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How to Create a Winter City Scene in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Winter is coming! It's time to enjoy the wonderful holiday Christmas atmosphere, walk on snowy streets and listen to Christmas songs while looking at the lights, garlands and decorations of beautiful European cities.

In this tutorial, we will let the Christmas magic fill our imagination and create a festive city street illustration.

As always, you can skip the tutorial and grab the result as a part of my Christmas Travel Winter Backgrounds collection. And look for even more Christmas spirit on GraphicRiver.

Christmas Travel Winter Backgrounds set on Graphicriver

1. How to Create a New Document

First we need to set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N) with these settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 1200
  • Height: 1200
  • Units: pixels

From the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen
  • Preview Mode: Default
  • Uncheck Align New Objects to Pixel Grid
Creating a new document

2. How to Create a Winter House

Step 1

Before we start building our first house, make sure you have the Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) turned on. This option will help us to move and place objects more easily.

Then create a 224 x 395 px light blue #579dfe rectangle with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) for the main shape of our building.

Build one more 224 x 50 px shape (#754a3d) and put it on the bottom part of the larger one, aligning to its center.

Building two rectangles

Step 2

Create a small brown (#8a5e48) rectangle which will act as a brick. Spread the bricks over the bottom brown part of the building by copying and dragging them, imitating the texture.

Adding bricks

Step 3

Let's start to build a window by creating a 33 x 75 px rectangle which we will fill with #bad4f7.

Select it and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Set the Offset value to -3 px, adding a smaller shape inside. Set the shape color to #4a5c5e.

Forming a rectangle with outline

Step 4

Select the light outer shape and use the Offset Path method again, setting the Offset to 5 px to create an outline. Color it with blue #447cc9. (1)

Add a narrow stripe of 3 px width dividing our window into two halves. Create one more horizontal line of the same width, placing it on the top half of the window. (2)

Keeping the horizontal line selected, choose the Reflect Tool (O). Holding the Alt key, click on the center of the vertical stripe. In the Reflect option window, set the Axis to Horizontal and press Copy, reflecting the shape to the bottom half of the window. (3)

Group (Control-G) all the parts together.

Rendering a large window

Step 5

In addition to the larger one, we need a smaller window for the house.

Build a 33 x 52 px rectangle of #bad4f7 color.

Using the Offset Path option and the same colors as in the previous step, add a dark inner shape, blue outline, and crossed vertical and horizontal stripes to the window.

Creating a small window

Step 6

Let's move on and place windows on the house shape.

Take the larger window and drag it to the middle of the large blue rectangle. Keeping the shape selected and holding both the Shift and the Alt keys, drag the window right, creating a copy on the right side.

To get one more copy in the same direction on the left side, just select the first window and press Enter. The Move option window appears. Add the "-" symbol before the Horizontal value without changing the value itself and press Copy.

Creating a row of windows

Step 7

Create three more windows on the top part of the building.

Then add two smaller windows on the bottom part, leaving an empty space in the middle for the entrance.

Spreading the windows over facade

Step 8

Time to create an entrance door.

Build a 60 x 119 px rectangle (#8a5e48) and go to Object > Path > Offset Path, setting the Offset value to 10 px. Change the outline color to #447cc9.

Add a horizontal rectangle (#4a5c5e) on the top part of the inner shape for the door window.

Building a door

Step 9

Let's add some details to the door by creating a horizontal stripe (#6e4539) right under the bottom outline of the door window. Then place a thinner vertical line of the same color on the middle of the brown part of the door, dividing the door in two parts.

Build one more rectangle for the snowy threshold (#b3def5), aligning it to the bottom part of the door. Select the two upper anchors with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pull the circle indicators to the center, making the corners rounded.

Finishing the door

Step 10

Group (Control-G) all the door pieces together and place the door on the house, aligning to its bottom edge.

Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and, holding Shift, drag the bottom edge of the blue door outline up, placing it on the same level as the top edge of the brown brick part.

Placing the door on the building

Step 11

Add several thin stripes going across the top and bottom edges of the windows, making the facade more detailed.

Creating decorative stripes

Step 12

Time to create a roof for our house.

Build a 234 x 140 px rectangle of #b3def5 color on the top of the building, overlapping the house's top edge, and slightly round the corners.

Copy the roof shape and click Control-B to get a Duplicate behind the main object. Move it down by a few pixels using the Arrow key and change the color to dark blue (#4075bd), creating a shadow effect.

Duplicate the main blue wall shape. Then select both the wall copy and the roof copy using the Intersect function of the Pathfinder to cut the shape. Now the shadow looks natural.

Drawing a roof

Step 13

Many old European houses have mansard windows, and I really like this architectural detail. Let's add two mansard windows to our building.

