In this tutorial I will show you how to create a vector iPhone illustration in Adobe Illustrator using basic shapes, gradients and mesh tool. Using the techniques I mentioned above we will create a realistic illustration of the phone as shown above. The created illustration, since it’s a vector, can be used in various formats and sizes without losing any quality whatsoever. It will look sharp and crisp in small formats for web will also look impressive in print of all sizes. All things said let’s start creating our illustration.
First of all we want to create the file we will use for our iPhone project. Start the Illustrator and create a new file that suits your needs best. For this tutorial I will use the RGB which is the type of file you use when creating graphics for projection screens such as PC monitors and mobile devices because they use the RGB color mode. If you intend to use this Illustration for print then you should create a new file with CMYK color mode to get the best color result. After creating our file inside Illustrator we now want to get some colors which we will use in our creation process by filling up our Swatch Library. You can find an image of the phone on the web and use the image to collect sample colors of the image or you can use the swatches of my .ai file by importing it. To import the swatches from my .ai file simply go to Window > Swatches to get the swatch panel window up, click the first icon from the left in the bottom of the swatch window and choose Other Library. Navigate to the file location on your Hard Drive and click Open. After getting the swatches inside Illustrator select the swatches you would like to use or just select all and drag them inside the Swatch Window. Another good reason for getting a template image for reference while creating is for adding mesh points and figuring out the steps you will take in the beginning of the process that will, sometimes, save you a lot of time (highly recommended). To setup the template, create a new layer on the bottom insert the image and position it correctly on the art board. After placing the image we will double click the layer name, name it “Template” and check the Template check box in the new window, click OK and we are ready. This is the template image I will be using in my tutorial which I downloaded from apple.com.
1. After taking care of the color palette and the right color mode file we are ready to get started. We will start by creating a rectangle shape. To do that we will select the Rectangle Tool “M” key, with no fill and 1 pix stroke. The size of the rectangle is irrelevant but the proportions should be 1:1.86, I will use a size of 300 x 558 px. Now that we have our rectangle we will round the edges of the rectangle by selecting the rectangle and going to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and choose the radius that looks about right to us. In my case 45 px seems just perfect. Next, we want to expand the effect by going to Object > Expand Appearance. Now we will offset the path that will serve to us as the inner flat surface of the frame.
To do that, go to Object > Patch > Offset Path and choose the negative amount of pixels that looks best for you, in my case 12 px is the right choice. This will create a copy of our outer rim and shrink the shape with the properly scaled Round Edge effect which serves our needs best. One more thing we need to do with our inner shape is to apply the stroke thickness and align it to the outer edge and finally expand the shape to get the compound shape which we will work on in later Steps. We will do that by going to Window > Appearance, clicking Stroke setting the stroke to 4 px and aligning it to the outside of the shape and finally Object > Expand Appearance to expand it. Last thing to do in this step will be to hide the newly created shape for now and go to the next step which will be the gradient mesh.
Gradient Mesh is a very powerful tool which enables us to get that realistic look in vector illustrations. It takes some practice and experience to anticipate the right points to set up in the process and often people get discouraged by the complexity and the difficulty. Don’t let that scare you because once you tackled it, you will be able to create some impressive illustrations.
2. Ok here we go. First of all we will go to the Outline Mode so we can see the template. We can get there by either pressing “Ctrl + Y” or by clicking View > Outline. To select the Gradient Mesh Tool, you can simply click the icon just above the Gradient Tool or by pressing “U” key. Once selected we can start meshing up our outer shape of the metal frame, which should be the only shape visible if you followed my steps in the previous paragraph.
So let’s place our first mesh point by adding a mesh points horizontally like shown down below and the same one at the bottom.
