How to create a Valentines sweater illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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If you're lacking artistic inspiration, just remember it’s February – the month of love. There are so many things you could create at this time of year. Red is the dominant color and shapes such as stars and hearts are all over the place. But it’s still winter time, so I thought of merging love and winter in this nice tutorial that follows below.

1. Draw a sketch

Step 1

Create a new document. Set the width to 1500 pixels and the height to 1000 pixels.

Step 2

We can start sketching. Draw a simple sweater. Without adding any details, try to keep it simple. Use a light grey color for sketching because it will be easier to trace the drawing later.

2. Define a color palette

This time we’ll try to keep it simple and use a palette made of just four colors: dark red, light red, beige and light green. The green and beige will dominate the sweater area and they will give us the winter atmosphere in the illustration. The reds, being warm colors will balance out the previous, cooler shades. 

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 sweater sketch.

Step 1

Start tracing the outline of the sweater. Don’t stress if you can't follow the sketch lines accurately – this is a non geometric sketch so it doesn’t require a 100% accurate trace. Delete the sketch once you're done tracing.

When you finish, color the sweater in light green and the details in beige.

Step 2

After coloring the sweater, add a background layer and color it in the dark red color from our palette.

4. Sketch and trace some detail objects

Step 1

Draw four sets of shapes which will be repeated four times in opposite directions. I did a few variations of hearts and arrows.

Step 2

Once again, using the Pen Tool (P), trace the shapes you just drew. Start with the hearts. These are simple shapes so you shouldn’t have much trouble. Because they repeat themselves, you can just draw one and then simply duplicate and rotate the next one. Color the first set of hearts in red and for the second, make a thick red outline. 

Step 3

Carry on tracing the rest of the objects – hearts and arrows. As before, just trace one and then duplicate and rotate it, but I suggest you trace them all because that way they'll be a bit different from each other. When you're done tracing, delete the sketch and color the new objects in beige.

5. Create some patterned brushes

Now we'll use the brushes to help us decorate our sweater drawing.

Step 1

Open the Brushes panel (F5). Select and group the four hearts you just drew and drag and drop in the Brushes Panel.

Step 2

A pop-up window will appear asking the preference for your brush. Select Pattern Brush and click OK.

Step 3

Another window for Pattern Brush Options will appear. You can name your pattern and just click OK.

Step 4

You just created a pattern brush. Your new brush will appear in the Brushes Panel. Feel free to test it out – just draw a line and pick your brush as a stroke color.

Step 5

Do the same for the rest of the objects (stars, arrow and pine trees). Add them as a pattern brush and test them.

Apply the brushes

Let’s give our new brushes a try. They will help us decorate the sweater easily because they're repeated. With just one line we’ll get a whole row of illustrations, instead of adding them one by one.

Step 1

Just below the neck line, draw a curved line.

Step 2

Continue drawing curved lines until you fill the sweater surface. Seven or eight should be enough. Try to keep the same distance between them.

Step 3

Now, let’s add the brushes we created. Start with the top line and add the hearts patterned brush.

Step 4

Keep adding the brushes alternately–red followed by a beige one. After the hearts I added arrows, then hearts again and hearts and dots.

Step 5

Do the rest of the lines down to the bottom – I finished with outlined hearts, arrows and filled hearts near the bottom of the sweater. Now the whole sweater area is filled with patterns.

Step 6

Now, select the red patterns. Expand them (Object>Expand Appearance). Open the Pathfinder panel (Shift+Ctrl+F9) and use the Unite command. The red drawings will merge into one. While they are still selected, Make a Compound Path (Control+8). This will keep them merged together no matter what.

Step 7

Now copy the green sweater area and Paste it in front (Control+F) of the red merged objects. Select the pasted sweater shape and the red objects and then use the Intersect command on the Pathfinder panel.

Step 8

This will make the red objects fit perfectly into the sweater.

Step 9

Repeat the same procedure for the beige objects – expand them, merge them and then cut them out in the shape of the sweater.

Step 10

The sweater looks almost done. The patterns fit in perfectly well but we need to add some more details on the neck and lower empty parts colored in beige.

Step 11

Draw two pointy shapes. One of them as tall as the bigger star we did previously, and the other as tall as the smaller star. Color them in the light green color from our color palette. Add them to the Brushes Panel and create new Patterned Brushes.

Step 12

Draw a curved line following the shape of the beige neck area. Also, draw another line following the lower beige area of the sweater. 

Step 13

Select the neck line and from the Brushes Library choose a smaller pointy shape brush. You will get a successive string of pointy shapes.

Step 14

Because they're very close to one another, double click the brush in the Brush Library and the Pattern Brush Options window will open. Set the Scale value to 125% and the Spacing value to 150%. This will make the spacing between objects larger and perfect for our illustration. Click OK. 

Step 15

Repeat the same step for the line at the bottom end of the sweater. Add the pointy brush and edit the spacing. Set the scale value to 125% and the spacing value to 150%.

Step 16

Select the newly patterned brushes and expand them. Open the Pathfinder panel (Shift+Ctrl+F9) and use the Unite command. The pointy objects will merge into one. While they are still selected, Make a Compound Path (Control+8). 

Step 17

Now copy the green sweater area and Paste it in front (Ctrl+F) of the pointy objects. Select the pasted sweater shape together with the pointy objects and then use the Intersect command on the Pathfinder panel.

Step 18

Almost done! We've finished decorating our lovely sweater. Only one thing is missing – some subtle background drawings. Let’s add some in.

Step 19

Draw a few heart shapes and a few circles too. Color them slightly lighter than the background.

Step 20

Scatter the hearts and circles randomly on the dark red background. This is our last step and a final touch to this lovely sweater illustration.


In this tutorial we covered a new issue – creating and using Patterned Brushes. They saved us a lot of time in decorating the sweater and I am sure you will find many useful ways of using them in the future. Also, we went over some older issues such as tracing a sketch and using the Pathfinder commands so we can get perfectly aligned shapes and objects. 

Now you can show the world what you have learned.

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