This Illustrator tutorial will go through some really basic and important Illustrator techniques while showing you how to create a realistic vector notebook scene from scratch. It’s also the perfect base for creating a modern web design templates. So, let’s get started!
1. Create a blank document and set the Artboard dimensions to about 800 x 600px. Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool from the Tools Panel and click once on the work area to bring up a dialog box, allowing you to specify the radius of the corners. Once done, create a rectangle that is 600 x 600px and increase the rounded corners to about 20px. Now, go to the Gradient Panel and fill the selected object with linear gradients using different shades of dark slate grey: (R=37, G=60, B=73) and (R=28, G=51, B=61).
2. We need to offset this object inward a couple of pixels. While the objects is still selected, go to Effect > Path > Offset Path… and in the Offset field enter the distance of -15px to duplicate the path. Do not fill the shape, but apply only a stroke to it (Stroke Weight: 2pt). In the Color Panel set the stroke color to medium grey (R=99, G=119, B=140). Open up the Stroke Panel and click on the Dashed Line box and check it off. Adjust the dash length and the gap length in the boxes below.
3. We are going to create a notebook now. Grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool again and open up the tool’s dialog box by clicking anywhere on the artboard. Now we can set values for its parameters and execute the tool. Enter 500px in the width box and 530px in the height box. The corner radius should be set to about 20px and then hit OK. Pick the Line Segment Tool (\) and draw a straight horizontal line over the rectangle (hold Shift to keep it straight). While both objects selected (the rectangle and the horizontal line), activate the Pathfinder Panel and click on the Divide button, so we get separated surfaces.
4. Let’s focus on the upper part of the notebook. First, select the object we are working on. Then, open up the Gradient Panel and fill the resulting shape with linear gradients: light brown (R=168, G=91, B=41) and dark brown (R=71, G=33, B=10), as shown below. We need some notebook paper holes. Let’s create a rounded rectangle the way we did before. Pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool and draw a rectangle, whose dimensions should be set to 20 x 20px. In the Corner Radius field enter 3px and hit OK to complete the object. Once done, make a copy of the previous rectangle
and place the objects as shown on the image below. Now select both shapes and go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt+Ctrl+B) to create a blend between the two. Illustrator will produce a default blend, which might not be what you want. So to edit it, keep the blend selected and double-click the Blend Tool icon in the toolbar. Select Specified Steps from the Spacing drop-down menu, type 8 and confirm with OK.
5. Make sure the blend object is still selected, and go to Object > Expand… in order to expand the object. Once a dialog box appears, check the Object box only and hit OK. While all the objects selected, activate the Pathfinder Panel and click on the Minus Front button. Actually, we subtracted the foremost objects (ten rounded rectangles) from the backmost object, making a holes in the shape below.
6. To get the realistic effect, apply a cast shadow to our new object. To do this, go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow… and enter the values as shown on the image below. Make a copy of the object and paste it just above the previous one. Select the copy we have just created then go to Effect > Texture > Craquelure…, which brings up another dialog box. Set the ‘Crack Spacing’ slider to 13 and the ‘Crack Depth’ slider to 2. Finally, move the ‘Crack Brightness’ slider to 9 and hit OK. In the Transparency Panel change the Blending Mode to Soft Light (Opacity 40%).
7. Now, let’s move on to the lower part of the notebook. First, activate the Gradient Panel and fill the selected object with linear gradients as follows: pale yellow (R=240, G=239, B=152) and buff (R=242, G=237, B=129). To create the ruled lines, use the Line Segment Tool (\) to draw two long horizontal lines across the paper. Open up the Color Panel and set the color of strokes to dark khaki (R=192, G=205, B=106). The Stroke Weight should be set to about 1.5pt. Select both lines then go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt+Ctrl+B) to multiply the lines . Double-click the Blend Tool icon in the toolbar to bring up the settings. When the window pop ups, change the Spacing to Specified Steps. Once done, enter 18 for the steps to create evenly-spaced horizontal lines and confirm with OK. Draw two vertical red lines on the left-side of the page to indicate the left-hand margin. Now place our notebook in the middle of the notebook holder. You should get something like you see below.
8. Let’s create a realistic notebook ring binders. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool to create a long slim shape for one of the binders and then duplicate it and scale it down a bit. Make sure you place the rectangle inside the other rectangle and nudge it to the left a bit using the arrow keys. Select the larger rectangle and fill it with the linear gradients: dark slate grey (R=50, G=65, B=74), dark grey (R=17, G=34, B=40) and dark slate grey (R=50, G=65, B=74). Now select the smaller rectangle and apply the linear gradients as follows: dark slate grey (R=47, G=51, B=54) and light grey (R=187, G=196, B=204). Select both shapes then go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt+Ctrl+B) to multiply the objects. You can keep adding more details to the ring binders until you are satisfied.
9. Duplicate the objects we have created so far. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard again to nudge it to the side so you have two bindings for the hole as shown below. While the objects still selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… and apply the shown values and hit OK. Once done, select Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow… and set the options shown in the following image and confirm with OK. Place the objects as shown on the image below.
10. We need a pencil to complete our background. Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw three separate lines, as shown in the image. Once done, give each stroke a corresponding pencil part color. In this particular case I used the following colors (from top to bottom): dark grey (R=77, G=77, B=77), pale goldenrod (R=217, G=193, B=169) and orange (R=230, G=162, B=28). Select all strokes and group them first (Ctrl+G). Then, select Effect > 3D > Revolve… and choose the settings you see in the image below and click OK. Now we have a nice 3D pencil. Keep the object selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance, in order to expand the object. Rotate the pencil 90 degrees clockwise and place it behind the ring binders using the Send Backward (Ctrl+[) command. When done, go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow… and apply the shown values and confirm with OK. That’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.
View the list of all 101 Illustrator special effects tricks at 101 Illustrator Special Effects.