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Illustration: Create a Western Train

Intermediate level Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator

How to Set Up a New Document

As we do with all of our projects, start by setting up a New Document (File > New or Control + N) which we will adjust using the following settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 1200 px
  • Height: 640 px
  • Units: Pixels

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen (72 ppi)

We’re going to be creating the illustration using a Pixel Perfect Workflow, so I highly recommend you take a moment and read this in depth tutorial that will get you up to speed in no time.

How to Set Up the Layers

Once we’ve set up our new document, it would be a good idea to separate our composition using a couple of different layers, since this way we can streamline our workflow by focusing on one section at a time, which allows us to keep track of each and every shape.

So, open up the Layers panel, and let’s create a total of two layers which we will name as follows:

  • Layer 1 > background
  • Layer 2 > train

The way we’re going to be using these layers within our workflow is pretty easy. We’ll want to lock all except the one that we will be working on, so that we won’t move or misplace some of the shapes by accident. Then, once we’re done with the current section, we can then lock its layer and move on up to the next one.

How to Create the Background

As soon as we’ve finished layering our document, we can start working on the illustration, and we will do so by quickly creating the background.

Step 1

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 1200x640 px rectangle, which we will color using #EA7B54 and then center align to the underlying Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.

Step 2

Start working on the railroad segment by creating an 808x16 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59, and then position at a distance of 108 px from the underlying Artboard’s bottom edge.

Step 3

Create two 16x16 px circles (highlighted with green) and position them onto the outer edges of the larger rectangle, subtracting them afterwards using Pathfinder’sMinus Front Shape Mode.

Step 4

Turn the resulting shape into an outline using the Shift + X keyboard shortcut, making sure to set the Stroke’s Weight to 8 px and its Corner to Round Join from within the Stroke panel.

Step 5

Add the little bolts using seventeen 8x8 px squares (#434F59), which we will distance at 36 px from one another, positioning them onto the lower edge of the larger rail. Once you have the shapes in place, select them and the railroad section and then group them together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 6

Since we’re pretty much done working on the background, we can lock its layer and move on to the next one where we will focus on building the train.

How to Create the Train’s Chassis

Assuming you’ve already positioned yourself onto the next layer (that would be the second one), let’s kick things off by quickly putting together the chassis of our western train.

Step 1

Create the main shape for the chassis using a 508x16 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59) with a Round Cap, which we will position above the railroad, at a distance of 84 px from its left edge and 88 px from its top one.

Step 2

Add the first pair of bolts using two 4x4 px circles (#434F59) distanced at 4 px from one another, which we will group (Control + G) and then position onto the left side of the chassis as seen in the reference image.

Step 3

Add the remaining bolts using six groups of two 4x4 px circles (#434F59), which we will position using the reference image as our main guide. Once you’re done, select and group all of the bolts and the larger chassis together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

How to Create the Train’s Rear End

As soon as we’ve finished working on the chassis, we can shift our focus to the train’s rear end, which we will create one shape at a time.

Step 1

Start by creating a 176x112 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the chassis, at a distance of 4 px from its left edge.

Step 2

Position a 24x48 px rectangle (#434F59), onto the left side of the previously created shape, making sure to align it to its path.

Step 3

Select the Pen Tool (P) and using an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59) with a Round Join, draw the little L-shaped segment connecting the rectangle to the larger section of the train.

Step 4

Add the vertical bars using a 64x120 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position on top of the train’s current section, at a distance of 40 px from its left edge.

Step 5

Create a 160x24 px rectangle which we will color using #434F59 and then position onto the bars as seen in the reference image.

Step 6

Add the horizontal detail bar using a 168x8 px rectangle (#434F59), on top of which we will add nine 8x16 px smaller rectangles (#434F59), distanced at 8 px from one another. Once you have all the shapes in place, select and group them using the Control + G keyboard shortcut, before moving on to the next step.