3. And now add 2 more mesh points horizontally.
3. Now let’s stop here for a second and look at the reflections on the corners of the template image shown above. We will have a problem getting a smooth line on corners with the mesh points setup like this since the gradients follow the vector path from point to point. So now what? Well, we will adjust the curves a little using the Pen Tool. I want you to click on each mesh point we added with the pen tool while holding the “Alt” hey to get rid of the handles and bezier curves so we get straight lines from point to point. If you have problems doing that you can “Alt” drag each of the handles into the anchor point. Now that we got that settled we will use the Direct Selection Tool “A” key. And position them as shown below. Please note that also holding the “Shift” key while dragging will make sure that we move the mesh points in a straight path.
4. Now we will get the curve following the corner reflections almost perfectly by adjusting the mesh point handles.
5. Also don’t forget to do the same with the point at the bottom. To do that we will go back to Pen Tool and while holding “Alt” & “Shift” key drag out of the point the new bezier curve handles. Now just tuck the three handles into the point.
Left part of the picture shows what we will get right after dragging out the curve handles and the right part of the picture above is what the curve should look like after getting rid of the handles we don’t need. Again, we will do the same for the bottom mesh points as well.
6. Okay, almost done with the mesh points. Now we will add a point just above and below the corner mesh curve we were working on and a straight line that separates the corner curve just like the picture shows below. Of course the same goes for the bottom part of the mesh.
7. We will add more mesh point when needed after we have completed the adjustment part. Mesh Tool adds points according to the outer shape that’s why we need to adjust our mesh in the first place. Otherwise our meshing grid would be a mess and we would have alot more work that way by having to adjust alot more points, one by one. Like I said at the beginning of the chapter, Mesh Tool takes some time to understand how it works. Down below you can see the final mesh grid before we start fine tuning it and add colors to the points.
Okay, now the fun part of the meshing. Let’s make it look awesome.
8. Now that we have our mesh fiddled out, let’s start adding color to those points. First we will go back to normal view by exiting Outline Mode. Now grab the Mesh Tool if it isn’t selected and select all the points on the mesh grid and give it a nice light gray color that represents the shiny steel surface.
9. Now let’s add those nice metallic gradients on the side. Select the points in the gradient mesh and appy the colors as shown to achieve the following mesh. I prefer applying darker tones on the outer edge followed by lighter gray and then adding a darker line to create a nice looking effect. You can see a zoomed image of the side gradient we are aiming for. While tackling the mesh points, please note that handles of each point other than the path along which the gradient will be created also stand for the strength of the color against the next mesh point in which the handle points to. Another thing to bare in mind here is that sometimes you wont get smooth transitions between the points or along a certain path, that means that one path is overlapping the other and therefore you will have to adjust the handles of the curves not to overlap to get smooth transition from point to point. One more tip here, if you get lost and don’t know which way the handles of the anchor should be going you can always reset the handles with “Alt + Shift” dragging from the anchor point with the Pen Tool.
10. The trickiest thing to do with mesh in this particular case will be making the corner ambient reflections since the mesh points can sometimes require path adjustments around the corners. Just make sure you go for that smooth fork like reflection and keep the paths along the sides straight. I will add another screenshot below to show you what you should be aiming for in those corners.
11. The reason why I didn’t do step by step here is because mesh here is becoming rather unique with every new mesh point added and each point will require adjusting if we don’t get the desired color effect along the vector path. So I encourage you to do a little playing with the mesh points and gradients to get the required result. You can download my AI file to study how I did it. This is what my mesh steel frame looks like after playing with it for a while.
I hope you haven’t made too much of a “mesh” sailing on your own for a while and you are ready to move on to the next part of the tutorial which will be the creation of the screen.
12. Now that we got the meshing madness behind us let’s move on to the screen creation. Remember the path that I copied and saved it for later? Well now we will use it to create the frame for the screen. For beginners, create a new layer move that path to the new layer, name it “screen” if you want, and lock the layer with the steel frame mesh and the compound shape. Let’s offset the path again to make it fit just inside the steel frame. With my frame size it was an offset of -12 px. Now that we have that new path ready apply the black stroke of 2 px to it and align it on the inside. As for the fill, we will use a linear gradient with 3 colors. Set the angle to 25 degrees, color #090A0B at 0% and 100%, and color #292C2F at 50% location. That, pretty much, covers the mask.
