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Design

How to Create a Simple Spider Web Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a simple spider web illustration in Adobe Illustrator. You'll start by creating the group of paths that will make up your spider web, using three paths and a basic blend, along with some Transform and Warp effects. Next, using the Appearance and Stroke panels and some basic blending techniques, you will add color and subtle highlights for your paths. Moving on, you will learn how to add a dark, subtly textured background and how to easily use a built-in symbol. Finally, you'll learn how to add a few more subtle details and how to darken your entire illustration.

1. Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the Width box and 540 in the Height box, then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72 ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 10 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 10 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid: it will make your work easier. Keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Don't forget to set the unit of measurement to Pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

setup grid

2. Create the Group of Black Paths

Step 1

Pick the Pen Tool (P) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the fill, then select the stroke and set its color at black (R=0 G=0 B=0.) Move to your artboard and simply create a 150 px vertical path. The Snap to Grid option should make this easier.

create black paths

Step 2

Make sure that your black path is selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Set the Angle at 30 degrees, enter 11 in the Copies box, check the middle, bottom reference point, and then click the OK button.

create black paths

Step 3

Reselect your vertical path and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting group of paths stays selected and go to Object > Transform > Rotate. Set the Angle at 15 degrees and then click the OK button. Move to the Layers panel, open the existing layer, make sure that the your group is still selected, and hit the Shift-Control-G keyboard shortcut twice to Ungroup it. You will end up with a column of twelve simple paths.

create black paths

3. Create the Group of Blue Paths

Step 1

Return to your Toolbar and replace the existing stroke color with R=39 G=170 B=225. Focus on the top side of your black paths and grab the Pen Tool (P). Create a 80 px horizontal path and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Once again, the Snap to Grid option will make things easier. Using the same tool, create a 20 px horizontal path and place it exactly as shown in the second image.

create blue paths

Step 2

Disable Snap to Grid (Control-") and enable the Smart Guides (Control-U). Focus on your top blue path and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor point, hold the Shift button from your keyboard and simply drag that point to the right until you get the "intersect" smart guide. This smart guide lets you know that your selected anchor point intersects with the black path that lies underneath. Move to the right anchor point, select it, and drag it to the left until you get that same "intersect" smart guide. In the end your entire path should match the second image.

create blue paths

Step 3

Focus on your bottom blue shape and make sure that the Direct Selection Tool (A) is still active. Once again, use that "intersect" smart guide to squeeze your path as shown in the second image.

create blue paths

Step 4

Select both blue paths and go to Effect > Warp > Arc Lower. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

create blue paths

Step 5

Focus on your Toolbar and click on the Blend Tool to open the Blend Options window. Select Specified Steps from the Spacing drop-down menu, enter 3 in that white box, and click OK. Reselect the two blue paths and hit Alt-Control-B (or go to Object > Blend > Make) to create a simple blend.

create blue paths

Step 6

Disable the Smart Guides (Control-U) and enable the Snap to Grid (Control-"). Focus on your Toolbar and replace the existing stroke color with a random red. Using the Pen Tool (P), create a 150 px vertical path and place it as shown in the following image. Select this new path along with the existing blend and simply Group them (Control-G).

create blue paths

Step 7

Make sure that the group with the red and blue paths is selected and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Again, set the Angle at 30 degrees, enter 11 in the Copies box, check the middle bottom reference point and then click OK

create blue paths

Step 8

Make sure that your group with red and blue paths is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group, and Ungroup it (Shift-Control-G). This time you will have to hit this keyboard shortcut four times. Return to your artboard, select one of your red paths, and go to Select > Same > Stroke Color which will select the rest of the same with similar stroke color. Now that all your red paths are selected simply hit the Delete button from your keyboard to get rid of them.

create blue paths

4. Create the Background

Step 1

Focus on your Toolbar, remove the color from the stroke, and then select the fill and set the color at R=114 G=102 B=88. Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), and click on your artboard to open the Rectangle window. Enter 620 in the Width box and 560 in the Height box and click OK. Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and send it to the back (Shift-Control-[ ). Move to the Layers panel, double-click on the name of this new path, and rename it "Background".

Next, you will need to center your "Background" shape, so open the Align panel (Window > Align). Set the aligning to Artboard (open the fly out menu and go to Show Options if you can't see the Align To section as shown in the following image), make sure that your shape is selected, and then simply click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons. In the end your rectangle should cover the entire artboard.

create background

Step 2

Making sure that your "Background" shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Focus on this new fill, set the color at black, and click on the Opacity piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel. Change the Blending Mode to Multiply, lower the Opacity to 10% and return to the Appearance panel. Make sure that your black fill is still selected and go to Effect > Artistic > Film Grain. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

Once you're done, move to the Layers panel and lock your "Background" shape to make sure that you don't accidentally select/move it.

create background

Step 3

Focus on your Toolbar and replace the existing fill color with white (R=255 G=255 B=255). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 250 x 560 px rectangle and place it as shown in the first image. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on the top side of this new rectangle. Select the left anchor point and drag it 190 px down, as shown in the second image. Make sure that this white shape stays selected, lower its Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Move to the Layers panel, lock the white shape made in this step and simply drag it in the bottom of the panel, right above your "Background".

