In the following tutorial we'll be looking at how to create a vector path design around a shape, similar to the node elements you'll see in any vector program. We'll be working in Adobe Illustrator with the Appearance panel and a Pattern Brush to create this design which is part of the Tuts+ Workshop: Alphabet Design Challenge!
Open Adobe Illustrator and hit Command + N to create a New document. Enter 600 in the width and height boxes then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the "Align New Objects to Pixel Grid" box is unticked before your click OK.
Using the Type Tool (T), add a simple "V". Set its color at R=255 G=222 B=23, use the "Script MT Bold" font with the size set at 400pt then go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Control + O). Move to the Layers panel and Ungroup (Shift + Control + G) the resulting shape.
Select the shape made in the previous step and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Hold Shift, click on the anchor point highlighted in the second image then hit the Delete key from your keyboard. In the end you should get that little anchor point from the third image.
Reselect the anchor point from the previous step, focus on the Appearance panel and add a white stroke. Select it, make it 3pt wide and go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Rectangle. Enter the data shown below, click OK and return to the Appearance panel.
Add a second stroke for this anchor point using the Add New Stroke button from the bottom of the Appearance panel. Select it, make it 1pt wide, set the color at black and go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Rectangle. Enter the data shown in the following image and click OK. Make sure that this anchor point is still selected and simply drag it inside the Swatches panel. This will save it as a pattern. Double click on this new pattern and name it "Start&End Tile". We'll need it later when we'll create a Pattern Brush.
Reselect the yellow shape and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy, grab the Direct Selection Tool (A), hold Shift, click on the anchor point highlighted in the second image then hit the Delete key from your keyboard. Again, you should end up with a simple anchor point. Next, you need to copy the properties used in the previous step and paste them onto this new anchor point. You can easily do it using the target icon. Move to the Layers panel, focus on the right side and you'll notice that every shape comes with a little grey circle, that's a target icon. Hold Alt, click on the target icon that stands for the anchor point edited in the previous step and drag onto the target icon that stands for this new anchor point.
Keep focusing on your yellow shape and repeat the technique mentioned in the previous step for the rest of the anchor points.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), simply click on your artboard. Enter 5 in the width box and 1 in the height box then click OK. This should create a 5 by 1px rectangle. Select it, fill it with black, open the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) and click on the New Brush button. Check the Pattern Brush button and click OK. Pick a name for your brush then move down to the Tile boxes. Select the Start and the End Tiles and add the "Start&End Tile" pattern. You should find it in your list below the tile boxes. Finally, click OK and you should find your new pattern brush inside the Brushes panel. Once you got this pattern brush you can remove the black rectangle from the Layers panel.
Focus on the bottom side of your yellow vector path. Using the Pen Tool (P), add some simple paths for the bottom anchor points as shown in the first image. Select all three paths and replace the black stroke with the pattern brush made in the previous step. In the end things should look like in the second image.
Next, you need to edit the anchor points for which you added the patterned paths. Select one of these anchor points and focus on the Appearance panel. First, delete the white stroke. Next, select the black stroke, increase its size to 3pt then open the existing rectangle effect and edit it as shown in the following image. Move to the Layers panel and use those target icons to add the same properties for the other two anchor points.
Reselect the yellow path, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light, lower the Opacity to 70%, add the linear gradient shown below and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -3px Offset and click OK. Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, add a stroke for this shape, make it black and 1pt wide. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity percentage.
Make sure that your yellow vector path is still selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the yellow fill and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 0.5px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the data shown below, click OK and return to the Appearance panel. Add a second fill for this shape, drag it in the bottom of the Appearance panel and set its color at R=255 G=242 B=77. Reselect your "V" path, make sure that no fill or stroke is selected (in the Appearance panel) and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown in the left window, click OK and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the data shown in the right window and click OK.
Go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment at 0.25px. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 12px square, fill it with R=203 G=203 B=203 and duplicate it (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy and hit the left arrow and the up arrow once to move it 0.25px up and to the left. Reselect both squares, open the Pathfinder panel and click on the Minus Front button. Select the resulting path, turn it into a pattern then remove it from the Layers panel.
With the Rectangle Tool (M), create a shape the size of your artboard, fill it with R=250 G=250 B=250 then send it to back (Shift + Control + [ ).
Reselect the rectangle made in the previous step, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select it, add the pattern made in the twelfth step and you're done.
Now your work is done. Here is how it should look. I hope you're inspired to take part in our recent Tuts+ Workshop: Alphabet Design Challenge.