In this tutorial I’m going to walk you through the process I would take to produce a vector image of a good old VW Hippy Van in Adobe Illustrator. You’ll be using tools such as the pen tool, shape tools and gradient tools.
This tutorial is the beginning step to my future tutorial ‘How to Design a Hippy Van poster in Photoshop’, so be sure to subscribe to the Circlebox Blog Feed so you don’t miss it! Please note that this tutorial uses the Pen Tool in almost every step, so if you don’t know how to use the Pen Tool, I recommend learning that first!
Open up Illustrator and make a new document relevant to your project: I chose the Web Document Profile at 800×600 pixels. If you want to professionally print your final files, you’re best to work in CMYK (select Print from the Document Profile Drop Down list) and working at a high resolution such as 300ppi or above (see the Raster Effects drop down list).
With the new document set up, we can place your starting point file onto the canvas. I’m personally using a photograph I took at Bug Jam 23 @ Santa Pod Raceway a few weeks ago (you can view the photos here if you’re looking for some inspiration!), but you can use a photo of your own, a photo by someone else (make sure you’re allowed to use it!) or your own sketch that you’ve scanned in to your computer!
Go to File > Place to locate your image and place it into the Illustrator document. I reflected my photo so the van is facing the other way. Now that this is done, double click the layer the photo/sketch is on, rename the layer, check the Lock and Dim Images boxes and click OK. Now create a new layer.
Now it’s time to start the hard work. Select the Pen Tool and set the stroke to 2px using black – make sure there is no fill colour selected otherwise you won’t be able to see what you’re doing when you start tracing your image! Begin tracing your image using the current pen tool settings – start somewhere you feel comfortable with. Remember you can zoom in and out to trace more tricky parts of the hippy van, and you can hold the space bar down to drag yourself around the canvas whilst using a tool.
Carry on tracing around the main shape of your hippy van using the pen tool with the same settings. If you make any mistakes and you don’t want to redo the whole stroke, you can position individual anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow!). For some objects, such as the circles round the lights, you can use the Ellipse Tool, and make minor modifications to it by dragging its anchor points using the Direct Selection tool.
After tracing what I feel is necessary with the 2px line, it’s time to start concentrating on the finer, more detailed lines. First of all, I’m going to change my stroke to 1px and add the lines in the grill on my hippy van. To do this, I drew one line, and then copied that stroke and pasted it to produce the other lines – this way I kept the same angle, and didn’t need to keep drawing small strokes with the pen tool which would have taken a lot longer. I didn’t want my grill to be perfect, so I purposely made some strokes longer than others.
Set the stroke to 4px. Do a quick but accurate trace over the famous VW logo using the Ellipse Tool and Pen Tool.
Set the stroke to 0.75px and start tracing some of the finer lines… you should know what to do by now! In the screenshot below, I’ve unchecked my Hippy Van Photo just to show you what it’s looking like…
With the majority of the line work done, we just need to fill in a few essentials, such as the windscreen wipers and mirrors. The side mirrors were done using a stroke, but when it came to the wipers and rear view mirror, I decided to use a black fill.
Now it’s time to start the fun! There are many ways to add colour to your line work, and it all really does depend on your style and what you’re planning on using the final vector for. I’m planning on using mine in a poster to be developed in Photoshop, so I’m going to make mine pretty simple with minimal shading (I want it to stand out from a complex background in Photoshop – I’ll write about that in a future tutorial so eyes peeled!).
The first thing I’m going to add colour to is a few sections of the hippy van that have overlapping lines – these lines will be hidden as soon as some colour is added which is why I wasn’t bothered by them earlier on! The number plate is first – the traditional colour in the UK is yellow, but that’s too bright for me so I’m going to go for a light yellowish grey. Simply click on the number plate shape and fill it with whatever colour you want. I also changed the stroke colour. Once that was done, make sure the shape is on top of all other objects and tardar, you’re first big of colour!
