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Using the Appearance Panel to Create a Kitchen Illustration

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Read Time: 21 min

In today's Premium tutorial, I'm going to take advantage of the Appearance Panel to create a kitchen illustration. There are so many benefits to using the Appearance Panel and creating your own Graphic Styles. The big bonus for me is how much time can be saved when you can create a multi use style. Another great benefit is that it can help reduce the file size of your piece and if you're similar to myself, that can be a huge benefit.

A Graphic Style influences the look of a shape. They are a ways of saving a set of options for a shape for later use. The options for a Graphic Style can be found in the Appearance Panel. You can start out with a shape and build up the look of it via the Appearance Panel; however, if you wish to use the Graphic Style again for future use, you'll need to save it by adding it to the Graphic Styles panel.

Step 1

I've used a stock image from Photodune as a reference. The good thing about professional stock is that it usually requires little to no modification. In this case as I'm not working on a portrait (as I would usually), I'm using the stock image as a base for the dimensions of the overall layout and basic elements (sink, cooker, handles), but otherwise I can add what I wish.

So create a New Document in Illustrator and File > Place the image on the canvas, then resize with the Free Transform Tool (E). I'm going to set up my document as shown in the screenshot. Note that in the "BG" layer folder I'm going to add a Rectangle (M) with a white fill set to 30% Opacity.

Step 2

With scenes, I tend to draw the basic shapes by using the shape tools or using the Line Segment Tool (\) as I am in this instance. I've made the Stroke Width's thicker to show you where I've drawn them. I keep them at 1pt and hold down Alt + Shift to maintain perfect horizontal and vertical lines.

I then use the Pen Tool (P) to add the line on the cooker and the Line Segment Tool (\) to add the diagonal lines on the cooker base.

Step 3

As there isn't a great deal of perspective with this vector, I'm going to use a manual perspective guide. The two diagonal lines from the previous step will be perfect for me to find the "vanishing point" and from there I can use it as a guide for the rest of the line work.

Step 4

This is where Smart Guides (Command + U) come in great use to get the most precise lines from the vanishing point.

If I was to go directly from the stock image for the sink, I may not get the precise lines to what I have placed on the cooker. So to compensate for human error, I'll use my make shift perspective guide to draw guides for the sides of the sink. I'll keep these guide lines all in a separate layer folder so it's easy to hide them all when required.

Step 5

I'm going to use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to draw a large rectangle and then I'll be resizing it down with the Free Transform Tool (E).

Resize the rectangle and allow the top corners to "lock" to the guides due to Smart Guides.

With the Direct Selection Tool (V), grab the sides (making sure to select the full corners with two points on each) and align them to the guides. Keep the top and bottom lines perfectly horizontal.

Step 6

I'm going to add further Rounded Rectangles for the microwave front and add points to one of the horizontal sizes, then use the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) to modify the newly added point.

Step 7

Using the manual guides, I'm going to add lines and shapes for the cooker and sink.

Step 8

This is where you can notice how much human error has distorted the perspective, by adding in the depth lines for the cupboards. So first we'll add manual perspective lines for the corner of the cupboards and bottom.

Draw in your lines using the Line Segment Tool (\). The bottom corners attached to the wall should be on the same horizontal line, you can test this with a manual guide.

Step 9

I'm going to Join (Command + J) the corners and remove the additional points.

Then put a Rectangle (M) around the whole line art. The reason being is that I'm going to color in between the lines with the Live Paint Bucket (K), so I need to close off any shapes to make this possible.

Step 10

Select All of the lines (Command + A) and then create a Compound Path (Command + 8). Do not expand the lines. Keep them as Strokes, you'll see why in the next couple of steps.

Step 11

Now use the Live Paint Bucket (K) to fill in the areas of the kitchen. I'm going to use many colors of the same shade as a guide. Think of it as seeing the final piece in black and white... but because white can be a harsh color on the eyes, I'll use an off beige/olive shade.

Step 12

Select the Live Paint group and go to Object > Expand. Within the group you'll have two groups: the line art strokes and the shapes with a fill. Take the shapes out of the group and hide the line art for now.

Although in Illustrator you'll see the gaps between the shapes, they are not actually there. You can test this by putting a bold color behind the entire work and then going to File > Save for Web & Devices.

Step 13

I'm going to duplicate the group with the filled shapes and apply gradients to the shapes using the same shades. This will help me visualize the separate sections and areas of the illustration. I'll later apply Graphic Styles I'll create in the Appearance panel with a varied set of colors.

So for now, I'll add linear gradients to the cupboards at a diagonal. As I go along I save the gradients I create as they may come in use later on.

Step 14

Now apply linear gradients at 90 degrees to give the impression of shadow from an overhang on the cupboards.

