrator. What is more, we’ll learn how to use the brushes and the Draw Inside mode in order to apply a grungy texture to the objects just in a few clicks. 

Have you seen the Grease movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John? Be sure to check it out if you like the 1950s. It has all sorts of things to create a proper retro atmosphere—clothes, hairdos, cars and music—everything you can imagine. For me, one of the most memorable moments of the movie is dancing at the funfair. So in this tutorial we’ll be creating a simplified and stylized version of this amusement park from the movie.

Feel free to browse the Funfair section of Envato Market to find out what the funfair elements look like and to gather some inspiration in case you want to make more objects in addition to those we’ll be making in this tutorial. You can also find some nice Vintage Funfair photo-references on PhotoDune that will give you a closer look. 

Let’s start!

1. Make a Fun Striped Pavilion


A large striped tent is one of the first elements that you think of when talking about retro funfairs. Let’s start building such pavilion from a triangle of 280 x 105 px, which we can make with the help of the Polygon Tool.

Then squash the shape with the Selection Tool (V) to make it flat.

make a triangle with polygon tool

Step 2

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and form the wall of the pavilion, attaching it to the triangle roof. And let’s align the wall to the roof, using the roof as the Key Object. Select both shapes, hold Alt and click the triangle roof. You will see a thick selection outline, indicating the Key Object. Now we can head to the Align panel and click Horizontal Align Center.

Great! Now that the base is ready, let’s add those stripes! Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 20 x 125 px narrow vertical stripe, filing it with pale red color.  

make the base of the tent

Step 3

Align the stripe to the left side of the wall, using the wall as the Key Object.

Copy the stripe and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Align the copy to the opposite side of the wall.

Select both stripes and go to Object > Blend > Make. Now we can change the settings to our liking in Object > Blend > Blend Options. Let’s set the Spacing to Specified Steps with 5 steps.

Go to Object > Expand Appearance to turn the Blend group into a set of separate stripes. Change the color of the wall to light yellow.

add stripes with blend tool

Step 4

And now let’s add some stripes to the roof as well. Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the roof, hold Alt and shrink the shape with the Selection Tool (V), making a narrow triangle. Fill it with red color.

Duplicate the created stripe, select its bottom anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and drag them to the left, so that the triangle is skewed and its top anchor point remains attached to the top of the roof.

Make another copy of the triangle stripe and move it further left.

Finally select the two copies that we’ve made and double-click the Reflect Tool (O) to open the options window. Flip the shapes over the Vertical Axis and click Copy to make the same stripes for the right side of the roof.

add stripes to the roof

Step 5

Apply slightly lighter colors to the roof elements in order to separate the roof from the wall. And let’s add some more details.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L), hold Shift and make an even circle, fitting it to the width of the central stripe. Use the Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) to make it easier to “stick” the shapes to each other.

Align the shapes horizontally.

add circle details to the tent

Step 6

Let’s add more circles! Now select the circle and hit the Enter key to open the Move options window. Set the Horizontal value equal to the width of the circle. In my case, it is 28 px. If we want to move the circle to the left, the value must be negative, so we need to set the Horizontal value to -28 px and click Copy.

add circle details to the tent 2

Step 7

Great! Now just press Control-D several times to repeat the last action, creating more circles.

And then repeat the same for the right half of the tent, moving the copy of the central circle 28 px to the right and repeating the action.

Alternate the colors of the circles, making them match the colors of the stripes on the roof.

add circle details to the tent 3

Step 8

If you notice that some of the circles don’t fit the stripes, just move them left or right a bit or use the Selection Tool (V) to make the circles wider or narrower, squashing or extending the shapes.

adjust the shapes with the selection tool

Step 9

Now let’s delete the unneeded pieces. Select the side circles together with the roof and arm yourself with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold Alt and click the pieces that you want to delete.

Finally, Group (Control-G) all the circles and place them beneath the roof (Control-[), making them a bit darker. Don’t forget to group the elements of the roof as well to make your work more organized and neat.

use the shape builder tool to delete elements

Step 10

Add a dark-brown triangle for the entrance, placing it in the center of the wall.

Add a dark-brown triangle for the entrance

Step 11

Finally, let’s add a semi-transparent flat-style shadow. Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the pavilion and, keeping the copy selected, Unite it in the Pathfinder, creating a flat silhouette.

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to make a vertical line and Align it to the center of the silhouette.

Keeping both shapes selected, Divide them in Pathfinder, splitting the silhouette into two equal halves.

Finally, delete the left half and switch the right one to Multiply Blending Mode, darkening the pavilion.

