Tut: Make a Pumpkin in Illustrator CC


In this post we’re going to make a pumpkin graphic for Hallowe’en using Illustrator CC2014.1—there aren’t any tutorial files as we will build from scratch and it is fairly simple. Remember that this blog is all about updating skills and finding new workflows; there are of course a number of ways to create something like this but the idea here is to look at techniques you possibly haven’t yet used.

Mis en place.

Cookery term, that—means “put in place”—and as tuts are kind of a recipe think it’s as good here as in the kitchen.

My version started with a Basic RGB document, 960×560 and the units set to pixels.

Draw the Background.

On your initial layer, add a rectangle that covers the entire artboard, fill it with a radial gradient, and then squish it down a bit with the Gradient Tool:



Now add some radiating shapes with the Polar Grid Tool (you can find that nested with the Line Tool). Click with the tool on the artboard and enter these values into the relevant fields: 1200px wide, 1200px high, 0 concentric dividers and 20 radial dividers. Move it into place if necessary and keep it selected, so that you can turn it into a Live Paint Group: Object > Live Paint > Make (or Cmd-alt-X/Ctrl-alt-X if you want the shortcut). Tap K on your keyboard to select the Live Paint Bucket and chose a gradient swatch (on mine I used the simple White-Black linear) from the Swatches Panel. Don’t worry too much about which one—fine if you have one already prepared—but we can modify that in a minute. Your file should look something like this now:


Tidy up a bit.

Hold down the SHIFT key and tap L on your keyboard to access the Live Paint selection Tool. Select one of the gradient chunks and then go to Select > Same >Fill Colour. Now open the Gradient Panel and firstly change the gradient type to Radial, then double click the swatch at the left of the gradient ramp and change it to a light colour (yellow, in my example) with an opacity of 0%. Change the swatch at the other end of the gradient to the same colour, but with 100% opacity. Tap G to access the Gradient Tool and drag from the centre outwards which will unify the fills in all of the shapes.


Trimming away the “waste” may not be important, but we’ll do it here as there is the chance for you to pick up another trick. Hold down the SHIFT key and tap E to access the Eraser Tool. With the ALT key held down—this takes the tool into “area mode”—drag rectangular selections across the bits you want to remove:


Still with the group selected, go to the Appearance Panel and click on the Opacity “hyperlink” (to quick-access the Transparency panel). Change the blending mode to Overlay and drop the opacity down to something like 21% (or to taste, as they say on cookery shows). Remember to Save your work as you go—now would be a good time if you haven’t done that already.

Building the Pumpkin.

Add a new layer. At this point, it’s probably a good idea to start naming and organising everything so:

  1. Give your new layer the name “pumpkin”
  2. Rename your original “Layer 1” layer to something more descriptive, like “Background”
  3. Lock and Hide the “Background” layer.
  4. If necessary, make the “pumpkin” layer active.
  5. Tap D on your keyboard to set the default fill/stroke combo

Tap L to get the Ellipse Tool and click on the artboard to access the tool dialog (or if you prefer to just draw these shapes, that of course is fine and you can skip this bit). Enter 100 for the width and 250 for the height.  Click again and enter 120 for the width and 265 for the height. Repeat this once more and this time enter 150 for the width and 290 for the height. Arrange these as shown:


Select the first two ellipses, and then by tapping O on your keyboard, acees the Reflect Tool. Hold down the Alt key and click in the centre of the largest ellipse (this’ll be pretty easy if you have Smart Guides switched on—accessible by Cmd-U/Ctrl-U or in the View menu). In the dialog select the Vertical option and then click Copy (unless you want to be a power user in which case hold down alt and hit Return).

