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Design

How to Create a Scary Back Alley Scene in Adobe Illustrator

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

Welcome back to another Illustrator tutorial, in which we’re going to take a close look at the process of creating a scary scene. You'll see how easy it is to put it together using nothing more than a few geometric shapes and tools.

So assuming you already grabbed a fresh mug of coffee, let’s get started!

Also, don't forget you can always add new elements to the illustration by heading over to GraphicRiver, where you'll find a great selection of scary vector assets.

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 couple of layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one section of the illustration at a time.

That being said, bring up the Layers panel, and create a total of two layers, which we will rename as follows:

  • layer 1: background
  • layer 2: foreground
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 Main Background Shape

Now that we’ve finished layering our document, we can start working on the actual project, and we will do so by gradually building the background. That being said, make sure you’ve positioned yourself on the first layer, and let’s jump straight into it!

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create an 800 x 600 px rectangle, which we will color using #2A323D and then position in the center of the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.

creating the main background shape

4. How to Create the Brick Wall

With the main background shape in place, we can shift our focus over to the center of the Artboard, where we will create the visible section of the brick wall.

Step 1

Start by creating a 480 x 396 px rectangle, which we will color using #F76C5E and then center align to the underlying Artboard, positioning it at a distance of 78 px from its top edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the brick wall

Step 2

Adjust the upper section of the shape by individually selecting its two anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then pushing them to the inside by 200 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 200 px depending on which side you start with).

adjusting the shape of the brick wall

Step 3

Start adding the first row of bricks using sixteen 32 x 16 px rectangles with a 4 px thick Stroke (#DD4C45), which we will group using the Control-G keyboard shortcut and then center align to the bottom of the wall, making sure that their bottom outline falls outside of its surface.

creating the first row of bricks

Step 4

Create a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the row that we’ve just grouped, and then position it above, making sure to push it to the right by 16 px using either the directional arrow keys or the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > 16 px).

adding the second row of bricks

Step 5

Add the remaining bricks by selecting the two rows that we currently have and then dragging them to the top while holding down the Alt and Shift keys, making sure their outlines overlap as seen in the reference image. 

As soon as you have the first duplicates, add the remaining ones by pressing the Control-D keyboard shortcut until you've filled in the wall. Once you’re done, remove the extra top row and then select and group (Control-G) all the remaining ones together before moving on to the next step.

adding the remaining rows of bricks

Step 6

Next, we’re going to mask the rows that we’ve just grouped using a copy (Control-C) of the underlying wall, which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then, with both of them selected, simply right click > Make Clipping Mask.

masking the brick rows

Step 7

Take a couple of moments and enhance some of the bricks by double clicking on them to isolate them, and then opening up either their top or bottom paths as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, press the Escape key to exit Isolation Mode, and then select both the bricks and the wall and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

opening up the paths of some of the bricks

5. How to Create the Sidewalk

Now that we’ve finished working on the brick wall, we can move towards the bottom of the Artboard, where we will quickly build the sidewalk.

Step 1

Create the main shape for the projected light using a 560 x 48 px ellipse, which we will color using #F76C5E and then position below the wall as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the projected light

Step 2

Add the visible section of the sidewalk using a 560 x 24 px rectangle (#2A323D), which we will position on the upper half of the ellipse, making sure to select and group the two together afterwards using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

creating the main shape for the sidewalk

6. How to Create the Suspended Street Light

With the wall and sidewalk in place, we can now focus on the last piece of the background, which we will create one shape at a time.