And that’s it! Our striped pavilion is ready! Now we can move on to the next element of our fancy funfair.

create a shadow in multiply mode

2. Draw Fancy Vintage Carousels

Let’s make a couple of carousels for our retro amusement park. 

Step 1

Let’s make the top part of our carousel from a 175 x 35 px rectangle of turquoise color. Select the bottom left anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and hit Enter to open the Move options window. Set the Horizontal value to 10 px in order to move the point to the right. Click OK.

Repeat the same for the bottom right anchor point, but this time set the Horizontal value to -10 px, moving the point to the left.

make the top part of our carousel from rectangle

Step 2

Now duplicate (Control-C > Control-V) the shape. Take the Selection Tool (V), grab the upper side of the shape and drag it down, turning the shape upside down. Make it a bit smaller and fill with light-yellow color.

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Move function to move the bottom anchor points closer to each other.

make the bottom of the carousel

Step 3

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a column, fitting the bottom of the yellow shape (in my case the column is about 50 x 75 px). Add darker vertical stripes to the column in the same way as we did it with the wall of the striped pavilion.

Add a lighter stripe to the turquoise top of the carousel, and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to delete the unneeded pieces outside the carousel.

add a striped column

Step 4

Now let’s add stylized seats or cabins that will be spinning around the carousel. Make a 15 x 15 px circle and pick the pale-red color from the tent, using the Eyedropper Tool (I).

Select the created circle, hold Alt and drag the circle to the side, creating a couple of copies. Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to connect the cabins to the carousel.

make the circle cabins

Add more cabins and connect them to the carousel. Place the circles on top (Shift-Control-]), so that the strings are hidden beneath the cabins.

make the circle cabins 2

Step 5

Let’s add a gentle shadow to the carousel. Select the basic parts (without the cabins) and duplicate them. Unite the elements of the copy in Pathfinder, creating a merged silhouette. Draw a vertical line across the silhouette and Align it to the center of the carousel.

Finally, Divide the line and the silhouette in Pathfinder, delete the left half, and switch the remaining part to Multiply mode.

That’s it! Let’s make another carousel.

add a flat shadow to the carousel

Step 6

For our next carousel, let’s use the triangle top of the striped tent and the column with cabins from the carousel that we’ve just made. Remove the stripes from the roof and fill it with a pale purple color.

prepare the elements

Step 7

Let’s adjust the roof a bit. Make a copy and move it up a bit. Select both shapes and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), holding Alt, to delete the pieces outside the roof. Make the top of the roof light purple-blue.

add details to the roof

Step 8

Now let’s replace the circle cabins with seats of a different shape. Grab the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a small bean-shaped seat. If you want the lines to be smoother while drawing, double-click the Pencil Tool (N) and move the Fidelity slider all the way to the right.

Make more copies of the seat and arrange them around the column. Make some of the seats smaller and fill them with lighter red color, creating distance between the objects.

draw  a seat with pencil tool

Step 9

Finally, extend the column and make it taller by selecting its bottom anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and dragging them down. Add another stripe to the roof. Finish up by adding a semi-transparent shadow to the right half of the object, making it look complete.

make the carousel taller and add a shadow

3. Make a Colorful Ferris Wheel

Step 1

We’ll start by making the most detailed part of the big wheel: the cabin. Make a light-turquoise rectangle of 20 x 15 px size. 

Use the Live Corners feature to make the corners of the cabin rounded. To do this, switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pull a tiny circle marker closer to the center. If you’re working in earlier versions of Adobe Illustrator, you can use Effect > Stylize > Round Corners instead, which gives the same result.

Duplicate the shape and make the copy smaller, filling it with light-blue color, depicting the glass.

Keeping the glass selected, take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold Alt and drag over the bottom half of the shape to erase it.

make a rounded cabin of ferris wheel

Step 2

Make two vertical stripes of a lighter blue color and rotate them 45 degrees by holding Shift and using the Selection Tool (V).

Place the stripes above the window and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to delete the unneeded pieces.

Finally, add a 2 x 12 px stripe in the center of the window to divide it into two halves.

Place a darker-turquoise circle at the top of the cabin (Shift-Control-[).

make a rounded cabin of ferris wheel 2

Step 3

Now let’s form the wheel. Make a 270 x 270 px circle with grey Stroke and no Fill (you can set the Fill to none in the Color panel).

Place a 205 x 205 px circle inside the first one. Continue by adding colorful details in the center, consisting of two circles. Take the Scissors Tool (C) and click the side anchor points of the red circle to split it apart. Make the bottom part a bit darker.

make a ferris wheel from circles

Step 4

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to make a vertical spoke of 270 px height (equal to the height of the bigger circle). Double-click the Rotate Tool (R) and set the Angle value to 36 degrees. Click Copy and press Control-D several times, adding more spokes.