Step 7

Create the hard diagonal shadow using a 16x112 px rectangle (#434F59), which we align to the current section’s right edge, and then adjust by selecting its bottom-left anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then pushing it to the outside by a distance of 16 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Horizontal > -16 px). Once you’re done, select and group all of the current section’s composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 8

Start working on the little box by creating its lower body using an 84x36 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the train’s body, at a distance of 20 px from its left edge.

Step 9

Add the upper body using a smaller 84x12 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59) which we will position on top of the previous shape, making sure their strokes overlap.

Step 10

Take a couple of moments and add some details to the box, such as the 4x4 px bolts (#434F59) and the 12x16 px locking plate (#434F59) using the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) all of the box’s composing shapes before moving on to the next step.

Step 11

Create the hard shadow using a smaller 8x52 px rectangle (#434F59), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its bottom-left anchor point to the outside by a distance of 8 px (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > -8 px). Once you’re done, position the resulting shape onto the left side of the box, making sure to select and group (Control + G) the two together before moving on to the next section.

How to Create the Train’s Cabin

Once we’ve finished working on the train’s rear end, we can move a few pixels to the right and start putting together its cabin.

Step 1

Start by creating a 136x232 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the chassis, making sure its left edge overlaps the right one of the previous section.

Step 2

Add the window using a 112x88 px rectangle (#434F59) stacked on top of a smaller 120x8 px one (#434F59), which we will group (Control + G) and then position at a distance of 16 px from the center of the cabin’s top edge.

Step 3

Create the door handle using an 8x28 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59, and then position onto the left side of the cabin as seen in the reference image.

Step 4

Add the door’s bottom insertion using an 88x88 px square, which we will color using #434F59 and then position at a distance of 12 px from the cabin’s bottom-right corner.

Step 5

Create the side handle using a 12x32 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position at a distance of 28 px from the cabin’s top edge. Once you’re done, select and group all of the current section’s composing shapes using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 6

Add the roof section using a 324x12 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position on top of the cabin, making sure to align it to the main shape of the train’s rear end.

How to Create the Train’s Front Section

With the cabin in place, we can shift our focus over to the front section of the train, and gradually build it one segment at a time.

Step 1

Start by creating a 36x112 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the right side of the cabin.

Step 2

Add a slightly wider segment using a 64x112 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its top-right anchor point to the bottom by a distance of 16 px (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > 16 px).

Step 3

Create the remaining segments using a 36x96 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), followed by a wider 64x96 px one (#434F59) and another narrower 48x96 px one (#434F59), which we will position as seen in the reference image.

How to Create the Train’s Whistle Assembly

Next off our list is the whistle assembly, which will give our steam train a nice western feel to it.

Step 1

Create an 8x36 px rectangle (#434F59), which we will adjust by setting the Radius of its top corners to 4 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties. Once you’re done, position the resulting shape onto the front section’s first segment.

Step 2

Add the actual whistle using a 28x56 px rectangle (#434F59) with a 14 px top corner Radius, which we will adjust by removing a 12x12 px circle from its left edge. Position the resulting shape to the center of the third segment’s top edge, adding a 44x8 px rectangle (#434F59) onto its upper section, making sure to select and group (Control + G) the two together afterwards.

Step 3

Connect the whistle assembly’s two components together using a 4 px thick Stroke line (#434F59), starting from the cabin’s right edge and going all the way to the whistle’s left edge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) all its composing shapes together before moving on to the next step.

How to Create the Train’s Chimney Assembly

Since no steam train can run without a chimney, we’re going to spend a few moments putting together one of our own.

Step 1

Start by creating a 40x12 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59, and then position to the center of the fourth segment’s top edge.

Step 2

Add the chimney’s lower body using a 48x28 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the fifth segment.

Step 3

Add the horizontal detail line using a 72 px wide 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will center align to the previous shape’s top edge.

Step 4

Create the diagonal hard shadow using a 48x8 px rectangle (#434F59), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its bottom-left anchor point to the bottom by a distance of 8 px using the Move tool (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > 8 px). Once you’re done, position the resulting shape onto the upper edge of the current section, making sure to select and group all of its composing shapes together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 5

Add the chimney’s middle section using a 48x140 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its top anchor points to the outside by a distance of 36 px (right click > Transform > Move > Horizontal > + / - 36 px depending on which side you start with). Once you’re done, position the resulting shape on top of the assembly’s lower body.

