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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Vector
Design

How to Create a Trio of Succulents in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:LongLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Beautiful, easy, and low maintenance—it is no wonder that succulents have become a fad recently. Their beautiful aesthetics play an essential decorating element in interior designs and make for an awesome Instagram post.

Do you know how to propagate succulents? It’s quite simple. Tear one leaf, dry it for a few days, and then just put it into a pot of potting soil. That's it! You’ll get tiny roots that will grow down into the pot, and tiny leaves will grow up towards the sky. With a bit of patience, you’ll get a new succulent!

Today, we will draw a few of these wonderful creatures of nature. During this tutorial, besides the cool succulent names, you’ll also learn how to use basic shapes to create them. 

By the end of the tutorial, you will know how to use the Rectangle and Ellipse Tools, Smart Guides, and Bulge effect. You will also see how to do a simple manipulation with anchor points and learn to use different commands on the Pathfinder panel, such as Intersect, Unite, Crop, etc. Last but not least, you’ll definitely learn how to use the Clipping Mask. 

Feel free to browse GraphicRiver to find beautiful succulents and be inspired.

Enough with the introductions, and let’s get started!

1. Draw the Flower Pot

Step 1

After opening your Adobe Illustrator, create a new document 850 x 850 px Width and Height. We will start by drawing a flower pot. 

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), make a light gray rectangle and modify it with the Bulge effect. Go to Effect > Warp > Bulge. In the new window, enter the options shown in the image below. Expand the object: Object > Expand Appearance.

creating the flower pot base

Step 2

In order to move the objects with more precision, we need to enable the Smart Guides. So let’s go to View > Smart Guides (Control-U).

Draw two ellipses using the Ellipse Tool (L): one on the bottom and a second one on the top of the flower pot shape. Select the bottom ellipse and the flower pot shape, and unite them by pressing the Unite button on the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). 

Create another ellipse under the top one (Control-C, Control-B), stretch it down just a bit, and change the fill color to white. While keeping the top ellipse selected (not the white copy), go to Object > Path > Offset Path, enter -4, and change the color to dark gray. Also, take a look at the left and right sides of the ellipses—if they are too sharp, make them smoother by stretching out their handles.

creating the flower pot base 2

Step 3

Let’s make our flower pot more three-dimensional. Copy the flower pot shape in front (Control-C, Control-F) and create a lighter ellipse, which overlaps the flower pot shape. Select the copy of the flower pot shape and the overlapped ellipse—press the Intersect button on the Pathfinder panel. 

Let’s go ahead and add another shade. So copy the flower pot shape again, make another overlapping lighter ellipse, select both of these shapes and press the Intersect button. Make sure that the neck of the flower pot stays on top of everything.

We just created the flower pot where we will plant our succulents. Prepare two more pots and keep them aside, because we'll be planting three succulents today.

adding volume to the flower pot illustration

2. Draw the Haworthia Succulent

Step 1

Let’s create a leaf for our first succulent, which is called Haworthia Fasciata. Draw a light green ellipse. Select this ellipse and, using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift-C), make the top and bottom anchor points sharp by clicking on them. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), move down the left and right anchor points.

creating Howorthia Fasciata leaf

Step 2

To add some zebra stripes on the leaves, draw a few rectangles (use the Rectangle Tool (M)) over the leaf, in different widths. To make them wavy, select them and go to: Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. After that, do not forget to expand the shapes. Select all the stripes and go to Object > Expand Appearance

Now we need to cut off the unnecessary parts of the stripes. Make a copy of the base leaf shape in front (Control-C, Control-F), cut it off (Control-X), and place in front of everything (Control-F). 

A little explanation here: when you create a copy in front of the base, this copy will appear just in front of the base, not in front of the stripes which we already created. Then we need to cut off the copy and place it in front of everything, now in front of the base and stripes. Keeping this copy and the roughened rectangles selected, press Crop in the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder). 


To add more volume to this image, copy the base of the leaf in front and on the Transparency panel make Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 25%. Shrink this shape a bit and place it in front of the image (Control-X, Control-F).

adding stripes to Howorthia Fasciata leaf

Step 3

Make a few copies of the leaf. Bend two of them by selecting one leaf at a time. Go to: Effect > Warp > Arc. I'll leave the level of warping to your taste. You will need to move the slider in the Bend section in the Warp Options dialogue window. Since nature bends these leaves naturally, use your imagination and creativity when doing this.

bending leaves

Step 4

Place the leaves in one of our flower pots. Again, you can fill it up to your taste—choose the number of leaves that you’d like to see. 