Select all of the shapes, then hold down the SHIFT key and tap M on your keyboard to choose the Shape Builder Tool. With the SHIFT key held down, drag a selection across all of the shapes and they will unite into one object:

07 Now hit the Backslash key (\) for the Line Tool. Draw some straight lines between the “bumps” so that we have sections in the pumpkin. Then use the Anchor Point Tool (hold down SHIFT and tap C to grab it quickly) to bend those lines out nicely:


In the Layers Panel, twirl open the disclosure triangle on the “Pumpkin” layer and lock all of the path objects by dragging down that column. Add a new Sublayer to this stack. This is where we are going to draw the face, and it’s much easier to work this way. We can do the eyes in four steps, three of which are illustrated below:

  1. 09With the Pen Tool, click to place three points to create a triangular shape.
  2. Switch to the Selection Tool and holding down the Alt key drag a copy down from the original shape.
  3. With both shapes selected, switch to Shape Builder Tool, and holding down Alt, subtract the overlap.
  4. Use the Reflect Tool as described earleir, to create a copy of the eye flipped over onto the other side of the pumpkin.

Drawing the Mouth.

We’ll tap N to use the new-and-improved Pencil Tool to draw the mouth. Before we draw anything though, double-click on the tool in the Toolbox to access the settings for it; just push the slider a bit to the right to optimise any curves we draw, then close the dialog.

Now draw a mouth shape! You don’t have to do it all in one go—you can draw from point to point and the path will auto-join. If you want straight segments, just hold down the Alt key while you draw. Make any refinements using the Anchor Point Tool or Direct Selection Tool. Once you have a shape you are happy with, repeat steps 1-3 above to create the “cut” look to the mouth. Depending on your drawing, you may want to zoom in and get rid of any tiny overlaps. When you’re done, you should have something like this:


Drawing a “plug”

We can now finish off our basic shapes with a “plug” for the top of the pumpkin. You could do this in many ways but the Pencil Tool is probably the easiest right now (it’s so good!) and once you’ve drawn one, position it and send it to the back of the stack using Cmd-Alt-[ (Ctrl-alt-[ on Windows). You could now unlock the earlier paths and use the Shape Builder Tool with the Alt key to remove the overlap if desired.

Adding Colours


If I hadn’t already captured or created any suitable themes on my iPhone or iPad, then at this point I’d probably visit Colour CC on Creative Cloud (https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel) click the Explore link and type “pumpkin” into the search field. I can then choose colour themes and download them to use in my illustration. To load any downloaded themes into Illustrator is easy:

  1. Go the Swatches Panel and click the fly-out menu at the top-right.
  2. From the fly-out menu choose “Open Swatch Library” and then “Other Library…
  3. Navigate to the download location (most likely your “Downloads” folder) and choose the .ase swatch files from there.

The swatch libraries will appear in their own panel(s) but you can drag their tiny folders into your own Swatches Panel if preferred. Make a trio of gradients—one for the pumpkin skin, another for the “cut” effect, another for the illumination and one for the “plug”—and save them using the drop-down in the Gradient Panel to add them to your Swatches. Here are the gradients I have created:


Colouring In

Now you’ve got some colours to use we’ll get busy doing that. Select all of your pumpkin components and convert them to a Live Paint group as we did earlier with the radiated lines. Select the Live Paint Bucket (K) and colour in the regions with your gradients—remember that we can use the Live Paint Selection Tool and Gradient Tool to unify them later. This may seem a little fiddley at first, but once you’re used to it (and you’ve discovered the bit I’ll reveal at the end) you’ll see what an amazing and powerful way to work this is.

Hiding the Strokes

We are nearly done, and now we want to hide those strokes—we can’t simply delete them as they define the regions that we are using to colour-up our artwork—but we can give them a value of “none” and hide them. Choose the Live Paint Selection Tool and double-click on the icon in the Toolbox to access the options dialog for the tool. Deselect the option “Select Fills” and exit the dialog. Now drag a selection marquee around the whole group and only the strokes will be selected. Choose the “none” swatch from the stroke colour selector in the Control Strip and they will all vanish.

Finishing Touches

Now would probably be a good time to save your work and also make the “Background” layer visible. We’re going to add an extra highlight to really set this off against the background:

  1. Select the pumpkin live paint group
  2. In the Appearance Panel click the icon to add a new fill (or use the shortcut Cmd-/). By default this is most likely black, so click on the colour swatch (still inside the Appearance Panel) and change it to white.
  3. You can select that fill in much the same way you can a layer, so click on it to target it (it will highlight as in the image below).
  4. Choose Effect > Path > Offset Path… and add a value of about 10px, then click ok.
  5. You should see there is an Opacity option for the fill itself. Change it to 40% Overlay.
  6. Make sure the fillis still targeted and we’ll soften off that a bit by going to Effect > Stylize > Feather and popping in a value of maybe 12px.
  7. The last step in this operation is to drag the fill down beneath “Contents” in the Appearance Panel.


