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Illustrator Tutorial: Flat Illustration + Grain Texture Brush

February 12, 2020


Hello designers, in today’s Illustrator tutorial you’ll learn how to create this illustration inspired by the mushroom in Super Mario in just a few steps. The first step is to start with a rough sketch in Procreate or on a piece of paper and then refine it. If you want to follow along with this tutorial, you can download the exercise files which includes the sketch and the grain brush, the link is in the description. Once you have all of these you can place the sketch image in a new Illustrator document, then lower its opacity to 20% and lock that layer up, so you won’t accidentally move it or draw in it. This takes us to the second step, defining the shapes that make up the flat illustration. Usually I tend to use the Pen tool for everything, but for this tutorial I’d suggest trying to use the Ellipse tool. Create the shape and adjust its anchor points using the Direct selection tool. Keep in mind that the sketch is only there for guidance, I’m not going to try to replicate it perfectly, so that should give you some leeway in how the illustration will end up looking. Going to duplicate that shape and repurpose it for the middle part as well and create simple oval shapes for the sides. Once again, for the eye you can use the elipse tool to get started and make adjustments along the way. With the anchor point selected, I’ll convert it to a straight corner, then adjust the curvature. You only need that part, so using the direct selection tool remove the rest and start making duplicates using the Reflect tool. Select a center point for reflection and while holding down the alt key, make the duplicate. Hold down shift to select both paths and repeat the process. Once that’s done, select the overlapping points, right click and choose the option to join them. For the things on the side, create a round shape, transform it to be taller and after selecting the end points, convert them to straight. Now it’s just a matter of rotating and making small adjustments for them to fit in the illustration. For the fire graphic I will use the pen tool and it’s only a matter of trying to recreate the curves from the sketch. This is a personal preference, but with the shape selected, I’m going to round the corners using the direct selection tool for most of the shapes. The final piece of the puzzle is adding a rectangle as the background for the whole thing, right click and send it to the back, and now we’re ready to move into the third step, which is adding color. This color scheme is included in the description of the video, you can find the color codes there. Test things out, see how the colors complement each other and feel free to change them around. The fourth step is adding depth to the illustration, but for that we need to create a grain brush. In the previous tutorial I’ve started defining it using three random shapes, for this one I will use four and try to have them look a bit more round. Once you organize them in a round shape, try to displace a few from the middle to the outside Select the whole thing and go to window, brushes and from there you have the option to create a new one. Select “Scatter brush” and have the Spacing set to random, with values between 15% and 20%; Random as well for the rotation and move the sliders to the end of each one. The final setting is to change the method to Tints. Make sure to have the draw inside mode activated and in order to add depth, the easiest way would be to create paths that have the brush applied. My prefered method of shading is pretty straight forward, Apply the color of the shape that’s below the one I’m shading on, giving the impression that its blending. When you have a stronger color behind, it will look like a shadow, when you have a lighter color, it will look like a highlight. For example this white element is placed on this red, so you can apply a red texture to it in order to give it some dimension. The good thing about working with grain brushes is that you can make changes to the size of it and have a lot of control over the final look. For an extra layer of texture, I will use a texture overlay vector file from my grain brush pack called Arcadia and just drop it on top of the whole canvas. You can readjust it so it doesn’t spill over the background shape and sample the purple color using the eyedropper tool. Make a duplicate of that texture, resize it to only affect the main illustration and sample the white color. Double click to get inside of that group and start removing any grain dots that are outside the illustration. Keep in mind that if you export it to a PNG or if you bring it in Photoshop the granulation will be finer and it will have a more pleasant look. This is what you should end up with if you follow these simple steps, don’t forget to let me know in the comment section if you enjoyed this tutorial and like the video so more people could see it. Keep in mind that having a wider range of brushes allows you to do more advanced shading, this is a comparison of what I was able to do with my pack of brushes for Illustrator called Arcadia. This pack includes a number of my favourite personal grain brushes, textured overlays and a video tutorial to help you apply them on your own illustrations. Check the description for a special offer available only for the first 100 designers that access it. See you in the next video! Take care!

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