Are you keen on sci-fi movies, games, and fancy weapons? Follow this tutorial and try your hand at weapon design by creating a futuristic space blaster in trendy flat style.
We’ll be modifying simple shapes, so you don’t actually need any drawing skills or special equipment for this tutorial. You’ll learn how to apply gradients properly to make the elements pop out and attain a completed look. Furthermore, you’ll discover some tips and tricks while working with the Pathfinder panel, the Shape Builder Tool and Blending Modes, creating subtle semi-shadows and gentle highlights to add some dimension to our weapon while preserving the overall flat style.
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have learned the ropes of creating a flat blaster and be able to apply these techniques and design a variety of flat guns, rifles, swords and other kinds of game assets. Check out GraphicRiver for more inspiration, and let’s get started!
1. How to Create a Nozzle With Liquid
First of all, we need to create a New Document of 600 x 600 px in RGB Color Mode. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 600 x 600 px light-blue square for the background and Align it to the Artboard, using the Align panel.
Before we start creating any element of our weapon, we should have a certain idea of its design and overall look. Is it going to be a space rifle against aliens or an actual alien weapon? Will it be a powerful shotgun or a small hand-cannon?
After pondering and brainstorming ideas, I ended up with a rough sketch made right in Adobe Illustrator with the help of the Pencil Tool (N). It served me as a reference during the whole process of creating a final version of the blaster.
Let’s start building our weapon from its larger part—a glass nozzle with some green gooey liquid inside (that is obviously lethal, so be careful with it).
Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 250 x 40 px shape. Apply a linear gradient from light green to darker green. You can use the color bar of the Gradient panel to move the color sliders, creating a distinct straight edge between the colors.
To do this, select the light-green slider on the left side of the color bar and drag it to the right. Do the same with the dark-green slider, dragging it in the opposite direction, making both sliders meet at a certain point of the color bar (either in the middle or closer to its right half). The closer your place the sliders to each other, the crisper and more distinct the border between them gets.
Set the angle of the linear fill to -90 degrees in the Gradient panel, or use the Gradient Tool (G) and hold Shift to adjust the direction of the fill.
Add two thin brown strips of the same length above and below the green rectangle.
Copy the green shape and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F). Hold Alt and shrink the shape, making it much narrower. Fill the new shape with dark-green solid color and switch the Blending Mode to Screen in the Transparency panel, creating a highlight to make the surface of the nozzle slick and glassy.
Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make a 5 x 60 px shape with fully rounded corners.
We can set the Corner Radius by selecting the rectangle with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and either adjusting the value in the control panel on top or by pulling the circle markers of the Live Corners that you can find next to each corner of the shape while it is selected with the Direct Selection Tool (A). Notice that this way we can adjust each corner separately or all the corners at once, depending on the desired result.
Fill the rounded rectangle with linear gradient from brown to dark purple, placing both sliders of the gradient at the same point to create a distinct border between the colors.
Finally, select the shape with the Selection Tool (V), hold Alt-Shift and drag the shape to the side, creating a copy. Add a couple more copies and distribute them as shown below.
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a few circles for the bubbles. Set the Fill to none and the Stroke color to dark green, and switch to Screen Blending Mode.
Set the Stroke Weight to 1.5 pt either in the control panel on top or in the Stroke panel.
Group (Control-G) the elements of the nozzle in order to keep the image neat and organized.
Now let’s add a muzzle to the gun. Make a 20 x 95 px rectangle, applying a linear gradient from white to light-grey color, imitating a frosted metal or plastic surface.
Select the shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and let’s adjust the corners. Head to the control panel on top and click the Corners parameter to open the drop-down options window. Select Chamfer Corner and set the Radius to 5 px, making a bevel-edged shape.
Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the shape and fill the top copy with dark-green solid color. Take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold down Alt, hold the left mouse button and spread the selection over the left part of the shape, leaving only a thin strip by the right side. Release the mouse key and—voila!—we have only the thin strip left. Switch its Blending Mode to Screen, thus creating a highlight.
Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the highlight and double-click the Reflect Tool (O) to open the options window. Select the Vertical Axis and click the Copy button to create a mirrored copy.
