WHAT WE’RE CREATING:
Hello everyone! Simon here today, to take you to the zoo. Let me explain: we’re going to have a lot of fun with the many animal vectors included the Comprehensive, Creative Vectors Bundle. We are going to use some of them to construct a great poster promoting a visit to the closest zoo. Excited? So am I, so let’s get to it!
A FEW TECHNICAL NOTES
Take note: this tutorial will have us use Illustrator only. The assets we’ll be playing with are vector elements after all. Manipulating vector elements in a vector-based piece of software is the logical course of action.
Do note however that as with any vectors elements, you could bring them into Photoshop as smart objects. Note also that we’ll use one raster texture to add a little icing on the cake.
STEP 0: THE CONCEPT
The primary concept for the piece I wanted to create came together rather quickly after seeing Pavel’s beautiful animal vectors.
As a huge fan of some of the pieces created during the golden age of the Works Progress Administration (late 30s and early 40s), these assets quickly reminded me of a few iconic silk-screened posters. Conveniently for us, the US Library of Congress digitally archived a lot of them, and made them available online.
Quite a few of the posters produced encourage people to visit the zoo, and very beautifully so.
Look at this majestic elephant.
The color palette here is flawless, and efficiently supports the high level of details of the hippopotamus illustration.
The shapes are synthetic, yet have character.
Note also the attention given to the typographic elements.
Another example of simple but bold line drawing.
Because these were silk-screened, the color palette was limited. They still managed to produce detailed, and precise illustrations.
We’re not visiting the zoo anymore, but look at how with only a few simply shapes, you are transported to another state. The type treatments are also amazingly crafted.
We’re back at the zoo, but this poster was created around the same period in time, for the Leipzig zoo (Germany – via eBay).
With that reference material in mind, I headed to the drawing board to start sketching my ideas. I used my traditional grid paper, but added color pencils to the mix to quickly separate my shapes, and establish contrasts.
The first three pieces focus on the “Visit the zoo” idea (centered around an elephant, a polar bear, and an alligator/crocodile, respectively). The other ideas explore some of the other elements available in the bundle: the tree section from Pavel’s Timber! pack, one of the owls from Studio Chem’s nature pack, the love potion bottle from Kite Kit’s romantic pack, a Shining-inspired piece centered on Kite Kit’s typewriters, and a “Keep calm…” poster focused on the hand drawn turntable.
We chose to focus on the elephant-based “Visit the zoo” piece, as it had the strongest visual potential, and the strongest visual impact.
With that goal established, we simply have to execute the piece.
STEP 1: DOCUMENT SETUP
We’re going to work within our usual 18″x24″ canvas. The WPA posters where in a slightly different aspect ratio (closer to 14″x22″), but this won’t be an issue for us.
We’re also going to place some guides to indicate the middle of the frame (9″ vertically, and 12″ horizontally).
Protip #1: you can turn on the grid, and use Snap to grid to quickly, and precisely, place your guides by hand. DOn’t forget to turn “Snap to grid” off once you’re done.
Protip #2: you can resize your guides so they extend only marginally beyond your canvas’ edge, and not all the way to the edge of your document.
Protip #3: you should give your guides a dedicated, and locked, layer. That way, you’ll be able to quickly turn it on and off as needed.
STEP 2: THE BACKGROUND
Let’s look closely at our base sketch.
The background is green, and will feature some of the leaves included in Pavel’s bonus elements.
Note also that we’re adapting the color scheme from the “Leipziger Zoo” poster.
The background itself
We’re going to start by creating a rectangle that fills the whole canvas. Change its color to a dark green (#343932).
Make sure that the background is in its own layer. Feel free to lock the layer once done, like that the rectangle won’t move by accident later on.
The elephant head, phase one
In order to build the background of the piece with the leaves, we need to place the elephant’s head first. That will allow us to have the best placement possible of the leaves, relative to the canvas, and the elephant itself.
Locate the pachyderm asset (pavel58 Hand drawn animalsaiHeads.ai).
We’ll use the plain version of the head for our poster, because we’ll add the texture to the piece as a whole later.
Let’s add it to our piece, in a dedicated layer.
Once we have the asset, we are going to give its final size and placement. If you look at the concept again, the head occupies almost the whole width of the poster, the elephant’s trunk goes out of frame, and is hidden under the banner that will support type elements later on. The head is also placed in the lower half of the piece.
