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How to Create a Vacation Beach Background in Adobe Illustrator

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Mesh Tool to create a summer background with a vacation scene!

If you'd like to skip this tutorial and purchase the end result with a couple more elements, head over to GraphicRiver to purchase Vacation Background.

Vacation background

1. How to Draw the Palm Trees

Step 1

Let's begin by drawing the stem! Using the Pen Tool (P), draw a curved line as shown below, and then change its Stroke Profile accordingly.

Finally, apply a Radial Gradient to the Stroke. It should go from #D3D991 to #5A6B00 to #576900.

draw stemdraw stemdraw stem

Step 2

Proceed to Object > Expand Appearance to create an object out of the stroke.

expand appearanceexpand appearanceexpand appearance

Step 3

Draw another line, coloring its Stroke with #7C9808, and then apply a Profile to it.

Next, go to Object > Expand Appearance.

draw leafdraw leafdraw leaf

Step 4

We will be modifying this object with Mesh!

Take the Mesh Tool (U) and place a few nodes onto the object, as shown below, to create a Mesh grid. Then, select the nodes as below and recolor them with #75840A.

Proceed by coloring the Mesh further, using the #B2AE5B and #91AB11 colors.

meshmeshmesh

Step 5

Take the finished object and go to Effect > Warp > Arc. Set the Bend to 7%, and then Expand Appearance of the objects.

warp leafwarp leafwarp leaf

Step 6

Make a smaller copy of the leaf, and then create a copy of that as well, and recolor it with Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Colors, setting the Red to 8%. You should have three different leaves after this step.

recolor leafrecolor leafrecolor leaf

Step 7

Take these leaves and add them to the stem we made before, creating a palm leaf.

assemble leafassemble leafassemble leaf

Step 8

Take a copy of the finished leaf and warp it with Effect > Warp > Arc. Use these values:

  • Bend: 8%
  • Horizontal Distortion: -2%
  • Vertical Distortion: -12%

Don't forget to Expand Appearance of the result.

bend leafbend leafbend leaf

Step 9

Create another copy of the first leaf we made and recolor it with Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Colors. Use these:

  • Red: -15%
  • Blue: -16%
recolorrecolorrecolor

Step 10

Take the leaf we just made and apply Effect > Warp > Bulge to it.

  • Bend: 22%
  • Horizontal Distortion: -18%
  • Vertical Distortion: -8%

Expand Appearance.

warp leafwarp leafwarp leaf

Step 11

Modify the leaf further, now with Effect > Warp > Arc.

  • Bend: 24%
  • Horizontal Distortion: -2%
  • Vertical Distortion: -12%

Don't forget to Expand Appearance of the result.

bend leafbend leafbend leaf

Step 12

Layer the leaves we made.

create leavescreate leavescreate leaves

Step 13

Draw an outline, keeping the part of leaves you want to see inside the rectangle.

crop leavescrop leavescrop leaves

Step 14

Select everything, right-click, and choose Make Clipping Mask.

clipping maskclipping maskclipping mask

Step 15

Our leaves are done!

resultresultresult

2. How to Draw the Sea and the Sand

Step 1

For this step, you will need to download the attachment of this tutorial. You will be able to find it in the right sidebar.

Open sea.jpg in Adobe Illustrator and drag the image into your vector file. Bring up the Image Trace panel (you can do so by going through Window) and change the number of Colors to 3. Trace the image.

image traceimage traceimage trace

Step 2

Take the trace result, and then Ungroup it until you are left with different elements.

ungroupungroupungroup

Step 3

Divide the sea into different colors by selecting one colored element and clicking Select > Same > Fill Color.

select same colorsselect same colorsselect same colors

Step 4

You will get three different layers of elements. Keep the ones that are colored with #38D8F4 and #11B9D7, but delete all the elements colored with #5CEAFC, instead creating a full rectangle filled with that color.

Create a copy of the middle layer and put it aside for later.

divide into colorsdivide into colorsdivide into colors

Step 5

Combine these layers back into one background.

assemble seaassemble seaassemble sea

Step 6

Draw a new rectangle, filling it with #88DEE5, and then grab the Mesh Tool (U) and add a few mesh nodes.

Color the lower row of the object with #E7EFF0, and then add more nodes and color the new row with #CFEBED.

Modify the shape of the object by dragging its nodes with the Mesh Tool. Give it an organic, wavy shape.

draw mesh seadraw mesh seadraw mesh sea

Step 7

Select the nodes on the top and the bottom row of the object, changing their Opacity to 0%.

adjust opacityadjust opacityadjust opacity

Step 8

Begin drawing the sand with Mesh.

  1. #E7D9BD
  2. #CBA880
  3. #FFFFFF
draw sand with meshdraw sand with meshdraw sand with mesh

Step 9

Assemble the coastline.

coastlinecoastlinecoastline

Step 10

Take the copy we made in Step 4. Draw a rectangular outline in the upper part of the texture, and then go to Pathfinder > Crop to crop out a part of it.

cropcropcrop

Step 11

Delete some parts of it to make it look more organic.

ajust textureajust textureajust texture

Step 12

Create an Art Brush out of the texture.

art brushart brushart brush

Step 13

Draw a line and apply the new brush to it.

Use the #EFEFEF color and set the Stroke to 0.5 pt.

add brushadd brushadd brush

Step 14

Expand Appearance of the object, and then set it to Screen and 50% Opacity.

set screenset screenset screen

Step 15

Place it on the coastline.

place brushplace brushplace brush

3. How to Draw the Sky and Clouds

Step 1

Draw the sky with Mesh.

  1. #53A0D0
  2. #FFFFFF
  3. #88C0E1
  4. #89C2E0
draw sky with gradient meshdraw sky with gradient meshdraw sky with gradient mesh

Step 2

Make the bottom row transparent.

transparenttransparenttransparent

Step 3

Draw the cloud with Mesh.

  1. #000000
  2. #808080
  3. #535353
  4. #353535
draw clouddraw clouddraw cloud

Step 4

Set the object to Screen.

screenscreenscreen

Step 5

Overlay some copies of the clouds.

cloudscloudsclouds

Step 6

Add the sky and the clouds to the background.

add skyadd skyadd sky

Step 7

Add the palm leaves.

add leavesadd leavesadd leaves

Step 8

You can also draw a sun with a Radial Gradient from white to yellow to black. Use Screen on the object.

add sunadd sunadd sun

Step 9

Add the sun to the sky.

You can also add transparent Screen highlights—learn how to create this sort of highlight in the last section of my window frame tutorial.

add highlightsadd highlightsadd highlights

Step 10

Finally, learn how to draw flip flops in this tutorial of mine!

flip flopsflip flopsflip flops

Congratulations, You're Now Done!

What now? You can try any of my other tutorials from my profile, or check out my portfolio on GraphicRiver, as well as the original image we recreated in this tutorial.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, and I'll be extremely happy to see any results in the comments below!

original imageoriginal imageoriginal image
Vacation Background
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