Join Von Glitschka for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a Shadowbox Design, part of Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory.
- [Von] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. Creative inspiration is most definitely a curious muse. For me, it's usually a fleeting moment where an idea briefly formulates in my mind. And unless I take notice and actively attempt to capture it, it can soon pass and be forgotten. So I try not to ignore this type of creative curiosity. I enjoy reading about archeology, and recently I was reading some information about what you see here, the Hilton of Cadboll Stone.
I might be pronouncing that wrong. It dates back to the 1800 A.D., and this is a reproduction of that archeological artifact. And it's the inspiration for this movie, and it gave me the idea to try and create a shadowbox design. So with that said, let's get started. Now, in this design, I want to capture dimension in depth, even though this is going to be 2D graphics. Now, because this is inspired by an archeological find, I wanted to stay in that kind of stylistic vein but still have some fun with it.
So I talked to my daughter, Savannah, and she's in the process of creating her own online comic. And this is one of the characters from her comic. So I said, look, could you draw it in that classical kind of frieze style that you see, such as in the artifact you saw previously, and so she did. This is her character. And so I'm going to take this art, and we're going to attempt to make a shadowbox design motif that's graphic but yet it has some dimension to it.
And I think it's going to be a lot of fun. So this is what we're going to start with, and we're just going to select it, like I usually do. Set it to 20, and I'm going to lock that layer. Now, this is pretty geometric. I told her to keep it simplified. This isn't supposed to be a cartoon, even though her comic will be more in that vein. This is distinctly graphic. So if I turn on our Base Vectors here and we zoom in on this, you can see it's pretty simplified graphics. We have some circles in here.
And even though she drew some elements, I didn't bother to build those. I kind of simplified even further down from her drawing and just used the graphic nature of the illustration to capture the essence of what her sketch was showing. You can see that on the eyebrow. I thought she made it a little too big, so I cut that down as well. But the way this is constructed is just simple strokes, and I broke it into pieces. So his mouth is a separate piece. I showed you on the face. If we go over here, this makes up the back end here.
And then if we go to the arm, you can see the shape here. And if we go to the chest, pull this out, it's just one stroke. So that's how I constructed it because it's going to aid us as we go to build the final art. So on this, it's all going to be stroke-based. We're not worrying about any fills. We're just capturing the essence of the form, and what's going to facilitate that is to figure it out in analog first. So once again, analog is going to facilitate our digital efforts and improve it.
So let's go ahead and take this artwork, actually, if I show you a comparison between the layer I'm on here and the one underneath it, you can see I've made a few changes to these circular shapes. I just decided to give 'em a little more breathing room. And I've also gone in and I've cleaned up the art where we needed to because we're going to be expanding these paths. So instead of it going through the horn, which I don't want it to, I cut that path here to fix those type of areas.
That's the only part that actually breaks outside of this square shape that we're using here. So on this, we're going to go ahead and select everything here, and we want to just play around with the weight of the stroke and figure out what weight we want to have this. And on this one, right now, if we go to Stroke, it's one point. So let's go ahead and zoom in, so we can see this a little better. So we want to get a little more beefy with this, and two is pretty, I want a little more than that but not a lot, so let's try nudging it.
Okay, I think that's good. That's going to work. I think that's a good weight. And so that's all we're going to do here. And then, once we have that figured out, now, we don't want to keep it as strokes. We want these to be shapes 'cause we're going to be filling it with gradients and applying effects to it, and we want all of these to be shapes. But right now, as I showed you before, all of these are separate pieces. So we're going to have to select everything, go up to Object, go down to Path, go to Outline Stroke, and now if we go to Keyline View, go back to Layers, we're on this layer right here, if we go to Keyline View, you can see that these are now all expanded into actual shapes.
That's what we want. And then, once we have this, then we can go down to Pathfinder and select Unite, and this is going to fuse everything together. But one thing I want to show you that you run into problems when you work this way, and it's not because anybody's doing anything wrong, it's just because it's the way Illustrator is. And why it does this, I have no idea, but you can see all these anchor points that have been added here. And so I just want to briefly explain why that happens.
So we're going to turn on this layer here, and this is the shapes we had expanded right here. And you can see they're on top of one another, but they're exact same path, such as this one down here. If I pull it out, you can see it actually goes along the same path. Now, when I used to work in FreeHand, Macromedia FreeHand, which Adobe bought, I used that for 15 years, and I worked this exact same way in FreeHand. A lot of similarities since they're vector-based programs, but I could select all of these and fuse 'em.
It was called fuse in FreeHand. You might catch me saying fuse (chuckles) at times because I used it for 15 years. I've used Illustrator now for 15 years, but they call it unite. Fuse, unite, same difference. But in Illustrator, if I try to unite these using the Pathfinder like this, you can see it just adds all these extra anchor points here, in here, and that's really frustrating. In FreeHand, it never did this. Now, what I want to show you is how to go about cleaning up your art or building it clean, I should say.