With these factors in mind, I chose to make my head 17″ wide.
I also decided to place it at X: 9″, and Y: 17″. These coordinates are the ones of the center point of the asset. You can input the coordinates through the absolute placement tools.
Also, while we’re at it, we can assign the head its main color, a pale yellow (#ecddca). Note that we have to change the color mode of the asset to CMYK (from grayscale) to make the color appear.
Once the elephant head is sized, in place, and its layer locked, we can tackle the leaves.
Leaves, leaves everywhere
Now, we’ll have the reference point we need to make sure that our vegetation fits nicely from a visual standpoint.
Note that the placement of the leaves I’m going to suggest has been the result of a long game of trial and error. For obvious reasons, we’ll skip all that back and forth.
You can find the leaves in pavel58 Hand drawn animalsaitropical_leaves.ai
We’ll start with the big, central leaf. That will be the foundation. Once again, we’ll use the plain version of the vector asset.
Create a dedicated layer for the leaves in our master document.
Paste the leaf in, 10″ wide.
Change its color to a lighter, but not too saturated green (#90905e).
Finally, place it at X: 13″, and Y: 9.75″.
We’re going to label that leaf the big background leaf.
Next, we are going to duplicate the leaf, and mirror it. Start by creating a copy (CTRL/CMD+C), and paste it in front of the original (CTRL/CMD+F).
Next, we have to place the leaf copy so its flush with the opposite edge of the canvas (X: 5″, and Y: 9.75″).
Finally, we are going to use the transform functionality available through the appearance panel to mirror the leaf. Don’t know much about the appearance panel? We have you covered. We explored it when manipulating type for our tea-themed poster tutorial.
Select the leaf, and open the appearance panel (SHIFT+F6).
Use the little fx (function) button at the bottom of the panel to navigate to f(x) > Distort and transform > Transform.
Use the transform effect to reflect the asset along its X axis.
We are done with the first leaf. The next one we’ll use is the one with the long lobes.
We’ll use it in a “triptych” configuration: two small instances on each sides, and a tall one in the middle.
Let’s start by the one on the left of the canvas. Let’s place it in the piece, 8″ wide.
Place it at X: 2″, and Y: 12.35″.
Duplicate it, and place the duplicate at X: 16″, and Y: 12.35″.
Let’s fine tune the left leaf. We’re going to leverage the transform effect (via the appearance panel) once again, to give the leaf a slight tilt to the left. I’m usin a rotate value of 12°.
Next, we are going to mirror that to the right side of the piece. In addition to a rotation value of -12°, we’re also going to reflect the asset on its X axis, to truly “mirror” the left side.
We can now rename these leaves as small background leaves. Use this opportunity to also indicate which leaf is at the left, which one is at the right.
We can now paste a new instance of that leaf in the piece, for our center element of the “triptych.” Make it 14″ wide; and place it at X: 9″, and Y: 10″.
Don’t forget to properly label the object.
In order to make things a bit more visible, change the color of the small leaves to our lighter green (#8f8f5d). Things will get visually confusing for a second.
In order to re-establish some visual hierarchy in this jungle, give each small leaves a stroke of the same color than our background (#343932). The stroke should 14 points thick, with round caps and corners, and aligned to the outside of shapes.
The result is much clearer.
Finally, we are going to add one last leaf style on each side of the piece.
The first instance should be placed on the left of the piece, 10″ wide, at X: 2.75″, and Y: 17.25″.
Give it the same fill color and stroke color as the leaves from the triptych. Highlight the new leaf, and use the color picker (I) to do so. You’ll simply have to correct the stroke alignment setting back to outside.
From there, we simply have to duplicate the element, place it on the other side of the canvas (X: 15.25″, and Y: 17.25″), and mirror it using the transform effect.
And our leafy background is ready for the next steps.
Here’s a view with the elephant head visible, to see how the elements fit together so far.
Let’s not forget to label ’em leaves.
STEP 3: ELEPHANT HEAD, PHASE TWO
The next step will have us add more substance to the elephant head. As it stand now, we can see background elements (leaves) through the various openings. This causes annoying visual tensions, and breaks the bold presence of the animal head.