Step 1

Create the vertical body of the post using an 8 x 48 px rounded rectangle (#2A323D) with a 4 px Corner Radius, which we will center align to the wall’s top edge as seen in the reference image.

creating the vertical section of the light post

Step 2

Add the horizontal segment holding the post to the wall using a 16 x 12 px rectangle (#2A323D), which we will position 8 px from the previous shape’s bottom edge.

creating the horizontal section of the light post

Step 3

Create the little side details using two 2 x 4 px rectangles, which we will color using #2A323D and then position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group the four shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the side segments to the base of the light post

Step 4

Add the light bulb using a 28 x 16 px ellipse, which we will color using #FFE7C5 and then position on the upper section of the stand so that its upper half goes outside of the wall’s surface.

creating the light bulb

Step 5

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by removing its upper half. You can do that by selecting its top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then pressing Delete, making sure to close the resulting path using the Control-J keyboard shortcut. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the light’s composing shapes together, doing the same for the entire background before locking the current layer and moving on to the next section of the illustration.

adjusting the shape of the light bulb

7. How to Create the Door Entrance

Now that we have our background in place, we can shift our focus over to the foreground, where we will continue working on our scene. So assuming you’ve positioned yourself on the second layer, let’s start working on the little door frame.

Step 1

Create the inner section of the room using a 120 x 278 px rectangle, which we will color using #2A323D and then center align to the upper edge of the sidewalk.

creating the inner visible section of the room

Step 2

Start working on the right section of the door frame by creating an 18 x 278 px rectangle (#FFE7C5), which we will position on the left side of the previous shape.

creating the main shape for the left section of the door frame

Step 3

Add the bottom decorative insertion using a 10 x 96 px rectangle (#2A323D), on top of which we will add a smaller 2 x 88 px one (#FFE7C5), which we will group (Control-G) and then position 4 px from the previous shape’s bottom edge.

adding the bottom decorative insertion to the right section of the door frame

Step 4

Create the upper insertion using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just grouped, which we will then position on the opposite side of the frame, making sure to maintain the same 4 px gap.

adding the top decorative insertion to the right section of the door frame

Step 5

Add the vertical detail lines using three 2 x 70 px rectangles (#2A323D) which we will horizontally stack 2 px from one another, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning them between the two decorative insertions.

adding the decorative lines to the right section of the door frame

Step 6

Finish off the current section of the frame by adding the hard shadow using an 18 x 8 px rectangle, which we will color using #2A323D and then align to the upper edge of the frame. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of its composing shapes together before moving on to the next step.

adding the hard shadow to the right section of the door frame

Step 7

Create the left section of the frame using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position on the opposite side of the entrance.

adding the left section of the door frame

Step 8

Start working on the upper section of the frame by creating a 172 x 18 px rectangle (#FFE7C5), which we will position on top of the entrance, as seen in the reference image.

creating the upper section of the door frame

Step 9

Add the round decorative elements using two 14 x 14 px circles (#FFE7C5), which we will position on the upper section of the frame, making sure to center align them to the frame’s side sections.

adding the circular decorative pieces to the upper section of the frame

Step 10

Create the decorative insertion using a 164 x 10 px rectangle (#2A323D), on top of which we will add a smaller 156 x 2 px one (#FFE7C5), grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two in the center of the frame’s top section.

adding the decorative insertion to the upper section of the frame

Step 11 

Add the main shape for the raised portion using a 108 x 12 px rectangle, which we will color using #FFE7C5 and then position as seen in the reference image.

adding the raised segment to the upper section of the door frame

Step 12

Create the side curvatures using two 12 x 12 px circles (#FFE7C5), which we will position on the sides of the previous shape and then adjust by selecting their top and outer anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then removing them by pressing Delete. Close the resulting paths using the Pen Tool (P), and once you’re done, move on to the next step.

adding the round side sections to the raised portion of the door frame

Step 13

Add the vertical insertion lines using thirteen 4 x 8 px rectangles (#2A323D) horizontally stacked 4 px from one another, grouping (Control-G) and then center aligning them to the bottom edge of the raised section. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure you select and group (Control-G) all of the current section's composing shapes together, doing the same for the entire door afterwards.

adding the vertical insertion lines to the raised segment of the door frame

8. How to Create the Doorbell

Once we’ve finished working on the entrance, we can move over to its right side and quickly create the little doorbell.

