1. Design & Illustration
  2. Effects

Quick Tip: How to Create a Stylized Wave using Adobe Illustrator

Scroll to top
Read Time: 4 min

In this tutorial you will learn how to create some stylized waves, using the Pathfinder, Envelope Distort with Mesh and various Gradients. You will also learn how to use Scatter Brushes to create the foam effect. Let's begin!

Step 1

Start illustrator, with the Rectangle Tool (M) create a rectangle of any size and fill it with a linear gradient from navy blue to dark green.

Step 2

Turn on the rulers view mode, go to View > Show Rulers (Command + R). Now create plenty of horizontal guides, by dragging them down from the top ruler so that they could arbitrarily transit the created rectangle.

Step 3

Select all the guides and the rectangle (Command + A) and click on Divide from the Pathfinder box. Now un-group all the items (Shift + Command + G). Thus, we have created a number of rectangles of the same width and different heights.

Step 4

Select a few rectangles with the lowest height and fill them with the solid blue color.

Then select a few rectangles and fill them with a linear gradient from navy blue to mid blue color.

Fill a few rectangles with the radial gradient from blue to aquamarine.

Apply the creative approach to the process, this is what I've made.

Step 5

Proceed to creating a wave. Select all the rectangles and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh and set the parameters shown in the figure below. The simpler the gradient mesh is, the easier the object can be deformed. As our composition will consist of two waves, duplicate the object, and drag it beyond the document's margins.

Step 6

Now proceed directly to deforming the object and giving it the shape of wave. Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and move the handles of anchor points, to obtain a figure similar to the one shown in the picture below.

You can see the stripes overlapping each other. To fix this, you have to move the handles of the anchor points along the vertical axis, as shown in the figure below.

Step 7

You can also edit the result by adding new points to the mesh line and controlling the handles of the anchor points.

Step 8

Drag the duplicate of the rectangle in the space of the document and, using the techniques described above create the shape of another wave.

Step 9

Below the layer with the waves create a new layer. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle of the size of our document and fill it with a linear gradient from navy blue to mid blue.

Step 10

It is quite likely that you will have to edit the gradients of the waves. To do this select the wave to be edited and go to Object > Expand.

Now select elements of the wave using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and edit the gradient fill.

If needed, the fill of the individual objects can be replaced to achieve better compositions. It is desirable that all the colors and gradients that have been used are dragged to the Swatches palette, then it will be easier to work with.

Step 11

Let's get down to creating the foam. Create a new layer over the layer with waves. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two circles. Select both the circles and press Minus Front from Pathfinder box.

Step 12

Change the fill color of the shape to white and drag it to the Brushes palette. Save the new brush as a Scatter Brush.

Set the brush parameters as shown below. Now with the Paintbrush Tool (B) and create a brush stroke over the upper edge of the wave.

Step 13

You can always adjust the settings of the brush while creating the foam. To do this open the Appearance palette. Brush size editing is done by changing the thickness of the line (marked in the figure as 1). Brush editing is carried out in the Stroke Options dialogue box, which opens after double-clicking on the name of the brush in the Appearance palette (marked in the figure as 2). Brush color editing is done by changing the Stroke color and the Colorizeation parameters with the Hue Shift values in the Stroke Options dialogue box (marked in the figure as 3 and 4).

Step 14

Draw plenty of strokes, changing brush parameters, and you should end up with a result similar to the one below.

Proceed to clipping the composition. Create a rectangle above all objects without fill with the stroke of any color. Select the created rectangle and all the objects of the composition (Command + A) and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make


Add the stylized image of a sun into the composition, then you're finished – the sea storm is ready. It is easy to create interesting backgrounds and effects using this technique. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.

Did you find this post useful?
Want a weekly email summary?
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Design & Illustration tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.
Start your 7-day free trial*
Start free trial
*All Individual plans include a 7-day free trial for new customers; then chosen plan price applies. Cancel any time.