Step 15

As the light from above would be hitting the surfaces of the benches directly, so I'll just want a subtle shadow effect either side of the bench to give the impression of it being slightly curved at the edges.

Step 16

The shadow for this is only really to show the edge/depth of the wall, so the first shadow will only be slight.

Then there will be a lot of shadow cast underneath the cupboards on the wall.

Step 17

The inside surfaces of the cupboards where it meets the cooker will be more harsh as they are directly underneath.

Step 18

The gradients for the edges of the benches should be darkest towards the bottom as the light is coming from above.

Step 19

The sinks gradient is different from the others as it's going to give the impression of the shape of the sink. The darker sections of the gradient (as shown below) will reflect the corners of the sink. This is the first shape that I begin to use different colors in as this area won't need as much alteration.

I'm going to create a similar gradient for the edges of the sink, but not in as much detail as it's such a small area.

Step 20

Use the Direct Selection Tool (V) to select the shapes for the cooker. For now I'm going to leave these until I've applied styles to the other surfaces, so I'm going to Group (Command + G) these and take them out of the original shape fill group.

Step 21

Now I'm going to get more in depth by using the Appearance Panel. The benefits of using the Appearance Panel for such elements is that you can save the style you create for other areas, you can add multiple effects and elements to shapes without adding further points to the canvas. This in theory should mean a smaller file size.

To start with, I tend to build up the area with the same colors and gradients as I've saved for other areas, and then Add New Fill on top to "Color" everything underneath. By using low opacity fills and strokes on different Blending Modes, you can create some great effects.

With the doors, the main effect I want to achieve is a shadow that comes in from the side and from the bottom (which would be the original gradient). The Strokes will then help add a border to the shapes and define them from one another.

Once done, go into the Graphic Styles tab and add New Graphic Style so it can be applied elsewhere. In this case, it will be applied to the other cupboards. If you scroll into the illustration, you'll notice that the outline is inappropriately placed along the bottom set of cupboards. This will be rectified later on, so don't worry about this.

Step 22

With the shadow under the cupboards within such a small area and a simple shadow from an overhang, the only additional change it requires is an alternation in color. So I've used the same color from the cupboard doors to make sure there is a consistency in the colors.

Step 23

With the wall at the top of the cupboards, I'm just going to increase the shadow and change the Hue via Blending Mode options.

Step 24

You can add more than gradients and plain colors to the Appearance Panel, you can also add patterns! This is very useful if you're wanting to add a textured effect.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create three squares on top of each other with a slight variation in color and size as shown below. Group them (Command + G) and drag and drop them into the Swatch Palette. This will create a seamless pattern to use in the next part.

I'm going to add this pattern as a fill on top of the original gradient and change the Blending Mode to Overlay so I just get the pattern coming through. Then I altered the overall color to create a clean tiled effect in the background.

Step 25

Here is another instance where I'm going to use a pattern within a Graphic Style. I'm using the default AI pattern of "USGS 21 Intricate Surface" as a fill to create a subtle granite effect on the benches. As the pattern is black and white, I've used the Blending Mode Overlay so it takes the color from below layers within the Graphic Style.

I've used the same pattern for the edges of the benches too.

Step 26

Remembering that the inside of the cupboards would be the same material as the doors I previously made, I have applied the same fill and Blending Mode to this area as shown.

Step 27

Select the bench in the foreground, the edge and surface underneath the edge and Group them (Command + G). Bring this group in front of all the other shapes in the fill shapes group. Select the cupboard doors as shown below and using the Free Transform Tool (E), increase the height. This will help hide the edges at the bottom of the shape affected by the Strokes applied in the Graphic Style.

Step 28

While these shapes are selected, duplicate them and then Pathfinder > Unite. Then apply a dark gradient with Blending Mode Multiply to give a darker shadow created from the edge of the bench.

Step 29

To add further definition between the cupboard doors, I've used the Line Segment Tool (\) with a dark color set to Blending Mode Multiply with a 1pt Stroke Weight and applied the "Width Profile 4" option from the Stroke palette.

I've done the same with the lines for the benches; however, I've not applied a Width Profile.

For where the cupboard meets the tiles, I've applied the "Width Profile 4" option.

Step 30

Now to create the handles on the cupboard doors. I've done this by creating a long slim Rounded Rectangle. Then use the Mesh Tool (U) to add a lighter gray to the center of the shape and then towards the top and bottom. Notice in the screenshots below, the bottom point is not as close to the bottom. This is because the light is coming in from the top so I want to give the impression of a slight shadow.

I've then added a further set of highlights to the right and then the bottom most points to the left added a darker shade.

