Tattoo Inspired Vector Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

everyone this is Chris from Spoon Graphics
back again with another video tutorial. Today we’re going to play around in Adobe
Illustrator to create a tattoo inspired vector illustration of a sparrow with a stylized
appearance, by constructing it from simple shapes. We’ll make all the linework using Illustrator’s
powerful shape tools, then we’ll give it that classic tattoo feeling with some stipple shading,
using a free set of Illustrator brushes that I released on my website a couple of weeks
ago. So begin open up Adobe Illustrator and create
a new document. As always the document size doesn’t matter too much when we’re just creating
cool art because the vector elements can be scaled up and down at a later date to suit
any application. Grab the Ellipse tool and hold the Shift key
to draw a circle on the artboard. Clear out the white fill leaving just a black stroke. Duplicate this circle then stretch it vertically
while holding the ALT key. Select the Pen tool then hold ALT again to toggle on the
Convert Anchor Point tool, then click the top and bottom points to change them into
corners. Position the circle over the other shape,
aligning the bottom right side of the circle with the lowermost point. Go to View>Outline
to turn on Outline Mode, then zoom right in and make sure the two paths match up perfectly.
Go back to View>Preview to exit out of Outline Mode. Turn on Smart Guides by going to View>Smart
Guides, then select the large shape and clip the path with the Scissors tool where it overlaps
the circle. Hit the delete key to remove this unwanted portion of the path. Clip the smaller circle where it intersects
with the other shape, then also add a cut in the upper right area of the path and delete
this leftover segment. Draw a small circle and move it into position
to represent an eye, then select the Polygon tool and drag out a shape. Before releasing
the mouse press the downwards cursor key to reduce the number of points to three to create
a triangle. Stretch this triangle shape a little then
rotate, scale and position it onto the head circle. Select the Scissors tool then clip and delete
the portions of the triangle that overlap into the inside of the circle. Double click the Arc tool to check its settings
and make sure the Slope is set to 50, then begin creating the outline of the wing by
dragging a line from just under the head, outwards from the body. Hold the Shift key to make the curve a perfect
quarter circle. Using the green smart guide tooltip draw another curve to continue the
path. Before releasing the mouse press the F key to flip the curve in the other direction.
Extend this one out to form the main wing outline. Extend the shape a little more to form the
tip of the wing. Press F to flip the direction back but don’t hold Shift this time to create
a narrow bend. Use the Smart Guides to find the point between
the previous two paths then draw an arc between this point and the starting point of the wing.
We’ll use this line as a guide for the feather placement. Draw a curve from the wing tip and extend
it back towards this temporary line, allowing it to snap to the path. Continue drawing evenly
spaced feathers back towards the main body, offsetting it slightly each time. When you’re done, delete the temporary line
to leave a series of feathers than naturally follow the same curve. Select the main body shape then use the Scissors
tool to snip away the path that overlaps the wing. Draw a selection around all the paths that
make up the wing, making sure no elements from the head or body are captured, then right
click and select Group. Go to Edit>Copy then Edit>Paste in Place,
then head to Object>Transform>Reflect and select the Vertical option to flip the copy
of the wing. Move this duplicate wing into place on the
other side of the body, roughly lining it up centrally, judging by where the shapes
overlap. Use the Scissors tool to snip the overlapping
paths from the wing, then use the Direct Selection tool to select and delete these paths. Draw a new Arc to form part of the tail feathers,
overlapping the start point with the main body shape. Continue this path back towards
the centre, aligning it with the point at the top of the body shape. Remember to press
the F key to flip the direction of the arc. Select these two shapes, copy and paste in
place then go to Object>Transform>Reflect to make a duplicate for the other side. Move
this piece into place, snapping it to that centre point. Select the main body shape then use the Scissors
tool to cut away the overlapping area in the middle. Then finish off the linework by adding any
extra details, such as a couple of curves flowing from the eye. Draw a large selection containing all the
paths that make up the illustration, then under the Stroke panel increase the weight
to 5pt, then select the Round Cap and Round Join options. With all the elements still selected choose
the Live Paint tool and click on the artwork when the red highlight appears. Choose a random
colour for the fill then click the Live Paint tool on the various segments of the illustration
to apply this solid fill. Next, go to Object>Expand then select just
the Object checkbox. Right click on the artwork and select Ungroup, then click on the background
fill to make sure it can be individually selected. Give it a white fill then copy it to the clipboard
so we can use this outline shape later. Open the Layers panel and lock the current
layer then contains all the linework. Add a new Layer then download and install my free
Stipple Shading Brushes for Adobe Illustrator, link to which can be found down in the description
area below. Set up the Brush tool with a black fill but
no stroke, then choose one of the stipple shading brushes that provides some fairly
light scattering so we can build up the shading. Begin dabbing and painting with the brush
to apply areas of stippling to shade the design. Aim for the corners and fade the shading out
into the main body. Don’t worry too much about straying outside the lines, we’ll tidy those
up in a minute. Once you’ve finished stippling, draw a selection
over all the brush strokes. Under the Transparency panel click the Make Mask button. Click on
the mask thumbnail on the right to enter into Mask Mode, then go to Edit>Paste in Front
to paste in the filled body outline we copied earlier.
Check the Clip option to trim the stippling to the outline of the bird. Deselect everything then set up a Blob Brush
with a black fill. Begin painting around the artwork to erase away any excess stippling
within the illustration. Click on the thumbnail on the left from within
the Transparency panel to exit out of Mask Mode, then lock the current layer and add
one more. Activate the brush tool, set up a black fill
then select a stipple brush with just some light scattering. Add some subtle shading
to the overall design to eliminate any empty areas of white and texturize the artwork slightly. Draw a selection around these brush marks,
then apply an Opacity Mask and paste in the same solid fill shape we used before. Remember
to Clip the mask then click the left hand thumbnail to exit out of Mask Mode. Don’t forget to unlock those working layers,
then that wraps up our tattoo inspired vector sparrow illustration. So I hope you enjoyed
this video tutorial. If you did I’d really appreciate a thumbs up on YouTube or a shout
out on Twitter or Facebook to help spread the word and share the guide with your designer
friends. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube to be
the first to see my upcoming tutorials and head over to my website at
to check out all my other written tutorials and free design resources. So as always thank you very much for watching
and I’ll catch you in the next one.


