In this tutorial we will learn how to create a night city and glow of lights on the highway using the Adobe Illustrator CS5 Perspective Grid Tool, Blend Tool, 3D modeling and Phantasm CS. This tutorial is filled with professional and creative instructions. Let’s get started!
Let’s start with the building closest to the viewer. Before creating it in a linear perspective, we need to create the walls and facade sections on the plane. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle.
This rectangle will be one of the walls of the building. With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) create another small rectangle and place it at the left edge of the larger rectangle. This will be one of the windows of the building.
Holding down Shift + Opt / Alt, drag this rectangle horizontally to the right side of the building, duplicating it.
Now go toand set the number of Specified Steps. Select both windows and go to , creating the first row of windows.
Holding down the Shift + Opt / Alt buttons, drag the first row of windows vertically down, duplicating it.
Click on the shortcuts Cmd / Ctrl + D (Transform Again) a few times, in order to create the necessary amount of rows of windows.
Select all the windows of this wall and go to. Ungroup the objects two times (Shift + Cmd / Ctrl + G) and group them up one time (Cmd / Ctrl + G). We do not need extra groups of objects; it is more convenient to work like that. Select all the created objects (wall and window group) and group them up (Cmd / Ctrl + G).
With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) create the second wall of the building. Its height should be the same as of the first wall.
Using the above described technique, create windows on this side of the building.
Select and group up all the elements of this side of the building.
It’s time to place the created elements of the building in a perspective view. Take the Perspective Grid Tool (Shift + P) and go to, if this type of grid is not set by default.
By controlling the grid lines and moving the Vanishing Points, bring the perspective grid to the view shown in the figure below.
Enable the Right Grid on the Active Panel Widget, take the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift + V) and drag the first wall of a building to the perspective grid.
For ease of object installation, turn on Snap to Grid mode.
Turn on the Left grid on the Active Panel Widget, take the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift + V) and drag the second wall of the building to the perspective grid.
To build the second wall of the building, move the Left Grid Panel Control to the right and up, moving the Left Grid in the depth of the composition. Using the technique described in the steps 1-3, create a new flat wall of the building and with the help of the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift + V) move it to the Left Grid. Do not forget to turn on the appropriate mode on the Active Panel Widget.
Create a road surface. Enable the Horizontal Grid on the Active Panel Widget, take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle. This rectangle will deform immediately, following the constraints of linear perspective.
Do not worry if you do not get immediately what you wanted it to be. Take the Perspective Selection Tool (Shift + V) and edit the shape as you think fit.
In the same way, create the second road surface.
Getting deeper into the composition. Move the Left Grid and create another building.
Perspective distortions are less noticeable closer to the horizon, so create two further buildings with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Pen Tool (P).
Create windows as we did with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) and Blend Tool.
To add variety to our composition, create a building in the shape of a tower. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a stepped shape as shown in the figure below.
Now create a template for the windows of the tower the same way as was described at the beginning of this tutorial. Open the Symbols paneland save the created windows as new symbol entities.
After creating the window symbols, the windows templates can be removed from the workspace.
Select the stepped shape and go toand set the parameters indicated in the figure below.
Click on Map Art button in the dialog box “3D Revolve Options” and set the saved symbols for four side surfaces of the tower.
Keep the tower selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance. After this operation, the tower will contain the Clipping Masks and other unnecessary elements. In order to work freely with the objects of the tower in the future, perform the following operations. Go to, then .
Now, our tower represents a group of simple vector objects.
The main objects of composition are created; they only need to be painted. Before painting, I always create a background that allows me to work right with the color of other objects. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle filled with dark blue color.
Go to. and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and selecting the individual nodes of the grid, paint them in lighter shades of blue. Move nodes and their handles with the same tool in order to create a resemblance of night sky glow over the city.
Fill the walls of the buildings with linear gradient from dark blue to black color. The top of the buildings look a little brighter because of the glow of the sky.
Select all the windows and fill them with black color.
Now take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then holding down Shift, randomly select windows.
Fill the selected windows with radial gradient, which consists of white, blue and black colors.
Of course, the lights in all the windows cannot be the same (light source in the windows is located in different places). So we will have to reconfigure the gradient moving from window to window. Just change the position of the gradient in some of the windows, extend its field, swap the radial gradient in some windows with linear gradient, change colors etc.
Looking at the amount of windows in this composition, I admit it’s quite tedious work. Well, art requires sacrifice.
The windows in the further buildings do not require being in such detail, so I filled them with the same gradient with few exceptions.
This is how the composition looks like after working with windows.
Now let’s create a few more luminous elements of the buildings. With the Ellipse Tool (L) create two circles, filled with dark blue and light blue colors.
Place circles on the roof of the closest to the viewer building. With the Direct Selection Tool (A) pull the lowest point of the dark blue circle horizontally down and convert it from smooth to corner one.
Set 0% Opacity for this shape in the Transparency panel.
Go toand set the number of Specified Steps. Select both objects and go to , creating a glow from the lamp at the edge of the roof.
Using the same technique, create light glow.
Select and group up both blend objects. Drag the new group along the border of the roof, holding Opt / Alt duplicating it.
Luminous objects can be created with the help of the raster effects, let’s see how this is done at another example. With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a few lines of different thickness over the stepped tower.
