How to create a December theme illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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I think we can say that December is the only winter month that makes up for the cold weather and gives us a happy feeling and anticipation for the holidays. There's a lot going on – presents, warm drinks, decorations of holly and colorful ornaments. In this tutorial I'll show you how to transform this “December feeling” into a colorful illustration.

1. Draw a sketch

Step 1

Create a new document. Set the width to 1000 pixels and the height to 1000 pixels.

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Step 2

Start sketching. Do as many December related objects as you can think of. I did quite a few of them – ornaments, presents, trees, candy, holly, warm drinks and many others. Do the sketch in a light grey color so you can easily trace it later. Once you are done, select and lock (Control + 2) the sketch. Unlock and delete the sketch when you're done tracing it.

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2. Define a color palette

This is one of the most important steps because the color palette tells us half the story of the illustration. It gives us the atmosphere of the theme and brings us closer to the mood we're trying to achieve. I selected seven colors – one brown for the the background and six lighter ones for the objects: two shades of green, red, orange, yellow and pink.

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3. Start tracing the sketch

To trace the sketch, we'll use the Pen Tool (P).  It's perfect for tracing loose, non-geometric shapes such as the ones on my sketch.

Step 1 – Presents

Start tracing the presents, point by point. First start with the larger shapes, such as the box and then move on to the ribbons. Color the boxes green and yellow, and the ribbons red.

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Step 2 – Candy and Acorns

Start tracing the candy. First the main parts, then the spiral inside. Color it red and green. Move on to the acorn. Once you're done with the head and the cap, draw a few parallel rectangle lines on a 45 degree angle and another set of the same parallel lines but in the opposite direction. Use the pathfinder tool to merge and cut them into one decorative shape. Color the acorn red and the face and cap lines in yellow.

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Step 3 – Ornaments

Trace the bodies of the ornaments first, then add the details. Color them.

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Step 4 – Mug and bulb

Start with the mug and color it orange and yellow.

Move on to the bulb and color it yellow, red and green.

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Step 5 – Candy cane and mittens

First we'll trace the candy cane. Draw parallel rectangle lines, merge them and using the Pathfinder Tool cut them in the shape of the candy cane. Color it red and pink.
Trace the mittens and color them red and pink.

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Step 6 – Fir trees

These trees are easy to trace because they're made of two objects – the body and the trunk. Color them green and red.

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Step 7 – Heart ornament and a snowman’s head

After tracing the heart, color it red.
When tracing the snowman’s head, start with the head. Keep its facial features simple. Add the hat. Color the face yellow and the hat red.

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Step 8 – Stars

The first star is made of 3 thin splinter shapes rotated in a few different angles. The smaller stars are easier to make. Color the larger one in green and the smaller in yellow.  We'll use these stars  later as gap fillers in the illustration.

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Step 9 – Holly

The holly branch is one of the last objects to be traced. Trace the berries and the leaves first. Then add  some details to them. Color them red and green.

Trace and add the simple smiling ornament too.

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We’ve traced all of our sketched objects. This is what they should look like.

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4. Tracing a text message

We'll need a text message in this illustration. A short holiday greeting. Since December is our theme, I chose to write “ A December to remember”. Sketch this sentence in a light grey color.

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Step 1 – A December

Start tracing the first part of the message. don't bother too much about being too precise – the general idea is to have a handmade font. So relax and trace letter by letter. Once you are done, color them green.

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Step 2 – To remember

Resume tracing the second part of the message the same way as the first. Color it green when you're done.

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5. Composing

After we're done  tracing and coloring, we can move on to composing the design. This time we don’t have a sketch to guide us so we'll have to use our own sense of balance and composition. We can group and shape our illustrations into a wreath. In order to do so, we'll need some guides.

Step 1 – Guides

First of all, make sure the guides are visible by following this menu path View > Guides > Show Guides.
Use the Elipse Tool (L) to draw a circle which will be 800 pixels wide and 800 pixels high. Position it central on the art board. Make another smaller one, 400 pixels wide and 400 pixels high. Position it central, inside the bigger circle.

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Select them both and right click. From the menu, select Make Guides.

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Step 2 – Composing

Now that we have the guides, we can start arranging the elements of the illustration into the guided space so we can make a wreath filled with colorful illustrations.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a brown rectangle, 1000 pixels wide and high. This will be our background. Now start adding our traced objects. We can start by adding the heart ornaments, the presents, the mittens and the acorn.

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Next we'll add the candies and the mug.

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Now add the fir trees and the snowman’s head. As you can see, the wreath is slowly taking shape.

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We can also add the holly branch, the ornaments, lights and candy canes. Feel free to multiply some of them and fill an empty slot in the design.

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And lastly, add the decorative stars. I believe we've used all of the traced elements we made. If you have a free space, feel free to duplicate and alter some of them so we can fill in the gaps.

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Step 3 – Adding details

We still have some room for small detail shapes. Using the Pen Tool (P), create some quick shapes such as green rectangles, pink triangles, and red and pink circles.

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Start filling the illustration with the green rectangles. Add them randomly, here and there. Add the pink triangles too.

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Then add the pink circles. Try to add the details closer to the inner and outer limit of the guides so we can  perceive the round shape of the wreath.

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Then add the red circles. They'll match with the green elements nicely.
And finally, add the message “A December to remember” in the empty space in the middle. Duplicate a couple of stars and decorate the text with them.

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Congrats! We're done with another nice holiday themed illustration.

Now you can show the world what you have learned.

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