This beginner-friendly tutorial teaches how to create gorgeous floral designs in Adobe Illustrator, using abstract shapes as foundation. And not only can it serve to make you more comfortable using Blob Brush, Warp/Twirl/etc Tool, it also opens the door to madly addictive exploration of floral shapes to users of all skill levels. So let's get started!
In the first example we will start by drawing an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool (shortcut L).
Using the Direct Selection Tool (shortcut A), select the top anchor point and move its handles to distort the ellipse a little bit. Do the same with the bottom anchor point to create a shape similar to the one in the screenshot. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, as long as it’s asymmetrical and has both wide and narrow parts.
Fill the shape with the colour of your choice and select the Rotate Tool. While holding the Option/Alt key, click to the left bottom side of the shape. In the dialog box that appears, enter 30° as the Angle value and click on Copy.
In order to keep copying the shape under this angle hold Command/Ctrl and press D. This shortcut repeats the last action.
Keep repeating this step until your shape goes the full circle.
Open the Pathfinder window (Cmd+Shift+F9), select all the shapes and select the Exclude option from Shape Modes (the one on the far right). You should get an effect similar to the one in the screenshot below.
If you’re aiming for a simple two-color look, you can leave the flower at this stage and consider it done. However, if you’re after something with a bit more depth to it, you can easily add colour with Live Paint Bucket. This tool will treat each gap as a shape on its own when adding colour to it, so if you can use a colouring book, you can use this tool, too. Make sure you expand the flower first by selecting it and choosing Object > Expand. Open the Colour Guide window (Window > Colour Guide or Shift+F3) to help you with colour selection.
In this case, I focused on a monochrome palette, making the petals darker then the middle of the flower.
You can even give it a bit of a 3D look by making the fields that are next to each other differ in just a couple of shades.
Creating a Flower Shape With the Blob Brush
You don’t have to use Shape Tools to create the foundation of the flower. Try drawing a closed shape with the Blob Brush Tool that’s a bit more complex.
Using the Rotate Tool, click on the bottom right side of the shape while holding Option/Alt key, and this time make the Angle value 45°. We’re picking a larger angle so the design doesn’t get too messy when all of those paths intersect.
Repeat the Ctrl/Command+D step like when creating the first flower. Given that there are plenty of gaps in there already, you can use this to your advantage and select the Unite option from the Pathfinder window, which will merge all of the selected elements into a single shape.
Fill in the gaps with the Live Paint Tool like you did with the previous flower.
Make sure you use colours that work well with the colour of your foundation.
Creating a Flower Shape With Wrinkle, Warp, Twirl, Scallop, Bloat and Pucker Tools
In the next example you’ll get a chance to use tools such as Wrinkle, Warp, Twirl, Scallop, Bloat and Pucker Tool. All of these alter the paths in different ways that will make your final design more elaborate and visually interesting. Use Bloat, Pucker and Warp tools to manipulate the path in more subtle ways, or Twirl and Scallop Tools for a more detailed look.
For frilly petals I used the Twirl Tool.
In order to avoid overcomplicating the design, I used a larger angle value when rotating and copying the petal (45°). For more complex flower designs such as this one, I suggest using the Outline mode from the Pathfinder window. It will give you a better overview of the outlines and allow you to plan your colour palette and its application a bit easier.
Play with different shades and opacity. Imagine what the flower petals look like when overlapping.
There’s likely to be some parts that are too tiny to be coloured individually (and still look good), especially as you get closer to the middle, so feel free to add the same colour to 2 or more neighbouring pieces.
Deselect the shape to see what it looks like without paths showing. You can still use the Live Paint Bucket tool on it; a red outline will appear when you hover over the area you’re about to fill.
Don’t be afraid to leave some areas empty, as doing so can add a nice contrast to the design.
Now when you’ve mastered the basics, there are plenty of possibilities for you to explore. Try using different angle values (15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90), different colour palettes, and combining more flowers into one design or patterns.
Ben Richardson is director of Acuity Training an IT training business based in Guildford, UK and is sharing some of the tips that delegates have found more useful from their Photoshop courses.
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