Step 31

Before duplicating the handle for each of the doors, I've Grouped it (Command + G) with a long slim Rounded Rectangle set to Blending Mode Multiply with a dark fill to create a drop shadow effect. For the shorter handles I've used the Free Transform Tool (E) to reduce the height.

After rotating the handle 90 degrees, I've added light reflection towards the other end of the handle, so the light distribution appears to be equal for the horizontal handles on the cupboards below.

Don't worry about the ends overlapping on the sides, as this will be clipped off thanks to the Artboard Tool (Shift + O).

Step 32

Now to begin work on the cooker. I'm going to create a brushed metal/steel effect on the outside of the microwave area. I've started with a linear gradient at an angle with multiple colors in. This is due to the shiny surface of the metal and the multiple reflections it may have from the surroundings.

Then I applied two different patterns that have a similar horizontal line pattern to it. One is set to Screen, the other to Multiply. This is because if you used the same pattern twice, it would overlap and effectively cancel out the effect you're wishing to achieve.

Then I applied an Inside Aligned Stroke to it to give the impression of a bevel effect. Remember to save this as a New Graphic Style in the Graphic Styles tab for later use.

Step 33

Use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw three horizontal lines with Round Caps on the vent above the microwave and then Object > Expand them. Duplicate the shapes and with the first set, use Pathfinder > Minus Front to remove them from the vent area. Apply the brushed metal graphic style to the area.

With the duplicated lines, place them behind the vent area and using the arrow keys on the keyboard, move them up a couple of nudges and set them to Blending Mode Multiply.

Finally, draw a horizontal line where the vent meet the microwave to give it definition.

Step 34

With the plastic for the microwave, I'm adding a different element into the Appearance Panel and that's using a Live Effect (which can be modified at any time). If you notice in the screen shot below I've added "Offset Path," which can be found at Effects > Path > Offset Path, and this is used to create the thin line within the shape with the gradient.

The first Offset Path is set to -2pt and it contains the black/gray gradient that is creating a shine on the top edges of the plastic.

The second Offset Path is set to -4pt... this would make the thin line within the shape 2pt in width; is with a gradient to give a subtle shine to the surface. In this Graphic Style you can see the benefit in using the Appearance Panel instead of separate shapes as you would need to create three shapes individually to create this effect without it!

Step 35

I'm going to get a bit more confident with this next Graphic Style. As you may have noticed from previous steps, if you change the direction of the gradient or even distort a radial gradient within a Graphic Style, it will maintain this for future application. Within the "glass" of our microwave, I've created two radial gradients to create the look of something within the microwave. I've also used a linear gradient below it to look like the bottom surface of the microwave.

On top of this, I've applied a seamless line pattern, used Offset Path and used a gradient from the previous steps to create a shine on the surface. Remember to save your Graphic Styles for future use as you'll find out later.

Step 36

Here is an example of how you can modify a shape and for the Graphic Style to be maintained for both shapes. If you look at the reference image, our microwave should be in two parts, so I'm going to need to split the shapes in two. I'm going to do this with the Knife Tool. Hold down Alt and drag down the Knife cursor over the shapes you wish to split and you'll get the below result.

As I don't wish the sides of the plastic shape to have the shine gradient showing, I'm going to add some shapes to just cover these elements.

Step 37

When you create a Graphic Style, you can still view the separate elements of it within the Appearance Panel, should you need to tweak one or more aspects of it. When I created the handle of the microwave with the Rounded Rectangle Tool, I wanted the shine from the Brushed Metal Graphic Style to be in a different direction. So I highlighted the Fill with the gradient and used the Gradient Tool (G) to alter the direction. This wont modify all of the shapes that have used this Graphic Style, as you've already saved it. It will just modify it for your new shape only.

Step 38

I'm going to work on the next part of the cooker, but looking at the rest of the composition so far, I feel the cooker from the reference image is a bit old fashioned in comparison to the clean modern look of the surfaces and cupboards I have. So I'm going to delete the shapes for the top of the cooker, which is on the wall, and then modify the shape with the tiles to cover the space.

Step 39

I'm going to create an electric top for the cooker. To start with I'll apply the Brushed Metal Graphic Style, then Offset Path by -5pt, and add a black Fill. Duplicate Fill and add the below radial gradient to create a glowing ring effect. Do this three more times so you have all four rings.

Step 40

For the front of the cooker, I'm going to create a Rounded Rectangle and duplicate it. With one copy I'll Pathfinder > Minus Front it from the large shape for the cooker front and then apply the Brushed Metal Graphic Style.

Then with the Rounded Rectangle I'll apply the glass front from the microwave Graphic Style. Then I'll draw a Rectangle (M) at the top of the cooker front and apply the plastic effect Graphic Style. This is where the knobs of the cooker will go.

