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Create Desert Pyramid Scene Illustration in Adobe Illustrator CC

(magical jingle) Hey everybody, welcome into this Adobe Illustrator tutorial brought to you by My name is Nathaniel Dodson and today we’re going to take a look at creating this really cool desert scene that you see right here, right now. We’re going to create the whole thing in Adobe Illustrator. And credit for this effect, the place I originally saw it was a dribble user named tooshy t, or something like that. I’m going to have them linked up right down in the bio to this video, so you can check out the original artwork. But if you’re interested in creating it, stick around right now, because we’re jumping into Adobe Illustrator to check this thing out. Alrighty, well here we are in Adobe Illustrator and the first thing I want to do is create a new document. Now, I’m creating a new document, 2560 by 1440 and I’m going with an RGB color mode. I typically work in CMYK, but every once in a while I just get the itch and I go RGB just because. And this is one of those cases. I’m going to call this rect pyramid – pyramid.

It’s actually pyramid but I don’t know why I’m saying that. And I’m going to go ahead and create this new document. Now, the first thing that I’m going to want to do, and there is a link right down, right down there in the bio we are going to load in a swatch library. And the swatch library is going to be this right here. Desert scene colors tutvid. It is a dot AI file. I just have this on my desktop so I can go other library here and load it up. So this right here this dot AI file is actually a color swatch file you can see, enable, swatch files. So it is a swatch file. We’re going to go open. And you can see it will open. This is kind of what you would see if you just downloaded the file. All you got to do is click on the little folder and boom, there it is. Populated into our swatches folder. I can just close that window. I got all the colors I need to work with this tutorial in my Adobe Illustrator document now.

Also, I’m going to come over and hit the little flyout menu for my layers panel. Go panel options. I’m going to make my thumbnails a little bit bigger to make them easier for you guys to see. There we go, looking good. And first and foremost, we’re going to go grab our rectangle tool, click a single time and we’re going to choose to create a rectangle 2560 by 1440.

It’s a size of our document, hit OK. I’m going to select this. I’m going to align it, but before I do that, I just want to get rid of the stroke here. So I’m going to select the stroke and choose to cancel that out. The fill we’re going to mess around with the fill in just a moment. But what I want to do is open my align panel here, if you don’t have the align panel open, window align. I’m sorry if I’m speaking a little quickly, it’s going to be a long tutorial so I want to start hammering this stuff out. Use that play and pause button there on YouTube or Facebook liberally. Next what we’ll do is make sure we’re aligning this to the artboard and we’re going to align horizontally and vertically. Get us right in place because this is going to be the sky. We’re going to fill it with a gradient. So I’m going to open my gradient panel. I’m going to go ahead and click to just add a standard, you know, black to white gradient, nothing special.

And the first two colors in our color swatch you can see our blue sky and pale sky. So I’m going to grab blue sky, drag and drop him right on the white color stop and then the pail sky drag and drop him on the black color stop. This is the color of our sky. Next, we need to create the initial foreground. So once more, grab your rectangle tool, click a single time. we’re going to go with a width of 2560 again. This time the height is going to be 565 pixels, however. Hit OK.

Now before I align them into place, I’m going to set the gradient to the new colors just so it doesn’t blend into the background. So I still do want a gradient here. And our next two colors in our color swatch you can see our midground left and midground right. So I’m going to grab midground left, drop it on that teal color swatch and then midground right and drop it on the pale yellow swatch. So now we’ve got our middle ground. Using the align panel once more were going to align horizontally and then we’re going to push this guy down to the bottom of our document. Okay, so now that we’ve done that, let’s create the sand dunes that are going to live in the foreground for us. I’m going to zoom out just a little bit.

I’m going to grab the pen tool here and we’re going to begin drawing some dune shapes. So I’m going to begin here maybe, and I’m going to draw right through. You know what? I’m just going to pull it right through here. So I’m creating my initial dune. And then maybe I’ll just ride it right out the back side of my document. Something like that. You can see it’s difficult to see because it’s blending with the background. We could do something like just select, I don’t know, any old color and just make it that color solid.

We’re going to be adding a different gradient to this in a little bit. But this will be our first dune shape. In fact, I think I’ll move this down a little bit, something like that. Maybe even push it, push it over a little bit that way. Something like that. Next I’ll grab the pen tool and let’s go ahead and create a little bit of a taller dune up over here. This will be a dune that peaks up and then swoops right back down and maybe comes right through. Something like that. Alright? You can do kind of whatever you want honestly with these foreground dunes I’m just roughly going with what I had before. So something like that looks good. And obviously, this dune’s a little difficult to see we’ll just change the color. See there we go. We got that dune. And last but not least, I think I’m going to come right through here and just do something like, do something like this. I think that looks good.

I’ll hold down my ALT or OPT key I can drag that tangent handle and just make this dune a little bit more something, something like that. Hold down ALT or OPT again. Use this tangent handle, there we go. I’m going to hold down ALT or OPT and just click on that anchor point. It’s just going to suck that tangent handle back in. And then just join this back off to the other side and if I just give this a light blue. We can see we have these three shapes. Now, obviously they look terrible as is because a number of reasons. Number one, they’re sticking way out off the scene for us. We can correct that in a moment. But the first thing I want to do is give them all gradient fills and then we’ll worry about trimming them or masking them to fit within our scene.

