I’ve seen a lot of gear wheels created by artists. Most of them have nothing to do with a real gear wheel. In this tutorial we will learn how to create gears which much closer resemble true gears. It is not hard to do if you are using the Dynamic Shapes Tool and PathScribe Tool (both part of the VectorScribe Studio plugin). Besides creating the shape, you will learn how to create a three-dimensional image and learn how to create a conic gradient. Let’s get started!
Take the Dynamic Shapes Tool and open the Dynamic Shapes panel. Choose the Dynamic Circle in the Dynamic Shapes panel, at the same time you can set the desired diameter of the circle here. Double clicking on the blank area creates the necessary circle.
Copy the created circle you paste it back. Keep the copy selected, and change the parameters in the Dynamic Shapes panel: change the shape type to a Dynamic Star, set the number of points, inner and outer diameter of the star, rounding radius of the star rays and the type of angle.
The gear template is ready.
With the help of the Dynamic Shapes Tool and Dynamic Shapes panel create another gear that will mesh with the original.
The created object is dynamic, so after it is created you can control its shape. To change the size of the gear you have to drag one of the outer corner points.
To change the height of the tooth you have to drag one of the inner corner points.
To change the angle of the sides of the tooth, you have to click on one of the outer corner points, then holding the mouse button, pressbutton and drag the corner point.
Creating gear that looks like it meshes correctly, you have to adjust the shape of the objects so that the teeth of the both objects have the same height and angle of the sides. Of course, all the transformations are done by eye; this is just an illustration, not a true technical drawing. You can read more how to control the Dynamic Shapes with the help of shortcuts here.
Using the described technique, create a few more gears that mesh with each other.
The profile of gear teeth should not be straight. They are typically curved, and being technically accurate, the name for this curve is the involute. Let us continue transforming the shape of the teeth. Take the PathScribe Tool and select the entire gear. Open the PathScribe paneland convert all the points in the shapes to smooth ones by clicking on the Smooth Point.
Take the PathScribe Tool, and holding down Shift, select all the segments at the teeth tips.
Now click on the “Retract handles on selected segments” button.
Now take the Lasso Tool (Q) and select all the points on the tops of the teeth tracing out a croissant-shape trajectory with this tool.
Take the PathScribe Tool and click on the blank area holding down. This action selects all handles of selected points and enters Multi-Handle Mode.
Now, operating the handle of any of the points, we got the same changes in all the other selected handles. Now, our shape is similar to the proper gear.
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 1
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 2
- Click here to read Shortcuts for PathScribe: Part 3
The same should be applied to the remaining gears.
Now make holes in the wheels. Select a gear wheel and a circle (in the figure below it is filled with red color) and click on the Minus Front from the Pathfinder panel.
Perform the same actions with the other two gears.
Now proceed to 3D modeling. Select all the gears and group them. Keeping the group selected, go to . Set the effect parameters in the dialog window as shown in the figure below.
Of course, you can set any other parameters creating your own composition. Once you achieve the desired result, choose the Surface: ‘No Shading’ and click OK. This will simplify your work in the future (after doing the Expand Appearance command you will get less objects).
Keep the object selected, go to. As a result you got a group of regular vector objects.
Now go tothen . We’re going to color them with the help of a gradient fill to make the gear wheels look metallic. We will be creating a conic gradient on the upper surface of the wheel, while for the convenience of further work I have filled them with different colors.
Proceed to the creation of a conical gradient. This type of gradient fill is not provided in Adobe Illustrator. We have no choice but to create our own.
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and draw a rectangle of arbitrary size, and fill the rectangle with linear gradient. The gradient does not have to be as complex one as on the figure below. You can always add new colors in the process and control its sliders. The only condition that you must follow is that extreme colors of the gradient should be identical, otherwise you’ll get an abrupt transition of color in the resultant conic gradient.
Now take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle that we fill with black and white radial gradient.
Keep the circle selected, go toand tick the Gradient Mesh in the dialog window.
Open the Layers panel and remove the underlayer with Clipping Mask.
Take the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and holding down the Opt / Alt click on the inner grid line removing it.
Go toand check that you have set the parameters detailed in the figure below.
Select the rectangle with a linear gradient and a circle with the Gradient Mesh, and go to.
The conical gradient is ready.
There are several ways to create a conic gradient in Adobe Illustrator. The uniqueness of this method is that the conic gradient can be controlled after itís created. Let’s see how it’s done. Click on the Edit Contents button in the top toolbar.
Now you can customize a conic gradient as a regular linear gradient: add and remove colors, move sliders, etc.
Place a circle with a conic gradient above the surface to which it is to be applied. In the Layers palette find the shape of the upper surface of the gear, to which we apply the gradient, and move it so that it is above all the objects.
Different colors of the upper surfaces will help us to find the desired shape in the Layers palette fast. Select the top surface of the gear and the circle with a conic gradient. Press theshortcut creating a Clipping Mask.
Apply the described technique to all the upper surfaces of each gear.
It will be nice if conical gradients will be slightly different one from another, it will add some variety to the composition. In some places, you can simply rotate the shape with a conic gradient about its axis.
To fill the lateral surfaces of the teeth, I used regular linear gradients. You can take the colors of these gradients from already existing conic gradient. Here’s how itís done: take the Eye Dropper Tool (I), select the slider of the linear gradient in the Gradient panel, and holding down Shift, click on the desired color.
This is how the teeth look like after filling all of them with linear gradients:
Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle. Place it below all the objects and fill it with linear gradient from light gray to white. This will be the background of our composition.
Clipping Mask are often used for cropping. But it is faster and more efficient (access to individual objects of the artwork is not limited) to create white rectangles, which will be limiting the composition.
Now create soft shadows on the background surface of the gears. Create an ellipse below all the objects of the gear with the Ellipse Tool (L) and fill it with gray color.
Create another ellipse with a fill of a darker gray color.
Set 0% Opacity for the bigger ellipse in the Transparency panel.
Go toand set the number of steps of the blend. Select both ellipses and go to .
In my opinion, the shadow is too dark in the gear hole. Take the Direction Tool (A) and deform the upper ellipse, as it is shown in the figure below.
Using this technique, create shadows of the rest of the gears.
Using the VectorScribe Studio plugin, the creation of any complex shape such as a gear wheel becomes a much easier task for all users!
Download the final tutorial artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS3/CS4 version…
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 version…