13. Now we will make the screen itself. Select the Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle that represents the screen. Use the template image for reference. My rectangle was 258 x 384 px. Apply a dark gray stroke of 2 px to it and a black fill, also align the stroke to the inside. Now go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and apply a 3 px effect. With selection tool select both the screen and the mask and while holding “Alt” key click the mask again to get a thick selection frame, now go to Window > Align to get the align window up and align the screen to selection to the centre, both vertically and horizontally, to make sure it is positioned in the middle.
14. Alright, we got the screen too, now let’s draw the status bar. First let’s make the signal bars. Create a rectangle with no stroke and light gray fill of 1,5 x 8 px. Now using Selection Tool, “Alt + Shift” drag it to the side to make a copy of it. Once copied, resize the first one to represent the smallest bar in the signal icon. Now that we have both the smallest and the biggest bar we will use Blend Tool to create the 3 in-betweens. Select both of them and go to Object > Blend > Make this will probably make it a smooth color blend which we will correct by going to Object > Blend > Blend Options. Here from the drop down menu select Specified Steps and type 3. Okay, now just adjust the distance of the bars visually with the Direct Selection Tool until it looks right to you and we got our signal bar. For the operator text I will use the Helvetica font, if you don’t have it you can use any other that looks good to you.
Drawing the lock icon is easy, create a rectangle and a circle with a stroke and expand the stroke, position them to form a lock, select both of them and then go to Window > Pathfinder, to get the window up, and merge them together. Same goes for the battery icon. A small rectangle for the battery fill, a bit larger for the frame with another small just above it and apply a light gray stroke with no fill. Now expand the stroke and merge them together, just as we did with the lock icon by using the Pathfinder Tool. After positioning it inside a box and aligning it we should get the result as shown below.
15. Now let’s tackle the “slide to unlock” bar. Here we will use the same rectangle and round edges effect technique we have used so far so I won’t describe the steps in detail. We will create a wide rectangle as a holder for the bar with a light gray stroke and a vertical two color gradient. Second round corner rectangle with serve as a button. We will also add a drop shadow here. Set the color of the shadow to black and opacity to 60% with the Multiply blend mode selected and a slight offset on the Y axes. No stroke and a gradient like shown below should also be applied here.
16. We will make the arrow using rectangle shape and triangle created with Star Tool. While dragging out the star shape you can increase or decrease the number of outer edges with the arrow keys on the keyboard, so bump those keys a few times until you get the triangle shape and release the mouse. Once we have both of the shapes created we will position them together and combine them by using the Pathfinder Tool again. No stroke and a light gray solid fill should be applied here with a white color shadow, again 60% Opacity and Multiply blend mode selected. Lastly a line of text saying “slide to unlock” is to be typed on top of the created objects positioned correctly to fit nicely between the slide button and slide background we created. I used 16 pt size in my case, with light gray color filled with a two color gradient with the light gray color on the sides and white color in the middle. This way we will imitate the effect of the slide animation that appears on the phone when unlocking. Now we have our slide bar created we will also type some “time” and “date” with the centre align and fill it with light gray color. I used 60 pt size for the time and 12 pt size for typing the date. The result that we got here is be something like the picture below.
17. Let’s kick off here with the “Home” button. Create a 54 x 54 px circle with no stoke and fill it with a 3 color radial gradient. Scale and position the gradient like shown below to get the reflection effect of the “Home” button.
To move and scale the gradient select the circle we created and then switch to Gradient Tool “G” key. Scale the gradient and position it like shown on the screenshot. Looking up there we also saw the round edge rectangle in the middle of the circle and that will be our next step. Create a square 20 x 20 px with no fill and a 2 pt white stroke and apply an effect of 3 px round corners radius to it.
16. Next up, we will create a speaker above the screen. First off let’s create a pattern fill for the speaker. Draw a 2 x 2 px square with no stroke and black fill. Now zoom in until the square covers your entire screen, go to View > Snap to Point and turn it on. Next select the Line Segment Tool “/” key and connect the diagonal corners of the square and apply 0,75 pt stroke to it. The two diagonal paths intersecting should be colored with two different tones of medium gray like shown below.