So I’m going to select this guy in the back here and we’re going to once more go back and give it a gradient. So I’m going to say, yeah, give me that original gradient again. Now if we move over, I can see here that I have this dune’s top and dunes bottom gradient fill. Those are the two colors I want so I’m going to take dunes top, drag it to one side. And then this one here I believe is dunes bottom. I’m going to drag it over here to that color stop. Great. And then I’m going to grab my gradient tool. This tool right here. And I’m going to try drawing in the gradient kind of how I think it should go. Now I actually want the light color at the tops. So I’m going to try gradient dunes top. Maybe I’ll start the gradient out here. Something like that, I think looks kind of cool. So I’ll select this shape here and what I can do is use my eyedropper tool and sample from the gradient we already added the color to. And then just use our gradient tool and go ahead and drag that gradient color through kind of where we want the gradient to be here.

Yeah, I want it to be more like that, eh, I don’t know. I’ll pull it a little bit past there. Something like that, I think looks good. And then for the gradient in the absolute foreground, again, grab the eye dropper tool, sample from the gradient that we just placed, use the gradient tool once more, and we’re going to pull a gradient right through here. Kind of, I think, something like that. So we’ve got our foreground dunes now. And, you know, it’s just a matter of playing around with your gradient. We’re going to drag a selection over these three dune shapes, not the foreground behind them. And if I open up my layers, you can see we’ve got these three shapes selected. We’re going to hit CMD/CTRL+G to group them. And then what we’re going to do is add a layer mask, so you can see here, I can double click in my transparency panel, I can double click on this, like open, blank space, that’s going to add this mask.

The mask here makes everything go away, I want everything to go away, except for the bits within my artboard here. So I’m going to select my rectangle tool, I’m going to click a single time, I’m going to say, let’s go like, 2560, and we’ll just go 1440 again, and I’m going to fill this. Not with this gradient, I’m going to double click on that. I’m going to fill it with a solid white, and now you can see part of the dunes are coming back. But what we need to do is take our white rectangle here, and just align it to our artboard. So just this white rectangle will be what shows through. It’s kind of the hole we’re cutting in this black blanket that we’ve draped over our artwork.

So, we can go align, and just align horizontally, and vertically and you can see now, it’s lined up beautifully, and we have our sand dunes coming through. Now what we need to do is just click back on our original artwork, it’s going to take us out of the opacity mask editing mode, and back to our actual artwork. And we have some nice cropped dunes in place for us. And at this point, I’m looking at the dunes, and I want to increase the contrast of them a little bit.

So, I can select the dunes – well, I can click on it. It’s going to select the whole group. But if I double click on it, it’s going to bring me into isolation editing mode, where I can select individual objects within that group very easily. I can go to my gradient panel, and I can say, look, just extend the brightness part over a little bit. Maybe push the darks up a little bit more.

Bring the light down a little. Something like that. We can just adjust it a little until we get more of a color and gradation drop off that we want. I’m going to do the same thing here for this. – Er, actually push the bright color down a little bit more. And then constrain it just a touch, and I’m going to pull the dark color up a little bit more.

There we go, something like that. And then the same thing here, for the foreground. I’m going to extend the bright color down and I’m going to push the dark color up from the bottom. Something a little bit more like that, and then just hit the ESC key to get out of isolation editing mode. And we just add a little bit more, I don’t know, a little bit of a harsher contrast there to the foreground dunes. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. But hey! you can make the adjustment that you want in the piece of artwork that you’re creating. Alright, so now comes the tricky part, where we kind of have to do this by eye. I’m going to go ahead and draw the first pyramid. Once we have one pyramid created, we can just go ahead and duplicate the pyramid as many times as we want. I am going to just grab any old color. I’m going to go with a green, just so we can see it.

Well, actually, that might be a bad choice against the sky. Let’s go with a blueish, purplish color here. I’m going to grab my pen tool, and I think what I’m going to do, I’m going to try creating just a straight triangle to begin with. In fact, let’s do it a different way now that I’m thinking about it. Let’s go to the star tool, let’s click a single time here, and say, give me a star with three points. As you may well imagine, it’s just a triangle, right? There we go. And now, we’re going to make this bigger. So hold down SHIFT and ALT, I’m just dragging it straight up. And then hold down SHIFT, and just rotate it around like that, to get a nice, triangular shape.

Now, that’s a decent sized, little triangle there. What I might want to do, is just push the top down a little bit. And maybe even stretch it out to the side a little bit more. And if I look, I can see that I have a width and a height of – let’s kind of round this off, let’s go 860. And let’s, for a height, we’ll go, eh, let’s go 600. Something like that. Eh, you know what, I don’t like 600. Let’s go 580. I would rather it be kind of more of a short, fat, squat kind of pyramid. Because that reminds me more of the traditional pyramid shape.

In fact, I’m going to boost the width out to 900. Something like that, I think that looks pretty nice. And this is our initial pyramid shape. But we need our pyramid to be broken up into sides, right? So I’m going to grab my pen tool here. And it’s important that we go view and turn smart guides on here, they’re going to make this particular step very easy to do. Hold down SHIFT, and as you hover over, you’re going to see, oh! look there’s an anchor point.