  • selrond

    Looks very tasty! Gonna do it!

  • MrMirofl [Purcy aka Cusor]

    Nicely done! 🙂

  • Fancylooks

    Very interesting knowing how someone else works with Illustrator.

  • Sylvia Schiada

    Thanks so much for this great tutorial!

  • destan5568

    Talented is not a worthy title.

  • Janiel Iglesias

    Thanks for your tutorials! Your time and efforts brings priceless knowledge to other designers! God Bless you!

  • Rustem Gomes

    nice job! what is the music on  bg??

  • Alexandru Grecov

    very nice technique, and to use mask like that is very useful…thx and keep going !

  • Laura Scott

    I am doing graphic design at university at the moment and you have no idea how much this helped me! This is exactly what i needed for my current design project! Thank you so much (:

  • Mark Rojas

    I learned so much about masks in illustrator! thank you

  • GyDRyUs

    great tutorial but for me from 6:56 not working, when i click clip mask all brush noises disappears 🙁 any answers? i use cs6 version..

  • Madhuri Garg

    Thanks for the great tutorial. You really showed some fast and easy ways to get more effective results.

  • Andrés Araya

    hello, verry helpful, thanks, I get lost from 5:30 on, the stipple brushes section, cant trim the stipple

  • Jake Lowes

    Subbed mate!

  • machonis

    Awesome! Thank You so much for this!

  • John Jerico Sy

    i have been dealing with various techniques like grain effect but it doesn't satisfy me, then your video appeared on the side list while i was watching other clips, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and files sir 🙂

  • Amélie Leblanc

    i'm currently studying to become a graphic designer and im happy to find some fun ways to try and experiment with illustrator, thank you its very helpful ^^

  • Keith Ten Eyck

    This is how you make a tutorial. Thank you.

  • B Manu

    How can we mask the something but then get rid of all the information that is masked so the only thing that remains is what we need ? Is that possible ?