So once again, here is all of our expanded strokes before we unite 'em together. And I go in on this area, such as the back of the head, and I only keep what I need because we're already going to get this shape and this path with this shape shown here. So all I have to do is cut off the elements I don't need. And that's all I've done here is I've gone through and cleaned up all of these, so they're ready to unite. So we won't get any of that extra anchor points added.
So if I select all of these and I go Unite on these, you can see we have clean artwork we can use, and that's really important. So I just wanted to explain that a little more. It's kind of the knitty gritty of vector building, when you're working in this style. But in my opinion, if you're going to build it digital, build it precise, build it well. Don't get sloppy with your building, so, that's that. So now I'm going to take this, and I want to break this art apart into a hierarchy, meaning we don't want the shapes to be representative of outlines.
We want everything on the inside. And so that's what I've done here. I've just taken everything that was on the inside of the paths we expanded, so like on the inside of this character here, and I've now separated them. So if I drag this over here, you can see it's the same color as the background. If I drag it over here, you can see what that looks like. So that's there. And then this mid-range area, and you can see the hierarchy, meaning this is behind the character, but when it's a line, it still represents the same art we expanded.
And then the very background shape will be this. So I arrange it like this just to figure out what the hierarchy of my elements are going to be. Now, I'm going to move forward and use layers to distinctly manage everything and apply effects to 'em to pull off a certain look and feel, but I kind of figure it out at this level first and then I move forward. So with this all established, we can start building that dimension we mentioned earlier. And the background, of course, is going to be this background color.
But before we turn that on, we're going to go up to our layer for our character, and this is the artwork here. And on this character, because it's the same color as the background, if I turn it on, we won't be able to see it. That's why I have the background toggled off at the moment. But for this character, we want to do some work on this character before we start working on the background. And the first one is we just want to add a nice blend to this character. Now, some of these things I have prebaked. So on this, we're just going to hit this Graphic Style, and you can see if we go to the gradient that it just goes from a darker hue of this gray to a lighter hue of the gray just to add some nice surface dimension to it.
And if we turn on our background, you can see how it starting to contrast with the background there. So that's all we're going to do there. Now, the next thing we're going to do on this character is we want to go ahead and duplicate our art here. So we'll select it, and I have a clone keyboard shortcut set up, so I can hit F3 to clone it. But just so you know what I'm doing, I'm going to go Command + C, Command + F. And all we've done here is we've made a copy of this, and I'm just going to go ahead and position it so it's like a drop shadow of this character.
So right about, we'll go right about there. And then I'm going to go ahead and colorize this. And we'll go up to our grays, and you can see I have a tonal family of grays here. And I'm going to color it this one. And I'm going to copy it and paste it behind our character here. Now, that looks pretty bad, so (laughs) we're going to do some more things to improve on this. But the first thing we're going to do is I'm going to select this background image that we just made with the darker version, and we're going to go ahead and apply an effect to it.
So we're going to go up to Effect, pull down to Blur, Gaussian Blur. This will open up. And 12, I think, is way too much. We don't want that. We're going to do three. And you can preview it if you want. That looks fine. We'll go OK. And then we're going to adjust the value. So we don't want it at 100%. Actually, I'm going to select the the blend mode of Multiply. Then we'll adjust the value. And I want it by half or so, so we'll do 55, like that.
And then, on this one, I want to select the character on top, the shape on top. And on this one, we want to apply another effect. So we're going to go up here, pull down to Style, and we want to go to Drop Shadow. And on this one, let's see, I want this to kind of align with how we did the other one. So we don't want it positive. We want to go negative here. And I don't want it this much, maybe three.
And we'll make six. And on this color, I really wish when you were in this mode, let's go ahead and cancel this, if I was in here, I could just go here and click the color. I don't know why they push you through all these windows. It's very old school. They need to improve that, in my opinion. So I think we'll go with this darkest one here. We'll click OK. And we'll see what 75 looks like. It might be too dark, but I'm not sure.
So we'll go OK. And so we've just applied a drop shadow to this character. So if I drag it over, you can see how that drop shadow is applying. Now, all through this, we're going to be going back to this original shape because we're going to use this as a mask. So, we'll take this shape, we'll actually drag select everything, and with this shape on top, we'll mask it. Now, for masking, I can just hit F1 and mask it immediately. But if you don't have keyboard shortcuts set up, you can go to Object, Clipping Mask, Make.
