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How to Create a Spooky Eyeball with Veins in Adobe Illustrator

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Read Time: 7 mins
This post is part of a series called Halloween and Day of the Dead Vector Design.
Create an Easy, Retro Pumpkin Card in Adobe Illustrator

Here you'll learn how to create an eyeball with veins in Adobe Illustrator, a classic item for Halloween. At first we will make the plain eyeball which is made from ellipses then we'll continue with the veins having different widths. For this, the Pencil Tool and a build-in Art Brush will come into help. The iris is an important part of the eye but creating one can be tricky. We'll use the Pucker & Bloat, Transform and Roughen effects along with an Art Brush and Blending modes. Finally, with the help of the Free Distort effect we will position the iris properly to complete the eyeball.

1. Start a New Project

Launch Illustrator and go to File > New to open a black document. Type a name and set up the dimensions then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode. Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1px. These settings will help you throughout the drawing process.


2. Create the Plain Eyeball

Step 1

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw the first ellipse having the dimensions shown. Fill it with a Radial gradient using 10%, 20% black and white.


Step 2

Copy and Paste in Back (Control-B) the first ellipse then go to Object > Transform > Scale, type 101% in the Scale field and hit OK. Replace the existing gradient with the one from below and set the angle to 50 Degrees. I will name this shape the "back-circle" and we will use it again later.


Step 3

Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) the first ellipse again and use the gradient shown to fill it. Set it to Blending Mode Color.


Step 4

Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a path on the lower left side of the eyeball like below. Stroke it with a white blend Art Brush and increase the Stroke Weight to 12pt. Reduce the Opacity to 35%.

I've explained how to create this white blend Art Brush in another tutorial of mine. Just that instead of 200 x 5px this one has the dimensions 100 x 3px.


3. Create the Veins on the Eyeball

Step 1

Grab the Pencil Tool (N) and draw some paths randomly over the eyeball like in the image below. Stroke them with an Art Brush called "Tapered – Sharp" that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_Ink. They don't have to be of the same width therefore double click in the Appearance panel on the stroke applied to open the Stroke Options window. There, type a smaller value in the Width field and also check Flip Along if necessary. The tip of the brush should be towards the inside. In this case, the red veins have a Width value of 30% and the green veins of 20%.


Step 2

Starting from the main veins created at the previous step, draw with the Pencil Tool (N) a few ramifications (the blue veins). Continue with smaller veins mainly on the right side of the eyeball.


Step 3

Now, you need to turn the strokes into fills. Select all veins and from the Object menu choose Expand Appearance then Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) twice. Fill the veins (except the blue ramifications) with the linear gradient shown and adjust the angle according to the position of each vein. The tip of the vein should be white and the base red. Fill the ramifications with the other gradient and again you need to adjust the angle for each one. The tip white and the base red not vice versa like in the close-up.


Step 4

Select the five ramifications, Group (Control-G) them and set the group to Blending Mode Multiply. You don't need to crop them because they don't cross over the edge of the eyeball. Select the rest of the veins and Group (Control-G) them also. Now, Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) the "back-circle", delete the existing gradient and bring it in front of everything by going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). Select this copy and the group of veins and press Crop in the Pathfinder panel. Set the resulting cropped veins to Multiply.


Step 5

Next, select a few main veins and Copy and Paste them in Front (Control-F). Keep the existing gradient but set the Blending Mode to Color Burn. This will make them stand out more.


4. Create the Iris

Step 1

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a circle having the dimensions shown. Fill it with the radial gradient shown.


Step 2

Draw another circle as the pupil and select black as the fill color. With this circle selected, go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points to add some extra points. Add a second Fill underneath then go to Effect > Distort & Transform and apply the Pucker & Bloat and Transform effects. Set this Fill attribute to 75% Opacity.


Step 3

Duplicate the second Fill by clicking on the Duplicate Selected Item icon at the bottom of the Appearance panel. Keep the existing appearances but double click on the Transform effect to open the Transform Effect window again. Set the values as indicated and hit OK.


Step 4

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw an ellipse above the pupil then go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points twice to add some extra points. Stroke it with an Art Brush called "Chalk" that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Set the stroke color and weight as indicated.


Step 5

Still having the ellipse selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform and apply the Pucker & Bloat effect. Next, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and apply the settings shown. Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 6

Draw a new circle then go to Object > Path > Add Anchor Points twice to add some extra points. Stroke it with the Chalk Art Brush and set the Stroke Weight to 0.25 pt. Apply the Pucker & Bloat effect then set it to Blending Mode Color Dodge and 45% Opacity.


This is the setting for the Pucker & Bloat effect:


Step 7

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw two shapes like in the next image. Fill them with the linear gradient shown and set to Blending Mode Screen.


Step 8

Next, draw two small circles. Fill the bigger circle with the first gradient and the smaller circle with the second. Set them to Blending Mode Screen.


Step 9

With the Pen Tool (P) draw a shape like below under the pupil. Fill it with a radial gradient from black to white then set to Blending Mode Multiply and 80% Opacity.


5. Finalize the Eyeball

Step 1

First, select all the shapes that have an effect or a brush applied and choose Expand Appearance from the Object menu. Group (Control-G) all the shapes that make up the iris and scale it about 200%.


Step 2

Move the iris above the eyeball then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort. Move the corner points from the right as in the image to flatten a little the right side of the iris. The distortion depends on the position of the iris. If you move the iris in a different place you need to change the Free Distort effect also. When you are happy with the result select Expand Appearance.


Step 3

The final step is the shadow. Draw two ellipses like below and send them behind everything by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Control-[). Fill them both with black but reduce the Opacity for the bigger ellipse to 0%. Having the ellipses selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 50 Specified Steps. Go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B). Lower the opacity as much as you want.


6. Create Various Eyeballs

You can multiply this eyeball and create many others. You can also flip or rotate the eyeballs. For the iris you have three options to use: Recolor Artwork, Adjust Color Balance (Edit > Edit Colors) or simply change the colors and gradients yourself. About the Adjust Color Balance option I've already talked in the Starfish Tutorial.


Boo! You're Done.

These eyeballs are fun to create and I hope that you've enjoyed this quick tip. I would love to see your creation.

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