In this interesting tutorial we will be learning how to create an American flag in Adobe Illustrator. Basically, you can create any kind of flag using this technique.
The creation process consists of a part where we create a symbol of the flag (in our case famous red and white stripes and 50 white stars on the blue rectangle) and a part where we create the waving flag by using the 3D effect Extrude & Bevel. To enhance the 3D effect we will make sure that both sides of the flag are visible. But let’s move from the words to deeds.
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The below preview shows what we will be creating and you can download the source file in Adobe Illustrator AI format by clicking the Download link at the end of the tutorial.
We will start with the symbol of the American flag. Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool Panel and click somewhere on the Artboard. The Rectangle Option Box will pop up. Set the Width and the Height to 260 x 130.
We need to create 13 stripes; 6 white and 7 red. Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool Panel again to create a rectangle of 260 x 5. Set the Fill color of the stripe to dark red and change the Fill color of the rectangle to white (color is actually not important at this moment, we will apply nice gradients when we are done).
Make sure to align both elements as shown in the picture below.
Duplicate (Ctrl / Cmd + C, Ctrl / Cmd + F) the red stripe and place it as shown in the picture below.
Select both new red stripes and under Blend hit Make. Select again Object > Blend > Blend Options. Set the Spacing to Specified Steps and set the value to 11. It will create 11 new red stripes.
Select all the elements and under Object >Expand. This way we’ve turned the stripes to editable objects.
Now grab the Star Tool and click somewhere on the Artboard. The Star Options box will pop up. Do not change anything, just hit the OK button. This way we’ve created a star.
As we all know the USA flag contains 50 white stars. The Blend Tool will help us to complete the rest of them. We will need 5 rows with 6 stars and 4 rows with 5 stars.
Holding down the Alt / Opt + Shift keys on the keyboard click on the star and drag it to the right. The Alt / Opt key will allow us to create copies of the star and the Shift key will allow us straight dragging.
Select both stars and under Object select Blend > Make. It will create few more stars in the middle. Under Object select Blend > Blend Options and set the Spacing to Specified Steps and the value to 4. This way we have created the row of 6 stars.
Now we need 5 rows with 6 stars. Make sure to duplicate (Ctrl / Cmd + C, Ctrl / Cmd + F) 4 times the row we have created in the previous step and to place them as shown in the picture below.
Repeat the previous steps in order to create other 4 rows with arrows . You should end up with something like this.
Grab the Rectangle Tool (M), create a rectangle and place it behind the stars. Don’t forget to turn the stars into editable shapes (Object > Expand).
Set the Fill color of the stars to white (#FFFFFF) and place them on the flag.
Group (Ctrl / Cmd + G) all the elements and drag the flag to the Symbol Panel. Make sure to change the Type to Graphic.
Now we’ve created the symbol of the American flag. We will use this symbol to apply to a 3D flag.
Grab the Pen Tool (P) and create a path similar to this one.
Under Effect select 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Feel free to adjust the angle of the flag by rotating the cube in the Extrude & Bevel Options box.
When you are satisfied with the look of the flag hit the Map Art button. This is the moment when we are going to apply our American flag symbol. All you have to do is to switch between the Surfaces of the flag and apply our symbol. If the symbol of the American flag doesn’t fit the shape of the flag feel free to hit the Scale to Fit button at the bottom of the window, or just try to manually adjust the size and the position of the symbol. To be able to monitor all the changes you create make sure to check the Preview box in the Extrude & Bevel Options window.
Update thanks to Doug: when mapping the artwork, there’s a box at the top for choosing which “side” to map the artwork to. It’s important to try the different sides to get a feeling of what this setting does and to continue trying different surfaces until it looks right!
You should end up with something like this.
To be able to apply a nice color gradient we will have to turn the flag into an editable shape. To do that, select Expand under Object. The next thing we have to do is to Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl / Cmd + G) the flag. Be aware of the fact that the flag contains many elements, so probably you will have to repeat the Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl / Cmd + G) action few more times. When you are done all elements of the American flag will be ready for some nice color gradients.
The stripes should look like this now.
Don’t forget the blue rectangle and the stars.
Continue applying gradients until you complete all the elements.
Apply color gradients to the back of the flag as well.
Your flag should look like this.
Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tool Panel and create a rectangle as shown in the picture below. Apply a nice gray linear gradient.
Now, grab the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tool Panel and create a small circle. Place it on top of the rectangle from the previous step and apply a nice radial gradient to the circle. Group (Ctrl / Cmd + G) both elements.
Use this technique and create another flag.
The 3D effect Extrude & Bevel is a very convenient tool for creating three dimensional objects. A waving flag is one of them. Using the rotation tool inside the Extrude & Bevel Options you can adjust the position and angle of the flag and make the back side of the flag visible as well. Nice color gradients will emphasize the depth of the illustration. Using this technique you can create many other flags and textures.
I hope you liked this tutorial. Thank you for following along.
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