We are going to use a functionality of Illustrator called Offset path to fix this. Offset path creates a path that’s a copy of the one you give it as an input, but either bigger or smaller by the amount of your choosing. You can also specify a few options, like how your corners need to behave, etc.
Let’s get the dialog box by going to Object > Path > Offset path, with the elephant head selected.
Offset is the value of how much the path “expands” or “contracts.” Joins impacts your corners (will they be sharp or round?), and miter limit help to determine when the split between a sharp corner and a curve is made.
The value we’ll work with in our case is an offset of 0.25″. It seems to be visually the closest to the stroke we gave to the leaves earlier.
Once the transformation is applied, the resulting path(s) will be part of the original asset (or grouped to it if necessary).
They will also be selected. This means we can manipulate them like any other path: change their position, color, etc. Start by making sure they’re at the bottom of the elephant head group (Righ click menu > Arrange > Send to back.
Change the color of the shapes to our background’s dark green (#343932).
Next, use the pathfinder‘s Unite command to merge all these shape into one. This will clean up your layers, and make it easier on the long term.
Because the offset is now one shape, you could easily add a stroke to it, separate it from its base group to control it better, etc.
Last little tweak: the right eye. Looking closely, a part of one of the leaves is showing through.
Fixing this will be simple, since we separated the offset from its original group.
Using the blob brush (SHIFT+B), we just have to paint over the area where the leaf shows through, pending that we have the offset shape selected in the layer palette.
Once the painting is completed, another pass of the pathfinder will settle the matter once and for all.
Now that the main ingredients in our piece are in place, it’s time to move on to type.
STEP 4: TYPE
Preparing the type elements’ spots
The type will sit in two zones: one at the top of the poster, right above the leaves, and the second one at the bottom.
The type at the top won’t be an issue. The type at the bottom, on the other hand, will be unreadable over the leaves. We have to create a banner of sorts to make things visually smooth.
We need to create a new layer underneath the elephant head one, and above the leaves one.
In this layer, we’ll place a rectangle that’s 18″x4″, and flush with the bottom edge of the canvas. It’s bright magenta on the image below, so we can’t miss it.
Its fill color is a yellow-orange (#dc9927).
In order to separate it from the background elements, we’re assigning it a 14 points, dark green stroke aligned to the outside of the shape.
All of this is nice, but the pachyderm’s trunk is in the way.
Elephant head, phase three
The last thing we have to do with the elephant head is to create the equivalent of a layer mask to hide the piece of trunk that curves back on the type banner.
In Illustrator, there are no direct equivalent to layer masks as in Photoshop. There are opacity masks, and clipping masks.
In my opinion, opacity masks are the closest in functionality to Photoshop’s layer masks. Bittbox has a good writeup on these, but here’s the gist of it:
“An “Opacity Mask” refers to a mask in Illustrator that you place over an existing shape that controls its transparency based on the values of black and white in the mask. White being visible, black being transparent, and all shades of gray are in between on the opacity scale.”
Clipping masks, on the other hand, don’t allow you to control transparency, only if something is visible or hidden. Here’s what Illustrator’s official documentation tells us:
“A clipping mask is an object whose shape masks other artwork so that only areas that lie within the shape are visible—in effect, clipping the artwork to the shape of the mask. The clipping mask and the objects that are masked are called a clipping set. You can make a clipping set from a selection of two or more objects or from all objects in a group or layer.”
In our case, a clipping mask will suffice. Create a new transparent shape (no fill nor stroke color), right above the elephant head (unlock the layer again). The shape needs to contain all of the head but the trunk piece we want to see disappear. I’ve highlighted it in bright magenta for visibility.
From there, we simply have to select the future clipping mask, the elephant head, and the offset shape.
Finally, we can use Right click menu > Make clipping mask, or Object > Clipping mask > Make. The result is exactly what we needed.
And here’s a look at what it does in the layer palette.
With that taken care off, let’s go get our typefaces.
Type, type everywhere
There is a very talented person who has released (for free!) typefaces inspired by the lettering of WPA posters of old. That person is awesome.
Go grab Slow down girls, and Clean your neighborhood from that page. These are the ones we’ll use.