You can quickly bend the straight sections with the help of the PathScribe Tool, one of the tools of the VectorScribe plugin. So, take PathScribe Tool, and holding down Shift, pull the middle of the straight-line segment up. This procedure reshapes path while keeping it symmetric. Symmetric means that both handles are of the same length and form the same angle to the imaginary line running through the endpoints of the path segment.
For more information about the operation of shapes of vector objects with the PathScribe Tool follow this link.
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 1
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 2
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 3
Do similar transformations to the rest of the straight-line segments, and then place them below the tower objects in the layers panel.
Select all the segments and go to. Fill shapes with differently directed linear gradient consisting of white and blue colors.
Select and group up the created elements.
Copy the created group and paste it back (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + B). Keep the lower group selected, go toand set the radius in the dialog box.
The use of raster effects works for complex shape objects. It will save you much time. The same way you can create advertising signs on buildings.
With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) create a general background of the lower part of the composition.
Now with the help of the Pen Tool (P) create a horizon line.
Add a few more glowing windows to the background.
Now we can start creating the road. Fill the road surface with linear gradient from blue to black.
Now create a dividing line on the right side of the road. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create two triangles; its vertices will be located in the vanishing point.
Now double-click on the Eraser Tool (Shift + E), which opens a dialog box with the settings of the instrument. Set the diameter, and click OK.
Lock all the objects in the layers palette except for two triangles that were created in the previous step. Now take the Eraser Tool (Shift + E) and holding down Shift erase parts of the triangle forming a broken dividing line. The further we move deep into the composition, the smaller the Eraser Tool diameter should be.
Fill the dividing lines with a linear gradient consisting of shades of blue reproducing the light distribution.
We will not draw cars rushing on the road, and will only represent the lights of their headlights merging into luminous flux. This effect occurs when photographing moving luminous objects with long exposure of the camera. These kinds of lights look a bit blurred, we will be using a special Art Brush for their creation. Create a red rectangle with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M).
Height of the rectangle is 4 px, of any length. We chose red color because on the right side of the road cars are moving away from us. Therefore, we see their back brake lights, and they are usually red in color.
Copy the red rectangle and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F). Reduce the height of the rectangle to 0.25 px. Set 0% Opacity in the Transparency panel to the lower rectangle.
Now select both rectangles and apply Blend to them, as we were doing during the tutorial.
Drag the Blend object to the Brushes panel and save as new brush as Art Brush.
With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a bundle of converging at the vanishing point lines and apply the created brush to them.
Create new lines, apply the same Art Brush to them. Set 50% Opacity in the Transparency panel for these lines.
Lights of the moving vehicles are usually not the same in thickness. To create thickenings, create another Art Brush. The technique of its creation is not different from the previous one, but it does not consist of the rectangles, but of two ellipses, the extreme points of which are converted from smooth into the corner ones.
Using this brush, create a new line, which will be thickening the previously created ones.
Create a color irregularity of the lights. In order not to create brushes of different color, change the color of individual strokes using the Phantasm CS. Select a few strokes and go to . Tick “Colorize” in the dialog box, and by controlling sliders of Saturation and Lightness, change the color of strokes to pink.
I know from experience that the selection of brush colors and creating of the new ones is a very tedious process that takes a while. Changing the color by means of the Phantasm CS will save you more time for creativity.
Now create the glow in the places of lights flux accumulation. With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a triangle with a vertex at the vanishing point.
Set 0% Opacity for this object in the Transparency panel.
With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a straight line coming from the vanishing point with a red stroke and has 2 px thickness.
Select the transparent triangle and the red line, then apply Blend.
Create a few more bright lights. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle filled with black and white radial gradient.
With the help of the Selection Tool (V) transform a circle into an ellipse and rotate it so that the major axis coincides with the direction of red light.
Set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this ellipse in the Transparency palette.
Using this technique, create a few glowing lights.
To create the lights on the second side of the road, I used the same red brushes and techniques. However, on this side of the road cars are moving towards the viewer, therefore, it should be white and light blue colors. Being armed with Phantasm CS, you can get any shade of the color. Select the streams of lights on the left side of the road and go tocontrolling Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders set the desired shade of color.
Create a glow of street lights along the road. With the help of the Ellipse Tool (L) create a circle and fill it with a radial gradient fill. The gradient consists of white, blue and black colors. With the help of the Selection Tool (V) transform a circle into an ellipse and set the Screen Blending Mode in the Transparency palette.
Duplicate this ellipse and rotate it at 90 degrees according to the first one. Set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this ellipse in the Transparency palette.
Group up the two ellipses (Ctrl / Cmd + G) and place the glow of street lights along the road, duplicating the first street light and reducing the size according to the law of perspective.
After studying the techniques of this tutorial I suggest you to experiment a little bit. First, create your own composition. Then, try using the Phantasm CS change the color scheme of our composition. Let it be morning or evening with the red hues of sunset. You can leave links to your artworks in the comments. I’m always happy to look at the works of my students, and to critique it if you wish.
Download the tutorial artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 artwork…
About the author
My name is Iaroslav Lazunov, I am a graphic designer from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. I am glad that I finally found the job in my life that I can share my knowledge and experiments with you in my tutorials.