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Design

How to Create a Scary Cellar Illustration 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 learn how to put together a scary cellar scene, using some basic geometric shapes and tools that you probably already work with on a daily basis.

Oh, and don't forget you can always expand the composition by heading over to GraphicRiver where you'll find a great selection of vector assets.

So, assuming you already have the software up and running, grab a quick sip of that fresh coffee and let’s get started!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

As always, we’re going to kick things off by setting up a new project file by heading over to File > New (or using the Control-N keyboard shortcut), and then adjusting it 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
how to set 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 three layers, which we will rename as follows:

  • layer 1: background
  • layer 2: floor
  • layer 3: trap door
how to set 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 Background

As soon as we’ve layered our document, we can start working on the actual illustration, and we will do so by creating the background. That being said, make sure you’ve positioned yourself onto the first layer and let’s jump straight into it!

Step 1

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create an 800 x 600 px rectangle, which we will color using #21353A and then position to the center of the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.

creating and positioning the main background shape

Step 2

Once we have the background in place, we can lock the current layer and then move on to the next one (that would be the second one), where we will focus on the second part of our composition.

locking the background layer

4. How to Create the Floor

Assuming you’ve already positioned yourself onto the second layer, let’s continue working on our composition by creating the floor section.

Step 1 

Create the main shape for the lighted section of the floor using a 480 x 320 px rectangle which we will color using #FFB85A, and then center align to the Artboard’s bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the lighted floor

Step 2

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created by individually selecting its bottom anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then pushing them to the inside by a distance of 128 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 128 px depending on which side you start with).

adjusting the shape for the lighted floor

Step 3

Continue adjusting the shape by adding a new anchor point to the center of its top edge using the Add Anchor Point Tool (+), which we will then push to the outside by 160 px (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > -160 px).

adjusting the upper section of the lighted floor

Step 4

Give the upper section of the resulting shape a curvature by converting its top anchor to smooth using the Convert selected anchor points to smooth tool, and then repositioning its handles at a distance of 184 px from its center as seen in the reference image.

adjusting the curvature of the lighted floor

Step 5

Create a copy (Control-C) of the shape that we’ve just finished adjusting, which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then turn into a linear gradient with a 90º Angle. Use #F75443 for both of its color stops, lowering the Opacity of its left one to 0% and its right one to 60%. Once you’re done, make sure to select and group both the gradient and the floor’s main shape together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut before moving on to the next one.

adding the gradient to the floor

Step 6

Next, we’re going to start adding the floor lines which will help build the perspective, and we will do so by creating the center line using an 8 x 600 px rectangle (#21353A), which we will center align to the larger Artboard.

creating and positioning the center floor line

Step 7

Add the remaining lines using four copies (Control-C > Control-F four times) of the one that we’ve just created, which we will then individually adjust by repositioning their bottom anchor points 184 px from one another as seen in the reference image (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 184 px depending on which side you start with). Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all five of them together before moving on to the next step.

adding the remaining floor lines

Step 8

Give the resulting lines a set of highlights by creating a copy (Control-C) of them which we will paste in back (Control-B). Then adjust them by setting their color to #FFCD5C and then individually increasing their Width by 4 px on each side. Once you’re done, don’t forget to select both the highlights and ground lines and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the highlights to the floor lines

Step 9

Grab the Pen Tool (P), and quickly draw the little cracks into the floor, coloring the darker shapes using #21353A and their highlights using #FFCD5C. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure you select and group all of them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the cracks to the floor

Step 10

Since we want the floor lines and the cracks to remain confined to the lighted surface, we’re going to mask them using a copy (Control-C) of the larger underlying shape, which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then, with both the desired shapes and the copy selected, simply right click > Make Clipping Mask.

masking the details of the floor

Quick tip: for the moment, we’re going to be moving on to the next section, but we’ll be adding a few more cracks and some highlights once we’ve finished working on the cellar’s entrance.

5. How to Create the Cellar Entrance

Since we’re pretty much done working on the floor, we can lock its layer and move on up to the next one (that would be the third one) where we will start working on the center piece of our composition.

Step 1

Create the main shape for the cellar’s entrance using a 244 x 128 px rectangle (#21353A), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the inside by 40 px (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 40 px depending on which side you start with). As soon as you’re done, center align the resulting shape to the underlying Artboard, positioning it 120 px from the floor’s top edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the cellar entrance

Step 2 

Start working on the support beam by creating the main shape for its upper section using a 244 x 36 px rectangle, which we will color using #AA5D3F and then position on top of the previous shape as seen in the reference image.

creating the upper support beam

Step 3

Add the hinges using two 16 x 8 px rectangles (#21353A) stacked on top of an 8 x 16 px rectangle (#21353A), which we will individually group (Control-G) and then position 84 px from one another, making sure to align them to the top edge of the beam.