  • tristan bauzon

    honestly tho my illustrator doesn't do the things yours does even if i followed every movement you did perfectly.

  • Ruslan Bykov

    Neat! Never used this method before. Never knew it's so damn handy! THANKS!

  • Seain Lau

    Thank you Spoon! Amazing tutorial ,but do I need to outline stroke after using this brush?

  • ShineLine3


  • Blanca Montiel

    That moment when you realize you have been over complicating your life by using the pen tool when you could have used the arc tool… Great tutorial!

  • Matan Koriat

    You bring me a lot of inspiration 🙂

  • pau nájera

    wtf i cant even draw a circle

  • expecTheWORSThxc

    how can I turn the dots into vector so that I can change the colour??!

  • Eduardo Gómez

    I was looking for this for so long, now im gonna use it, thanks.

  • SP Popov

    Great tutorial!

  • justin chatfield

    Really good tutorial man, appreciate it!

  • Angelos Agapiou

    i love your work!!! youa re awesome! 😀

  • SidOhzen

    Hi there. the live paint tool didn't fill because paths weren't joined. When I tried to 'join paths' it said i couldn't because of multiple paths etc, etc, any advice ?

  • Leo.

    I am really liking that beige background texture you used at the end of your video. Where can i get my hands on one?

  • Day Capo

    Hi bro, excellent tuto, really helpful. Keep going with your amazing work. Thanks a lot!

  • Anastasia Y

    Great tutorial! Thank you )
    Especially working with Arc part.

  • Ahmed El-shazly

    i have a problem when i use the brush tool with this stipple shading it paint hard

  • Stuart Holmes

    Nice tut, clear and concise and well presented, fast enough to get the core messages, but slow enough to follow and understand. I'm an Ai illustrator of 15 years but always good to see how different people use the software in different ways. Thanks for the stipples.

  • andreesalazar

    Justo lo que andaba buscando, yo suelo hacerlo primero a mano, pero estos brushes servirán muchísimo para agilizar el trabajo 😀 Gracias!

  • Sharon George

    This is awesome and thank you for the brushes!
    Is there a way you could change the color for the stipples though?

  • Jen Rich

    This is a great tutorial. This is the prefect texture! Thanks for the brushes too, they make a huge difference.

  • Robert Anthony de Haan

    6:18 Begin dabbing

  • chi panistante


  • Miguel Ardila

    gracias excelente tutorial!!!

  • matt hending

    Love your tutorials, and big thanks for the brushes!

  • Илья Щелканов

    amazing as always!

  • Kathrin P

    Hi Chris, thank you for the tutorials !! I am trying to figure something out… I am a photographer learning illustrator also. I like combining photos and illustrations together,… my question… if I wanted to print my work at home or labs… do I have to convert it to cmyk if I work in rgb ? I feel like I really can't get the right answer anywhere.. I phoned in to labs they told me rgb is fine, then I watch different videos and they all say cmyk,… you also are working in rgb…. sorry for the long post I am going crazy already from this lol thank you so much in advance for any answers

  • distortia47

    Liked and subscribed! thank you for sharing your skills ^_^

  • Florence Giordano

    Super !! But I don't find the brushes…

  • Patricia gomez

    Thank you very much!!! It Was really helpfull!!! 🙂

  • Desmon William

    good voice for tutorial..thanks mate

  • Laura Nybeck

    Thank you for all of these great videos. I've struggled to understand this program and they are so very helpful. I will keep watching.

  • Gatien Becker

    found a plug in about stipple wich was 40$. You give yours freely with your tutorial. you're the man thanks

  • Anna Kowalik

    i love this brush SET .thx 😀

  • Mochizuki Fubuki

    I've tried pressing F to flip my Arc but it didn't work. It changed my interface instead. Do you know why this happened?

  • Rudi Right

    ty very much!

  • Dwight Allott

    Oh my gosh, well done sir. Very clear tutorial.

  • MsRbeers

    From 6:56 not working, I'm on CC2017 version. Help please

  • Spoon Graphics

    Love this design? Get the t-shirt!

  • Dani Fachrudien

    thanks dude for the brushes set!