Well, I can click on that anchor point, and I’m drawing out a new path. And I’m going to say, this, right about here, I think will be the sort of highlight side of my rectangle. And then I just come over here, and smart guides is basically allowing me to create this path. You can see, when I end up intersecting with a path, it’s saying, look, yep, you’re going to drop this anchor point right on the path.

So that’s how I click this point into place here. And then, over here, it told me, yep, you are intersecting with that anchor. See how it’s saying anchor? So I clicked there, and then when I close this off, there it is. Anchor. So I’m clicking exactly on the anchor. So I can select these two shapes here, and I can come over to my path finder panel, and then option I want is not here. So, I’ll hit the little triple dot, the ellipses, and it’s going to open up more of my full path finder. I want to choose divide. And I’m going to deselect here, you can see it’s throwing these into a group. And within that group, I now have my two shapes. So, I’m actually going to select this group, and hit CMD+SHIFT+G, go up here under object, and choose ungroup, CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+G, it’s going to ungroup, and we now have our two shapes. So now what we’re going to do, is again, looking at our color scheme, I think it’s this color here.

Right side pyramid top, right side pyramid bottom, and left side pyramid top and bottom, as well. So, I’m going to begin with the right side, so I’ll click on the right side of my pyramid. I’m going to add a gradient, and I’m going to switch those colors. So, what were they? This is, right here, right side pyramid top, so there’s the top. And then, is this right side pyramid bottom? Yes it is. I’m going to drag that into there. And I’m going to drag these color stops back out to kind of where they belong.

And then the mid point, as well, this should be – the location of it should be about 50%. That’s about right. And then I’ll grab my gradient tool. And I’m just going to begin drawing and pulling through a gradient, something, I think, kind of like that. That – I think that will look pretty good for us. Maybe I’ll try pulling into that corner a little bit further. So there’s less of that really heavy red. I think that’ll work for us. Let’s see what happens here when we fill the other side of our pyramid with another gradient. So click to add the gradient fill, and this time, I’m going to go with the left side pyramid top, which is that really bright yellow. And then I believe this, here, will be our left side pyramid bottom, which it is. And once more, I’m going to grab my gradient tool. And again, here, I’m going to click somewhere right around here, and pull into that corner.

So we have a lot of yellow, and it’s pulling into that nice orange base there. So, this is our base pyramid shape. In fact, I think I’m going to adjust that gradient a little bit now that I’m looking at it. I’m going to pull it up a little bit this way. This is my gradient annotator, I believe it’s called. Up here under View, you can say, yep, view or hide the gradient annotator, that’s that kind of bar that we see there. So I’ll just pull this up, just tweak the gradient a little bit like that – oop. And there we go, we have our pyramid. At this point, we can select both shapes of the pyramid, and go Object>Group, just to throw them into a group. And we can duplicate this pyramid, and use it a couple times here in our little piece of artwork. So, I’ll grab it and hit CMD/CTRL+C, that’s Edit>Copy, right? CMD/CTRL+C, and then I’m going to hit CMD/CTRL+F, once, twice, three times. So we’re going to have four pyramids in total.

Now, I’m going to select these top three pyramids by holding down SHIFT, and selecting the little circles in the layers panel. We’re going to leave one pyramid unselected, and we’re just going to hold down SHIFT, and just scale this pyramid down, I don’t know, until it’s maybe, like, 550 or so pixels wide. And I’m going to drag it off, I’m holding down SHIFT. I’m going to drag it off to the side, just like that. And then what I’ll do, is, I’ll select the pyramids that are behind this. So I’m going to select the second and third pyramid here. Hold down SHIFT once more, I’m going to drag these off this way. Maybe something kind of like that, and then I’m just going to select one pyramid here. Well, not that one. We’re going to grab one of the top pyramids here. And I’m going to drag this guy over and just place it somewhere over here.

But I’m going to make it even smaller, so I’m going to hold down my SHIFT and ALT keys, and I’m just going to make it a little bit smaller. I’m going to nudge it downward a little bit using my arrows keys. Now, obviously the problem is, this pyramid is appearing in front of our dunes. We don’t want that. So select the pyramid, we’re going to right click, and we’re going to choose arrange, and we’re going to begin sending this backward. We don’t want to send it to the back, that’s going to place it behind our sky in the layers stacking order, so we just want to send it backward. But note the hotkey, CMD/CTRL and the left square bracket key, we’re going to use that to keep pushing this backward, because when I first hit send backward, it only sends it below one of the pyramids, but it wasn’t in front of that pyramid to begin with, so it doesn’t matter. So, with this selected, and I’m just noticing here that my pyramid over here to the left side of the big pyramid didn’t get copied over. So we’ll just – we’ll fix that in a moment.

What we’re going to do is use that hotkey CMD and the square bracket key to just send this backward. And just watch, we just want this layer to be bumped behind our dunes group. So, CMD and the square bracket, and boom. There you go. We can see our pyramid is now peeking up behind our dunes. Let’s fix the pyramid that didn’t get copied over. So, it’s probably, yeah, we probably just still have two pyramids right there. Yep, we do. So what we’ll do is we’ll just drag this over.

