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How to Create a Saudi City Landmark in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn to create the famous Kingdom Centre landmark of Saudi Arabia, using basic Adobe Illustrator functions, geometric shapes, and simple tools.

The Kingdom Centre in Riyadh is the tallest skyscraper in the world below 50 floors, and is the world's third tallest building with an "unusual hole", just after the Shanghai World Financial Center and Tuntex Sky Tower.

By the end of this tutorial you will be able to create a fun and simple landmark illustration, and you'll acquire some useful shortcuts and techniques to create a whole set of icons for any city you want!

Feel free to visit Envato Market, which has plenty of city landmark designs on display for purchase, and you could also sell your very own.

Let’s start building!

1. Sketch & Create a New Project

Step 1

First, search online for photo references of "Kingdom Centre" to understand the skyscraper's architecture, so you can roughly put a concept sketch together.

Sketch, scan and save as JPG.

sketch three saudi landmarks icons kingdom centre mount arafat al faisaliyah tower sketch skyscrapers icons miss chatz

Step 2

Launch Adobe Illustrator.

File > New (Control-N) to open a New Document, and set the dimensions:

Name: "Kingdom_Centre_Saudi_Arabia".

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 600 px
  • Height: 600 px
  • Units: Pixels
  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: High (300 ppi)
adobe illustrator new documnet set up dimensions 600 px pixels rgb highppi

Step 3

Place in the sketch, using the Place shortcut (Command-Shift-P), and click onto the artboard.

Open the Layers panel, Window > Layers.

Double-click the layer or click on the sub-menu of the Layers panel, and:

  1. Name: Sketch
  2. Select Lock
  3. Dim Images to: 20%
  4. OK
adobe illustrator new layer options sketch lock dim images

Create New Layer, on top of the 'Sketch', and name it 'Artwork'. File > Save (Command-S), and save your Illustrator file.

2. Create the Line Work

Step 1

First let's start by putting in the line work.

Open the Stroke panel: Window > Stroke. Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool, from the Tools panel (found in the Rectangle Tool drop-down menu). Click and drag to draw the outer border of our icon.

A shortcut to capture the right corner radius is to press the Up Arrow for rounder corners or Down Arrow for more edge. Release once you get the right curvature.

adobe illustrator rounded rectangle tool up arrow down 9pt stroke no fill icon linework

Step 2

Next take the Rectangle Tool (M), and draw a square over the rounded rectangle, to where the base of the icon is.

adobe illlutsrator rectangle tool rounded M 9pt stroke no fill icon

Step 3

Open Window > Pathfinder. Select both shapes, and then from the Pathfinder panel, select Shape Modes: Intersect

This will use the area of the top rectangle to clip the rounded rectangle as a mask would, and create our icon border.

ounded rectangle tool M intersect pathfinder clip mask objects

Step 4

Next, with the Rectangle Tool (M) and with a black Stroke of 6 pt and Fill to null, draw the skyscraper's outline border.

Then with the Ellipse Tool (L), draw the moon ellipses, and two ellipses that will intersect the top of the skyscraper. This will allow us to trim in the Kingdom Centre's "U-Hole".

adobe illustrator ellipse tool vector crescent tower hole  u hole ellpses crop trom kingdome centre

Step 5

Select both moon ellipses. In the Pathfinder panel, and select Shape Modes: Minus Front. Repeat the same action for the "U-hole" ellipses. Object > Compound Path > Make, to turn it into compound shapes.

dobe illustrator ellipse tool vector crescent tower hole  pathfinder intersect

Step 6

Select the tower 'U-crescent' and the skyscraper rectangular border, Pathfinder > Pathfinders > Divide.

Ungroup the objects: Object > Ungroup (Command-Shift-G). Then select the two excess "horn shaped" objects, with the Selection Tool (V), and Delete.

dobe illustrator pathfinders divide compound object ungroup path

Step 7

Now let's create the skybridge.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L), and draw an ellipse to "cut off" the bridge. Select both shapes and in Pathfinder select Shape Modes: Minus Front.


Step 8

Moving forward, we need to create an artbrush to mold the palm trees.

Choose the Ellipse Tool (L) with black Fill and Stroke to null. Draw two horizontal ellipses like the image below. Select the two, and then Intersect from the Pathfinder panel, and choose Shape Modes: Intersect.

adobe illustrator ellipse tool L intersect pathfinder option artbrush

Step 9

Open Window > Brushes, so we can load our custom artbrush. Drag and drop the artbrush shape into the Brushes panel. The Art Brush Options dialog box will pop up. Select Art Brush, and OK. The custom palm art brush is now created. 

Delete it from the artboard, since it's saved into our Brushes panel.

adobe illustrator create custom artbrush ok art brush option stretch to fit stroke length fixed width

Step 10

Let's create the palm trees.

Select the Paintbrush Tool (B), and the custom brush uploaded into the Brushes panel, and start to draw strokes from one side, so we can mirror them later.