Notice how I have F1? Makes it go a lot faster. And I mask it into that shape. So now, if we go turn on our Background layer here, you can see how that's starting to look. So that's all we're going to do, and we're going to repeat this type of process with other elements in this composition. So the next thing we're going to do for this character that's really going to give it a lot of dimension, we'll go ahead and toggle this layer off, I'm going to toggle another one on, is we're going to take this one right here.
If I go back and turn this layer off, we're going to take these two copies of the same artwork, like here, and before we do this, we're going to select this one, which is the same color as the background, and we're going to make that 0% Opacity, so it's transparent. We'll select both of these. We're going to go to the Blend tool, and we'll click on corresponding anchor points. We'll do at the base of his sleeve here to this one, and you can see it adds a nice blend.
Now, we can control this. So if I select this and double-click into the shape Blend tool, we can go to specific steps. And this is too many. We only need about 100. We'll be fine. We'll go OK. And now, on your machine, this might chug a little bit because it's 100 vector pieces, so we're talking hundreds of anchor points that are blending it. But that looks pretty cool. All we're doing is we're kind of baking our own cast shadow, if you will.
Now, the next thing I'm going to do is apply a few effects to this just to improve it, make it look cooler, and that's going to be easy. We're just going to go up here, to Blur, Gaussian Blur. We'll open this up. And I do want this one more, so let's try 10, see what that looks like. That looks pretty good, but I think I want to go to 12, so let's do that. And we'll go OK. Now that we've applied a Gaussian Blur, I want to go ahead and adjust the value.
I don't want it to be 100%. I do want this to be Multiply, so it multiplies over the background. And on the value, we'll do 80. So you'll notice there is some numbers being crunched there, so you're going to get the beach ball coming up a little bit because it has to do all the math to figure that out. We're going to take this shape again, and we're going to use this as, once again, as a mask for this artwork.
So I'll just select both of 'em. I'm going to hit F1 because I have keyboard shortcuts set up to create a mask. You can see how quick that goes. I don't have to touch the menus. So that's really important. Now we can go back. We can turn on our character above this. Go down, turn on our background. And you can see kind of the look and feel we're starting to create. Now, I repeat these exact same methodology for the other elements underneath. So if we turn on this scene, you can see how I've applied some drop shadows to these shapes and have created a cast shadow for that shape as well.
So it's really easy, once you figure out one process, you can apply it in other ways to the same motif and start building layer upon layer. Notice how I'm using layers. This makes the composition easier to manage, so get in the habit of doing that. And now, the next thing, since we've created the cast shadow, we can go ahead and turn on what I'm calling these fader shaders (laughs). Fader Shade effects here, we'll turn 'em on. And this is just to add a darker hue to this background 'cause light wouldn't be coming there.
So we want that to be darker. And at the top here, we want that to be darker because the light's coming from the top right and down. And you're going to see that more as we turn on other layers. And we'll turn on this one just to separate and push this mid-layer back and bring the character forward. So those are simple things you can do. All these are are just blends set to Multiply on that layer. I give you this artwork in its final form, as I'm going to show you really shortly, and you can deconstruct it to figure out even more stuff.
So don't freak out if I'm going a little faster than you're comfortable with. I know some people learn better by just simply poking around in a file, so I'm going to give you that ability with this artwork. So the next thing I want to go over here is to really push that look and feel and really come up with the feel that this is kind of engraved in the surface of this gray here. And so we're going to turn on this layer. I'm going to go ahead and select this.
And we're going to go ahead and color this, and the color we're going to use here will be, let's see, this, too light, that's okay, I think we'll go full dark here. Get rid of this outline. And on this one, I don't want this full value. So the value on this, I want it dark but not completely solid, so I'll go 90. And then, once again, we're going to apply another effect, so we'll go to Gaussian Blur here.
And on this one, I want to double this, so let's go 24. And that looks pretty cool. Then I'm going to select this one. I'm going to color it the same color. Here, get rid of the outline. And on this one, it's almost like the second tier of the shading, so I don't want it to be, the value to be as dark. So I'm going to, let's do 55. And I do want it to Multiply, like the other one, so we'll do that.
And make sure we've got Multiply on this one. Oh, you know what? We forgot, so we're going to turn Multiply on the Gaussian Blur we created. So always check yourself 'cause sometimes you can forget. So we'll select the second one we did, go to Effects, pull down to Gaussian Blur. And on this one, once again, I don't want it quite as much at all, so we'll do it barely. I just don't want it super sharp, so we'll do five. And that looks pretty good. Now, we're going to take this same shape that we've been masking everything with, and we're going to go ahead and mask this, F1 to mask it.
And you can see how immediately it's pushing this back. It's recessing everything. So that's kind of the look and feel I was really wanting to do. Now, we're going to focus back on the character here. I like the character, but I think it could look a little cooler. So let's turn on this layer, and we'll lock some of these other layers we've been working on. And on this layer here, I don't want it blue obviously, so let's turn it white just for a second.