Step 1

Create the base of the bell using an 8 x 12 px rectangle, which we will color using #FFE7C5 and then position 14 px from the door frame’s right section and 16 px from its three vertical insertion lines.

creating and positioning the main shape for the doorbell

Step 2

Add the smaller side sections using two 2 x 8 px rectangles, which we will color using #FFE7C5 and then position as seen in the reference image.

adding the side sections to the doorbell

Step 3

Create the round endpoints using two 4 x 4 px circles (#FFE7C5), which we will position onto the doorbell’s center shape so that their inner halves overlap it.

adding the circular endpoints to the doorbell

Step 4

Finish off the doorbell by adding the little button using a 4 x 4 px circle, which we will color using #2A323D and then center align to the larger body. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of its composing shapes, before moving on to the next section of the illustration.

adding the circular button to the doorbell

9. How to Create the Scary Monster

As soon as we’ve finished working on the doorbell, we can shift our focus back to the entrance, where we will change the mood of the scene by adding the dark yet friendly presence.

Step 1

Start working on the mouth by creating a 56 x 8 px ellipse, which we will color using #F76C5E and then center align to the entrance, positioning it 84 px from its top edge.

creating the main shape for the mouth of the monster

Step 2

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by first selecting it and then pinching its left and right anchor points using the Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C).

adjusting the outer anchor points of the mouth

Step 3

Select the resulting shape’s top anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then push it to the bottom by 16 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > 16 px).

adjusting the shape of the mouth

Step 4

With the fill color set to #2A323D, draw the crooked teeth with the help of the Pen Tool (P), using the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done, select the resulting shape and the mouth and group the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

drawing the teeth

Step 5

Create the main shape for the right eye using a 10 x 10 px circle (#F76C5E), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its top and bottom anchor points to the right side by 1 px and its left and right ones to the bottom by another 1 px. Once you’re done, position the resulting shape above the mouth as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the right eye

Step 6

Add the iris using a 2 x 6 px ellipse (#2A323D), which we will center align to the resulting eye, making sure to position it 3 px from its right edge. Once you have the shape in place, select and group the two together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the iris to the right eye

Step 7

Create the left eye using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will vertically reflect (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical) and then position on the opposite side of the mouth. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the monster’s composing shapes, before moving on to the next section.

adding the left eye

10. How to Create the Ball

We are now down to the last section of our little composition, which will help us achieve that level of scariness that we want our illustration to portray. So, assuming you’ve finished working on the monster, shift your focus over to the bottom section of the entrance, and let’s wrap things up!

Step 1

Create the main shape of the ball using a 28 x 28 px circle, which we will color using #F76C5E and then align to the entrance’s bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the ball

Step 2

Add the little rings using four 32 x 16 px ellipses with a 2 px thick Stroke (#2A323D), which we will adjust by selecting and removing their top anchor points, vertically stacking the resulting shapes 4 px from one another. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all the rings together, doing the same for the entire ball afterwards.

adding the rings to the ball

Step 3

Create the main shape for the dripping blood using a 4 x 8 px rectangle (#F76C5E), which we will adjust by setting the Radius of its bottom corners to 2 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties, positioning the resulting shape on the sidewalk as seen in the reference image.

creating the main shape for the dripping blood

Step 4

Add the side sections using two 8 x 8 px circles (#F76C5E), which we will adjust by removing their bottom and outer anchor points, closing and positioning the resulting paths on the sides of the previous shapes as seen in the reference image. Make sure to select and group (Control-G) all three of them afterwards.

adding the side sections to the dripping blood

Step 5

Finish off the current section, and with it the project itself, by adding the projected shadow, which we will create using a 24 x 20 px ellipse (#2A323D). Position it on the lower section of the sidewalk, at a distance of 10 px from the projected light’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group all of the foreground’s composing shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, before hitting that save button.

finishing off the illustration

Great Job!

As always, I hope you had fun working on the project and most importantly managed to learn something new and useful along the way.

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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