How to create a Christmas card in Adobe Illustrator


In this tutorial you will learn how to make your personal Christmas card. December is right around the corner and it’s almost time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas so why not make your own unique card?


Step 1

Take a piece of paper and start drawing with a pencil, it doesn’t matter if you’re not great at drawing because it doesn’t have to be perfect. Start with drawing some typical Christmas elements, think of: mistletoe, presents, stars etc. When you’re happy with the sketch, start tracing and filling the shapes with a black marker or pen, but make sure the lines are thick.


Step 2

Especially if this is the first time you draw your own typography its best to practice. You can use a brush and watercolor or gouache, I prefer to use a felt tip brush pen (Tombow, Copic or Koi are the ones I use). Draw the letters out separately and practice the line thickness, this is the most important part of making an esthetically pleasing image. Keep in mind, when you go up = less pressure on the pen/thinner line, when you go down = more pressure/thick line. Last pointers are to use round shapes and keep it playful.


Step 3

If this is too difficult you can always use a font, for example Bromello has a similar style. I prefer to start with the longest word, in this case its Christmas because then I know where to place the shorter word ‘Merry’. Draw a wide arc, it helps you align the text and gives more dynamic to the design. Sketch out the text on top.


Step 4

Now ‘Christmas is sketched, it’s easier to determine the middle, so you can sketch ‘Merry” centered above.


Step 5

Trace the sketch with a black brush pen or with a paintbrush. Use a black fine liner to hide some inconsistencies you might have, you can smooth out the corners or adjust the irregular lines. Erase the pencil lines and scan the paper.


Step 6

Open the sketch with the typography and illustrations in Photoshop and adjust the Brightness and Contrast. The values don’t really matter, as long as you can see a bigger contrast between black and white. The darker the lettering and illustrations are, the better it is for tracing in Illustrator. Go to Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast.


Step 7

Open Illustrator and create a new document of 21 x 15 cm, an average postcard size. But if you would like to make a smaller of bigger postcard then you can change the values here.


Step 8

Copy the text and illustrations from Photoshop and paste it into the Illustrator file, you can do this by selecting the whole artboard with Command+A, copy Command+C and paste in Illustrator with Command+V. Or if you prefer you can save the file as a jpeg (Command+S) in Photoshop and place the image in Illustrator (File>Place).


Step 9

The image is probably bigger than the artboard but that isn’t a problem. Scale the image to the size of the artboard and click on Image Trace > Black and white logo>Ok.


Step 10

While having the image selected click on Image Trace Panel and drag the Treshold slider down, right up to the moment the shapes are ‘breaking’. The lower the Treshold, the more details you maintain, in this case the Treshold is set to 110 because otherwise the letters aren’t connecting anymore. Corners to 10% to create softer and rounder shapes. Noise to 15pt for adding more details from the sketch. And tick the box, Ignore white. Close the window to confirm.


Step 11

Click on Expand right above the artboard and you’ll see that the illustrations and text will be outlined. This is a fast way of converting the illustrations into a vector shape, but the best way is to trace the shapes by hand with the Pen Tool. But using Image Trace for converting is the easiest and fastest way and fits with the type of style we’re going to use today.


Step 12

You’ll notice that everything is traced in blue and that even the edges of the original image have their own outlines (the square box), this layer you can delete by using the Direct Selection Tool or using Shortcut A. Click on the image and press Delete.


Step 13

Create a new artboard by selecting the Artboard Tool or Shortcut Shift+O, click and drag until you’ve got the right size (big enough to place all the elements). Select all the objects, select with the Select Tool (Shortcut V) and place all the elements on the new artboard.


Step 14

Use the Lasso Tool or Shortcut Q to select the text first, you can do this by drawing a circle around it. Then press Command+X to cut the text out of the group and press Command+V to place it on the smaller artboard. Press Command+G to group the text, so that the whole shape will function as one.


Step 15

Use the Direct Selection Tool (Shortcut V) and drag out one of the corners while holding Shift+Alt, to make the text bigger. Select Align above the artboard and click on Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center.


Step 16

Start selecting the separate elements and place them decoratively around the text, don’t forget to group them as soon as you paste them on the artboard. Make sure to scale the elements smaller/bigger to make it more dynamic. Or you can reflect some pieces if you want to repeat some shapes, Right click>Transform>Reflect>Vertical>Ok.


Step 17

The card should look more or less like this, we only have to add colors and we’re finished.


Step 18

Choose a color scheme to use, the hex colors that I’ve used are added in the image above. Place a background behind the image you’ve created, choose Rectangle Tool from the sidebar or use Shortcut M. Click once and use de values 21 for width and 15 for height and click Ok. You’ll see that the box is placed on top of your artwork, Select box>Right Click>Arrange>Send to Back.


Step 19

Create the color samples you would like to use and select them all, click on the Colorswatches Panel above and click on New Color Group, you can give it a name and click on Ok. Now these colors are saved into the swatches panel for easy access.


Step 20

To change the colors of the different elements, select the shape and click on the Live Paintbucket Tool or Shortcut K. And select the color you would like to use (in this case I had to select white from the swatches panel) and click on the shape you would like to give a new fill color. You can switch between colors by using the left/right keys.


Step 21

Add little color details, for example the white buttons and face of the gingerbread man.


Step 22

For the background we’re going to add a Vignette, select the Rectangle Tool and click on the artboard, the values should be the same as we’ve used before and click on ok. Go to Colorswatches and select Super Soft Black Vignette, use the Gradient Panel on the side, if its not there, select in the Window Panel above. Select the swatch in the middle and delete it.


Step 23

Slide one Gradient Slider all the way to the left and the other slider to the right. Double click on the right Gradient Slider and select swatches and select the Dark green/petrol color we’ve added. And change the Opacity to 80%. Select the gradient slider on the left, select the same color and go to color, select Opacity 65% and use the sliders to create a lighter (random) version of the color.


Step 24

The last step is to place the Gradient Layer on top of the artwork and Right Click>Arrange>Send Back>Command+] (to bring it one step forward). Finished!


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