Step 41

Using a mixture of conical gradients (check out this tutorial to find out how to create one), one with and one without a black stroke and stars created by the Line Segment Tool (\), I'm going to create the knobs for my cooker front and microwave.

Now duplicate them and place them in the relevant places. Remember the cooker will require five knobs - four for the electric nob rings and one for the oven.

Step 42

I'm going to create a Graphic Style for the digital screens for the appliances and use our trusted shine gradient to give a distortion in color by using a 50% Opacity and the Blend Mode Multiply.

The digits on the dials won't need to be too complex, as long as the times are the same! Just add random characters as the final illustration won't require such in depth detailing.

Step 43

The buttons for our cooker are a very simple Graphic Style consisting of an Inside Aligned Stroke and diagonal linear gradient.

Step 44

Using the Brushed Metal Graphic Style again within a Rounded Rectangle, I'm going to draw the handle for the oven. Remembering to go inside the Appearance Panel to modify the direction of the gradient with the Gradient Tool (G).

Step 45

I'm going to create the lights for the kitchen. First the wire hanging from the light shade is a simple linear gradient within a long slim Rectangle (M).

Step 46

The light shade is created using a mixture of gradients and AI default seamless texture patterns. Using the Blending Mode Saturation creates a nice iridescent shine to it. The shape itself is created using a Rectangle (M) and adding points to the top and bottom of the shape and modifying it into a curve.

Then Group the light shade and the wire for the light (Command + G) and duplicate it along the top of the illustration.

Step 47

For the tap, I'm going to draw an Ellipse (L) and Expand its 6pt Stroke and then remove half of it. On this shape, apply a radial gradient and modify it so it gives the impression of a shiny chrome surface.

Add a Rectangle (M) at one end of the Ellipse, and using the Gradient Tool (G) and the same gradient, turn it into a linear gradient, line up and modify it as required.

Step 48

Round the edges of the ellipse and rectangles by adding a point and modifying it into a curve. Then add a Rounded Rectangle for the base of the tap and one for the switch. Finally, add a duplicate of the conical gradient used for the knobs as shown.

Draw two curved lines and color one dark and one light. Apply the "Width Profile 1" Stroke Profile to the lines to create a decorative element for the tap. Then create a shadow under the tap by adding a transparent radial gradient set to Blending Mode Multiply.

Step 49

To create the base of the jars, I'm going to use a Rounded Rectangle and modify it (as shown below) by adding points and moving them. Then using our shine gradient and Offset Path, create a Graphic Style.

After slimming the jar with the Free Transform Tool (E), I'm going to create a lid for it using another Rounded Rectangle and modifying it by adding points. Then draw an Ellipse (L) and remove it from a duplicate of the Rounded Rectangle shape. Apply a radial gradient to the base of the lid and then a linear gradient for the sides to give it some depth.

Step 50

I've drawn a shape for within the jar for the contents. Then I created the below Graphic Style with a mixture of gradients and pattern fills.

Step 51

I'm going to add shapes for the shine on the glass set to Blending Mode Screen and shapes for around the neck set to Blending Mode Multiply to give the jar more depth.

Then duplicate the jar and modify the contents Graphic Style slightly to show a varied content in the jars.

Step 52

I'm going to create a series of plants for the kitchen bench now. First I'm going to modify a Rectangle (M) and apply the below elements in the Appearance Panel. I won't need to add too many elements, as a portion of the pot will be hidden by the leaves.

Step 53

For the leaves of the plant, I'll be creating a Scatter brush. The brush will consist of the shapes shown below.

Add a New Brush and select the Scatter Brush option. It's important to select the Colorization Method as Tints, which will allow you to create different shades of leaves on the plant.

Then use the Paintbrush Tool (B) to draw lines coming from the plant pot to create your plant. When you duplicate the plants, select all of the lines for the leaves of the plant and click on the brush in the Brush palette. This will randomize the placement of the leaves to add some variety to the plants.

Step 54

To add another style of jar to the kitchen bench, duplicate the original jar and using the Direct Selection Tool (V), select the bottom points of the jar. Use the Free Transform Tool (E) to then increase the height of the jar.

Then use Effects > Distort & Transform > Free Distort to slim the top of the jar and widen the bottom as shown below.

Add a plain fill to the jars and duplicate them to vary the content.

Step 55

Finally, use the Artboard Tool (Shift + O) to set your artboard for when you Save for Web & Devices.


I hope you've seen how useful and time saving the Appearance Panel/Graphic Styles can be. Learning when you can apply within the Appearance Panel, you can not only create some great Graphic Styles for one big illustration, but also for more in the future!

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