I’m holding down SHIFT and I’ll just drag it straight across like that. And there, now we have three pyramids in the middle of our scene. So, before we move on, this would be the point at which we could check out the pyramids if we decide we need to change them a little bit, now would be the time to do it. And I think I am going to do that. I think what I’m going to do is select all my pyramid shapes, by just selecting one at a time in the layers panel.

Holding down SHIFT and just clicking on the little circle next to the layer. I think I want to make them a little bit wider than they are. So I’m going to hold down my ALT/OPT key and just select the side anchor handle here. The side control handle. And I’m just going to pull them out a little bit, like that. And I think I’m also going to nudge them upward a little bit. Just, maybe kind of – maybe kind of like that. I think that’s nice. Just move them a little bit closer to the horizon, spread them out a little bit more.

Notice this one sticking out off our artboard, we’ll clean that up in a little bit, in terms of using a mask. Actually, maybe I’ll just drag it over here a little bit like this. Because I think we’re going to place a little palm tree down there. So let’s just shift that pyramid over, and maybe this one, we’ll shift downward, maybe more toward the foreground, like that. Really going to be hidden behind our dune. And maybe I’m going to – I’m getting too picky here, aren’t I? There we go. Maybe I’ll make it a little bit smaller, kind of like that. I think I dig that. Make that pyramid move right up to the foreground like so. So, at this point, we’re ready to add some of those palm trees that I just mentioned. So, what we’ll do is we will drag in a stock photo of a palm tree, we’ll just rough trace it. So I’m going to drag it in over here, and we’ll rough trace it. So, right here, I’ve got this stock photo. All four of these stock photos that we’re going to be using, by the way, I have them linked down in the description to this video.

They’re all free, you can check them out. I’m going to drag this one in right here. I’m going to make it, I think, a little bit smaller, because it’s, as you can see, it’s on the large side. We’ll zoom in a little bit, and I’m going to grab my pen tool. Now, here I want to make sure that my fill is just set to a solid color. Just something that’s going to contrast. Maybe I’ll go with, like, yeah, red might – yellow might be a little too harsh, let’s go with red.

And I’m going to begin here, I’m going to just go ahead – and this, guys, this can be really rough, you don’t have to make this perfect at all. I’m going to make the trunk of the palm tree narrow as it gets toward the top. And then we’ll go ahead and create this little, like, dome thing here. And we’ll go ahead and, I don’t know, I’m just going to make a super rough palm tree shape, and then I’m going to go ahead and make the sort of base of the palm tree splay outward a little bit.

So there’s the trunk of the palm tree. And then, at this point, what I’ll do is probably just take like five leaves or something, and trace them using the pen tool. So I would begin, make sure I begin in the top part of my trunk. And, maybe like right here. And then we’ll go ahead and we’ll trace out to where like this first palm tree goes. Something like that. Holding down ALT/OPT, pull a tangent handle back a little bit. And then voila, we have the first leaf of our palm tree. Hit ENTER/RETURN, just finish that path, leave it where it is. If you want, you can grab your direct selection tool, and maybe I want to – want to just flatten out this palm tree leaf a little bit. It’s got a little bit too much wumpty-doo to it for me. I want it to look a little bit more organic, maybe something more like that. And I’m going to speed the video up, but basically what I’m doing is just continuing to draw out a bunch of leaves here for this palm tree that we’re drawing, for our little scene here.

And there you have it, I have a trunk with five palm branches, I can delete the palm tree image. And you can see, it’s nothing beautiful. But, it’s going to be a very small element, so I’m not being too incredibly picky about it. I’m going to select all of the elements by dragging a selection over them. Go to my path finder panel, and I’m going to choose this guy right here. The merge option, to just crunch them all together into one shape.

And I’ll zoom out, and I’m going to bring this guy over my document. I’m going to zoom in a little bit. Now, I have a specific color for the palm trees. I believe it’s this color here, “palm trees,” eh, it says, “pam trees,” but it’s supposed to read “palm trees.” I’m going to leave that little mistake there, just so – just because, well, quite frankly, I don’t feel like going back and changing it.

But it’s something you can look forward to. Alright, I’m going to downsize the palm tree here. Maybe I’ll stretch it out to the side just a little bit. Maybe I’ll stretch it up a little bit, I don’t know. Eh, that’s probably still way too big. I’m going to hold down SHIFT, I’m just going to squish this down even more. Ooh, I’ve got to squish it down even more than that.

It’s gotta be small. I’d rather it be too small than too big, I mean, after all, they are being compared to these pyramids. Alright, there we go, something like that. Ah, I almost feel like I should go a little bit smaller. I’m going to zoom in here, going to zoom in quite a bit. I’m going to make it just a little bit smaller. Something kind of like that. Hold down ALT/OPT, just drag out a second copy of this tree. Maybe place it there. We can make this one a little narrower. You can change it just, you know, marginally. Something like that. Move it into place. I can zoom out. And there we have our first two trees in place. I may actually select them both. I’m being probably too overly picky here, guys. I’m just going to nudge them over just a little bit. Alright, I’m going to select this tree, one of them, and I’m going to hold down ALT/OPT and I’m going to drag out a copy of the tree, and place it over here on the other side of the pyramids.