Let’s snap the copy to the opposite side of the muzzle, using the Align panel. Select both the copy and the muzzle and click the muzzle shape once again to make it a Key Object (it becomes marked with a thicker selection). Click Horizontal Align Left in the Align panel to stick the shape to the left edge of the muzzle.
Finally, change the fill color of the copy to light green and switch the Blending Mode to Multiply, thus creating a subtle flat shadow.
Let’s continue adding elements to the muzzle. Create a 30 x 45 px rectangle for the barrel of the gun and fill it with linear gradient from dark blue to dark purple. Send the shape to Back (Shift-Control-[) and Duplicate it. Shrink the copy to 15 x 45 px, change its color to light purple, and set the Blending Mode to Multiply, making a gentle shadow from the muzzle.
Finish up with this part of the weapon by duplicating the dark shape and shrinking it to 30 x 15 px. Fill the shape with dark color and switch it to Screen mode, creating a glossy highlight on the metal surface.
We still lack some shadows on the glass part of our blaster. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a few rectangles of the same height as the green shape.
Fill them with a light tint of blue and switch to Multiply Mode.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the top left anchor point of each rectangle. Hit the Enter key to open the Move options window and set the Horizontal value to 5 px and the Vertical value to 0 px. Click OK, moving the points to the right and skewing the rectangles.
Select the created rectangles and Object > Compound Path > Make (or press Control-8) to unite the separate shadows into one compound path.
Position the shadows right beneath the vertical lines, moving them either manually in the Layers panel or by Sending Backward (Control-[) a few times.
2. How to Create the Barrel & Body of the Weapon
Make a 210 x 25 px rectangle and use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to pick the light-grey gradient from the muzzle. Send to Back (Shift-Control-[), placing the shape beneath the metal construction of the nozzle.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the bottom right anchor point of the shape. Press Enter to open the Move window and set the Horizontal value to -20 px and the Vertical value to 0 px. Click OK to move a single point to the left.
Let’s add details, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), as we did previously. Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F) the shape. Fill the shape with darker color and switch the Blending Mode to Screen.
Arm yourself with the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold Alt and erase the bottom part of the shape, leaving only a narrow strip for the highlight on top.
Repeat the previous step, adding notches and shadows in Multiply and Screen Blending Modes.
Create another light-grey element at the bottom of the nozzle. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 270 x 24 px shape and add highlights, shadows and notches, using our method with copies and the Eraser Tool (Shift-E).
Next, make a 20 x 110 px rectangular piece and place it perpendicular to the bottom detail. Select both parts and make the bottom rectangle a Key Object by clicking it once again. Head to the Align panel and snap the rectangle to the bottom of the Key Object by clicking the Vertical Align Bottom button.
Let’s move on and keep designing the body of our blaster. Attach a 113 x 103 px rectangle to the left edge of the weapon, applying the same light-grey linear gradient.
Select its top and bottom left anchor points with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and make the corners Chamfered with 20 px Radius, using the menu in the top control panel.
Add a 113 x 30 px bright strip, applying a linear gradient from vivid orange to red.
Add notches, highlights and shadows, using the technique that we’ve already mastered on the previous elements. Group (Control-G) this part of the weapon and let’s move on!
Let’s depict a reloader or a magazine of our gun. We’ll use the green part that we’ve already created in order to speed up our work.
Duplicate the nozzle part of the blaster and make the green bar shorter, shrinking it to about 164 x 40 px, and reduce the number of dark vertical bars to two.
Duplicate the muzzle elements of the weapon and attach them to the right edge of the reloader, changing the scale slightly. Make the light-grey element a bit wider, to about 28 x 75 px.
Let’s make an external screw to make the reloader part more detailed.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 15 x 15 px circle of dark-green color. Switch it to Screen mode to make it semi-transparent and bright. Duplicate the circle and make the top copy smaller, setting its size to 10 x 10 px.
Select both circles and use the Minus Front function of the Pathfinder to cut out the top circle, creating a ring.
End up by adding a dark circle inside of the ring, picking the color from the muzzle of the blaster. Group (Control-G) all elements of the screw.
