How to create a December theme illustration in Adobe Illustrator

By Ivan Petrusevski 2 years ago

I think we can say that December is the only winter month who makes up for the cold weather and gives us a happy feeling and anticipation for the holidays. There is a lot going on – presents, warm drinks, decoration of holly and many colorful ornaments. In this tutorial I will show you how to transform this “December feeling” into a colorful illustration.

Tutorial details: How to create a December illustration in Adobe Illustrator

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Topics Covered: Tracing a sketch, Typography, Composition
  • Estimated Completion Time: 60 Minutes

1. Draw a sketch

Step 1

Create a new document. Set the width to 1000 pixels and the height to 1000 pixels.

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Step 2

Start sketching. Do as many December related object you can think of. I did quite a few of them – ornaments, presents, trees, candy, holly, warm drinks and many others. Do the sketch in a light gray color so you will easily trace it later. Once you are done, select and lock (Control + 2) the sketch. Unlock and delete the sketch when you are done tracing it.

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2. Define a color palette

This is one of the most important steps because the color palette tells us half of the story of the illustration. It gives us the atmosphere of the theme and brings us closer to the mood we are trying to achieve. I selected seven colors – one brown for the the background and six lighter ones for the elements: two shades of green, red, green, orange, yellow and pink.

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3. Start tracing the sketch

For tracing the sketch, we will use the Pen Tool (P).  It is perfect for tracing loose, non-geometric shapes such as the ones on my sketch.

Step 1 – Presents
Start tracing the presents, point by point. First start with the larger shapes, such as the box and then move on to the ribbons. Color the boxes green and yellow, and the ribbons red.

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Step 2 – Candy and Acorn
Start tracing the candy. First the main parts, then the spiral inside. Color it red and green. Move on to the acorn. Once you are done with the head and the cap, draw few parallel rectangle lines on a 45 degree angle and another set of the same parallel lines but in the opposite direction. Use the pathfinder tool to merge and cut them into one decorative shape. Color the acorn red and the face and cap lines in yellow.

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Step 3 – Ornaments
Trace the bodies of the ornaments first, then do the details. Color them.

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Step 4 – Mug and bulb
Start with the mug and color it orange and yellow.

Move on to the bulb and color it yellow, red and green.

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Step 5 – Candy cane and mittens
First we will trace the candy cane. Draw parallel rectangle lines, merge them and using the Pathfinder Tool cut them in the shape of the candy cane. Color it red and pink.
Trace the mittens and color them red and pink.

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Step 6 – Fir trees
These trees are easy to trace because they are made of two objects – the body and the trunk. Color them green and red.

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Step 7 – Heart ornament and a snowman’s head
After tracing the heart, color it red.
When tracing the snowman’s head, start with the head. Try to have patience with its facial features; they are not so many after all. Add the hat. Color the face yellow and the hat red.

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Step 8 – Stars
The first star is made of 3 thin splinter shapes rotated in a few different angles. The smaller stars are easier to form. Color the bigger in green and the smaller in yellow.  We will use these stars in later as fillers of gaps in the illustration.

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Step 9 – Holly
The holly branch is among the last object to be traced. Trace the berries and the leaves first. Then add  some details to them. Color them red and green.

Trace and add the simple smiled ornament too.

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We’ve traced all of our sketched objects. This is how they should look like.

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4. Tracing a text message

We will need a text message in this illustration. A short greeting so the viewer can connect better to the illustration he is looking at. Since December is our theme, I chose to write “ A December to remember”. Sketch this sentence in a light grey color.

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Step 1 – A December

Start tracing the first part of the message. Try not to be bothered with the level of preciseness – the whole idea is to have a handmade font. So relax and trace letter by letter. Once you are done, color them green.

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Step 2 – To remember

Resume tracing the second part of the messages same way as the first. Color it green when you are done.

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5. Composing

After we are done with tracing and coloring, we can move on to composing the design. This time we don’t have a sketch to guide us so we will have to use our own sense of balance and composition. We can group and shape our illustrations into a wreath. In order to do so, we will need some guides.

Step 1 – Guides

First of all, make sure the guides are visible by following this menu path View > Guides > Show Guides.
Use the Elipse Tool (L) to draw a circle which will be 800 pixels wide and 800 pixels high. Position it central on the art board. Make another smaller one, 400 pixels wide and 400 pixels high. Position it central, inside the bigger circle.

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Select them both and use the right click. From the menu, select Make Guides.

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Step 2 – Composing

Now that we have the guides, we can start arranging the illustration elements into the guided space so we can make a wreath full with colorful illustrations.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a brown rectangle, 1000 pixels wide and high. This will be our background. Now start adding our traced objects. We can start by adding the heart ornaments, the presents, the mittens and the acorn.

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Next to add on our agenda are the candies and the mug.

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Now add the fir trees and the snowman’s head. As you can see, the wreath is slowly shaping.

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We can also add the holly branch, the ornaments, lights and candy canes. Feel free to multiply some of them and fill an empty slot in the design.

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And at last, add the decorative stars. I believe we have used all of the traced elements we had made. If you have a free space, feel free to duplicate and alter some of them so we can fill in the gaps.

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Step 3 – Adding details

We still have some room for small detail shapes. Using the Pen Tool (P), create some quick shapes such as green rectangles, pink triangles, and red and pink circles.

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Start filling the illustration with the green rectangles. Add them randomly, here and there. Add the pink triangles too.

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Then add the pink circles. Try to add the details closer to the inner and outer limit of the guides so we can better perceive the round shape of the wreath.

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And finally add the red circles. They will match well with the green elements.
At last, add the text message “A December to remember” in the empty middle. Duplicate a couple of stars and decorate the text with them.

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Congrats! We are done with another nice holiday themed illustration.


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