And I’m going to zoom in, just using my magnification tool. Go back to my black arrow tool, and I’m going to hold down ALT/OPT, and just drag out, I don’t know, two or three copies. Maybe two copies of the tree there. We can make one of them smaller than the rest, just to make it look like, hey, look, there’s a little baby palm tree there! And then, last but not least, I said I would add a palm tree over here beside this pyramid. So hold down ALT/OPT drag a copy of that palm tree out, let’s place it like right here.

But again, this needs to be placed behind the dunes. So, this palm tree layer, this one I’m just going to manually drag it down. Just like that. And place it as it should be. Maybe I’ll make it just a little bit smaller. Just kind of like that, to make it fit in place just like so. So, now we have added some palm trees here to our scene. And next up will be, dragging in the camel train photo. So this photo here, we’re going to drag this in, and we’re going to trace out the – whoop! I don’t mean to do that. We’re going to trace out these folks riding the camels here. And I’m going to do this just using the live trace command. So I’m going to double click to open up my properties panel. I’m going with the image trace. That’s what I meant to say, image trace, not live trace. And we’re going to go with the black and white logo. Illustrator is just going to say, look, tracing may proceed slow, the image is huge.

I’m going to say, eh, don’t worry about it, just let’s go ahead and do this. We’re doing a very simple trace here. And you can see, black and white photo, maybe not the best choice here. Let’s try something like silhouettes. And silhouettes looks pretty bad as well, I think I’m going to ride with silhouettes. And what I’m going to do is hit the open image trace panel. And I know you’re probably laughing at me because this looks so much worse than black and white photo.

But I’ve got some notes here and I know this is going to work here. We’re going to change the thresh hold to 50, and you can see here, we’ve got this nice cutout of the folks walking along the desert, and the sky is all gray and stuff. I’m going to go ahead and choose to Quick Action>Expand this. And now we have this nice shape, I’m going to close my image trace dialogue. I’m going to zoom in on this, and all we need to do here is get rid of all this black ground underneath them.

So, the first thing I’m going to do is grab my pen tool. And just trace, just do a very rough trace around them. Kind of like that, and what I’m really doing is tracing around the ground. Alright, just like that. Now, I’ll select both shapes by dragging a selection over both. And I’m going to choose here, minus front from my path finder. And I’ve gotten rid of the bulk of the ground. Then I would come in here, and with the pen tool, I would just quickly trace over the bottom, just kind of as closely or not, as I like. So for this, I’m going to shut off smart guides, because smart guides can get a little annoying here. And I’m just going to come right through here, very quickly, and I’m just going to speed the video up to get through this process.

Notice I’m probably cutting off the very bottoms of the feet of some of our camels, and the people kind of walking along side the camels, but that’s fine. It’s, again, going to be such a small element in our final finished piece of artwork that you’re hardly going to notice it, if at all. And once here I have the shape completed, I’ll just select both shapes like this. And once more, I’ll use that minus front option, and you can see, I just cut away the bulk of everything that we need to cut away. There may be a few little bits left behind, that’s alright. I’m going to select this, and I have a color specifically set for camel train, I’m going to fill that with that color. And then I’m going to move this, I just zoomed out really quickly, move this over my artwork. Zoom back in, and then we can choose where to place our camel train.

I’m going to hold down SHIFT and ALT, that would be SHIFT and OPT on the Mac, and I’m going to make the camel train very small. So we could place it out here on the desert, kind of like that, that’s probably a little bit too big. Those would be like giants. Alright, something like that, or, whoop! my mistake there. I’m going to zoom in a little bit. I could take this, and I could rotate it a little bit here, make them a little bit larger, because they’re a little bit closer to the foreground. And make them kind of climbing this sand dune, like so. Kind of something like that, right? We could go with something like that, that might be kind of cool.

If I zoom in here, I can see, I’m selecting all kinds of stuff here. We could go with something like that, maybe that’s kind of neat. I think I’ll roll with that. And we now have our camel train there in the foreground, as well. At this point, you obviously could go in, and we could say, you know what? These couple little bits of extra stuff here are just kind of annoying. We could select that, delete a couple times. And we’ll get rid of any of that kind of junk left behind. So, there we go. And the fact you can see we cut off part of their like legs and stuff, it almost works because it’s kind of like they’re naturally sinking into the sand, or almost walking behind the dune, in the case of these folks up here.

So I think that works, and it looks kind of cool. So next, we’re going to go ahead and add some buildings, or the silhouette of buildings across the horizon here, to really add some depth and dimension to our scene. Once more, I’m going to zoom out a little bit, I’ve got to drag in a couple stock photos here. The first one we’re going to go with are these like pointy, desert-y towers here. And we’re, once more, going to use image trace to do this. So, I’m going to go image trace, and I think this time, I’m going to go black and white logo, because it did start to look kind of good before. So, I’m going to go black and white logo here, and look at that! That actually looks pretty decent how it is. I’m going to go ahead and hit expand here. And if I select – it’s all a group, so I’m going to go Object>Ungroup, and I’m just going to select the white sky, first and foremost, and just get rid of that.