I have Multiply on. We can turn Multiply off, so we can see this. Now, what I want to do is I want to apply an Inner Glow to it, so I'm going to click this. Like a good cooking show, I have some of this prebaked. So I'm going to click on this, and you can see how it's applied this Inner Glow. Now, this is hard to see, so let me zoom in. You can see what it's doing here, applying this Inner Glow, and it looks good on the back end. I don't really like it on the front end, but I do like it, how it affects everything on the back end.
So we're going to control this a little more, and we're going to do that by turning on this layer. And this is an Opacity Mask, meaning it's a mask that is going to only mask out areas that wherever it's black is what it's going to mask. Wherever it's white is what it's going to show through. So I have these two set up so that I can just simply drag select both of 'em. And we'll go to the Transparency palette, you'll see Make Mask, and I'm going to click on it.
And so now, that Inner Glow effect that we had applied to this character is showing on the back end. But on the front end, it's not showing, and that's kind of what I wanted. It just looks a little nicer that way. So that's how you can control it using Opacity Mask for that kind of detailing. Now, that edge effect that we just applied to the character, we're going to apply it to the background here, so I'm going to turn that on. You can see how that's added a little more dimension.
We're starting to get that believability about a shadowbox-type look and feel. That's kind of what we were after. That's what we wanted, so that's looking good. Now, I think what's really going to push this over the top, and you know I was probably going to go there because I love textures. I live in Oregon. We go to the Oregon Coast. And we were there a few years back, and I saw these rock formations. And I went up and took these shots of the surface, and I think this one's going to work perfectly for this design.
So we're going to go ahead and apply that. And I have a bitmap tiff here. And all a bitmap tiff is, let me go ahead and zoom in, is simply black and white pixels. It's a bitmap. That's why it's named that. And by default, when you place it into Illustrator, if I select this tiff, no fill, no stroke, but it will appear black. But everything white, all the pixels that are white are automatically transparent, so they're very, very, very easy to use. So all we're going to do on this is we're going to colorize this, this darker gray here.
And I'm going to go ahead and set Multiply, so it multiplies with everything underneath it. And I want the value to be a fourth, so we'll go 25. And then, once again, I have the background shape, this rectangle for the mask, I'll select that, select the texture. I'm going to hit F1, which I have set up for masking, and you can see how cool that looks on the surface. Now, we need to apply that same texture to the inside to make it a little more believable, and I have that done right here.
So if I turn on that layer, you can see how that's looking. And if we zoom in on this, it's looking really, really cool, so I think we're getting that look and feel that we wanted to achieve. Now, because we have the light coming from the top right down to the bottom left, I did add some beveling on this surface just to make that believability of the recessment of the levels more believable. And so if I toggle this off, this looks okay. But toggle it on, this looks way better.
It kind of starts to create that dimension we're going for. Now, the last bit of texturing I want to add, I felt some lighting needed to be on the character to focus that character a little better. And so I've added this lighting here just on the character, but I didn't want to detract from the texture. So I used a texture brush, a Scatter Brush specifically, to create that shading, and that's going to be the last bit of detail we're going to do on this. I'm going to turn on this layer right here 'cause since we have lighting here, I want to put some lighting up here in the right-hand corner.
And so what we're going to do is we're going to go to our stroke. We're going to pick white. We're going to go to Brushes. We're going to select the Scatter Brush. We're going to take the Paintbrush tool. So we have the Paintbrush, we have it loaded with white, and we have the Scatter Brush selected. And what we can do now is we can adjust the value. So on the value, I want this to be faint. I don't want it to be super bright and detract from everything. So I'm going to set the value to 35%. So this is how you preload your brush, Paintbrush with the Scatter Brush selected, with the color selected, with Transparency set.
And then I can simply, on this, go ahead and paint one part out. Maybe I want it to go a little more that way, and then we have it go down that side. And I think that looks pretty good. I'll select this shape, which is going to end up being on this layer. We'll go ahead and lock these, so we don't accidentally select something like that. And we'll select these, and all I'm going to do is mask those into that.
And you can see how compelling the final result of the shadowbox illustration is. Now, once again, I might've gone through this a little too fast for you. So you can follow along. I always provide the files, so you can kind of follow along as I do it in the video. But if you're someone who prefers just seeing the final art, I do provide that artwork, as shown here. So you can deconstruct it by going through the layers, clicking on things, and seeing what those settings are. Everybody learns differently, but I do provide that as well.
So using layers is essential when composing a design like this. Being able to isolate content, lock layers, really does help the process. So if you don't use layers, I encourage you to get in the habit of using 'em. I hope the use of blended shapes, effects, masks, and other methods showcased in this movie will assist you in your own creative pursuits. Until next time, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.