Wrapping Up


You could go on and add a shading fill and other things to that to build it up more, but for this week that’s it, and it should look pretty good. The main advantages here are that all of the objects in this are completely editable, and if you modify any of the shapes or strokes in the Live paint Group, the coloured regions will adjust. I hope you enjoyed this one and have a Happy Halloween!


Catch Up: Drawing in Illustrator CC2014

Drawing in Illustrator gets easier and easier.

For a couple of years in the late nineties, I had the dubious fortune to have an office-slash-studio in a modest office tower block, in which my brother (bless him) worked at the company that occupied the first two and the top two floors.

The company he worked for were involved in various areas of construction and he worked for the utilities division; essentially, the core of both divisions centred on the hard and sweaty labours of the construction industry. Although my brother was a professional and concerned with the safety of the employees from both divisions, he nonetheless had that “construction mentality” with which most of us are familiar. To have a brother that earned his living from “drawing pretty pictures”—as he saw it—had to be a source of great outward amusement to him despite any inward opinion he had. He could never understand why I was tired at the end of the day, “but you haven’t really done anything” was his most frequent comment.

Although those of us that earn a living from illustration and design may make it look effortless, drawing is hard work. Our grey-matter is performing so many tasks as we work including considering shape and form, establishing relationships between shapes, looking at negative space, determining tone, colour, size, opacity and on, and on.

Maybe for an illustration (and that’s all this is, not even for a moment am I suggesting any personal parallel) there’s that well-known legend of Picasso.

Picasso was sat in a park and approached by a young woman that recognised him, and asked him to draw a portrait of her. Picasso agreed, and after studying here for a moment or two, used a single pencil stroke to create an image of her.

When he handed over the work, she was thrilled and amazed, “How much do I owe you?” she asked.

Picasso replied “nThousand [insert currency here, plural]” (depending on where you read/hear the legend, and presumably subject to inflation both monetary and legendary).

The woman stammers her reply, “b-b-but whaaaaat?” she gasps, “but it took you less than a minute to draw that.”

To which Picasso informed her she was not paying for those moments, but the years that had developed the ability within him.

So, you have all of that going on when you are drawing, and whether we are pushing a pencil, a stylus, or a mouse, it can be hard work (no matter what anyone says) and anything that makes it easier to do is most welcome—so over the last few versions the team developing Illustrator has introduced new tools, and refined old ones, to make it more thinking about what we are doing, and less worrying about how we are doing it. Here’s a quick heads-up:

The Pen Tool

With the finest control on offer, but the biggest learning-curve, the Pen Tool is the number one for seasoned AI users, and the nemesis of newbies. Illustrator CC 2014 introduced a rubber-banding preview to help with the placement of anchor points and also new ways to control unequal curves and endpoints.

The Pencil Tool

Since the 1990’s—when it was first cool—the Pencil Tool allowed you to quickly refine a rough drawing into a crisp, clean graphic. Frowned-upon largely by snobby Illustrator users (personal opinion) since then, the touch/stylus time that is now upon us has influenced an upgrade to the tool so that it can now optimise strokes to your liking. Now it’s not just cool again—it’s very cool.

The Curvature Tool

Drawing with Bézier paths isn’t for everyone. There are other drawing apps using other things such as b-splines to draw curve forms. So in the 2014.1 release of Illustrator, the new Curvature Tool has been introduced, that allows you to edit paths while drawing, or after the path is complete using the same tool without worrying about anchor points or handles. Just by clicking or double-clicking you can create smooth or corner points and if you still need that fine control, then when you’re done you can still use the Direct Selection (and other) tools on the path.

