Jeffrey Bowman explains how to use grids, gradients and textures to add depth to your illustrations
- Software Illustrator CS5 or later
- Time needed 2 hours
- Add depth with the Grain effect
- Create halftone patterns
- Set up a grid in Illustrator
Adding extra depth to an image can be a quick process that utilises some simple tools offered by Illustrator.
Using the Grain effect you can add a retro texture, which, combined with some halftone patterns and simple brush strokes, can turn a flat-looking illustration into a rich texturised design. Over the following steps, I’ll show you how.
01 Setting up a grid is the first thing to do. Work out the width of your document and divide it by the amount of segments you want, then navigate to Preferences>Guides and Grids, and insert the figure into the Gridline Every field. It’s entirely up to you how many sub-divisions you want.
02 Now that you have your grid, rough out your illustration, ensuring you select ‘Snap to Document Grid’ (View>Grids & Guides). I’ve created a mountain scene with the sun as the focal point. I turned my rulers on (Cmd/Ctrl+R) to find the centre of my canvas.
03 Choose an appropriate colour palette – I’ve gone for something organic and have used tone to start adding depth. Illustrator has some really nice pre-determined colour palettes in the Swatch fly-out menu (select Open Swatch Library).
04 Now let’s add texture to the edges of our flat shapes to give them a slight hand-drawn feel. Open the Brushes panel, select the drop-down menu and go to Open Brush Library> Artistic>ChalkCharcoalPencil.
05 Select a shape and apply your chosen brushstroke. Once you’re happy with the stroke, go to Object>Expand Appearance. Next, select Merge from the Pathfinder panel: this will make the shape whole, rather than retain the stroke. Repeat this for all of the elements you add the stroke to.
06 Next, we want to add a nice gradient with a textured, grainy feel. This will add depth, but with a retro style. The first thing to do is copy a segment of your illustration.
07 Now apply your gradient, preferably ensuring it fades from dark to white. You can do this by clicking into the Gradient panel and then clicking the default black stopper – this should open up your swatches.