Step 6

Create the wider upper section using a 136x32 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), to the center of which we will add a 136 px wide 8 px thick detail line (#434F59). Select and group (Control + G) the two together, positioning them on top of the shape that we’ve just finished adjusting in the previous step.

Step 7

Add the diagonal hard shadow using a 120x16 px rectangle (#434F59), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its bottom-left anchor point to the bottom by a distance of 16 px (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > 16 px). Position the resulting shape as seen in the reference image, making sure to mask it using a copy (Control + C) of the chimney’s center section, which we will paste in front (Control + F), and then with both of them selected simply right click > Make Clipping Mask.

Step 8

Finish off the chimney by adding the little bolts using five 4x4 px circles (#434F59) horizontally distanced at 4 px from one another, which we will group (Control-G) and then position at a distance of 4 px from the center section’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group all of the assembly’s composing shapes using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

How to Create the Train’s Headlamp

Next, we’re going to take a couple of moments and work on the little headlamp, which believe it or not were a lot bigger back in the days.

Step 1

Start by creating the upper edge of the support section using a 28x8 px rectangle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will position onto the right side of the train’s front end as seen in the reference image.

Step 2

Add a slightly larger 24x60 px rectangle (#434F59) underneath the one that we’ve just created, making sure to select and group the two together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 3

Create the main shape for the lamp’s rear end using a 24x60 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59 and then position onto the right side of the support section.

Step 4

Position a slightly narrower 8x76 px rectangle onto the right side of the shape that we’ve just created, making sure to color it using #434F59.

Step 5

Add some color to the composition by creating the fill shape for the headlight using a 16x52 px rectangle (#FFFFFF), which we will adjust by individually selecting and pushing its right anchor points to the inside by a distance of 8 px (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > + / - 8 px depending on which side you start with). Once you’re done, position the resulting shape onto the right side of the previously created shape.

Step 6

Give the shape that we’ve just created an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of it (Control + C) which we will paste in front (Control + F), and then adjust by first changing its color to #434F59 and then flipping its Fill with its Stroke (Shift + X). Set the resulting shape’s Weight to 8 px, making sure to set its Corner to Round Join.

Step 7

Add the little insertion using an 8x24 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59, and then align to the center of the outline’s right edge, making sure to select and group all three shapes together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 8

Finish off the headlamp by adding the diagonal support arm using an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), following the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) all its composing shapes before moving on to the next section.

How to Create the Train’s Lower Section

Since we’re pretty much done working on the upper section of the train, it’s time to move over to its underbelly where we will get our hands dirty.

Step 1

Start working on the left section by creating a 136x36 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59 and then position at a distance of 8 px from the chassis’ left edge.

Step 2

Add a 12x12 px square (#434F59) to the left edge of the shape that we’ve just created.

Step 3

Create another wider 64x28 px rectangle (#434F59), which we will adjust by selecting and pushing its bottom-right anchor point to the top by a distance of 8 px (right click > Transform > Move > Vertical > -8 px). Once you’re done, position the resulting onto the right side of the larger rectangle.

Step 4

Finish off the current section by drawing the little pipe segment using a 4 px thick Stroke (#434F59) using the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done, select and group all its composing shapes together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 5

Start working on the right section, by creating a 72x40 px rectangle which we will color using #434F59, and then position to the front of the chassis.

Step 6

As we did with the left section, add a 12x12 px square (#434F59) to the right edge of the shape that we’ve just created.

Step 7

Create another larger 156x20 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59 and then position below the other two shapes.

Step 8

Add another smaller 48x24 px rectangle, which we will color using #434F59, and then position below the previously created shape, at a distance of 20 px from its right edge.

Step 9

Finish off the right section, by drawing the pipe segment using a 4 px thick Stroke (#434F59), following the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) all its composing shapes together, before moving on to the next section.

How to Create the Train’s Wheels

We’ve created the upper section of the train, and added the lower one as well, which means that now we can finally add the wheels.