Add the screw to the white part of the reloader and proceed by adding a 230 x 15 px prop to connect this part of the weapon to the body of the blaster.
Use the Reflect Tool (O) to flip and copy the elements over the Vertical Axis and attach them to the opposite edge of the reloader.
Remember to group the elements in order to keep everything in order.
3. How to Design the Grip & Trigger of the Gun
Now we can finally move to the bottom part of the blaster and create a hand grip. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 75 x 140 px shape with dark linear gradient fill that we can pick from the muzzle.
Select those bottom anchor points of the shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and hit Enter to open the Move panel. Set the Horizontal value to -50 px and the Vertical value to 0 px, thus making the shape skewed to the left.
Keeping the bottom anchor points selected, make the Corners Chamfered in the control panel on top and set the Radius value to 12 px.
Duplicate the grip and use the Eraser Tool (Shift-E) to create a narrow shadow at the top of the element. Set its Blending Mode to Multiply.
Let’s make the grip as detailed and three-dimensional as possible. Duplicate the shape, hold Shift and move the top copy far to the right, so that the copies overlap a bit.
Select both copies and take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold down Alt and click the right section to delete it. Switch the remaining piece to Screen mode, creating a highlight.
Now we need to add a few thin notches, as we did previously, but this time we need them to repeat the shape of the grip in order to make the elements fit each other.
Copy (Control-C) the grip shape and Paste in Front (Control-F). Hold Shift and drag the copy to the right side (the yellow shape in the screenshot below). Paste in Front again (the red shape in the screenshot below) and drag the new copy a bit further right, making the copies overlap so that there is only a thin strip visible between them.
Keeping both copies selected, click Minus Front function of the Pathfinder to delete the shape, leaving only a thin notch. Adjust its color and switch to Multiply mode. Duplicate the created shape, move it to the side a bit, and turn it into a highlight.
Let’s add a shadow to the bottom part of the grip as well. Create a rectangle, overlapping the bottom of the grip. Select both the grip base and the rectangle and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to delete the unwanted part of the rectangle. Switch the remaining piece to Multiply mode.
Let’s move on to the next detail of our blaster. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 145 x 50 px shape with dark-purple linear gradient fill. Attach it to the grip, snapping its bottom left corner to the edge of the grip.
Select the highlight on the right side of the grip together with the new shape. Take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) and click and drag over the highlight, connecting the piece of the new rectangle to it. Release the mouse key, and there you have it! The unneeded piece of the rectangle disappeared as it was merged with the other shape.
Create a 93 x 35 px rectangle and fill it with a bright color (red, for example) to make it clearly visible.
Duplicate the horizontal dark rectangle, Bring the copy to Front (Shift-Control-]), and move it to the left, covering the red shape so that there is only a triangular piece left outside (I fill the top copy with brown color to make it visible, too).
Select both shapes and apply the Intersect function to modify the red rectangle, cutting off its triangular piece.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the top right point and both bottom anchor points of the red shape. Set the Corner type to Chamfer and the Radius to 6 px.
Select both the red shape and the dark rectangle beneath it and apply the Minus Front function to cut out the top shape.
Add details—shadows, highlights, and notches—to the shape, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M), as we did previously.
Now let’s make the trigger. Create a 17 x 20 px rectangle with dark-purple linear fill and attach a narrower rectangular strip to its bottom edge. Send both shapes to Back (Shift-Control-[).
Select the anchor points of the bottom right side with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and press Enter to open the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 0 px and the Vertical value to 7 px and click OK to move this part of the trigger down.
Finish up with the trigger by duplicating its base, making it smaller, and turning it into a shadow by switching to Multiply mode.
This is how the bottom part of our blaster looks now. Almost finished! Just a few minor details left.
Add a bright metal element on the right side of the construction. Complement it with minor details and use the Rectangle Tool (M) to add a shadow in Multiply mode.
Finish up by taking the Curvature Tool (Shift-‘) and dragging the left edge of the shadow further left, making the shape arched.
Bang-Bang! Our Flat Sci-Fi Blaster Is Finished!
Great job! I hope you’ve enjoyed the process of designing a weapon and discovered some tips and tricks that might be useful for your future artworks. Feel free to share your results in the comments below.