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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Gradient Mesh Tool

How to Draw Autumn Leaves on Old Paper and a Wooden Background in Adobe Illustrator

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you will learn how to use the Mesh Tool and Blend in Adobe Illustrator to create a wooden background with an old sheet of paper and some autumn leaves!

If you want to skip the tutorial and just use this retro autumn background in your work, you can purchase the Sheet of paper with autumn leaves from GraphicRiver!

Sheet of paper with autumn leaves
Sheet of paper with autumn leaves

1. How to Draw the Old Sheet of Paper

Step 1

To draw the sheet of paper, first draw an 80 x 100px rectangle and fill it with #FBDFA9. Grab the nodes on its upper right and lower left edges and bring them inwards, creating slanted edges.

Next, take the Mesh Tool (U) and by clicking on the shape, create a Mesh grid, just like in the picture. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the nodes that are indicated in the screenshot below and color them with #EFD097!

Continue selecting and coloring the nodes in the lower part of the screenshot. You will need these colors:

  1. #FBDFA9
  2. -
  3. #EFD097
  4. #E4C287
  5. #EECF96
  6. #D1AC70
draw mesh for the paper

Step 2

Finish drawing the sheet of paper by adding some extra Mesh nodes with the Mesh Tool (U) and coloring them. You will need these:

  1. #C49E69
  2. #F9E2B6
  3. #E4C083
finish mesh

Step 3

For the next few steps, we will be needing the Wrinkle Tool.

Select it from the toolbar, and then double-tap with it on the canvas to bring up the options.

Use these:

  • Width: 40 px
  • Height: 30 px
  • Angle: -90°
  • Intensity: 30%
  • Horizontal: 20%
  • Vertical: 100%
  • Complexity: 1
  • Detail: 3
use wrinkle tool

Step 4

Use the modified Wrinkle Tool on the right and left sides of the paper to make it look more old and rugged.

use on sides

Step 5

Now, modify the options once more by changing the Angle to and the Intensity to 20%. Use this tool on the top and bottom of the page to finalize the rugged look!

use on top and bottom

Step 6

Finally, smooth out the top right corner a bit by deleting some unnecessary nodes.

straighten the corner

Step 7

Draw a bent corner using a Mesh! You will need these colors:

  1. -
  2. #D5A868
  3. #C08F54
  4. #EDD0A3
  5. #E9C17D
  6. #CCA069
draw corner with mesh

Step 8

Attach the bent corner on the top right.

attach corner

Step 9

Now, draw a shadow for the bent corner! Create two shapes, one colored with #986D38, and the second one with #DCB97F. Place the brown shape on top of the beige shape, and change the beige shape's Opacity to 0%.

draw shapes for shadow

Step 10

Select both shapes, and go to Object > Blend > Blend Options, inputting Specified Steps at 30. Apply the Blend to the shapes by choosing Object > Blend > Make.

apply blend

Step 11

Change the shadow's Transparency options to Multiply and 80%.

change transparency

Step 12

Attach the shadow just under the bent corner!

attach shadow

Step 13

For this step, download the attachment on the right of the tutorial. The file you download should be called "paper.jpg".

Open it in Adobe Illustrator and move it to your work file.

We will need to get the texture from this piece of paper—for that, open Window > Image Trace and input Black and White mode with Threshold of 210. Click Trace.

image trace

Step 14

This should be your result. Now, go to Object > Expand Appearance to isolate paths.

traced result

Step 15

Change the color of the paths to #D49B15.

change color

Step 16

Draw an outline similar to the shape of our vector paper sheet. Place it on top of the traced paths as shown in the screenshot below.

add outline

Step 17

Select both and, after right-clicking, choose Make Clipping Mask. This will hide the part of the paths that we won't need.

clipping mask

Step 18

Change the texture's Opacity to 15%.

change opacity

Step 19

Place the texture on top of the paper sheet!

add texture

2. How to Draw and Place Leaves

Step 1

To learn how to draw leaves, follow my tutorial on drawing and recoloring autumn leaves!

draw leaves

Step 2

We will need to tweak the colors a bit to fit the old, retro vibe of the illustration.

Go to Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Colors:

  • Red: -8%
  • Green: -5%
  • Blue: 0%
recolor leaf

Step 3

Similarly recolor the red leaf, using these settings:

  • Red: -8%
  • Green: 4%
  • Blue: 0%
recolor leaf

Step 4

Put the edited leaves back into formation.

put leaves back

Step 5

Draw a shadow just like in my previous tutorial (draw an ellipse with a Radial gradient (#CAA27C to white) and change its Transparency mode to Multiply) and then create enough copies for a big joint shadow of the group of leaves.

add shadows

Step 6

Add the shadow behind the leaves.

add shadows

Step 7

Then place the leaves and the shadows on top of the paper sheet.

add leaves to paper

Step 8

It's time for another Blend shadow, just as we did in the last section!

This time, we will need two shapes outlining the sheet of paper we created, the bigger one filled with #A46D2C, and the smaller with #684718.

another shadow

Step 9

Change the bigger shape's Opacity to 0%.

change opacity

Step 10

Using Specified Steps 30, go to Object > Blend and press Make.

add blend

Step 11

Change the shadow's Transparency to Multiply.

change transparency

Step 12

Place the shadow behind our sheet of paper.

add shadow

3. How to Create the Wooden Background

Step 1

Grab the Polar Grid Tool and tap twice on the artboard to bring up the options for the tool. Choose 150 x 150 px size, 7 Concentric Dividers, and 0 Radial Dividers.

polar grid tool

Step 2

Now fill the resulting shape with #75573A to #AA8E66 Radial Gradient.


Step 3

Stretch out and rotate the colored shape.

Next, grab the Warp Tool using the following settings:

  • Width: 60 px
  • Height: 60 px
  • Angle: 0
  • Intensity: 50%
  • Detail: 2
  • Simplify: 50
warp tool

Step 4

With the Warp Tool, bend the circles to give them the appearance of a wooden texture.

warp the circles

Step 5

Once you are happy with the result, draw an outline of a plank and Make a Clipping Mask out of the two shapes.

clipping mask

Step 6

Your finished plank should look similar to this:

resulting plank

Step 7

Follow Steps 1–6 again to create about five more different planks. Experiment with different placements and gradients!

Duplicate some of them and mix them around to create a wooden texture. Leave white gaps between the planks when moving them next to each other.

draw more planks

Step 8

Fill a rectangle with #46331A to create a backdrop for the planks.

brown backdrop

Step 9

Draw a simple Mesh to overlay our planks.

Fill a rectangle with #3C2F1C, and then place a Mesh node in the upper left part of the shape. Color both that node and the top middle node with #967F48.

Finally, change the shape's Transparency to Overlay.

mesh overlay

Step 10

Place the Mesh on top of the wooden background and add the brown backdrop behind it!

add overlay and backdrop

Step 11

Finally, place the paper with the leaves on top of the wooden background!

add paper with leaves

Awesome Work, You're Done!

Thank you for following along, and please feel welcome to post your result in the comments. I'll be looking forward to seeing it!

In this tutorial, you learned how to create a realistic retro autumn background using the Mesh Tool.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and learned how to use some useful tools for the future! Check out some of my other vector tutorials on my instructor profile.

You can purchase this autumn background as well as other similar designs in my portfolio on GraphicRiver.

Sheet of paper with autumn leaves
Sheet of paper with autumn leaves
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