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How to Illustrate Deliciously Realistic Grapes using Simple Techniques

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Read Time: 9 min

In this tutorial we will learn how to illustrate a bunch of grapes using basic Adobe Illustrator tools. You will learn how to render multiple light sources and how to model a complex object using simple shapes and techniques. Let’s get started.

Step 1

Create a new document. We will start our illustration by drawing a single grape. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an ellipse with a blue fill color (C= 83, M= 72, Y= 39 and K= 26) - this will be the basic color of the grapes.

Step 2

Now create a grape cluster by duplicating the first ellipse. You can easily duplicate the shape by holding down the Alt key and dragging the ellipse with the mouse.Then create an arbitrary contour of grape cluster by using the Tool (P). The grape cluster will be formed gradually by filling in three levels with the ellipses: the lower, the middle and the upper. Start with the lower level, arbitrarily positioning berries along the contour of the cluster.

Step 3

Determine the light source. In order to bring more volume to the grapes let’s assume that we have two light sources: direct light – the first one (1), and reflected light – the second one (2).

Step 4

Change the solid fill color of the berries to a radial gradient. Start with the berries located closest to the first light source. Fill the berries with a radial gradient from blue (C= 83, M= 72, Y= 39 and K= 26) to a light-blue color (C= 62, M= 44, Y= 27 and K= 2) then use the Gradient Tool (G) to properly arrange the colors according to the location of the light source.

Step 5

Repeat the previous step with the berries located closer to the second light source. The intensity of the second light source is less than that of the first one, so the second gradient will be darker. So fill the berries with radial gradient from blue (C= 83, M= 72, Y= 39 and K= 26) to blue (C= 68, M= 54, Y= 33 and K= 9).

Step 6

Using the previous technique, introduce the third reflected light source, fill the upper berries with a radial gradient in the upper right corner of our image. Now group up all the berries of the lower level and name the group "Level 1".

Step 7

Create the middle and the upper layer of the berries using the same technique.

Step 8

So far, we have achieved a pretty good result, although our image requires some further editing. First, let’s fill the gaps in the cluster. With the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) change the shape of the cluster’s contour so that it doesn't protrude out from the berries. Keep the contour selected and go to Object> Arrange> Send to Back and fill the shape with the color (C= 75, M= 74, Y= 58 and K= 76).

Step 9

Let’s get down to more personalized settings. Move the berries around to make the gaps more realistic and balanced, some berries may have to be deleted, or added.

Step 10

Adjust the gradient. Start working with the berries that don't overlap the other ones. As these berries are the closest to the light and don't have any shadows, they will be lighter than the others. Add a new slider in the gradient palette as shown in the figure below. Now remove the leftmost slider and drag the central slider to its place. Do not forget that our berries are grouped, so use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select them.

Step 11

Darken the shadowed berries that overlap other berries. To do this, select the left slider in the gradient palette and change its color to a darker one, increasing the value of K in the color palette. Repeat this process for the rest of the berries. This work is painstaking, but very exciting.

Step 12

We will now create abrasions and scratches on the berries. Using the Pen Tool (P) create a 'jellybean' shape on the surface of the berry and fill it with white. Using the Mesh Tool (U) set a grid point in the center of the created shape. Change the color of this point to (C= 80, M= 77, Y= 50 and K= 55). Using the Selection Tool (V) select the shape again and change the Blending Mode to Multiply in the Transparency palette.

Step 13

Use the Pencil Tool (N) to create scratches. Adjust this tool before you start working. Double-click on the Pencil icon in the Toolbar, type the values shown in the figure below into the dialog box. Choose the color of the stroke (C= 80, M= 77, Y= 50 and K= 55). Let’s start drawing scratches. Diversify the scratches by changing the transparency and stroke width.

Step 14

To give the grapes a more realistic look, put abrasions and scratches on some of the berries.

Step 15

It's time to create some water drops on the grapes. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an ellipse with a linear gradient from blue (C= 75, M= 62, Y= 58 and K= 8 ) to dark blue color (C= 80, M= 77, Y= 50 and K= 55). Now create another ellipse smaller than the first one with a radial gradient fill from white to blue color (C= 75, M= 62, Y= 28 and K= 8 ). Finally, create another ellipse, smaller than the second one. Set the same radial gradient fill, but change the center location. This is a very simple and effective way to create a water drop.