Now that we have enough spokes, place the cabins at the tips of each spoke.

add spokes with line segment tool

Step 5

Recolor some of the cabins, making the wheel look more colorful and festive. And, finally, add the base to the wheel by making a 175 x 230 px triangle with 6 pt Stroke and no Fill. Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the wheel.

recolor the cabins and add a footing

4. Create Additional Elements

Step 1

Funfairs are known for having a lot of exciting attractions and entertainment, such as shooting galleries, competitions, bumper car rides and so on.

Let’s create one of them, and later you can actually make more of those, using the created base. We’ll be making a shooting gallery shack. 

Start by making a striped green-white roof. You can check Part 2 (Step 3 and onwards) of Create a Colorful Cartoon Hot-Dog Van in Adobe Illustrator tutorial to see how to make exactly the same shape of the canopy.

Make a 270 x 150 px brown rectangle and Send it to Back (Shift-Control-[), beneath the canopy. Make a smaller and darker rectangle for the inside of the shack.

And, finally, create the targets of the shooting gallery. Make a 65 x 65 px circle of light-yellow color and add smaller circles inside with 5 px red Stroke and no Fill.

make a shooting gallery

Step 2

And now let’s make some plants and trees that will help us to create a nice green scene.

Start with the crown of the tree by making a 45 x 45 px circle. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a narrow 3 x 55 px stripe for the tree trunk. Make the top of the trunk slightly rounded, using the Live Corners feature.

Now take the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a rounded bubbled shape for the cartoon bush. Use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) and hold Alt to erase the bottom part of the bush to make it a straight horizontal edge.

make plants and trees with basic shapes and pencil tool

5. Create a Retro Funfair Composition

Step 1

Now let’s combine all the elements into a scene, making a balanced composition. Set the size of your Artboard to 900 x 500 px with the help of the Artboard Tool (Shift-O). Make a light-blue rectangle of the same size for the sky and a smaller 900 x 70 px green rectangle for the ground.

Use the Align panel to place the shapes properly, using the Align to Artboard and Align to Key Object features.

Place the created elements of the funfair next to each other, making some of them overlap. You may need to scale the objects, making some of them larger and others smaller. 

start making a composition

Step 2

Fill up the spaces between the objects with the trees and bushes that we made earlier. Make some of them smaller and others larger. Vary the colors of the tree crowns and bushes from light green to dark green to separate them from each other, adding depth to the image.

Fill up the spaces between the objects with the trees and bushes

Step 3

Use the elements that we’ve made for the bushes to add the fluffy clouds. Speckle the clouds over the sky and recolor them into white and light-blue colors, varying the sizes.

Our composition already looks finished, and you can actually stop at this step if you want to end up with clean and simple flat design.

However, if you want to add more of a retro touch to our image, go on to the next part and learn how to add texture to the objects.

add the clouds

6. Add a Grungy Texture Using Brushes

Step 1

Let’s use our purple carousel as an example. Duplicate its triangle roof and drag it to the very top of the carousel group in the Layers panel. 

Head to the Tools panel and find the Draw Inside button beneath the Fill and Stroke colors. You will see dotted corners around the selected object, indicating that you will draw inside this shape as you would inside a Clipping Mask.

use teh draw inside mode

Step 2

Now let’s select a nice grungy brush from the Adobe Illustrator library. Open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and go to Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Select the Chalk brush on top of the list, take the Paintbrush Tool (B) and make a few strokes at the bottom of the triangle roof.

Now let’s turn our brushstrokes into shapes so that we can adjust them. Select the created strokes and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Fill the shapes with a very light-purple color and switch to Multiply Blending Mode, creating a gentle grungy effect and adding a shabby touch to the carousel.

use the chalk brush from the library

Step 3

Use the same Chalk brush or any other grungy brushes to your liking to add a gentle shabby effect to the other objects as well.

add grungy effect to the objects

You’re All Done! Our Retro Funfair Is Finished!

Great job! We’ve created a nice flat-style funfair composition, inspired by the Grease movie! We were using the basic shapes and simple Pathfinder operations and even added a grungy retro touch using the built-in Adobe Illustrator brushes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and discovered some new tips and tricks, which will help you to create more retro-style flat images, such as a carnival scenery or vintage circus and so on.

If you want to take a closer look at the illustration that we were making in this tutorial and you want to have the night version of it, feel free to get a Retro Funfair Flat Style Illustration at GraphicRiver.

Have fun and don’t forget to share your result! Good luck!

retro funfair flat illustration grease movie
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