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How to Create a Vector Dream Catcher with Brushes in Adobe Illustrator

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Read Time: 9 mins

Recently while browsing Crafttuts+, I came across a tutorial on creating a Hoop Inspiration Board. I thought it was pretty cool and stored it in the back of my mind for things I'd love to create. Who'd have thought it would inspire a vector tutorial! In today's tutorial I'm going to show you how to create your own vector dream catcher in Adobe Illustrator using brushes!


I often like to learn new things myself via tutorials and experiment with different styles and techniques. However one of the weak points I have is the use of color, or at least I feel it is my weak point. So for this tutorial, I'm going to play with Blending Modes and Colorization Methods which alter the color of the elements of the illustration.

If you're in a similar color rut as I am, I encourage you to try out different ways to create palettes. If not, there are a variety of libraries available, from using the default libraries of Adobe Illustrator (accessible via the Swatches panel) or via sites such as Adobe kuler. If you're following along with this tutorial, try using your own colors in place of the ones I'm using, so you can experiment yourself with how the Blending Modes and Colorization Methods work. As it's vector, you can always go back and modify these elements... as long as you've not deleted them of course!

Step 1

Let's start by creating a feather art brush. I want a bit of a stylized brush in comparison to my more detailed feather brush or Mike Austin's Blend based brush. Start off with a flat Ellipse (L) and then using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the top and bottom points and shift them to the side to create a flat edge. Then select the more pointed end and bring that a bit closer to the center.

Step 2

Go to Object > Transform > Rotate and rotate by 90 degrees. Duplicate the shape three times as I'm going to create three different feather brushes to add variety to my design. Draw a line along the center of the brush with the Line Segment Tool (\). Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw little triangles around the edge of the shape, for gaps in the feather. Then select all of these triangles and create a Compound Path (Ctrl + 8). Use this path with the rounded feather shape and use Pathfinder > Minus Front.

Repeat this process with the other two feather shapes. The line down the center will act as a guide so you know around the top and bottom of the brush in which direction your triangles should be pointing. Hide the center line for now.

Step 3

So let's duplicate our feather shapes twice and give them different shades.

Then use the Align panel to centralize the shapes so the lightest is on the bottom, then the darkest, then the mid tone.

Step 4

Reduce the overall size of the mid tone shape using the Free Transform Tool (E) and then center align it vertically and then make it flush with the top of the feather.

Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to then elongate the lightest shape underneath so it just peaks out of the bottom of the group of three.

Step 5

To make the feather a bit more stylized, I'm going to give the feathers straight sharp lines. To do this, Select All (Ctrl + A) of your shapes and then go to Object > Path > Simplify and tick the box Straight Lines. Change the Angle Threshold to 0 degrees and then click on OK.

Step 6

Group each set of feather shapes (Ctrl + G) and then duplicate them. Go to Path finder > Unite to create an overall shape of each group.

Step 7

Make the center line visible and lay them on top of the overall shapes of the feather. Lock the groups of the three shapes for now.

Then use Pathfinder > Divide to split the overall shape in half.

Set one side of the feather to Blending Mode Screen and the other half to Multiply. Both Opacities should be set to 50%.

Step 8

Draw a line down the center of the feathers with the Line Segment Tool (\). In the Appearance panel, apply a 10pt Stroke Weight with Width Profile 4. Then Duplicate Item and reduce the Stroke Weight to 5pt. Change the Blending Mode to Screen and Opacity to 50%. Group together all the elements for each feather when you're done (Ctrl + G).

Step 9

Select one feather and click on New Brush in the Brushes panel. In the pop up box, select Art Brush and then use the options below. Repeat this for all of your brushes.

Step 10

I'm going to create a wrapped thread brush for around the rings of the dream catcher. Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw a short horizontal line. Then with the Direct Selection Tool (A) hold Alt + drag to duplicate one line, then Ctrl + D to duplicate the action until you've got a small stack. Give it a 2pt Stroke Weight with Round Caps.

Step 11

Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to alter the length of some of the lines. Then one by one, alter the color slightly. Some maybe darker or lighter than the original.