“Slow Down Girls! is based on title text used through most of 1934 in the Lincoln Star’s illustrated Sunday Magazine (copyrighted by Ledger Syndicates). The font name comes from the title of an Aug. 12 article which advised girls wishing to live longer that “jazz dancing and wild beach activities will shorten your lives.” (…) Font is all caps with alternate forms in the lowercase.”
“Clean Your Neighborhood is based on the main text from a WPA poster issued in 1937 by the NYC Tenement House Dept., which read: “Help your neighborhood by keeping your premises clean”. It’s a loose serif that works for both titles and body text. The letters in the original were a bit more irregular; I’ve evened the widths out a bit to keep it from being too fonty, while hopefully keeping the essential quirkiness. Includes Cyrillic and Greek.”
The main title
The master title of the poster is, without surprise, Visit the zoo. It sits boldly at the top of the canvas. We are going to set that one in Slow down girls, at 168 points tall. Its color is the yellow we used for the banner at the bottom (#dc9927). The text is centered.
The result sits nice and bold, but could use some extra flair. Highlight the “THE”, and lower its size to 96 points tall.
Finally, adjust the baseline shift of the smaller type to visually center them within the type object (20 points).
We are now going to add the secondary content to the banner. Where this an event poster, I’d add the venue and pricing information here. Since this is a poster promoting a zoo visit, we are going to add the following text:
New elephant den this year!
London Zoo Regent’s Park
(this last part is accurate)
Let’s start with the “elephant den” text. It should be written in Clean your neighborhood, 84 points tall, with a leading of 78 points. The text should be written in all caps, colored in dark green (#343932), and broken down on two lines.
The block is optically horizontally centered in the banner, and its left side is slightly closer to the frame’s edge than the title is.
Its exact placement is X: 4″, and Y: 22.125″.
The location block follows the same typographic guidelines, except that it’s right-aligned.
The block’s right middle point’s coordinates are X: 17.625″ and Y: 22.125″.
And all of our type is in place.
The layers so far.
STEP 5: A BIT OF GRIT
The last thing we have to do is to add just a little bit of texture to our poster. This will help to make things less digital.
Create a new layer to host the textures.
The first texture we’ll use is 100X100_SEAMLESS_TEXTURE_CM0049.ai. It’s from Lisa Glanz’ vintage black and white floral pack (lisa-glanzVintage-Black-and-White-FloralsAI).
Place it in the poster so it covers its whole height.
Having a grain that goes from top to bottom is more consistent with how a poster would age. Let’s rotate the texture 90° counter-clockwise.
Slide the texture to the right of the canvas (final coordinates for the center point: X: 10″, and Y: 12″).
Finally, let’s make the texture the same color as our background. Because the texture is within a clipping group, we have to select the texture group only.
The next texture we’ll use can be found in Lisa’s really rustic wedding set (lisa-glanzReally-Rustic-Vintage-Wedding-Kitai-filesPATTERNS_&_BACKGROUNDStexture.ai)
We’ll use the last one: “Rough texture – looks great used over a background.”
We will also cover the complete piece with it (18″ wide, flush with the bottom of the canvas), and change its color to dark green.
The last texture is a raster texture, and comes from the Design Cuts birthday freebie pack.
In the freebie set, locate 07.png, this great halftone texture.
We need to place it so it covers the full piece (18″ wide), and flush with the top of the canvas.
We also need to reflect it on its horizontal axis, so the dark area covers the left part of the type banner.
Finally, we need to change its blending mode to Overlay @ 50% opacity.
The result is a soft, pseudo-halftone effect.
Here’s a last look at our layers.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
And we’re all done!
I hope you liked building this almost 100% vector piece, and following the process along. As someone who loves to work with textures in Photoshop, playing with these vectors was so much fun. One of my aims was to pass that sense of fun along. It was almost like playing with Legos!
If you have any technical questions, please use the comments below, and either myself or the rest of the Design Cuts team will reply to them.
Finally, we’d love to see your tutorial outcomes! Please share them with us on the Design Cuts Facebook page. We’ll share the best ones with the whole community.
Don’t forget, there are just a few days left to grab the Comprehensive, Creative Vectors bundle for 94% off the regular price! If you have them already, I hope that you enjoy your new resources, and that this tutorial gave you a sense of what you can accomplish with them.
That’s it for me today! Until next time, cheers, and have a wonderful weekend.