Intuitive Tools for Digital Artists

How to Create a Night City Illustration Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS

Vector Night City

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!

Step 1

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Step 2

Holding down Shift + Opt / Alt, drag this rectangle horizontally to the right side of the building, duplicating it.

Vector Night City

Now go to Object > Blend > Blend Options… and set the number of Specified Steps. Select both windows and go to Object > Blend > Make, creating the first row of windows.

Vector Night City

Step 3

Holding down the Shift + Opt / Alt buttons, drag the first row of windows vertically down, duplicating it.

Vector Night City

Click on the shortcuts Cmd / Ctrl + D (Transform Again) a few times, in order to create the necessary amount of rows of windows.

Vector Night City

Select all the windows of this wall and go to Object > Expand. 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).

Step 4

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.

Vector Night City

Using the above described technique, create windows on this side of the building.

Vector Night City

Select and group up all the elements of this side of the building.

Step 5

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 View > Perspective Grid > Two Point Perspective > [2P Normal View], if this type of grid is not set by default.

Vector Night City

By controlling the grid lines and moving the Vanishing Points, bring the perspective grid to the view shown in the figure below.

Vector Night City

Step 6

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.

Vector Night City

For ease of object installation, turn on Snap to Grid mode (View > Perspective Grid > Snap to Grid).

Step 7

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.

Vector Night City

Step 8

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.

Vector Night City

Step 9

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

In the same way, create the second road surface.

Vector Night City

Step 10

Getting deeper into the composition. Move the Left Grid and create another building.

Vector Night City

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).

Vector Night City

Create windows as we did with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) and Blend Tool.

Step 11

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.

Vector Night City

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 panel (Window > Symbols) and save the created windows as new symbol entities.

Vector Night City

After creating the window symbols, the windows templates can be removed from the workspace.

Step 12

Select the stepped shape and go to Object > 3D > Revolve… and set the parameters indicated in the figure below.

Vector Night City

Click on Map Art button in the dialog box “3D Revolve Options” and set the saved symbols for four side surfaces of the tower.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Step 13

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 Object > Clipping Mask > Release, then Object > Path > Clean Up….

Vector Night City

Now, our tower represents a group of simple vector objects.

Vector Night City

Step 14

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.

Vector Night City

Go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh…. and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.

Vector Night City

Step 15

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.

Vector Night City

Step 16

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.

Vector Night City

Select all the windows and fill them with black color.

Vector Night City

Step 17

Now take the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then holding down Shift, randomly select windows.

Vector Night City

Fill the selected windows with radial gradient, which consists of white, blue and black colors.

Vector Night City

Step 18

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.

Vector Night City

Looking at the amount of windows in this composition, I admit it’s quite tedious work. Well, art requires sacrifice.

Step 19

The windows in the further buildings do not require being in such detail, so I filled them with the same gradient with few exceptions.

Vector Night City

This is how the composition looks like after working with windows.

Vector Night City

Step 20

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Set 0% Opacity for this shape in the Transparency panel.

Vector Night City

Step 21

Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options… and set the number of Specified Steps. Select both objects and go to Object > Blend > Make, creating a glow from the lamp at the edge of the roof.

Vector Night City

Using the same technique, create light glow.

Vector Night City

Select and group up both blend objects. Drag the new group along the border of the roof, holding Opt / Alt duplicating it.

Vector Night City

Step 22

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

For more information about the operation of shapes of vector objects with the PathScribe Tool follow this link.

Step 23

Do similar transformations to the rest of the straight-line segments, and then place them below the tower objects in the layers panel.

Vector Night City

Select all the segments and go to Object > Expand. Fill shapes with differently directed linear gradient consisting of white and blue colors.

Vector Night City

Select and group up the created elements.

Step 24

Copy the created group and paste it back (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + B). Keep the lower group selected, go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur… and set the radius in the dialog box.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Step 25

With the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) create a general background of the lower part of the composition.

Vector Night City

Now with the help of the Pen Tool (P) create a horizon line.

Vector Night City

Add a few more glowing windows to the background.

Vector Night City

Step 26

Now we can start creating the road. Fill the road surface with linear gradient from blue to black.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Step 27

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.

Vector Night City

Fill the dividing lines with a linear gradient consisting of shades of blue reproducing the light distribution.

Vector Night City

Step 28

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).

Vector Night City

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.

Step 29

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.

Vector Night City

Now select both rectangles and apply Blend to them, as we were doing during the tutorial.

Vector Night City

Step 30

Drag the Blend object to the Brushes panel and save as new brush as Art Brush.

Vector Night City

With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a bundle of converging at the vanishing point lines and apply the created brush to them.

Vector Night City

Step 31

Create new lines, apply the same Art Brush to them. Set 50% Opacity in the Transparency panel for these lines.

Vector Night City

Step 32

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.

Vector Night City

Using this brush, create a new line, which will be thickening the previously created ones.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Step 33

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 Effect > Phantasm CS > Hue / Saturation…. Tick “Colorize” in the dialog box, and by controlling sliders of Saturation and Lightness, change the color of strokes to pink.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

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.

Step 34

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.

Vector Night City

Set 0% Opacity for this object in the Transparency panel.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Select the transparent triangle and the red line, then apply Blend.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Step 35

Create a few more bright lights. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle filled with black and white radial gradient.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Set the Color Dodge Blending Mode for this ellipse in the Transparency palette.

Vector Night City

Using this technique, create a few glowing lights.

Vector Night City

Step 36

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 to Effect > Phantasm CS > Hue / Saturation… controlling Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders set the desired shade of color.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Step 37

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

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.

Vector Night City

Vector Night City

Conclusion

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.

Vector Night City

Download the tutorial artwork

Click here for the Illustrator CS5 artwork…

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 (14)

  1. Nice tutorial — this covers a lot of useful ground. I’ve already referred several people to check this out.

    ac

  2. Astounding work and full of really useful info! WIN!

  3. Hi Josh – great to see you on here and glad Iaroslav’s tutorial proved useful!

  4. Wow Beautiful Effects Night City.. i download this source.. thank your for share

  5. Pingback: How to Create a Night City Illustration Using Adobe Illustrator and Phantasm CS | Design News

  6. What a tutorial. You must have put a lot of effort in this one. Thx a lot.

  7. Pingback: Top 10 Illustrator Tutorials Of October 2011 | creativedesignmagazine.com

  8. WOW! Beautiful, really nice posts! Thanks for sharing :-)

  9. thanks really nice

    bil
  10. Alexandru, thank you very much!

  11. great one……..!!!!

    taxim

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