Core Project

Vector Illustration

Vector Illustration

This project was focused on how to create a vector illustrated design. In this article I will outline my experience with learning vector illustration, some useful tips and tricks to help you learn and some core takeaways from the project.

Key Summary

  • Question how things are made, Vector Illustration was no where near as difficult at I thought it would be (especially as a non artist) and I didn't need a digital pen

  • Darker colour in the foreground gradually moving to a lighter colour in the background gives the illusion of depth

  • A lot of the detail you see (ie trees and animals etc) is actually created through the use of stickers/ brushes 🤯

  • Photopea is a great free alternative to photoshop

  • Have fun with it and use your own images to spark new creations

  • It's defintily worth taking the time to learn keyboard shortcuts, it saves so much time!

How the project started  

My room is covered with American National park postcards, each with a little handwritten summary of my time in that State. Although simple, they are up there with some of my most valued posessions and I really enjoy collecting postcards of a similar style each place I travel as a keepsake for each trip. collected from my previous travels accross America. I have always love stuck to a very retro style of old American National park style.

My Experience 

My room is covered with American National park postcards, each with a little handwritten summary on the back detailing what I did on each visit.

 Although simple, they are one of my most value possessions and they always bring me a little bit of nostalgic joy when I look at them during the day. 

All of my postcards are in the style of the Joshua tree postcard pictured below. Having never made any kind of computer generated art, outside of messing around on paint during IT lessons at school, I really wanted to see how difficult it was and it would be possible for me to make an effective design. 

My first challenge was understanding what to google to understand where the resources would be. 

I’d never heard of vector landscapes and it took a pretty deep YouTube rabbit hole following the lines of cartoon scenery and 2D images to stumble across the term vector landscape. Surprisingly there wasn’t many online tutorials out there so if you were arty and looking to define a niche for yourself on YouTube I’d definitely recommend this one as an avenue. 

My first hurdle was not having access to photoshop. Being on a tight budget and purely looking to pursue this project out of interest I knew I would need to find an alternative. My brother Mark suggested I looked into Photopea as a free alternative and honestly I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a very similar set-up to photoshop so you can use most tutorials out there whilst building transferable skills if you did decide to switch later down the line. 

My approach to learning this skill was simple. Being a visual learner I committed to watching 3-4  YouTube tutorials where you could build the image alongside the presenter to gain the basics before using the foundations to  free-style on a few creations of my own. Massive shout out to Nemanja Sekulic for creating a really great tutorial (link below). 

This was my first attempt using the tutorial, which honestly I was pretty happy with. This gave me the foundation I needed to go on and create my own designs and get creative with the tools I had learned to use. I really enjoyed learning this skill and went on to create quite a few more designs as a wind down activity with a bit of TV in the background.

To keep up with the traveling theme I created prints that were inspired by my travels. These felt even more personal than a postcard and is a skill that I would like to continue with some of my best pictures. In the design below I decided to mostly keep with the monochromatic theme, taking inspiration from the canyons from Bryce Canyon (top) and The Arched National Park (bottom) to design a night-scape similar to that of my favourite Joshua Tree postcard shared above.

I also tried experimenting with colours and textures, designing a more cartoonish mountain range inspired by a picture I took of the 3 sisters peaks iAlberta Canada at dusk.

Other less refined designs included sand dunes from The Great Sand Dunes National Park which had a really nice child like simplicity to it.

I also tried to experiment more with shadowing and light reflections on the right hand side design picturing a peak loosely inspired by Angels Landing from Zion National Park.

What I learned

The basics of colour theory:

White is made up from 3 colours red blue and green. The main catergories of colour are:

  • Monochromatic : where you have one colour and use different shades of that colour

  • Analogous : Are groups of colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel

  • Triadic : focuses on one dominant colour, with the other two evenly spaced colours both serving as accents

  • Complementary: the opposite colour on the colour wheel

Depth Perception:

Vector drawing is created using a mixture of freehand and stickers. To give depth to the design you make sure that objects that are closer to the front of the frame are darker and then move it lighter as you get into the background.

Shading with lighter and darker hues of the same colour will give definition and texture to your objects. To do this you need to consider where the light and shadows would naturally fall.

Each new layer you create adds depth, as you go "deeper" into the background the height of each layer will decrease to further add to this optical illusion.

It's important to have a clear labelling system so you know which layer you want to select and edit as your design gets more complicated.

Once you've finished if you can group all of your layers and change the hue, this will change the colour for your entire image.

This means it's super easy to go from day to night and also to make variations of the same pint if you were looking to sell it as art online.

Useful tools and resources:

Design tools:

  • Photopea:
    Free software to create your designs

  • Adobe Photoshop:
    paid version of Photopea

Colour selection:

  • HTML colour code:
    Finding the number you need to retrieve a colour

  • Coolours:
    Colour pallet maker


Core video: Nemanja Sekulic

Special thanks to:

In all of my projects there were absolute superstars who helped me along the way, from pushing me to be braver to suggesting resources or even offering their time to help. These are just a few of the superstars who helped me in this project:

- Mark Moss. for suggesting Photopea and listening to my frustrations when I couldn't find the right tool or layer. (and to Photopea for having such a great freemium model!)

- Amber, Jake, James and Louis for being the best road trip buddies

- Nemanja Sekulic for creating some great youtube content that was super easy to follow and beginner friendly. I had been searching for quite a while before finding your channel and think it's great!