In today’s tutorial, we’re going to explore the process of creating a
nice little summer illustration, using some of the most geometric shapes and
tools that Illustrator has to offer.
That being said, let’s
jump straight into it!
1. How to Set Up a New Project File
Since I’m hoping 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) for our project using the following settings:
- Number of Artboards: 1
- Width: 1200 px
- Height: 600 px
- Units: Pixels
And from the Advanced tab:
- Color Mode: RGB
- Raster Effects: Screen (72ppi)
- Preview Mode: Default
2. How to Set Up a Custom Grid
Even though today we’re not working on icons, we’ll still want to create the illustration using a pixel-perfect workflow, by setting up a nice little Grid so that we can have full control over our shapes.
Go to the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and adjust the following settings:
- Gridline every: 1 px
- Subdivisions: 1
Quick tip: you can learn more about grids by reading this in-depth piece on How Illustrator’s Grid System Works.
Once we’ve set up our custom grid, all we need to do in order to make sure our shapes look crisp is enable the Snap to Grid option found under the View menu (that’s if you're using an older version of Illustrator).
Now, if you’re new to the whole “pixel-perfect workflow”, I strongly recommend you go through my How to Create Pixel-Perfect Artwork tutorial, which will help you widen your technical skills in no time.
3. 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 several layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one section of the illustration at a time.
So bring up the Layers panel, and create a total of six layers, which we will rename as follows:
- layer 1: background
- layer 2: water
- layer 3: horizon details
- layer 4: clouds
- layer 5: circular highlight
- layer 6: texture
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 closed or open paths).
4. How to Create the Background
We’re going to kick off the project by creating the sunset background, so make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the first one), and then lock all the other layers so that we can get started.
Create a 480 x 480 px circle,
to which we will apply a subtle linear gradient, using
#EFFF56 for the left
#EF6B43 for the right one. Set the angle to 90º, center aligning the shape to the larger Artboard.
Start working on the sun’s glow, by creating a smaller 384
x 384 px circle (
#ED7743), which we will adjust by lowering its Opacity to 40%, center aligning the resulting shape to the background.
Add the second glow section using an even smaller 288 x 288 px circle (
#ED7743) with a 48% Opacity level, which we will center align to the one from the
Create the sun using a 192 x 192
px circle, which we will color using
#E87243 and then center align to the
previously created shape. Take your time, and once you’re done, select and group
all four shapes using the Control-G
keyboard shortcut, locking the current layer before moving on to the next step.
5. How to Create the Water Section
Assuming you’ve finished working on the background, make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the second one) and let’s start working on the illustration’s next section.
Create a 512 x 512 px rectangle
with a linear gradient (left color:
#6FA0CD; right color:
#7DDBCD; angle: 90º), which we will position over the
lower half of the background’s larger circle.
Quick tip: you might notice that we gave the rectangle a 16 px padding to its left, right and bottom sides in order to foolproof our design, since we’re going to mask it in the following step.
Mask the shape that we’ve just created, using a copy (Control-C) of the background, which we will paste onto the current layer (Control-F), by selecting both it and the copy and then right clicking > Make Clipping Mask.
Start working on the water’s outer reflection by creating a 240
x 32 px rounded rectangle (
#FFFFFF) with a 16 px Corner Radius, followed by a narrower 176 x 32 px one (
#FFFFFF), which we will vertically stack at a
distance of 32 px from one another,
positioning them 32 px from
the water’s top edge (since we’re going to be adding two new rectangles over
those empty spaces).
Start filling up the empty spaces created by the shapes from the
previous step, by creating a 192 x 32 px
#FFFFFF), which we will position onto the first gap, and a
smaller 128 x 32 px one (
which will go onto the second one.
Adjust the rectangles that we’ve just created by cutting out a 32 x 32 px circle (highlighted with red) from each of its side sections using Pathfinder’s Minus Front Shape Mode.
Add the final section using a 64 x 48 px rectangle (
we will position below the smaller rounded rectangle as seen in the reference
image. Once you have the shape in place, select and unite all of the
reflection’s composing shapes into a single larger shape using Pathfinder’s Unite Shape Mode.
Adjust the resulting shape by individually selecting each of its bottom-center corners using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then setting their Radius to 32 px with the help of the Live Corners tool. Repeat the same process for the square corners, using a smaller value (16 px) for their Radius.
