Liven up your images with these five Illustrator effects by adding texture, depth, and shading to your vectors.
Vector effects are the perfect way to take your graphic illustrations to a whole new level in Adobe Illustrator. Whether that’s using these effects for characters, floral elements, or even text.
Let’s dive in!
Before you start adding any effects, be sure to have your Appearance panel in your workspace. You can find this by going to Window, then Appearance. Next, simply drag it to your workspace. Then you can edit and delete your vector effects as you go through this tutorial.
Open the Appearance panel in your workspace.
1. Gaussian Blur
First, we’ll start with the Gaussian Blur. This effect is nice for blending different elements of your vector, such as the inner portion of this flower.
In order to get this effect, we’ll head to the Effect in your menu. Then, go to Blur > Gaussian Blur. Be sure to check off Preview on your Settings window so you can see your effect in action. For this example, I’m going to set this to 3.1 pixels. Feel free to play around with these different settings to find what works best for your design.
Gaussian Blur is nice for blending different elements of your vector.
To add the same effect to the other two yellow circles in this design, select both of them and go to Effect > Apply Gaussian Blur. Your menu will keep the last effect handy for you to make similar changes elsewhere in your design.
If you’d like to learn how to change the resolution of your effect, head to this similar vector effect tutorial.
2. Inner Glow
This is my favorite effect as this can quickly add depth and shading to your vector elements. In order to do this, head to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. From here, change your color to a darker shade of whatever your element is and set the mode to Multiply. For this one, I set my Opacity to 38% with a 46pt Blur. If you want your glow to be around the edges, make sure to select Edge.
Add depth and shading to your vector elements with the Inner Glow Effect.
With the other petals, I’m going to do different settings as they’re color specific. Keep an eye on your own designs to make sure you find the right settings for your various elements.
Again, if you want your glow to be around the edges, make sure to select Edge.
If you want your glow to be around the edges, make sure you’re selecting Edge.
The Roughen effect is ideal when you want to scuff up your path edges. It’s a quick trick to make your natural elements or clothing look more realistic in your designs.
The Roughen effect can be found in Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. For this design, I roughened up the edges of the center of the flowers. I set the effect to 10% Size and Detail at 12/in. For points, I went with the Smooth option.
Scuff up your path edges with the Roughen Effect.
4. Drop Shadow
Now that we’ve covered textures and shading, let’s use drop shadows to add more depth. You can find the Drop Shadow effect in Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Keep this effect subtle because it can make your design look overprocessed if you get carried away.
In order to make these subtle changes, my Drop Shadow mode is set to Normal with an Opacity at 75%, with both X and Y Offsets at 1pt. My blur is set at 6pt and my color is set to a dark gray #5e5e5e. If you want to try using the Darkness option, check out this tutorial.
Use Drop Shadow to add more depth.
I added the same effect to the other petals, outer centers of the flowers, and the leaf. Used in moderation, the Drop Shadow effect can make your vector elements jump off the screen with a slight dimensional effect.
Make your vector elements really pop with the Drop Shadow.
Lastly, we’ll add a bit of texture to our entire design by using the Grain effect. There are numerous ways to use this effect, but sometimes this effect can make the edges of our elements look pixelated. Here’s a quick work-around that will add texture to everything.
First, I added a white-colored rectangle on top of my entire design. Then, I added the Grain texture to this shape.
You can find the Grain effect in Effect > Texture > Grain. From there, a larger settings window will pop-up. I set the Intensity to 35, the Contrast to 58, and the Grain Type to Soft.
A work-around to add texture to your image.
Once you have your settings done, press Ok. From there, go to your Appearance panel that we added in the beginning of this tutorial. Then, set the Opacity mode to Multiply to allow the vector underneath to come through. And, just like that, you’re able to quickly add interesting texture to your design.
Voilà! Your completed design.
However, this work-around isn’t ideal if you want to isolate this texture. If you want to do that, you can instead make a clipping mask with the elements you want to contain the grain texture.
Here’s a before and after to visualize the subtle changes, giving our vector depth and texture. Feel free to use these vector effects in other ways, as each of your designs will need different settings. Remember to think outside the box and watch your design come alive with these different effects.
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Cover image via Tartila.
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