Just create a narrow white rectangle and rotate it by holding the Shift key. Take the Reflect Tool (O), and then Alt-click on the top anchor point of our shape. In the Rotate panel, set the Angle to 90° and click the Copy button. Make both shapes fully rounded and move them closer to each other. Merge the rounded rectangle into one shape using the Unite option of Pathfinder. This shape will act as a snow cap on the top of our window.

Create a small blue rectangle underneath.

Starting build a mansard window

Step 14

Select both shapes with the Selection Tool (V), hold the Alt key, and click on the blue shape. The selection becomes thicker, indicating you're now aligning to the Key Object. Head to the Align panel and click the Horizontal Align Center button.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a triangle-like shape (#4075bd) which sits right on the top edge of the blue shape and overlaps the angled white shape.

Select the white angled shape and go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front, placing it in front of the other parts.

Adding triangle shape and aligning snow cape

Step 15

Create a small window inside the blue rectangle in the same way as we did before, using the Offset function and the Rectangle Tool (M).

Group (Control-G) all the mansard window pieces together and create a mirror copy on the left part of the roof, by taking the Reflect Tool (O) and clicking on the center of the roof while holding the Alt button.

Add white rounded rectangles underneath each facade window for snowy window ledges. The first house is ready!

Adding a window and a second mansard Building snowy ledges

3. How to Create More Winter Houses

Step 1

Let's move to the next grey building with the rounded roof.

Start by making a 225 x 395 px rectangle of #4a5c5e color. Create one more 145 x 90 px shape of the same color, placing it over the top edge of the larger one and aligning to its center. Select the two upper corners, make them fully rounded, and then merge the two shapes into one with the help of the Unite option on the Pathfinder panel.

Building grey rectangle and top rounded part

Step 2

Use the Offset path method to add a decorative rim around the building. Set the color to #9ec5c9. Drag the bottom edge of the rim to the top flat edge of the house shape. Align the outstanding rim edges to the main house base by dragging them with the Direct Selection Tool (A).

Adding a decorative rim on the top part

Step 3

Create a rounded door with a staircase on the bottom part. Use the Live Corners feature to round the door's top, the Offset method to create a rim around it, and simple rectangles for the stairs. Use #8a5e48 for the main door color, #6e4539 for the darker brown, and #7c9b9e for the light grey.

Place three decorative stripes (#7c9b9e) on the house facade behind the door group. Add a horizontal ledge (#9ec5c9) over the entrance and spread two more copies of it over the building facade, leaving empty spaces for the future windows.

Place a gentle shadow under the bottom ledge, making the facade more three-dimensional. Fill the shadow shape with #4a5c5e, and switch its Blending Mode to Multiply in the Transparency panel, while lowering the Opacity to 40%.

Creating the door decorative stripes and a shadow

Step 4

Form a small window in the same way as we did for the previous house, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Offset path option. Use #b3def5 color for the window and #7c9b9e for the window frame.

Create small decorative rectangles around the window, filling them with #9ec5c9. Add a thin horizontal shape of the same color for the window ledge on the bottom part.

To give the ledge a more classic style, make a circle over the ledge, aligning to its center. Select the ledge and the top circle and cut off the top part of the circle by Alt-clicking on it with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Merge both shapes into one with the Unite option of Pathfinder.

Add a white rounded rectangle overlapping the ledge, which will act as a snow cap. Group (Control-G) all the parts together.

Forming a window

Step 5

Spread the window groups over the building. Create two smaller rectangular windows and one circular window on the top part of the facade.

Form two grey columns (#7c9b9e) under the decorative rim and then add snow caps on the horizontal ledges using white rounded rectangles.

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create the angled shape for the half of the snowy roof (#b3def5) on the left side of the building. Round the roof corner and, keeping the shape selected, create a mirror reflection of it on the right side by Alt-clicking on the top building anchor with the Reflect Tool (O). Don't forget to set the Axis to Vertical and press Copy in the end, as we did before.

The grey building is finished. Group (Control-G) all its pieces together.

Spreading windows over the building making a roof and snowy ledges

Step 6

Time to make the last building with a stepped roof.

Create a 235 x 430 px rectangle of #ffc45c color. Start forming the roof by placing a horizontal rectangle on the top edge, making it shorter at the edges. Add two more rectangles, one above the other, making each one shorter than the previous.

Place a 235 x 140 px rectangle (#822b1a) on the bottom of the building for the ground floor. Add a narrow ledge (#e66340) above its top edge.

Creating stepped shape and ground floor rectangle

Step 7

Copy the window from the first blue house, and make its outside part wider while making the window itself shorter at the top and bottom edges. Change the colors using #e66340 for the red outside part, #7c9b9e for the glass, and #4a5c5e for the window frame.