Add the little side sections using two 48 x 32 px rounded rectangles (
#FFFFFF) with a 16 px Corner Radius, which we will position at a distance of 16 px from the reflection’s first and
second rounded sections.
Since we’ll want the larger reflection and side sections to act as a single larger shape, we’ll have to select them and then use Pathfinder to create a Compound Shape.
Once we’ve created our compound shape, we can apply a nice smooth white linear gradient, with a 20% Opacity for the left color stop and 60% for the right one, making sure to set the Angle to 90º.
Add the smaller reflection using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the larger one, which we will scale down using the Scale tool (right click > Transform > Scale > Uniform > 50%).
Position the resulting shape on the upper edge of the larger reflection, selecting and grouping (Control-G) all the shapes together before moving on to the next step.
6. How to Create the Horizon Details
Make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the third one) and let’s start adding a few details to the illustration’s center section.
Grab the Pen
Tool (P), and use it to draw the little island using
#C4583B as your main Fill color. Take your time, and once
you’re done, move on to the next step.
Give the island some depth by adding a couple
of darker sections using
#AA4531 as your Fill
color, making sure to select and group (Control-G) all its composing shapes afterwards.
Create the little cruise ship using a few rectangles (
#C4583B), which we will adjust by pushing some of their anchor
points to the inside. Take your time, and once you’re done, make sure to select
and group all of its composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Since the right section of the island will most likely go outside of the background’s surface, we’ll want to mask it using a copy (Control-C) of the larger circle, which we will paste (Control-F) onto the current layer (right click > Make Clipping Mask).
7. How to Create the Clouds Section
Assuming you’ve finished working on the previous section, jump on up to the next layer (that would be the fourth one), where we will quickly create the clouds.
Start working on the first set of clouds by creating an 80 x 16 px rounded rectangle (
with an 8 px Corner Radius, which we
will position at a distance of 56 px from
the background’s left edge and 102 px from
its top one.
Create another 80 x 16 px rounded
#FFFFFF) with an 8 px Corner
Radius, which we will position underneath, at a distance of 88 px from the background’s left edge and 16 px from the previous cloud
Create the inner segment using a smaller 32 x 16 px rectangle (
#FFFFFF) which we will adjust by cutting out
a 16 x 16 px circle from each of its
side sections using Pathfinder’s Minus Front Shape Mode.
Create smaller side segment using a 32
x 16 px rounded rectangle (
#FFFFFF) with an 8 px Corner Radius, which we will position at a distance of 16 px from the wider lower segment.
Once you’re done, select and group all four shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Create the second cloud group using the same process, but this time take a couple of moments and play a little with the segments’ length values, positioning the resulting shapes on the right side of the background.
Select both cloud groups and turn them into a larger Compound Shape, applying a white linear gradient with a 90º over them, using an 80% Opacity for the first color stop and 20% for the second one.
Finish off the current section by adding the plane trails using two 80 x 4 px rectangles (
#FFFFFF) with 2 px left corner Radius, which we will vertically stack 12 px from one another, applying a subtle linear gradient (60% Opacity for the left color stop; 10% Opacity for the right color stop)
8. How to Create the Circular Highlight
Make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the fifth one), and then quickly create the circular highlight.
Create a copy (Control-C) of
the background’s larger circle, which we will paste (Control-F) onto the current layer, and then adjust by first setting
its color to white (
#FFFFFF) and then removing a smaller 448 x 448 px circle (highlighted with red) from its center.
Finish off the highlight by setting the resulting shape’s Opacity to 30%.
9. How to Create the Texture
We are now down to our illustration’s last section, so assuming you’ve locked the previous layer and positioned yourself onto the next one (that would be the sixth one), let’s wrap things up!
Paste another copy (Control-F)
of the background’s larger circle onto the current layer, making sure to change
its color to black (
Select the circle and then apply a Grain texture over it, by going over to Effect > Photoshop Effects > Texture > Grain and setting its Intensity to 11, its Contrast to 100, and its Grain Type to Sprinkles.
Adjust the resulting texture by setting its Blending Mode to Soft Light and its Opacity to 20% from within the Transparency panel.
Finish off the illustration by selecting and masking its texture so that it will remain constrained to the background’s surface.
It’s a Wrap!
There you have it—a short and simple tutorial on how to create your very own summer illustration. I hope you’ve managed to keep up with each and every step, and learned something new during the process.