Illustrator Special Effects #14: Vector Circuit Board Background

circuit board

Learn how to create a circuit board background in this tutorial. Using the basic shape tools, some gradients and the grid feature, you will be able to create a nice looking background.

1. Before we start we need to make some preparations for our project. First, we are going to set up work area to suit our requirements. Select File > New in order to create a new document. In a new dialog box set the dimensions of the artboard to 800 x 600px. Click on the Advanced button to open a new set of options. In the Color Mode drop-down menu choose RGB mode and set the Resolution to Screen (72ppi). Set the Preview Mode to Default and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid is unchecked before you click OK.

circuit board

2. To make further adjustments, open up the Preferences dialog box (Ctrl+K). First, under General settings set ‘Keyboard Increment’ option to 4px. Jump to Guides&Grid, enter 100px in the ‘Gridline every’ box and 25 in the ‘Subdivisions’ box. Leave the other settings at their defaults and hit OK, in order to return to the main artboard area. Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

circuit board

3. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools Panel on the left and draw a rectangular shape with the following dimensions: width – 800px, height – 480px. Open up the Gradient Panel and fill the resulting shapes with radial gradients, dark grey (R=77 G=77 B=77) and black (R=0 G=0 B=0), as shown below.

circuit board

4. Now, using the Rectangle Tool (M) create another rectangle and place it above the previous one. Activate the Gradient Panel and fill the selected object with linear gradients as shown below: turquoise (R=45 G=136 B=190), dark blue (R=0 G=66 B=199), medium blue (R=16 G=95 B=160) and light blue (R=4 G=86 B=235). Of course, you can add as many colors to the object you are creating as you want. In the Transparency Panel change the Blending Mode to Overlay (Opacity 85%).

circuit board

5. Let’s create our first background element, the circuit traces on our circuit board. In the Color Panel, pick light grey (R=179 G=179 B=179) for the stroke color. The Stroke Weight should be set to 1pt. Position the Pen Tool (P) where you want the straight segment to begin, and click to define the first anchor point (do not drag). By continuing to click, you create a paths made of straight line segments connected by corner points. If you zoom in to take a closer look, (I’ve zoomed into 1600%), you will see that the anchor points match right up to the grid lines and are pixel perfect. Select all the segments we have created so far, and in the Transparency Panel change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge (Opacity 100%). Once done, you should end up with something similar to the image below.

circuit board

6. Make a copy of the objects we have created in the previous step, and go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Once a dialog box appears, reflect the objects along the vertical axis and hit OK. Now place the reflected objects on the other side of the background, as you can see on the image below.

circuit board

7. It’s time to create another background element, the PCB through-holes. First, we need to re-adjust our preferences, so we can continue working on our background. We’ll need a grid every 1px, so jump to Guides&Grid settings in the Preferences dialog box (Ctrl+K). Now enter 1 in the ‘Gridline every’ box and 1 in the ‘Subdivisions’ box. Open up the Color Panel and choose the white (R=242 G=242 B=242) to set the stroke color. Set the Stroke Weight to 1.5pt. Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw a 8 x 8px circle at the end of each circuit trace (refer to the image). This can be a bit time consuming, so take your time and get it right. Finally, open up the Transparency Panel and change the Blending Mode to Overlay (Opacity 100%).

circuit board

8. To make our PCB holes stand out a bit more, let’s add a glow to them. Make a random selection of the objects we have just created. Once done, make sure the Stroke Weight is set to about 2pt. The stroke color should be set to turquoise (R=107 G=211 B=255). Open up the Transparency Panel and change the Blending Mode to Hard Light (Opacity 100%). Group (Ctrl+G) all objects and go to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow to open the dialog box. Apply the values you can see on the image below and confirm with OK.

circuit board

9. Let’s create a glowing light effect now. Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw several ellipses in different sizes and put them over the circuit traces. Open up the Gradient Panel and fill the resulting shapes with radial gradients, light grey (R=204 G=204 B=204) and black (R=0 G=0 B=0), as shown below. Select all objects, and in the Transparency Panel set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge (100%). With the described techniques, you will be able to create interesting abstract backgrounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.

circuit board
View the list of all 101 Illustrator special effects tricks at 101 Illustrator Special Effects.
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