Intuitive Tools for Digital Artists

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Important product change information

Since this article was originally published, Phantasm CS, Phantasm CS Studio and Phantasm CS Publisher have been separated into three individual plug-ins:

Phantasm: color control and vector halftones
Rasterino: the ultimate embedded image solution for Illustrator
InkQuest: control of common pre-press tasks

Existing customers of Phantasm CS / Studio / Publisher can find full details of how this affects their licenses by reading this article.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

To create dynamic vector repeating and non-repeating backgrounds, we will be using the Appearance panel, and the Phantasm CS plugin for Adobe Illustrator. There will also be additional help from VectorScribe Studio. Let’s take a closer look at how this can be done.

Repeating Background

Step 1

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle with a gray fill.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) and, keeping the object selected, add new fill, by clicking on the appropriate button at the bottom part of the panel.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 2

Create an element that the background will consist of. To create its shape I will be using the Dynamic Shapes Tool (VectorScribe Studio plugin), which will give us more freedom in future stages. Select the Dynamic Circle in the Dynamic Shapes panel and create a circle with the help of the Dynamic Shapes Tool. Fill this circle with radial gradient that contains black and two shades of gray color.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Place the circle on the gray rectangle that was created in the first step. In this case, you will be able to choose the right colors.

Step 3

Add a new light gray fill to the circle, select this fill in the Appearance panel and go to Effect > Transform & Distort > Transform … and set the parameters indicated in the picture below.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Save the created object as a new symbol in the Symbols panel.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Delete the circle from the current document as we no longer need it.

Step 4

Proceed to the rectangle created in the first step. Select the rectangle, the upper fill in the Appearance panel and symbol in the Symbols panel, then go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Halftone…. Set the effect parameters which are indicated in the picture below.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

The Phantasm CS Halftone dialog window has many options that allow you to achieve a variety of backgrounds, using the same element.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 5

Add a new fill to the rectangle in the Appearance panel, fill it with radial gradient from white to black and set the Overlay Blending mode.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 6

Of course, you noticed that some of the circles go beyond the background. We do not need to use the Clipping Mask or Opacity Mask to hide them. It turned out that we can do it just with the help of the Appearance panel. Create a new fill, its color does not matter.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Now group up the rectangle (Cmd / Ctrl + G).

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Select the group and go to Effect > Pathfinder > Crop

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 7

We now have a fully dynamic background. I can even call it a template, because based on this, we can create an infinite variety of backgrounds. Let’s see how to control them…

To get access to all the fills, applied effects and blending modes, select the path in the Layers panel.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

You can also edit the symbol. To do this, double click on its image in the Symbols panel. As a result, we get into the symbols editing mode.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 8

You can not only edit fills and effects applied to this symbol, but also dynamically edit its shape as we were using VectorScribe’s Dynamic Shapes Tool.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

After exiting the symbol editing mode, we get a renewed background.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Using this template, and different symbols, I have created several further dynamic backgrounds.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

You can download all these backgrounds by following the links at the end of this tutorial.

Step 9

Select the path in the Layer panel and save the new graphic style in the Graphic Styles panel.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Now we can apply this style to objects of any shape.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

After applying the style, the object has to be grouped up and go to Effect > Pathfinder > Crop

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 10

In practice, there may be an issue when the symbols do not cover the entire shape of the object, leaving empty space at the path boundary.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

To correct this defect, select the fill to which the Halftone effect was applied in the Appearance panel and go to Effect > Path > Offset path and set the offset value.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Non-repeating Background

Step 11

With the help of Phantasm CS, we can easily obtain a Non-repeating Background. Create a rectangle filled with black color. Now go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh… and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog window.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

With the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) select some nodes and color them in different shades of dark blue color.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 12

Group up the rectangle and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F). Recolor gradient mesh nodes with gray color as shown in the picture below.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 13

Create a circle and fill it with radial gradient from white to black color.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Set the Color Dodge Blending mode for this circle in the Transparency panel.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Drag the circle to the Symbols panel and save as a new symbol.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 14

Select the upper gradient mesh object, symbol in the Symbols panel and go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Halftone… and set the parameters shown in the picture below

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Step 15

Keeping the object selected, go to Effect > Warp > Rise… and set the parameters of this effect.

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

This time, hide the objects that are beyond the background using the Clipping Mask. Create a rectangle of the size matching the size of the background, select it and the object to which the Phantasm CS Halftone effect was applied, then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Cmd / Ctrl + 7)

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

How to Create Dynamic Backgrounds Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Conclusion

Using Phantasm CS to create backgrounds does not only allow for quick and flexible creation, but also easy generation of variants.

More information may be found on the plugins used, including full 14 day full trial downloads at:

Download the dynamic vector background artwork

Click here for the Illustrator CS3/CS4 version…

Click here for the Illustrator CS5 version…

Written by Iaroslav

Iaroslav

Iaroslav Lazunov is a graphic designer from Zhytomyr, Ukraine who has found the job that allows him to share his extensive knowledge and experiments with Adobe Illustrator and plug-ins from Astute Graphics. Iaroslav was also a key author over at Vector Tuts+ as well as his own website Vectorboom

Comments (13)

  1. I noticed while trying to use the pathfinder that the crop button doesn’t behave the same way as going to Effect>Pathfinder>Crop. Is there a reason for this that you know of?

  2. Hi John,
    We must have some objects to work with the Pathfinder panel. As you can see the Dynamic background is a single object. So you should use the Crop effect only.

  3. This is an excellent tutorial, and the technique used, based on Phantasm, shows why Phantasm is such an unusual and powerful addition to Illustrator. Many thanks to Iaroslav for this exceptionally useful approach to building hi-tech grids, grills, and panels.

  4. This really is an excellent tutorial, and also the approach used, based on Phantasm, concerts precisely why Phantasm is really some sort of unusual and also effective addition to Illustrator. Many due to the fact Iaroslav for this extremely useful approach to building hi-tech grids, grills, and additionally panels.

  5. I figured it out. I do apologize for the multiple postings. Thank you so much for the great tutorial and the fabulous plugins – I have them all. Take Care.

  6. Does anyone have any idea why Step #6 (Effect > Pathfinder > Crop) would cause Rasterized Complex Regions to show up in my Flattener Preview? I have done this tut exactly as described numerous times and each time Step #6 causes Rasterization. Thanks very kindly for your assistance.

  7. Update.

    I went to Flattener Preview > Rasterized Complex Regions > Show Options > moved the slider to 100% Vector and then hit refresh. That got rid of the Rasterized Complex Regions. However, I suppose the file would print better if the slider were moved over to a higher percentage of raster. But, for the web, 100% is better for my purposes. Thank you for your time.

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