Tip: Use different stroke weights.

adobe illustrator paintbrush tool custom artbrush palm trees kingdom center

Step 11

Select the strokes of one of the palms: Object > Expand.

Then unite the expanded shapes into one compound shape by selecting Shape Modes: Unite, from the Pathfinder panel.

object expand shape brushes untie compund shape palm trees pathfinder panel

Step 12

Let us mirror our palm head. First duplicate the selected shape.

  1. Copy (Command-C).
  2. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  3. Select the Reflect Tool (O) (hidden under the Rotate Tool (R)).
  4. Set the center reference point in the middle of the palm; Option-Shift-Drag and release to mirror into position.

Afterwards, select both ends and Unite from the Shape Modes in the Pathfinder panel to create a single compound shape.

adobe illustrator reflect tool palm trees artbrush unite compound shape Kingdom Centre skyscraper illustration icon

Step 13

Repeat Step 7 for the other set of palm trees, and then move on to create the tree trunks.

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) (Black Fill, and no Stroke). Freehand draw a vertical trunk for each palm. Choose Shape Modes: Unite from the Pathfinder panel, to unite the trunk with the head of the palm tree.

3. Add the Smaller Details

Step 1

Now to illustrate our tower windows.

The skyscraper has plenty, but we just need to mimic the appearance, so we will use basic rectangular forms and a lot of repetition.

Take the Rectangle Tool (M), and draw a rectangular window at the base. To copy, select the shape, and hold down the Alt key and drag across. Command-D is the shortcut to Repeat the last action.

Once you have copied the window in a row across, group the bunch together. Group (G). Then copy vertically, by again holding down the Alt key and dragging upwards. Use Command-D as the shortcut to Repeat the last action.

dobe illustrator skyscraper kingdom center repeat copy paste duplicate action

Step 2

Note: The top of the Kingdom Centre has a smaller set of windows. So take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a set of parallel windows. Duplicate across and along the top, as we did in Step 1.

adobe illustrator action repeat duplicate windows tower skyscraper

Step 3

Next we need to crop the "U-hole" to cut the top window set out.

Select the top window set with the Selection Tool (V), and then choose Shape Modes: Unite from the Pathfinder panel.

Then from the Pathfinder panel drop-down menu, select Make Compound Shape, and click Expand, so our window set is a single compound shape.

adobe illustrator compound shape path untie building windows to maintain hole appearance

Step 4

To crop out the "U-hole", follow these steps: 

  1. Select the skyscraper's outer border lining.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  4. Select the top window set and the skyscraper border.
  5. Shape Modes: Intersect from the Pathfinder panel.

Voila, your windows are cropped, and we maintain the "U-hole" appearance!

adobe illustrator copy paste in front shape modes intersect pathfinders panel shape windows Kingdom centre

Step 5

Move on to design the cloud background.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L), and draw some spheres to form a cloud effect in the background. Then, select all the ellipses, with the Selection Tool (V). Shape Modes: Unite from the Pathfinder panel.

adobe illustrator tutorial ellipse tool create clouds building background

Step 6

Now to crop the cloud shape to fit the icon background, follow these steps: 

  1. Select the icon's thick rounded border.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  4. Select the cloud path and the icon border.
  5. Shape Modes: Intersect from the Pathfinder panel.

Don't forget to Save: File > Save (Command-S).

adobe illustrator copy paste intersect cloud background

Step 7

Once we are done with building the main shapes, move on to layering the elements.

To move an object to the top or bottom position, select the object and choose Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Command-]) or Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[).

To move objects by just one step to the back or to the front, select the object and choose Object > Arrange > Send Backward (Command-[) or Object > Arrange > Bring Forward (Command‑]).

So move each object according to its proper layer alignment.

adobe illustrator arrange move to front back backwards forward shortcuts kingdom centre

4. Add Color

Step 1

To give the building and the icon's background some color, we need to duplicate their shapes: So select each, then:

  1. Copy (Command-C).
  2. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  3. Give the building base #299CBC color and the background sky #1C3B72.
  4. Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), so we can keep our icon fill layer in the background.

Step 2

For the other elements:

  • Clouds: #2458A3
  • Moon & 'U-hole': #FAD631
  • Building Base: #299CBC
  • Skybridge: #F99E32
  • Palm Trees: #59D353 and #398C34
adobe illustrator tutorial send to back forward copy paste in front layering Kingdom Cener

Step 3

Move on to coloring the windows.

To color a group, use the Selection Tool (V), and for single shape color fills, use the Direct Selection Tool (A). Vary the colors of the windows, between dark and light blue tones:

  • Window 1: #294B87
  • Window 2: #5AD7FF
  • Window 3: #16325B

Also add some white windows (#FFFFFF).

adobe illustrator cc tutorial window direct selection tool shortcut coloring fill kingdome centre

Step 4

Move and scale the palm trees to look aesthetically correct in the scene. Color Fill one palm in a dark blue shade #10294C, to create a tree silhouette in the background.

Next, create a border around the other three palms. Select the three, and Object > Path > Offset path:

  • Offset: 4 px
  • Joins: Miter
  • Miter Limit: 4
  • Have Preview checked so you can see the offset correctly.
  • OK.