And then I’m going to select as many of these branches over here and get rid of them, because kind of all that junk left behind, we really don’t want any of that. Okay, cool. Maybe I’ll select the bulk of these buildings. And that’s kind of what I want. So, all this junk left behind, let’s select that and just delete all of that. We’re just going to keep this building that we want right there.

In fact, what we may do is, just cut off the bottom of part of this building, and I’m going to do that using the rectangle tool. Just drag a selection, kind of sort of like that. Select both shapes. Once more, over to the path finder, we’re going to use minus front. And just trim that. So we have the first part of our silhouette. And you can see, we created a really complex shape really quickly there from that photo. But let’s create something that has a bit more of a middle eastern vibe as well. So, back to my images, I’m going to drag in this mosque, I believe it’s a mosque. It’s a building that kind of looks like a mosque, at least. But it’s got all the – all the beautiful towers and everything, that you expect from the sort of middle eastern architecture. And what I’m going to do here is, I’m going to imagine that this image is cut in half. So I’m going to trace it with the pen tool, not image trace. But I’m only going to trace like half of it. And then we can just duplicate it, and flip it.

So, the reason I’m doing that, is because with image trace here, it’s really difficult, the brightness between the sky and the towers is not – there’s not enough contrast there to create a good separation. You can see here if I go black and white, you’re going to see we’re losing a lot of the best looking parts of this building. So I’m going to undo that.

We’re just going to cut this, or create this shape by hand. So, I’m going to begin with the pen tool. I’m just going to draw, not using a fill, but a stroke, just so I can kind of see where I’m drawing. And I’m going to begin right at the top of this spire, hold down SHIFT and drag a straight line down. Maybe I’ll go down to about here. Hold down SHIFT and come all the way over to the side, maybe to like here. Hold down SHIFT still, come up and across.

So, I’m just going to get that little, outer building. And then, this can just be really rough. It does not at all have to match what you see here, in the photo. So I’m going to create this little curved part. I’m going to zoom in here a little bit, so I can see the detail of what I’m doing. Hold down ALT/OPT just to retract the tangent handle. Hold down SHIFT to create a perfect straight line up.

Create the little angle there. Once more, hold down SHIFT again, we’re going to create this little angle outcropping. And then we’ll create this little angle bit. And now I’m going to hold down ALT/OPT and drag out a tangent handle, like so, and I’m going to take this right up to the tip. And I’m going to click and drag and create a point like that. And then hold down ALT/OPT, I’m coming back over to this tangent point. Hold down ALT/OPT, just drag this straight up, so we can get that, just, perfect shape. Just like that. And then, once more, hold down ALT/OPT and drag a tangent handle straight down. And we’re going to try to duplicate what we just did. So I’ll click down over here. And I’m just going to pull until I get a similar-looking, just, you know, nice, beautifully sloped, rounded shape. Hold down ALT/OPT to retract that tangent handle. And just continue tracing around this, and you’ll basically use those techniques to go ahead and create a nice looking shape here, that we’ll be able to duplicate in just a moment.

So, I’m just speeding this up, and you’ll just watch me fly through the creation process of this. You can make this as detailed, or not, as you like. It can be super simple, or it can be really complex. Just have a little bit of fun with it, create a shape that you think will look pretty cool. And speaking of cool, I think we’ve got a pretty cool, little shape there. All I need to do is, well, I can select my stock photo and delete it. We have this rough outline here, and I’m going to swap foreground and background, hitting that little arrow. There is half of our little temple or mosque. And I’m going to duplicate this, so I’m going to CMD/CTRL+C, and then CMD/CTRL+F to paste it right in front.

You can see I got a duplicate of the shape, I don’t want to move it though. So hit CMD/CTRL+Z to undo, it’s that Edit>Undo option there. And then we’re going to go Object>Transform, and we’re going to choose to reflect this. So I’m going to go reflect. And we’re going to reflect it along the vertical axis, and you can see, this is going to fliparooski it right around like that. I’m going to hit OK. And then I’m going to hold down SHIFT, drag this over, and you can see there’s no snapping. It’s not snapping me into place. So I’m just – I held down SHIFT, I dragged it over. It looks all messed up now, don’t worry. We’re going to go view, and turn smart guides on, and we’ll continue dragging this over. And smart guides will help snap us exactly into place here. Well, they should, at least, help us snap exactly into place, just like so.

And now, I’m going to zoom out, and I’m going to select both of these shapes here. And now what we’ll do is, is we’ll come down and choose this merge option, just to merge these together. So now we have our big, mosque-looking temple, and really, pretty quickly, we were able to create that shape. And now, to this mosque, we’re going to add this pointy bit of building stuff here. So, I’m going to scroll this – er, scale this, I should say, upward a bit. Something I think, kind of sort of like that. That looks pretty cool. So you can see, we’ve got this kind of long, elaborate looking building. I’m going to grab both these shapes. We’re going to merge these together, using that same merge option. And now we have the beginnings of the building that is going to go along our horizon. Now we’re going to begin putting our building here on the left side of our horizon first.