Add a white ellipse on the top part of the window, create a line which goes across the ellipse shape above its center, and use the Divide option of Pathfinder while selecting the line and the ellipse. Delete the bottom half of the shape, forming a snow cap.

Add a white rounded rectangle on the bottom part of the window for a snowy ledge. Group (Control-G) all the parts together.

Make more copies of the windows and arrange them on the facade in any symmetrical position which you find interesting.

Creating and copying the windows

Step 8

Render the large window for the ground floor.

Most of the manipulations will be the same as for the previous objects. Start by creating a 64 x 64 rectangle for the window glass (#7c9b9e). With the help of the Offset method, add two outlines to it, using #754a3d for the lighter brown and #5b1b14 for the darker. Add a vertical narrow stripe, finishing the window frame.

Click on the window glass and create simple curtains of the darker color with the Pen Tool (P), cutting off the outstanding parts with the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M).

Start to create a sunshade by building a red (#e84b4a) rectangle, making the top corners rounded. Add a few vertical stripes (#e8dddd) on the sunshade, cutting off the unwanted pieces, and place a gentle shadow under its edge.

Add a snow cap to the top of the sunshade and a snowy ledge to its bottom. Then Group (Control-G) the objects.

Building a large window with a sunshade

Step 9

Create a copy of the window on the left side, change its color to yellow (#ffb636), and build a simple fir tree to add a Christmas feeling. Set the colors of the fir tree and the curtains to the darker yellow.

Click on the main yellow shape and create a simple angled shadow (#eba04b) with the Pen Tool (P).

Finish the building by placing orange (#e66340) bricks here and there as well as ledges above the top edges of the stepped roof.

Control (Control-G) all the parts together.

Adding second window a shadow and decorative bricks

4. How to Create a Winter Cityscape Composition

Step 1

Let's line up our houses and add a 1200 x 1200 px rectangle (#94cdeb) for the background. Use the Align panel to align the buildings at the bottom.

Aligning the houses and adding blue background

Step 2

Change the roof colors of the blue and grey houses to white, adding more contrast to the illustration. Change the color of the snow caps on the mansard windows to the darker blue.

Create a white rounded rectangle for the ground level and make a subtle shadow on the bottom by creating a copy (#b3def5) behind it and moving it down by a few pixels.

Draw simple silhouettes of other buildings (#87c0de) behind the houses with the Pen Tool (P), adding more depth to the illustration.

Rendering background buildings and ground level

Step 3

With the help of simple shapes and the Pen Tool (P), create a street lantern and color it using the following settings: 

  • #4a5c5e for the darker grey
  • #586e70 for the lighter grey
  • #ffb636 for the yellow glass
  • #d49322 for the lamp

Drag the lantern on the illustration, placing it on the left side near the blue house, and make another copy on the right side near the yellow building.

Creating a lantern

Step 4

Let's make our lanterns shine.

Just create a white circle behind one of the lanterns and fill it with radial gradient from white to black, switching its Blending Mode to Screen. Double-click on the bottom-left gradient slider and change the white color to yellow (#feb02a).

Then move the top-left gradient slider slightly to the right. Copy the gradient, placing it behind the second lantern.

Adding lighting to the lantern

Step 5

Now we'll create a snowflake. Draw the main form using the Pen Tool (P) and the image below as a reference (1). Use #daeffa for the coloring.

To add the rounded top part, just create a rounded rectangle and delete its top half with the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A). (2)

Group (Control-G) all the parts. Take the Rotate Tool (R) and click on the bottom anchor while holding the Alt button. Enter 90 for the Angle value and press Copy. Keeping the copy selected, press Control-D twice, creating two more copies and finishing the snowflake. (3) Group (Control-G) all the parts together.

Copying and varying the sizes, spread the snowflakes over our scene to form a well-balanced composition. Add a few circles to imitate smaller snowflakes.

Forming a snowflakes

Step 6

Take a look at your winter scene and see if there’s anything else you’d like to create—maybe an extra snow cap, some more details on the houses, or light from the windows. 

I chose to add more Christmas spirit to the illustration and created classic holiday symbols, such as a wreath, garlands, bells, a pine tree, and some other decorations. Also I added a few snow caps to the stepped roof of the yellow house.

Creating finishing details

Awesome Work! Congratulations!

Great job! We've managed to create a trendy flat-style winter city scene. Now we are ready for the Christmas holidays!

This illustration is only a part of my Christmas Travel Winter Backgrounds collection. And look for even more Christmas illustrations on GraphicRiver.

Christmas Travel Winter Backgrounds set on Graphicriver

I hope you have enjoyed the process and learned some useful tips and tricks for your future illustrations.

Feel free to share how your project turned out or ask questions in the comments below. Happy Christmas holidays!

winter house scene
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