17. Now select all objects and expand them until you get three filled objects. With the same three objects go to Pathfinder Tool and select Divide, that will create a new object from every overlapping area. Simply select and delete the parts outside the square to make it look like above and group the objects by pressing “Ctrl + G” or by going to Object > Group drag the group to the Swatches Window to create a new swatch from it. Alright we have our fill setup let’s draw the speaker now. Draw a rectangle 55 x 11 px with no stroke and apply a 5,5 px round corner effect to it. On top of it draw another rectangle 50 x 6 px with no stroke and fill it with that pattern swatch we created. Also apply a 3 px round corner effect to the smaller rectangle. Lastly, apply a radial gradient fill to the bottom rectangle like shown below.
18. One thing to add to the bottom of the screen layer is the background. But first I’m going to show you how to make two transparent backgrounds under the “time and date” text and “slide to unlock” bar. Start of by creating 254 x 75 px rectangle with no stroke and fill it with rather complex linear gradient shown below.
19. Set the blend mode to Multiply and duplicate the rectangle. Upper transparent rectangle is lighter than the bottom one, that’s why we will set opacity of the upper rectangle to 50% and the lower 70%. Our next move is to position both rectangles to fit correctly inside the screen to the very bottom. Now, we are ready to place any background we want on the bottom of the screen layer and we will get the rather realistic looking screen.
20. Right now we will add another subtle detail to the screen of the phone, which you can already see in the picture below. It’s a light reflection from the glass covering the entire front mask. To make it, we will use that copy of the outer frame of the phone, duplicate it and move it to the screen layer, fill it with white color, offset it for -14 px and grab the Line Segment Tool. Draw a diagonal line like shown on the picture and with both line and the shape selected break it apart into segments by clicking on the Divide inside Pathfinder Window. Delete everything but the top half of the cutoff and set its opacity to 3%.
21. Last part of the tutorial will cover the making of the side buttons, shadow under the phone and a mirror effect under the phone. First we will add a layer at the bottom where the buttons, shadow and mirror image of the phone will be. Now simply draw the rectangles that represent the “power button” on the top and “mute” and “volume” buttons on the side. Volume buttons aren’t exactly rectangles because they have a slight tilt from the middle facing each other, so keep that in mind while drawing. The way I did it was that I drew a rectangle then I added a point with Pen Tool and then repositioned the anchor points until I got the result I wanted. After drawing the buttons we will apply linear gradients like shown below.
This one I used for the power button.
And this one for the side buttons.
22. I also added a 0,25 pt stroke to all buttons, light gray color for the side and dark gray color for the top button.
For the shadow of the phone I used Oval Tool to draw an oval shape a little wider than the phone itself, filled it with black color and applied a Gaussian Blur with 50 px value. To make that effect go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. That’s the shadow.
23. Now we will make a mirror effect of the phone. We will copy the entire vector graphic and paste it into our layer and group it using “Ctrl + G”. Next we want to create a clipping mask shape. We will use that path again that we saved way back in the beginning of the tutorial and draw a line over it. Then select both objects and under Pathfinder Window click Divide to break it apart and delete everything but the cutoff we will use for clipping. We will now mirror the copy of the phone vectors by going to Object > Transform > Reflect and reflecting the group vertically.
24. Position the group below the phone illustration and position the clipping mask shape on top of the group, duplicate it and select all three objects, two clipping shapes and the mirrored phone group. Now apply a Clipping Mask by going to Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Inside the new group select the clipping object copy we made and fill it with a two white color linear gradient, 90 degrees angle. One white color opacity should be left at 100% and other white color opacity should be lowered to 80%.
One last thing I want to add here is another complex gradient to the inner steel frame compound shape. This step is optional you can do it if you want or skip it but I like gradients so I will add it like shown below.
25. After all of this said and done we should be looking at one awesome illustration.
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