So, I have a color here set for horizon buildings 1, I’m going to fill it with that. So our shape is filled with that color. I’m going to just size this way down. And I’m going to drag it over into our artwork, so we can begin kind of putting it into position. And we want this to be pretty small. So small enough that we’re probably going to duplicate this shape twice across the horizon, or something like that.

So I’m going to nudge this down. Maybe something – I’ll start it right about there. That looks pretty good. Then I’ll hold down ALT/OPT and just duplicate this over, something like that. Maybe I’ll actually nudge this that way, kind of like that. Just so we sort of blend where the buildings come together, you can see that. I’m going to select both these shapes, I want to make it even smaller than this, now that I’m looking at it. So maybe I’ll make it kind of like that. Let me zoom out, and get an idea of my artwork as a whole. Yeah, I think something kind of like that will be better. So that means I’m just going to hold down ALT/OPT and drag another copy of this over, and just place it kind of something like that, that’s fine. What I’ll do now, you can see I’ve got these three groups over here in my layers panel. I’ll select all three groups, by SHIFT+CLICKing the circles associated with them.

And I’ll just group them up, CMD/CTRL+G, now they make one big group, that’s great. A couple problems here. Obviously, the buildings should be behind the pyramids, and they should also be behind the tip of this pyramid here. So what we’ll do is we’ll drag this group. I’m going to just double click here on my properties panel tab. So just collapse that, I’m going to drag this group down below. There we go, that’s good. But it also needs to be behind this pyramid, and I actually don’t mind if it’s behind the horizon, as well. So let’s move it down, and place it even behind the horizon, just like so. There we go, very cool. Now we can select this, hold down ALT/OPT, and just drag it straight over. Just kind of like that. To add the buildings to the other side of our scene. Now, the buildings over here are going to take a different color. They’re going to take this color here, horizon buildings 2. So there we go, the buildings over there, going to be a slightly different color. Obviously, there’s all this junk shooting way off of our scene, don’t worry about that.

We’re going to clean that up with an overall mask in a little bit. Let’s throw a moon up in the sky. We’re going to do that – I’m going to move back up here. We’re going to place our new shapes up here at the top of our layers panel. I’m going to grab my ellipse tool here. And I’m going to set my fill color to white, cause you know, a moon will be light, it’ll be glowing in the sky, something like that. And I’m going to hit OK.

And then what I’m going to do, I’m going to click a single time, and the size I want my ellipse to be, is 125×125, right there. I’m going to zoom in on this, before we make any changes, and what I’m going to do, is I’m going to duplicate this shape, by holding down ALT/OPT key and just drag a copy of this out. And then hold down SHIFT and just make a second circle here, that’s a bit smaller.

And then we’ll overlap the moon with this shape. Maybe I’ll make it just a little bit bigger. Make a moon kind of like this. Select both shapes, and we’re going to use the path finder panel and choose the minus front option here. And just knock that out to create more a traditional, as you would expect, moon-shape. We’re going to go over here to the gradient editor. We’re going to fill this with a gradient, obviously this gradient doesn’t look too good. It actually doesn’t look too bad though. It’s giving me kind of an idea. Let’s go ahead, and add a second color stop, that’s our light color stop for our sky. And get rid of the dark color stop for the sky. So this is the color of our moon. And I’m going to select the color stop over here, off to the right. And we’re just going to reduce it’s opacity to zero percent. So we kind of have this moon that’s fading a little bit, but I think we can make it look even better than this.

This color, by the way, it’s this color down here, it’s the pale sky color. So, if you’re looking to just start with a fresh gradient, you don’t know what I did there, I just, you know, added two pale sky color color stops. And the one here on the right is set to an opacity of zero percent. We’re going to set this gradient to a linear – or not linear, I’m sorry, we’re going to move away from the linear, and we’re going to set it to be a radial gradient. And then we’re going to just compress here, to make our moon glow a little bit more. So I want this moon to be a little less – I want it to be a little bit more like this.

In fact, I’m going to grab my gradient tool here. And let’s just try redrawing our gradient. Let’s move the gradient this way, I’m going to just compress it in a little more. Maybe something like that. Then I can take this point here, and this will allow me to shift the gradient, eh, let me see here. Let me just move it back the way we had it. I’m going to compress it a little bit more. And then I’m going to move it over, and really at this point, it’s just a matter of tweaking with the gradient annotator exactly how you want the moon to fade away.

Maybe I’m going to have it fade a little bit like this. And you can just have some fun with how you work with it. You can see we get a nice moon shape, like so. So our moon looks like it’s a little bit more faded up there in the sky. We can select this, and I’ll probably go to my transform – not the transform panel. The transparency panel here. I’m getting my words and terms confused. And let’s try setting this to maybe, like, overlay? Let’s see what that looks like. That’s not too bad. Maybe a little bit green for my liking. What does soft light look like? Yeah, that makes it a little bit more subtle. I think I like soft light being up there in the sky for the moon. Now, with this radial gradient selected. We’re going to create some stars to place – to have up in the sky.