You will not notice that the offset is underneath our original shape. Give the offset a black Fill to see the border more clearly.

adobe illustrator object path offset palm trees icon kingdom centre preview joins miter limit

Step 5

Now let's create the skybridge strip.

Draw an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L), with a 10 pt Stroke and no Fill

Object > Expand the stroke. The Expand dialog box will open. Make sure Stroke is selected so the ellipse stroke is expanded.

adobe illustrator objects expand stroke ellipse to make compound shape

Step 6

Next, cut out the arc inside the sky-bridge:

  1. Select the ellipse shape and the sky-bridge fill shape.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  4. Shape Modes: Intersect from the Pathfinder panel.
  5. Delete the excess shape of the ellipse.

Step 7

Now let's create the base of the icon by drawing a rectangle along the bottom, with the Rectangle Tool (M). That's easy.

adobe illustrator rectangle tool base icon kingdom centre

Step 8

The moon border looks too sharp, so from the Stroke panel, select Cap: Round Cap and Corner: Round Join, to round it off.

adobe illustrator stroke tool moon scale crescent fill round cap round join

Step 9

Next, expand all the strokes in the illustration, to give them a single color. So select all objects with a black stroke, and then Object > Expand, and select Fill and Stroke from the Expand dialog box, and OK.

adobe illustrator object expand strokes illustration kingdom centre

Object > Ungroup, so we can separate the fills from the expanded strokes. With all expanded strokes selected, give them a dark blue color: #10294C.

adobe illustrator select same fill color give dark shade blue icon outline

5. Add Some Effects

Let's add some effects to our icon, to make it more vibrant.

Step 1

Create a light horizon on the bottom of the icon to make the colors pop.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a horizontal ellipse at the base, and give it a light blue Fill color: #3891E8.

  1. Select the ellipse and the cloud shape.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
adobe illustrator cloud horizon ellipse pop colo kingdom centre

Step 2

  1. Shape Modes: Intersect from the Pathfinder panel
  2. Delete the excess shape of the ellipse.
  3. Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Command-[), until the horizon shape is in the right layer.
adobe illustrator kingdom centre background pathfinder intersect cloud shape arrange send to back

Step 3

Next let's add some effects of cast shadow and light.

With a black Stroke and no Fill, use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a vertical ellipse, so we can create the building's shaded area.

adobe illustrator ellipse tool shaded area intersect pathfinders panel
  1. Select the ellipse and the building color fill.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  4. Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel.
  5. Delete the ellipse.
adobe illustrator copy paste shapes minus front to create cast shadow skyscraper kingdom centre

Step 4

Let's give our new shape a Blending Mode.

Open Window > Transparency. In the Transparency panel, choose Multiply Blending Mode from the pop‑up menu. This will create our cast shadow.

Object > Arrange > Send To Back (Shift-Command-[), until it's layered properly.

adobe illustrator copy paste shapes minus front to create cast shadow skyscraper kingdom centre transparency cast shadow

Step 5

Follow the same steps with the "U-hole" of the building.

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a vertical ellipse along the side of the "U-hole":

  1. Select the ellipse and the "U" yellow color fill.
  2. Copy (Command-C).
  3. Paste in Front (Command-F).
  4. Intersect from the Pathfinder panel
  5. Give it an orange color: #F99E32

Delete the ellipse.

adobe illustrator intersect arc bridge skyscraper kingdom centre illustration

Step 6

Next, highlight the left edge of the building, as if the moonlight is hitting it. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a thin vertical rectangle along the edge of the skyscraper. Object > Arrange > Send To Back (Shift-Command-[), until it's in the proper layer.

adobe illustrator rectangle border egde light cast moon skyscraper kingdom centre

Step 7

The moon's border is hitting the edge of the building, so to adjust it, select the moon fill and border shape, hold Shift down to constrain proportions, and scale down slightly so it's away from the white border edge.

adobe illustrator moon fill and border scale shift hold

Step 8

For the final touches, let's add some stars to the night sky and sparkles to the building.

To mimic the stars, take the Ellipse Tool (L), with a white Fill and Stroke null, and draw tiny circles around the background sky.

Repeat the same technique but with a lighter blue fill.

adobe illustrator ellipse starlight background kingdom centre  mimic starlight

Step 9

Finally let's add some sparkle.

Select the Star tool from the Tools panel. Click once on the artboard to open the Star dialog box and make the settings:

  • Radius 1: 14px
  • Radius 2: 2px
  • Points: 4

Draw a few white and light yellow stars. Delete the "Sketch" layer.

dobe illustratoe star tool 4 point star sparkle

Congratulations! You Have Built a Skyscraper!

Putting the skyscraper together was fun. The cool thing about this kind of artwork is that you can create it quite easily— it just requires some time. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.

Feel free to leave your version of the skyscraper in the forum section or share your city landmarks with us.

Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

kingdom centre icon landmark illustration by miss chatz tutorial illustration city icon artwork art
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