Step 1

Start working on the front wheel, by creating an 88x88 px circle, which we will color using #FFFFFF, and then position on top of the railroad as seen in the reference image.

Step 2

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by cutting out a smaller 68x68 px circle (highlighted with green) from its center using Pathfinder’sMinus Front Shape Mode.

Step 3

Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#434F59) using the Stroke method, making sure to set the inner one’s thickness to 4 px by double clicking on them to enter Isolation mode and then using the Stroke panel. Once you’re done, select the wheel’s fill shape and outlines and group (Control + G) them together before moving on to the next step.

Step 4

Take a couple of moments and add the spokes using six 4 px thick Stroke lines (#434F59) positioned as seen in the reference image. Once you’re done, select and group them all together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 5

Add the hub section using a 28x28 px circle (#FFFFFF) with an 8 px thick outline (#434F59), on top of which we will add a smaller 12x12 px circle (#434F59). Group (Control + G) and position all three shapes to the center of the wheel, doing the same for the entire assembly afterwards.

Step 6

Create the fender using a 112 x 112 px circle with an 8 px thick Stroke (#434F59), which we will center align to the smaller wheel. Adjust the shape by selecting its bottom anchor point using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then removing it by pressing Delete, making sure to select and group (Control + G) all of the wheel assembly’s composing shapes together afterwards.

Step 7

Start working on the middle wheel, by creating a 152x152 px circle (#FFFFFF) from the center of which we will cutout a smaller 132x132 px one. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#434F59), making sure to set the inner one’s thickness to 4 px. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) the two together, positioning them at a distance of 76 px from the smaller wheel’s fender.

Step 8

As we did with the smaller wheel, add the spokes using six 8 px thick Stroke lines (#434F59), which we will position as seen in the reference image, making sure to select and group (Control + G) all of them together afterwards.

Step 9

Create the hub section using a 36x36 px circle (#FFFFFF) with an 8 px thick outline (#434F59), to the center of which we will add a smaller 20x20 px circle (#434F59). Once you have all three shapes select and group (Control + G) them, doing the same for the entire wheel afterwards.

Step 10

Add the mud guard using a 184x184 px circle (#434F59), which we will center align to the wheel, and then adjust by selecting and removing its bottom half. Once you’re done, select and group the resulting shape and the wheel together using the Control + G keyboard shortcut.

Step 11

Create the back wheel using a copy (Control + C > Control + F) of the front one, which we will position at a distance of 88 px from the larger center wheel.

Step 12

Connect the larger wheel to the engine using an 8 px thick Stroke line (#434F59) and a couple of smaller rectangles (#434F59), following the reference image as your main guide. Once you’re done select and group (Control + G) all of the assembly’s composing shapes together, before moving on to the next step.

How to Add Finishing Touches to the Train

We are now down to the last part of the process, where we are going to add a couple of details here and there in order to give our western train a little polish.

Step 1

Adjust the shape of the door’s insertion by cutting out a 208x208 px from its bottom-right corner using Pathfinder’s Minus Front Shape Mode. In order to get the exact same result, make sure you center align the larger circle to the middle wheel before removing it from the rectangle.

Step 2

Finish off the illustration by adding some bolts to the front section of the train using a couple of 4x4 px circles (#434F59) vertically stacked at 4 px from one another, making sure to select and group (Control + G) them into multiple sets. Once you’re done, select and group (Control + G) all of the current layer’s composing shapes before hitting that save button.

It’s a Wrap!

There you have it ladies and gets an easy in-depth tutorial on how to create your very own steam train, using nothing more than some basic geometric shapes and tools.

As always I hope you’ve managed to follow each and every step, and most importantly learned something new and useful along the way.

That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing your final results, and if you have any questions please post them within the comments area and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


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Discussion

In today’s tutorial, we’re going to take a look behind the process of illustrating a western steam train, using nothing more than the basic geometric shapes and tools that you probably already work with on a daily basis. That being said, make sure you pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee and let’s jump straight into it.

Tut Details

Intermediate level 2h 1,512 views

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