Step 16

There's no such thing as two identical water drops. With the technique we used before, create a few different variants of the drop. The more variants you have, the more realistic your image will be. Position the drops on the lower part of the cluster, they can be scaled, rotated and changed in transparency depending on the illumination intensity. Name the current layer "Grape".

Step 17

Create a new layer on top of the "Grape" layer and name it "Leaf ". Using the Pen Tool (P) create the shape of a leaf. Fill the leaf with a radial gradient consisting of three shades of green - 1 (C= 72, M= 22, Y= 100 and K= 6), 2 (C= 68, M= 7, Y= 100 and K= 0), 3 (C= 50, M= 20, Y= 100 and K= 2).

Step 18

Divide the leaf into several parts. Create five lines as shown in the figure below with the Pen Tool (P). Select all the lines and the shapes of the leaf and press the Divide button in the Pathfinder box. Ungroup the leaf elements and adjust the gradient fill of each segment with the help of the Gradient Tool (G). This operation will add realism to our image.

Step 19

Select all the segments of the leaf and go to Effect> Artistic> Sponge. Set the following values in the dialog box: Brush Size 5; Definition 8; Smoothness 1.

Step 20

Create the veins on the leaf. Using the Pen Tool (P), create the vein shape. Drag the shape into the Brushes palette, select the Art Brush you have just created in the dialogue box.

Step 21

You will now create the veins of the leaf with the Pen Tool (P). Once you have made the veins, select them and click on the Brush you made in the previous step, this will turn your lines into stylized brush strokes that should look just like veins on a leaf. Select the veins and go to Object> Expand Appearance. With the veins still selected, click Add from the Pathfinder box and then Press Expand. Fill the veins with a radial gradient consisting of four colors: 1 - Brown (C= 25, M= 68, Y= 100 and K= 13), 2 - Green (C= 41, M= 23, Y= 100 and K= 2 ) 3 - Green (C= 35, M= 20, Y= 94 and K= 1), 4 - Green (C= 37, M= 21, Y= 97 and K= 2).

Step 22

Create a stalk shape and fill it with a linear gradient consisting of three colors: 1 (C= 54, M= 50, Y= 65 and K= 27, 2 (C= 50, M= 35, Y= 65 and K= 10), 3 (C= 49, M= 15, Y= 100 and K= 1). Using the Pen Tool (P) create a stem between the leaf and branch, and fill it with the same gradient as the leaf veins.

Step 23

To add volume to veins on the leaf, take the Pen Tool (P) and create reflections of light and shadow on the veins. Use the following colors for the linear gradient reflection: 1 - (C= 23, M= 15, Y= 87 and K= 0) 2 - (C= 27, M= 17, Y= 89 and K= 0). Colors of the linear gradient shadow: 1 - (C= 36, M= 30, Y= 95 and K= 4), 2 - (C= 42, M= 43, Y= 96 and K= 15), 3 - (C= 29, M= 20, Y= 90 and K= 0).

Step 24

Using the Pen Tool (P) make a grape tendril. Create a curved line without a fill, the color of the stroke doesn't matter at this stage.

Step 25

Create a New Art Brush. Create a shape similar to the one shown in the figure below and drag it into the Brushes palette. Apply the brush to the line created in step 24. Keeping the tendril selected, go to Object> Expand Appearance and then to Object> Path> Clean Up. Fill the shape with a linear gradient consisting of seven colors: 1 - (C= 50, M= 20, Y= 100 and K= 2), 2 - (C= 25, M= 68, Y= 99 and K= 13) 3 - (C= 41, M= 23, Y= 100 and K= 2), 4 - (C= 23, M= 15, Y= 87 and K= 0), 5 - (C= 35, M= 20, Y= 94 and K= 1), 6 - (C= 27, M= 17, Y= 89 and K= 0), 7 - (C= 38, M= 21, Y= 97 and K= 1).

Step 26

Create dimension on the grape tendril using the technique and gradients described in step 23.


To finish your illustration, add a soft gradient to the background. The key to making a realistic illustration is to pay close attention to the details, the human eye is great at picking up on things that don't look right. If your illustration isn't as 'real' as it could be, try looking at some reference images and adding (or even subtracting) some detail. Best wishes.

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