Important product change information
Since this article was originally published, Phantasm CS, Phantasm CS Studio and Phantasm CS Publisher have been separated into three individual plug-ins:
Phantasm: color control and vector halftones
Rasterino: the ultimate embedded image solution for Illustrator
InkQuest: control of common pre-press tasks
Existing customers of Phantasm CS / Studio / Publisher can find full details of how this affects their licenses by reading this article.
To create dynamic vector repeating and non-repeating backgrounds, we will be using the Appearance panel, and the Phantasm CS plugin for Adobe Illustrator. There will also be additional help from VectorScribe Studio. Let’s take a closer look at how this can be done.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle with a gray fill.
Open the Appearance paneland, keeping the object selected, add new fill, by clicking on the appropriate button at the bottom part of the panel.
Create an element that the background will consist of. To create its shape I will be using the Dynamic Shapes Tool (VectorScribe Studio plugin), which will give us more freedom in future stages. Select the Dynamic Circle in the Dynamic Shapes panel and create a circle with the help of the Dynamic Shapes Tool. Fill this circle with radial gradient that contains black and two shades of gray color.
Place the circle on the gray rectangle that was created in the first step. In this case, you will be able to choose the right colors.
Add a new light gray fill to the circle, select this fill in the Appearance panel and go toand set the parameters indicated in the picture below.
Save the created object as a new symbol in the Symbols panel.
Delete the circle from the current document as we no longer need it.
Proceed to the rectangle created in the first step. Select the rectangle, the upper fill in the Appearance panel and symbol in the Symbols panel, then go to. Set the effect parameters which are indicated in the picture below.
The Phantasm CS Halftone dialog window has many options that allow you to achieve a variety of backgrounds, using the same element.
Add a new fill to the rectangle in the Appearance panel, fill it with radial gradient from white to black and set the Overlay Blending mode.
Of course, you noticed that some of the circles go beyond the background. We do not need to use the Clipping Mask or Opacity Mask to hide them. It turned out that we can do it just with the help of the Appearance panel. Create a new fill, its color does not matter.
Now group up the rectangle (Cmd / Ctrl + G).
Select the group and go to
We now have a fully dynamic background. I can even call it a template, because based on this, we can create an infinite variety of backgrounds. Let’s see how to control them…
To get access to all the fills, applied effects and blending modes, select the path in the Layers panel.
You can also edit the symbol. To do this, double click on its image in the Symbols panel. As a result, we get into the symbols editing mode.
You can not only edit fills and effects applied to this symbol, but also dynamically edit its shape as we were using VectorScribe’s Dynamic Shapes Tool.
After exiting the symbol editing mode, we get a renewed background.
Using this template, and different symbols, I have created several further dynamic backgrounds.
You can download all these backgrounds by following the links at the end of this tutorial.
Select the path in the Layer panel and save the new graphic style in the Graphic Styles panel.
Now we can apply this style to objects of any shape.
After applying the style, the object has to be grouped up and go to
In practice, there may be an issue when the symbols do not cover the entire shape of the object, leaving empty space at the path boundary.
To correct this defect, select the fill to which the Halftone effect was applied in the Appearance panel and go toand set the offset value.
With the help of Phantasm CS, we can easily obtain a Non-repeating Background. Create a rectangle filled with black color. Now go to and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog window.
With the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) select some nodes and color them in different shades of dark blue color.
Group up the rectangle and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F). Recolor gradient mesh nodes with gray color as shown in the picture below.
Create a circle and fill it with radial gradient from white to black color.
Set the Color Dodge Blending mode for this circle in the Transparency panel.
Drag the circle to the Symbols panel and save as a new symbol.
Select the upper gradient mesh object, symbol in the Symbols panel and go toand set the parameters shown in the picture below
Keeping the object selected, go toand set the parameters of this effect.
This time, hide the objects that are beyond the background using the Clipping Mask. Create a rectangle of the size matching the size of the background, select it and the object to which the Phantasm CS Halftone effect was applied, then go to(Cmd / Ctrl + 7)
Using Phantasm CS to create backgrounds does not only allow for quick and flexible creation, but also easy generation of variants.
More information may be found on the plugins used, including full 14 day full trial downloads at:
Download the dynamic vector background artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS3/CS4 version…
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 version…