The Join Tool

It is almost impossible to draw what you want cleanly, every time, and there are two routes to getting what you want sometimes:

  1. Skill and patience
  2. Plug-ins
I’ve used both. Now the Join Tool makes about 80% of those (again, personal opinion—but based on years of experience) less necessary. If you have paths that are not joined, drag over them with the Join Tool and they magically join. If they overlap, drag over them and the overlap vanishes. The only thing you have to consider is that they are either all selected, or all deselected—and that is it. Boom.

The Becoming-obligatory  Download and Try Yourself

There’s a file for you here:  http://adobe.ly/1wssLUF that you can open in Illustrator CC2014.1—if you don’t currently have it then you can try or buy from either of these links (as applicable): Creative Cloud for Individuals or Creative Cloud for Teams:


Once open drag the Join Tool (found nested with the Pencil Tool) and drag over the open endpoints—they will magically join. Drag over the overlapping paths and they will join and delete the overlap. Here’s the 17-second video:

Now drawing is getting easier, I’m off to do building-stuff with my beloved brother.


Interactivity is back in InDesign!

Store EPUB Cover

Last week at Adobe MAX, my lab session revealed the new EPUB interactivity features in the 2014.1 release of InDesign, meaning that trips out to Edge Animate, and importing .oam files is now less necessary—especially for the simple animations—where that overhead is maybe a bit high.

The Three Digital Document Streams

EPUB Fixed Layout is really gathering steam, and there’s a lot of interest in this area right now—everyone who is anyone, even if they are not talking digital, is certainly thinking digital. That may well have to do with reducing costs, but my experience tells me that it’s about communicating to a wider audience, in ways that truly engage your readers in a reading experience. As I see it three main streams to digital document publishing to tablet:

  • PDF
    • A document “replica behind glass”, PDF is a safe bet when all you want is text, images and hyperlinks. Depending on what reading software is being used to render the PDF, multimedia support varies—instead of your nice video, your user may just se a black rectangle.
  • EPUB3 Fixed Layout
    • Revised in June 2014 from the original October 2011 IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) specification, EPUB3 supports media overlays and aims to support complex layouts, rich media and interactivity to be utilised by books, magazines and other publications. The possibilities for education alone is immense—imagine having textbooks that are always the most current, with rich interactivity and built-in dictionary features, for those terms you’re unfamiliar with. Not to mention the saving in production and distribution costs.
    • EPUB3 can be read on a variety of devices and readers—including your iPhone—plus there are applications such as iBooks on the Mac, which give you the same reading experience on a desktop machine.  Adobe Digital Editions is available for Windows.
  • DPS
    • The Digital Publishing Suite offers a very feature-rich and immersive environment, with all the bells and whistles you could hope for (and then some); you can have various levels of analytics, create restricted entitlement editions and so much more—at a price—but don’t forget this was a solution originally developed for the magazine market, where it still has the largest market share. It’s worth mentioning that DPS is also becoming increasingly used as a sales tool, so the days of vaguely damp brochures in the back of a sales rep’s car may well be numbered (along with the out-of-date price lists, errata inserts and such like).

There is also the web, of course, but we’re talking document level here really, rather than a portal to content—which a lot of commercial sites are—and also something that does not rely solely on an internet connection to exist.

Remember InDesign CS4?

Ah, back in 2008 Flash was still the king, and a whole bunch of new panels arrived in InDesign, along with a new format to exchange information with Flash Professional, which enabled users to create SWF files directly from inside their favourite page-layout application. I’d be surprised if there was anybody left in the World who didn’t know the rest of where that story is going, so let’s spare ourselves and look to brighter new horizons.

EPUB Blueprint graphic

Now, the panels are renewed! All of the animations and functions have now been converted to standards-compliant HTML5,CSS3 and JavaScript—which means they will work in EPUB3 Fixed Layout. A really great young man called Sameer has—with his team—also introduced a great new “EPUB Interactivity Preview” panel that obviates the need to keep exporting an EPUB to check the interactivity.

Try It Yourself

Workbook spread

The session files, and a PDF workbook are available for you to download here: http://adobe.ly/1wcn1OT so that you can work through the entire exercise. If you don’t yet have InDesign CC then you could try or buy from either of these links (as applicable): Creative Cloud for Individuals or Creative Cloud for Teams.

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