Some objects are harder then others and produce some more pen tool work, this is because not all of our lines and closed shapes, therefore you can’t fill them. Fill in a few similar objects to the number plate… Remember you can use gradients!
With only a few bits done, our Hippy Van is really coming to life. Now it’s time to concentrate on the main body colour. I’m going to use a nice blue for my van, as you can see in the previous screen shot. Fill in any closed shapes first that need to be blue first, and then we will move on to the harder parts.
With the easier parts filled, it’s time to move on to the trickier areas. Select the pen tool and remove both its fill colour and stroke so that we’re just working with paths. Go round a full area of your van (I’m colouring the front first). Make sure that the paths created by the pen tool are within our strokes to make sure it won’t leak outside our line work when we fill the areas! Once you’ve closed the shape, fill it with a colour of your choice or a gradient. Move your object in front of and behind other objects so it is in the right place, and change any stroke colours if necessary.
Using the same technique start to fill in some of the other areas of the van; I filled in the sides, the rear bumper, and then finally the top of my van. You might find when you’re filling in some places that you have to make some minor modifications to the paths/line work.
As you can see, I didn’t bother spending tonnes of time going round the windows on my hippy van. Instead, I’ve decided to go over the windows again and fill them with the colour I want. You could spend hours and put in every little bit of detail down to each individual fibre on the vans seats, however I’m just going with a plain white window with a bit of a tint. Grab the Pen Tool (again) and draw a neat shape over each of the windows.
Our hippy van is getting somewhere now. Once all the main parts of the hippy van are done, it’s really up to you where you go next. I’m going to add a bit more detail to mine, but because I’m going to use it in a future poster, I’m keeping it very minimal. First of all I’m going to add a bit of colour to the dashboard and around the windows using a dark grey. To do this, I’m going to use the exact same technique as we’ve been using whilst adding colour to the van. I then lowered the transparency of some of the greys, and added a gradient or two to give it a bit of depth.
It’s time now to really make our VW sparkle. Let’s start with the lights. Select the circles that we created earlier where the lights are going to be – you can select both circles at the same time by holding shift and clicking on both of them). Fill them with a gradient using similar colours to your vans main colour, and change the stroke to a darker shade of that colour (in my case, a dark blue). Once that’s done, with the two circles still selected, copy them and paste them in place. Reduce the size of them, position them correctly and fill them with a chrome like gradient. Repeat the step again, again using a chrome like gradient but this time using lighter greys.
With the headlights finally getting somewhere now we’ve added some simple shadows and chrome effects, we can add the light itself! Copy the latest circles and once again paste them in place. We want these circles to be exactly centre in the previous circles, so when resizing them be sure to hold Shift + Alt which will scale the circles down equally on each side. Give the circles a 1px stroke using a medium grey and fill them using a yellow/grey radial gradient. To make them look more like headlights, zoom in and give them a few extra details using the pen tool.
Whilst I had a chrome style gradient created, I also applied it to the VW logo – because it was a stroke, you need to Expand it into a shape. To do this, go to Object > Expand. You should now be able to apply a gradient to it. To give it a bit more depth, I duplicated the VW logo, placed it beneath the original and nudged a space or two down and to the right – I then applied a darker gradient to it and lowered the opacity.
Using similar techniques to those used in Step 17, complete any other lights on the van, such as the indicators below the headlights.
With the lights out the way and looking good (and very cartooney!) we can concentrate on the wheels. We’re going to use a range of techniques we’ve already used for the wheels, such as copying and pasting in place and gradients.
First of all, change all the tread on the wheels to a dark grey (you might need to use the pen tool and make some new shapes for this). I also changed all the strokes on the wheels to the same colour as the darker part of the tyre. Using the ellipse tool, make some circles using a grey to grey gradient to make the alloys, as seen below:
For the last step of this tutorial, we can add a quick drop shadow. Using the same colour used as the tread of the wheels, grab the pen tool and make a simple shadow below the hippy van.
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