Duplicate the lines and change the Stroke Weight to 1pt. Set the Blending Mode to Screen and reduce the Opacity to 70%.

Step 12

Group together the lines (Ctrl + G) and rotate it by 90 degrees. Then create a New Pattern Brush with the options below.

Step 13

Let's now create a quick bead to be places around the dream catcher. Draw an even circle with the Ellipse Tool (L) and then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the top and bottom points and nudge them towards the center. You should be left with a squashed circled.

Step 14

Duplicate the squashed circle twice. Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to create a smaller, slimmer oval. The larger shape should be have Opacity 0% and underneath the smaller shape, which should be at 100% Opacity. Select both shapes together and create a Blend (Ctrl + Alt + B) with 10 Specified Steps. Set this to Blending Mode Screen.

Step 15

Duplicate the overall bead shape and create a slight inner glow effect, using the settings below in the Appearance panel with Align Stroke Inside.

Step 16

Duplicate the shape again and set this to Blending Mode Color, Opacity 100%. This will help you adjust the overall color of the bead to whatever color you wish.

Step 17

So let's start constructing our dream catcher! Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to draw a series of even circles. Create one large circle and some smaller circles underneath which will be suspended from the large circle. Try to consider physics and balance the circles as accurate as you can... of course sometimes this isn't possible and we'll just put that down to artistic license right?

Once drawn, apply your thread wrapping Pattern Brush to the circles.

Step 18

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw vertical lines through the center of the smaller circles. Use this as a guide for where you need to place the beads. These need to be where the cords would connect to the main circle and on the top and bottom of the smaller circles.

Add several beads around the rim of the circles for further decoration.

Step 19

Let's create a detailed thread weave in the center of the circles. Draw a slim Ellipse (L) from the center of the main circle to the edge. Then with the Direct Selection Tool (A), move the side points towards the bottom of the shape. Select the top point and Convert selected anchor point to corner. This will create a teardrop shape.

Step 20

With the shape still selected, got to Effects > Distort & Transform > Transform. We're going to rotate the shape from the bottom of the shape. I want to have a shape every 30 degrees, therefore I'll need 360/30 = 12, minus the 1 original shape, 11 copies. Click on OK once done.

Duplicate the teardrop spiral for each of the dream catcher circles.

Step 21

I want the threads of the weave to look more taught around the edges as they've been pulled and knotted together. To do this, select all of the spiral patterns and go to Effects > Distort & Transform > Pucker & Bloat. We'll want to Pucker the teardrops slightly to create a straight line effect around the outer edge of the spirals.

If you've gotten a corner effect in the teardrop from the effect, simply use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move the corner up or down, in line with the other corners.

Step 22

Apply your thread wrapping Pattern Brush to the spirals. I've needed to lower the Stroke Weight to 0.25pt so you can see some of the detailing in the smaller circles.

Then use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw vertical lines from the top and at the bottom connecting the three circles to the main circle. Apply the Pattern Brush to these also.

Step 23

Use the Paintbrush Tool (B) to draw clusters of feathers to be hung from some of the larger beads and smaller circles.

Unhappy with the outcome of the color of the feathers, I double clicked on each feather brush and altered the Colorization Method to Hue Shift.

Step 24

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to connect the feathers to the beads.

Then add a smaller bead on top of the thread and feather to tidy it up.

Step 25

Duplicate some of the beads and scatter them across the weaves within the circles, as well as on the threads which hang from the top and bottom of the main circle.

Step 26

Still unhappy with the final outcome, I've selected all of the elements of the dream catcher and went to Recolor Artwork. Click on Edit and you can alter each of the colors. Initially I've used Link Harmony Colors so the contrast remained and so I didn't have to alter each color individually. I've opted for a more natural set of colors, with greens and browns/reds.

After clicking Unlink Harmony Colors, I've then changed the light blue/green to a brown to make it more natural. Click on OK once done.


Your dream catcher will now be finished! Try experimenting with the Transform effect to create different weaves and perhaps different color combinations. Until next time, I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and sweet dreams!

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