And then, one mask, and we’re done with our piece of artwork here. So let’s grab the ellipse tool here, and we’re going to begin by creating 10×10 stars. We’re going to click a single time, we’re going to say, look, 10×10. And hit OK. And if I deselect, you’re going to see we’re going to get a star there that’s got this nice glow already associated with it, because it’s just copying the fill that we’ve already added to the moon. Now, with the ellipse tool, I can just click a bunch of times here, and it’s going to just automatically if I click a single time, it’s going to say, yeah, yeah, you want 10 pixel by 10 pixel, of course, right? Yeah. So these are going to be the big stars in the scene. The stars are going to be a little bit more difficult to see over in the lighter part of the scene, and that’s totally fine.

Let’s go with a nice, bright star over here. Great. So we’ve got our big stars. Maybe I’ll add one more, two more. Kind of like that. Now what I want to do is add a star that is 6×6. So we’re going to go with a slightly smaller star here. Add some more of these, so we’re going to have a lot of stars here, basically is what’s happening. I want to go 6×6, not 5×5, I accidentally dragged one out, I think. There we go. Something like so. Very cool. And like I said, as you get closer to that pale sky color, they’re going to be harder to see. That’s totally fine. Now, we’re going to create a 4×4 star.

So it’s even smaller here. So add a few more small ones. Maybe some more small ones down near the horizon. Something like that might look good, tucked in here amongst our pyramids. And the stars, they’re really going to add, just a nice, overall, almost magical vibe to our artwork. Now, we can go – we can go with even some 3x3s, we’re maybe getting a little bit picky here. But I am going to go down to 2×2, so maybe we’ll just throw a couple 3x3s in here. Why not? Something like that. And the idea is, that almost over here on the right side of the scene, it’s just closer to daylight. And over here it’s becoming night, right? And lets click once more and add some 2x2s. These are going to be really hard to see. But you know what? Sometimes success is in the details, as they say.

So we’re going to go ahead and just throw some of these 2x2s in here. And if you can’t really see them too much, that’s fine. But maybe you can see them, and if you can, hey, great. I’ll come over here, I’ll just add a couple more over on this side of the scene. And then we’ll be done with it, before we know. Alright, so I’m going to zoom out. Now part of what I want to do, I want to select all the stars in the sky, obviously that’s going to be kind of tough to do.

So what I’ll do, is I’ll select a single star, over here on my layers panel, just by selecting that. And then we can go, hey, look, select the same, and select the same fill and stroke. And it’s going to select all these stars in the sky. Now, because the moon has the same fill, it’s going to select that as well. I’m just going to hold down my SHIFT key, I’ve got my black arrow selection tool here. I’m going to hold down SHIFT, and I’m going to click on the moon. It’ll deselect that. In fact, it’s not going to deselect it out there, so let’s find it in the layers panel. There it is, right there. And we can just hold down SHIFT and select its little circle. There we go. We’ve deselected that. And now we have all of our stars. We want to group these up to make them a little bit easier to select in the future.

So just go Object>Group. Boom! And now we can name this group, “stars,” or “star,” as I did there. So, we have all of our stars, and I’m going to take this group. And I’m going to try setting it to the color dodge blend mode, and you can see, it almost makes them solid white. It really makes them look quite close to solid white. I’m going to select that, we’re just going to reduce the opacity of this, maybe take it down to 80%, something like that. You can see now, we have some nice stars in the sky of our scene. So, the last thing we need to do here, before we wrap it up, and get out of here, is add a mask to this whole thing. Just to make sure stuff like buildings are all contained within our artwork here.

In fact, the more I’m looking at these buildings, the more I want to select them, and just reduce the opacity of them a little bit. What does it look like if we take the opacity down to like 65? I think that actually might look nicer, right? What do you think? 65%? Yeah, I kind of dig that. I kind of like the way that looks a little bit more. Just makes them a little bit more subtle back there. They’re not quite so in your face. They should be kind of difficult to see thanks to all the dust and everything on the horizon. Maybe I’ll make them even a little bit lighter. Might be going a little bit crazy here, but let’s see what 45 looks like.

I kind of like it. I kind of dig it a little bit more. I’m going to stick with 45% opacity. Alright, let’s add our mask here. So, this mask we’re going to apply to our overall layer. If I collapse the layer, you can see it’s just layer 1. We can call this “comp,” or something like that. I would select that layer, and here in the transparency panel, double click on this square to add our layer mask. You can see it’s hiding everything. That’s fine. Because we’re going to grab the rectangle tool, and just like we did before, add a 2560×1440 rectangle. We’re going to fill it with white, not this blueish color. So I’m just going to click here in my swatches panel on white. And then, simply use my align panel, yeah, we’re going to align horizontally, vertically, all that good stuff. And then we’ll simply select on our artwork here, the thumbnail in the transparency panel to get back to our normal editing mode. And there, ladies and gentlemen, there you have a nice, little composition, piece of artwork, whatever you want to call it. This nice desert scene that we’ve created in Adobe Illustrator, using some simple gradients and drawing tools, and all of that good stuff.

So, there you have it. Lots and lots of different techniques that we covered using blend modes, and shapes, and gradients, and color swatches, and all kinds of you know what, to create this effect here in Adobe Illustrator. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to the channel. You really don’t have to, but hey, it helps come across and find tutorials like this in the future.

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