create background

Step 4

Focus on your Toolbar and replace the existing fill color with a black. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 620 x 190 px rectangle and place it as shown in the first image. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on the right side of this new rectangle. Select the bottom anchor point and drag it 250 px to the left as shown in the second image. Making sure that this black shape stays selected, lower its Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Move to the Layers panel, lock the black shape made in this step, and drag it to the bottom of the panel, right above your "Background".

create background

5. Add Transparent Strokes for Your Group of Paths

Step 1

Using the same Select > Same > Stroke Color option we used earlier, select all your black paths and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the stroke, replace the existing color with white, lower its Opacity to 15%, and click on Stroke to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Increase the Weight to 2 px and select Width Profile 2 from the Profile drop-down menu.

add transparent strokes

Step 2

Make sure that the set of paths edited in the previous step are still selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing stroke and duplicate it using the Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the newly added stroke, increase its Opacity to 30% and decrease the Weight to 1 px. Once your're done, simply hit the Control-G keyboard shortcut to Group all these paths.

add transparent strokes

Step 3

Using that same Select > Same > Stroke Color option, select all your blue paths and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the stroke, replace the existing color with white, lower its Opacity to 20%, and then open the Stroke fly-out panel. Focus on the Profile drop-down menu and select Width Profile 1.

add transparent strokes

Step 4

Make sure that the set of paths edited in the previous step are still selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the newly added stroke and decrease its Weight to 0.5 px. Once you're done, Group all the paths edited in this step (Control-G).

add transparent strokes

6. Distort Your Spider Web and Add Subtle Shading and Highlights

Step 1

Select the two groups of paths that make up your spider web and Group them (Control-G). Move to the Layers panel and rename this new group "spiderWeb". Make sure that this group stays selected and go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and go to Effect > Warp > Fish. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and click OK.

distort shading highlights

Step 2

Make sure that your "spiderWeb" group is still selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

distort shading highlights

Step 3

Reselect your "spiderWeb" group and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this new group and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing Drop Shadow effect and simply remove it using the Delete Selected Item button.

Make sure that your group copy is still selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance and then open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click the Unite button. Fill the resulting shape with a random orange and make sure that it doesn't have a color set for the stroke.

distort shading highlights

Step 4

Make sure that your orange shape is selected, open the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient), and click on the gradient thumbnail to replace the existing fill color with the default black-to-white linear gradient.

Keep focusing on your Gradient panel, set the angle at 45 degrees, and then move to the gradient colors. Select the left slider and make sure that the color is set at white. Then select the right slider, set the color at white, and lower its Opacity to 0%. Keep in mind that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage. Make sure that this shape stays selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill, lower its Opacity to 50% and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -0.5 px Offset and click OK.

distort shading highlights

7. Add a Vertical Spider Web and the Spider

Step 1

Using the Pen Tool (P), create a 190 px vertical path and place it as shown in the following image. Make sure that this new path stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Add a 2 px white stroke and make sure that there's no color set for the fill.

spider

Step 2

Make sure that your vertical path is still selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing stroke, lower its Opacity to 15% then open the Stroke fly‑out panel and select Width Profile 2 from the Profile drop-down menu.

spider

Step 3

Make sure that your vertical path stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button. Select the newly added stroke, increase its Opacity 30% and decrease the Weight to 1 px.

spider

Step 4

Make sure that your vertical path stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the bottom stroke and duplicate it using that same Duplicate Selected Item button.

Keep focusing on the Appearance panel and select the bottom 2 px stroke. Replace the existing color with black, lower its Opacity to 10% and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image (make sure that you check the top left reference point), click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 1 px Radius and click OK.

spider

Step 5

Disable the Snap to Grid (Control-") and open the Symbols panel (Window > Symbols). Open the fly-out menu of this panel, go to Open Symbol Library > Nature, and a new window with a bunch of symbols will open. Select the one called "Taratula" and simply drag it on your artboard. Rotate and resize this symbol then place it roughly as shown in the following image.

spider

Step 6

Make sure that your "Tarantula" symbol stays selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the top left window (in the following image), click OK, and add the other four Drop Shadow effects shown in the following image.

spider

8. Add Several Subtle Details and Darken Your Illustration

Step 1

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and click on your artboard to open the Ellipse window. Enter 4 in the Width box and 2 in the Height box, and then click the OK button. Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Set the fill color at white, lower its Opacity to 40%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.

details darken

Step 2

Multiply the tiny, squeezed circle made in the previous step (Control-C, Control-F) and spread the copies across your spider web roughly as shown in the following image.

details darken

Step 3

Enable the Snap to Grid option (Control-"). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a new 620 x 560 px rectangle and center it using the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons from the Align panel.

Select this new shape and fill it with the radial gradient shown below. Use the Gradient Tool (G) to stretch your gradient as shown in the following image, and don't forget that the yellow zero from the Gradient image stands for Opacity percentage. Make sure that the rectangle made in this step stays selected, and focus on the Appearance panel. Simply select the existing fill, lower its Opacity to 70% and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.

details darken

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

final result
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