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How to Create a Side View Surfing Van in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a colorful surfing van using the most basic shapes and tools of Adobe Illustrator. 

If you would like to skip the tutorial and just purchase the result in different modifications and colors, just go to GraphicRiver to get my Travel Van Bus Collection.

Travel Van Bus Collection

1. How to Create a New Document

First we need to set up a New Document (File > New or Control/Command-N) with these settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 800
  • Height: 600
  • Units: pixels

From the Advanced Tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen
  • Preview Mode: Default
  • Uncheck Align New Objects to Pixel Grid
Setting up new document

2. How to Make the Base of the Surfing Van

Step 1

Let's start building the camper van's body from a 570 x 150 px red #D0342C rectangle made with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M). 

After creating the rectangle, pick the bottom right anchor point with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and press Enter to open the Move window. The Horizontal Position value should be set to 15 px and the Vertical value to 0 px. Our anchor is moving to the right.

Creating a base red shape for the body

Step 2

Create another 570 x 115 px rectangle with #FFD633 color and place it on top of our red part. Using the Direct Selection Tool, select the upper right anchor point. Press Enter to open the Move options window again, and set the Horizontal Position value to -50 px and Vertical position value to 0 px, moving the point to the left. 

Open the same window for the upper left anchor point. Set the Horizontal value to 30 px and vertical to 0 px, moving our corner to the right.

Making the yellow shape for the top van part

Step 3

Build one more rectangle with 490 x 25 px size, coloring it black or any other dark color. At the end we will recolor it to the same yellow as the base, but in this step it is better to make it stand out.

Using the previous method, move the upper right anchor point about 20 px to the left and the upper left anchor about 5 px.

Adding black shape for the roof

Step 4

Select one of the top corner anchor points of the black shape with the Direct Selection Tool. You can see the Live Corner widget shown inside the corner. Simply grab the widget and pull it until you get the right result. Dragging a widget makes the corner rounded. Repeat this action with another top anchor point.

Rounding the corner of the roof shape

3. How to Make the Sunroof and the Side and Rear Windows

Now we are going to work on our van's sunroof and windows. All of them will be placed on the middle of the yellow part of the van.

Step 1

Make a 205 x 85 px rectangle and fill it with #ABCFE7 color. Select this rectangle and the big yellow shape of the van, holding down Shift. Click again on the yellow object (you don't need to hold down Shift this time!). A blue outline appears around the yellow form. And Align to Key Object is automatically selected in the Control panel and Align panel.

In the Align panel (Window > Align) or Control panel, click on the Horizontal Align Right button and then on the Vertical Align Center button.

Making the window and placing it to the van yellow part

Step 2

Select the window that we added in the previous step with the Selection Tool (V) and press Enter to open the Move option window. Set the Horizontal Position value to -225 px and the Vertical position value to 0 px, and click on the Copy button. Now we have two similar rectangles. These are going to be our windscreen and the main side window.

Copying the window for creating the second one

Step 3

Build an 85 x 85 px square of the same light blue color. Select the square and the previously created window, while holding down Shift. Then click again on the big window (remember not to hold down Shift this time). Press Horizontal Align Right and Vertical Align Bottom on the Align panel. And then move the rectangle to the left by 225 px using the Move window. 

Then press Enter again and copy the square, moving it by 105 px to the left. It is going to be our rear window. You may notice that we have an equal distance between all windows, so our van will look neater. Besides, this will help us to create the doors of the van later.

Adding two squares for the side and rear windows

Step 4 

Create a copy (Control/Command-C > Control/Command-F) of the square that we created in the previous step, align it to the center of the big side window, and place it on the top of the van, making it overlap the black roof. It will be the sunroof.

Copying the square window and placing it to the top

Step 5

It's time to make the windows more detailed by adding outlines. Select all the windows with the Selection Tool (V) while holding Shift, and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter 4 px into the Offset value field. Set the Fill color of the outlines to #E3E3D4.

Adding outlines for the windows with Offset Path

Step 6

Let's cut off the parts of the windows that stand outside the base van shape. Select the overlapping windows and their outlines together with the base of the van. Then use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold down the Alt key, click and hold the left mouse button on a free area near the borders of the unwanted window part, drag along the outstanding part, and release the mouse to delete it. Repeat the action for all overlapping windows.

Cutting of the outstanding window parts with Shape Builder

4. How to Make the Wheels, Bumpers, and Side Step

Let's start working on the bottom part of the car.

Step 1

Create a 255 x 8 px rounded rectangle and fill it with #DAD8CC color. Align the rectangle to the middle of the central large window and the bottom of the red base by Align panel. It is the side step.