  • Ivan Berden

    THANKS A LOT, MAN!!! Your video has made my workflow a lot faster and easier.

  • cellexvovo

    this help me a lot. Watched again!

  • The Deep Lagoon

    are u on insta ?
    i wanna give u a shout out

  • soup fluo

    Beautiful brush that I was looking for~ Thanks!!!! 😉

  • Kristina Palic

    I just LOVE the way you speak, man! Thank you! 😀

  • Fani Septiana

    Just found your channel by an accident a day ago, and it can help my homework, thank you!!! *sorry for my english

  • Rek s

    Awesome tutorials! and thanks for the brushes 🙂

  • Boby Fiqhi Albanjari

    Hi i got problem with make a mask,after i try it,the brush opacity reduce,but i cant restore it,how?

  • Mariana Martins de Oliveira

    Thank you SO MUCH!!! So helpful!! 🙂

  • Young Nino

    Illustrator is so counter intuitive

  • Laura Bartha

    I don't get the part when you clear up, outside the lines. I do exactly what you do but pretty much something else happens. Can you help me?

  • Petter Östergren

    What might be the issue here? After live bucket use

  • monosapien

    traduce el tutorial a español, gracias

  • sergio garcia

    it does not let me install it, it tells me, it's an unknown format

  • umetnick

    I have also problem with masking

  • gergesha gerge

    yle xar

  • Boomy Land

    Awesome! Thanks! Gosh, there're so many things I have to learn!

  • Paola Monni

    Brilliant video. I just don't get how you remove excess stippling within the illustration using the blob brush too :/

  • sepeliova1

    Don't work this mask

  • Fábio Belém

    I use this in illustrator, but the file archive grow to 100 mb with this texture. How i resolve this?

  • muchosaid hernandez

    where can I Get the brushes, the link doenst work!

  • Viktor Velichkov

    Pretty nice tutorial, thank you for the brushes. Good job!

  • Viktor Velichkov

    For the ones that have some troubles with the mask, here's what I did and worked like a charm:

    1. Copy she shape you want to add texture to
    2. Lock the layer, which contains the shape
    3. Create new layer
    4. Brushtool drawing
    5. Group the brushes you drew
    6. Go to Transperency ->Make Mask
    7. This is where magic happens – Ctrl + Shift + V (to paste the shape you copied in step 1 at the same place)

    You're welcome 🙂

  • CV

    if anyone is having a problem with the clipping mask just place the shape over the top of the brush stroke(s) and select both (the brush stroke(s) & the shape) then press CTRL+7 or command+7 for Mac

  • Gerald RR

    Very good tutorial aka Intro to Knife tool lol

  • Khayal Studio

    thank you a lot you are amazing

  • Faiz MuQeem

    Very helpful

  • Pradeep Gupta


  • Joaquin Mercado

    help when I make a composition with many points illustrator collapses for example applying the same method but in a realistic portrait illustrator says I have no memory

  • Himura Mechniza

    Oh my, you just saved me with this super handy tutorial! I had troubles with creating stipple shading, but now I can do it. Within 8 minutes you opened my eyes on how to make curves faster, shade with mask and blob brush, and how to color in quickly (though I've been using Illustrator for 3 years now and have always been suffering from slow and complex drawing process) I'd say "Thank you so much", but it cannot show all my gratitude ^_^ Good luck in your work!

  • Kelly Miller

    Thanks for the awesome video! Love the effect. May I ask how to expand and simplify the stipple shading brush after using it in the transparency mask? I am wanting to use this in a logo design. Thanks for any help offered.

  • Bega Gomes

    thanks for the amazing job. coming soon i gonna show here the results. tnks a lot.

  • javier murcia


  • Pankaj Verma

    You are wonderful!

  • Riham karam

    Thanks for the great technique and for the brushes too

  • O g

    I just took a picture off google and used image trace

  • Abigail DuVall

    This was very helpful. Thank you!

  • grace potter

    anyone know how to export this properly? I've made illustrations using this masking technique but as soon as I export it as a png the mask releases the my brush strokes are everywhere

  • Hendrick Putra

    Thankyou so much!

  • Muta agrotek14

    thanks friend, some day meet to collaborate

  • M. Lima



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