adding the hinges to the top support beam

Step 4

As we did with the floor, we’re going to take a couple of moments and draw in the little cracks (#21353A), highlights (#D67C50), and top shadow (#21353A), making sure to select and group all of them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut. Take your time, and once you’re done, don’t forget to select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes before moving on to the next one.

adding details to the top support beam

Step 5

Create the vertical support beams using two 24 x 92 px rectangles, which we will color using #844438 and then position on the sides of the top one as seen in the reference image.

adding the side support beams

Step 6

Give the shapes that we’ve just created some details by drawing in the little cracks (#21353A), highlights (#AA5D3F), and shadows (#21353A), making sure to select and group (Control-G) all of them together, doing the same for each beam afterwards.

adding details to the vertical support beams

Step 7

Select and group (Control-G) all three support beams together, masking them afterwards using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the underlying shape (desired shapes selected > right click > Make Clipping Mask). Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the cellar entrance’s composing shapes together before moving on to the next step.

masking the cellar entrance

Step 8

Create the trap door using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the cellar entrance’s main shape, which we will adjust by first changing its color to #FFA95C and then vertically reflecting (right click > Transform > Reflect > Vertical) and positioning it above as seen in the reference image.

creating and positioning the main shape for the trap door

Step 9

Add the door’s upper section using a 244 x 12 px rectangle (#844438), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the inside by 12 px (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > +/- 12 px depending on which side you start with), positioning the resulting shape on top of the previously created shape.

adding the upper section to the trap door

Step 10

Create the top highlight using a 244 x 2 px rectangle, which we will color using #FFCD5C and then center align to the door’s top edge, making sure to mask it afterwards.

adding the subtle highlight to the upper section of the trap door

Step 11

Next, grab the Pen Tool (P) and quickly add some details to the lower section of the door by drawing the cracks (#21353A) and subtle highlights (#21353A), using the reference image as your main guide. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure you select and group all of the resulting shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding details to the lower section of the trap door

Step 12

Start working on the occult symbol by creating the outer circle using a 72 x 72 px circle with a 4 px thick Stroke (#21353A), which we will horizontally center align to the larger door, positioning it 28 px from its top edge.

creating the outer circle for the occult symbol

Step 13

Following the reference image as your main guide, draw the downward-facing pentagram using a 4 px thick Stroke (#21353A), making sure that its anchor points overlap the path of the larger circle. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) the two together before moving on to the next step.

drawing the pentagram

Step 14

Since we want the symbol to look hand-drawn, we’re going to apply a subtle roughen effect to its composing shapes, by heading over to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and setting the Size to 1 px (Absolute) and the Detail to 15 / in, making sure to set the Points to Corner.

applying a roughen effect to the occult symbol

Step 15

Next, we’re going to be adding to the darkness of the scene by drawing the blood splatter using one of Illustrator’s default brushes called Ink Splatter, which can be found within the Brushes panel’s Library under Artistic > Artistic Ink. Once you have it selected, simply switch over to the Paintbrush Tool (B) and, with the Stroke color set to #C63E2C, click anywhere on the trap door in order to create the splatter.

drawing the blood splatter

Step 16

Since we want to be able to edit the splatter, we’re going to expand it by heading over to Object > Expand Appearance, which will turn our brush stroke into a set of objects. This is the tricky part since, in order to set the splatter’s Opacity to 100%, you’ll have to isolate the resulting shapes by double-clicking on them, and then select the outer rectangular frame (which is invisible) and remove it by pressing Delete. Then you should be able to set the Opacity level to the upper limit and resize and position the splatter as seen in the reference image. Also, since we’re done working on the trap door, you can select and group (Control-G) all its composing shapes before moving on to the next step.

adjusting the blood splatter

Step 17

Since we’re pretty much done working on the cellar entrance, we can go back to the second layer, and add the subtle horizontal highlight using a 244 x 4 px rectangle (#FFCD5C) followed by a few cracks (#21353A) and smaller highlights (#FFCD5C), which we will position inside the Clipping Mask that we’ve created for the other details.

adding the final cracks and highlights to the floor

6. How to Create the Spooky Eyes

Position yourself back on the third and last layer, and let’s finish the composition by adding the spooky staring eyes.

Step 1

Start by creating the main shapes for the center pair of eyes using two 8 x 8 px circles (#F2673D), on top of which we will add a smaller 4 x 4 px one (#21353A), individually grouping (Control-G) and positioning them on the cellar’s entrance as seen in the reference image.

creating and positioning the center eyes

Step 2

Change the expression of the eyes that we’ve just created by positioning an 8 x 6 px rectangle (#21353A) onto each and one of them, which we will adjust by selecting their outer bottom anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then pushing them to the top by 6 px using either the directional arrow keys or the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > -4 px). Once you’re done, select the resulting shapes and the eyes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adjusting the expression of the center eyes

Step 3

Finish off the project by adding the side pairs of eyes using two copies (Control-C > Control-F twice) of the ones that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the trap door’s composing sections before finally hitting that save button.

adding the remaining eyes

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.

That being said, 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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