Create two 100 x 25 px rectangles of the same color, which we will align to the bottom edge and make extend about 10 px from each side of the van. These are the bumpers.

Then create a smaller rectangle, align it to the left and bottom edge of the front bumper, and send it backward using Object > Arrange > Send Backward. Select the overlapping corners of the bumpers with the Direct Selection Tool. Use the Live Corners widget to make the corners rounded by pulling the indicator to the center of the shape, setting the corner radius to about 10 px.

Creating narrow rectangles for the bumpers

Step 2

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an 105 x 105 px circle of #4D4B4A color for the wheel. Add two smaller circles inside: one 70 x 70 px circle of #dad8cc color and a 62 x 62 px circle without Fill but with 2 px stroke of #b2ba6 color.

Add more details for the wheel by making two more circles inside for the alloys: a lighter circle of 22 x 22 px radius and #f1eee5 color, and a darker circle of 32 x 32 px radius and #b2ba6 color behind the first one. 

Once you're done, select the wheel shapes and group (Control-G) them together. Make a copy of the wheel and place the wheels on the bus, moving their center points a few pixels higher than the bottom fringe of the van.

Making the wheels and placing them to the van

Step 3

To make our wheels look more real, we are going to make some dark parts behind the wheels and add circle rims around them. 

Create two 130 x 130 px circles ( #333130). Select the wheels, and go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front. Then align the black holes we have just created to the wheels with the help of the Align panel. Cut off the pieces of the holes that stand outside the base. Just select them together with the van's red shape and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), holding down the Alt button and clicking the parts we want to delete.

Make two 150 x 150 px circles without Fill color but with 2 px stroke (#8f1e18). Align them to the wheels and then cut off the outstanding parts, as we did with the holes in the previous step. Hide the rims behind the bumpers and side step.

Adding dark parts behind the wheels and the circle rims

5. How to Design the Side Stripe and Modify the Body of the Van

Step 1

Select all the windows and the yellow part of the van and group (Control/Command-G) them together. Place the group over all other parts with the help of Object > Arrange > Bring to Front.

Grouping yellow shape with the windows and placing them to front

Step 2

Select the yellow part of the bus with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and add two anchor points on its bottom fringe with the Add Anchor Point Tool (+). Hold and drag the right anchor to the right and down with the Direct Selection Tool (A), placing it on the red shape's border.

Changing the yellow shape with the help of the additional points

Step 3

Select another anchor point and pull the Live Corners widget indicator to the left and down, making the corner rounded.

Rounding the corner of the new yellow shape

Step 4

Give the shape we have just created an outline of 8 px by selecting it and using the Offset Path method. Exchange the Fill and Stroke color (Shift-X) of the outline.

Adding the outline to the yellow shape and making it stroked

Step 5

Keeping the stroke selected, go to Object > Expand, check the Stroke option, and uncheck the Fill option. Press OK and our stroke will transform to the filled shape. Select this stripe and the biggest red part of the van. Cut off the stripe section that stands outside the red part of the van with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

Expanding the stroke and cutting of the outstanding part

6. How to Create the Door, Side Mirror, and Small Details

Step 1

Let's make the side door. Select the middle window and go to Object > Path > Offset Path, setting the Offset value to 10 px. Switch the Fill color of the outline to None and the Stroke color to #e3b710 in the Color panel. Set the Stroke Weight to 2 px.

Creating the outline for the side window

Step 2

Click on the bottom side of the stroked rectangle with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then press Delete. Select both bottom points of the remaining figure and drag them to the bottom fringe of the yellow shape.

Deleting the bottom side of the stroke and aligning it to the yellow shape

Step 3

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) holding down Shift to make two straight vertical lines (#8f1e18). They go from the lower points, which we have dragged in the previous step, toward the top of the side step. 

Create a rounded rectangle (#87877d) for the door handle. Then add front and rear lights (#f99555) with the help of the Rectangle and Ellipse tools, placing the lights behind the van. 

Finishing the door with lines and creating the handle

Step 4

It's time to create a side mirror.

Selecting the Pen Tool (P), position it in the free area outside our car and click to define the first anchor point. Holding Shift, move the pointer a few pixels to the right and click again, finishing the first segment of the line. 

Then release Shift, move the Pen Tool down and to the right, and click again, creating an angled line. Set the Fill color of the line to None and the Stroke color to #52524c in the Color panel. Set the stroke weight to 6 px, and make the Caps of the line and the Corner rounded in the Stroke panel. It is going to be the mirror holder.

Add a small rounded vertical rectangle (#87877d) to the holder, group the objects, and place the mirror below the van's first window.