Select the topmost dark ellipse on the flower pot and make a copy of it in front (Control-C, Control-F). Then put it in front of all the objects (Control-X, Control-F). Delete the fill and stroke color of this ellipse, but for your convenience, you can make a black stroke color. Move its upper anchor points to cover the top parts of the leaves. 

Once you're satisfied with the result, delete the black stroke color. After that, select all the leaves and this irregular ellipse and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). Our beautiful Haworthia Succulent is finished. 

placing Howorthia Fasciata leaves in the flower pot

3. Draw the Cactus

Step 1

Next, we’re going to create a familiar succulent—a cactus! 

Let’s start by making a green ellipse and moving up its left and right anchor points by using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and the Up Arrow key on your keyboard. This is the base for our cactus. 

Create another ellipse overlapping the base. Make a copy of the base shape, and place it in front (Control-C, Control-F). While the copy of the base and the overlapped ellipse are selected, press the Intersect button on the Pathfinder panel. Change the fill color to lighter green. Finally, add a small, lighter ellipse in front.

creating the cactus

Step 2

Let’s add some spiky spines to our cactus. Using the Line Segment Tool (\), draw a bunch of small lines on the base of the cactus. Remember to remove the fill color and choose dark green as the stroke color. Before drawing, check the Round Cap button on the Stroke panel.

adding spines to the cactus

Step 3

To make a flower, take the base of the cactus, change the fill color, and flatten it down slightly. It's the first petal of the flower that will grow on the cactus. Make a copy of this shape behind (Control-C, Control-B), change its color, and slightly stretch the sides to have a similar image as in the figure below.

Next, make a copy of the lighter petal (the very first one), place it on the left side, and rotate to the left. While keeping it selected, right-click your mouse and select Transform > Reflect. Once you get the dialogue box, select Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, and press Copy. Move the other petal to the right.

creating the flower of the cactus

Step 4

Make three copies of the petals behind the image to show the back petals, which will be darker than the petals in front.

Finally, create a copy of any petal, change its color to green, and place it behind. This will represent the receptacle of a flower.

creating the flower of the cactus 2

Step 5

Remember that you have two more flower pots left? So let’s take one of them and place our cactus and the flower in the flower pot. Feel free to add more cacti.

In this step, we will make similar manipulations as we did for the previous succulent to finalize our flower pot:

  • Place the cacti in front of the flower pot.
  • Select the topmost dark ellipse of the flower pot and make a copy of it in front (Control-C, Control-F). Cut off this copy (Control-X) and place in front of everything (Control-F). Delete the fill and set black stroke color for better visibility. Move its upper anchor points to cover the top parts of the cacti. Once you're satisfied with the shape, delete the black stroke color.
  • Select the whole cactus and this irregular ellipse, and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7).
placing cactus leaves in the flower pot

4. Draw the Echeveria Succulent

Step 1

Just as we did before, make an ellipse and move its left and right anchor points up. Continue using the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move the handles of the top anchor point to make it sharp, as in the image below. This is the base of our last succulent, Echeveria Succulent.

creating the leaf of Echeveria Succulent

Step 2

Place a lighter ellipse in front of the base and move its bottom anchor point slightly to the right. Make a vertical copy of this ellipse. While keeping it selected, right-click your mouse and select Transform > Reflect and then Axis Vertical, Angle 90 degrees, and press Copy. Move the other copy to the right. 

Select these two lighter ellipses and unite them by pressing the Unite button on the Pathfinder panel. Delete the top anchor point on the new shape using the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-). Make a copy of the base in front (Control-C, Control-F), select the newly created shape (this lighter one), and press the Intersect button on the Pathfinder panel. Move up the anchor point marked in the image below. To finalize it, make a copy of the base behind, move this copy slightly up, and make it lighter.

creating the leaf of Echeveria Succulent 2

Step 3

Now, I'm sure you know how to make the Clipping Mask here. So, plant this succulent!

placing Echeveria leaves in the flower pot

5. Make a Complete Image

Step 1

Okay—so let's see what we did so far:

placing together all the succulents

Step 2

Draw a rectangle behind all succulents with 850 px Width (the Height of this rectangle does not matter).

adding the background

Step 3

To add shadows for the depth of the image, make three dark ellipses and place them behind each flower pot, but in front of the background.

adding the shadows

Conclusion

Congratulations, your succulents are ready! Hope this tutorial was interesting and knowledgeable for you. I’m sure that you ended up with a great result and beautiful plants. Who knows—maybe due to this tutorial, you'll become a fellow succulent lover!

final image
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