Put a narrow vertical rectangle (#87877d) across the window for the car's rubber strip.

Creating the side mirror and the rubber strip

Step 5

Add a small circle (#b82921) above the left wheel of the van for the fuel door. 

Now form the ventilation holes to the left of the fuel door. Start by making a narrow rectangle of 60 x 2 px size with rounded corners. Keeping the rectangle selected, press Enter, and in the Move window set the Vertical value to 6 px. Click the Copy button to duplicate the rectangle and press Control/Command-D several times to make six more copies.

Making the fuel door and forming the ventilation holes

Step 6

Now we are going to give our van a surfboard and work on the roof.

First make a 445 x 12 px rectangle, and then move both top anchor points of the rectangle 60 px to the center with the Move option. Select the whole shape and go to Effect > Warp > Arch. Check the Horizontal option and set the Bend value to 4%

Keeping the board shape selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance.

Making the surfboard main shape

We need to add a fin to finish the surfboard.

Create a 40 x 75 px red ellipse with Ellipse Tool (L). Create two perpendicular lines crossing the middle of the ellipse with the help of the Line Segment Tool (\) and select them together with the shape. 

Go to the Pathfinder panel and use the Divide function. The ellipse gets cut into four pieces. Delete three of them, leaving the top right part, and place our fin on the board.

Make the color of the fin a bit darker than the larger shape and hide it behind the main figure.

Adding the fin to finish the surfboard

Step 7

Add two narrow rectangles (#b2b2a6) for the surfboard holders, making them overlap the board shape, and place them behind it. Select and Group (Control/Command-G) all the shapes and place them on the van's roof. The bottom line of the holders should be placed on the same line as the top fringe of the yellow shape of the van.

Put a narrow vertical rectangle (#e3b710) over the top fringe of the yellow base for the decorative rim, hiding the lower part of the holders behind it. Then change the Fill color of the black roof to #ffd633 in the Color panel. We are almost done.

Placing the surfboard to the van and recoloring the roof

7. How to Add Shadows and Highlights to the Van

To look more vivid and real, the van needs more shadows and shiny parts.

Step 1

Let's start by adding reflections to the central window. Select it with the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then right-click and choose Isolate Selected Path from the drop-down menu. The isolated window appears in full color, while the rest of the artwork appears dimmed. Create three long vertical rectangles (#abcfe7) of different widths outside the window shape. 

Isolating the side window and making the rectangles for the reflection

Select all the rectangles and choose Object > Transform > Rotate. Set the Angle value to 45%, press OK, and drag the angled rectangles to our window. Cut off the outstanding pieces. Press Esc to exit isolation mode or, using the Selection Tool (V), double-click outside of the isolated group.

Create reflections for the other windows the same way. Don't forget to isolate them before making other manipulations.

Placing the rectangles to the window and cutting them off finishing other reflections

Step 2

Choose the side mirror and enter isolation mode. Create the angled line crossing the mirror, select all the objects (Control/Command-A), and choose the Divide option on the Pathfinder panel. Set the Fill color of the right piece to #52524c, making the shadow. Exit isolation mode.

Creating the shadow for the side mirror

Step 3 

Select the bottom red part of the van and enter isolation mode. Create a bigger rectangle that overlaps about half of the red shape and delete the outstanding part with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Exit isolation mode and set the Fill color of the shape we have just created to #b82921.

Adding the shadow to the red van shape

Step 4

Working the same way, add shadows to the side step, the bumpers, and the door handle. Make the bottom shadow, adding the dark rounded rectangle below and behind the wheels.

Creating the shadows for the bumpers and adding the ground shadow

Step 5

Choose one of the wheel tires with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and Copy it with Control/Command-C. Then click on the free area outside the van to remove the selection and paste the tire circle shape over the wheel, using Control/Command-F. Click Control/Command-F one more time to get the same circle on top of the first one.

Now we need to select the top anchor point of the circle with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and, holding Shift, drag it a few pixels down. Select both the circles we have just created and use the Minus Front option of the Pathfinder panel, getting the shadow. Fill the resulting shape with #454342 color.

Copy the shadow and place it over the second wheel, using the Align panel.

Creating the shadows for the wheels

Time to Travel!

Finally we have done it. Our van is ready to take us away to new places and adventures.

I hope you enjoyed creating this surfing van and learned some new tips and tricks, using the basic tools and shapes of Adobe Illustrator. 

The final result of our work

Now you can create your own vans of different styles and color. Experiment and have fun!

This surfing van is only part of my Travel Van Bus Collection, and there are far more travel and adventure illustrations in my portfolio!

Travel Van Bus Collection
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