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.
In this tutorial we will create an abstract background using very simple techniques. Take a look at the rings; do they look like vector objects? I did not use raster effects or Photoshop in this work. Study the techniques, and you will become the Lord of the Vector Rings!
Set the RGB color mode for your document (File > Document Color Mode > RGB color) then take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle. Fill the rectangle with black and white radial gradient, which we transform into elliptical one.
Create another rectangle with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M). The height of the rectangle should be greater than the height of the first rectangle, the width does not matter.
Duplicate the rectangle and distribute the copies over the surface of the background (holding down the Opt / Alt + Shift while dragging).
Change the width of the vertical rectangles in any order, and fill them with different shades of gray.
Select and group up all the vertical rectangles (Cmd / Ctrl + G). Now, keeping this group selected, go toand set the angle of -45° in the dialog box.
Set the Overlay Blending Mode and 50% Opacity for this group of rectangles in the Transparency panel.
Select a few central rectangles with the help of the Direct Selection Tool (A) or Lasso Tool (Q) and group them up (Cmd / Ctrl + G).
Take out the created group from the common group of rectangles. Do this in the Layers palette. Fill the upper group with linear black and white gradient at an angle of -135°.
Set the Overlay Blending Mode for this group in the Transparency panel.
Copy the lower rectangle filled with radial gradient, and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F). Now place it above all the objects (Shift + Cmd / Ctrl +]).
Select all the objects (Cmd / Ctrl + A) and press the keys Cmd / Ctrl + 7 creating a Clipping Mask.
Now let's create luminous rings. Create a ring with the Dynamic Shapes Tool — one of the tools of the VectorScribe plugin. So, take a Dynamic Shapes Tool and open the panel with the same name . Choose a Dynamic Donut in the panel and create a ring. This shape represents a Compound Path, but it is dynamic. That means that we can control its parameters from the Dynamic Shapes panel or by dragging its corner points.
Fill in the shape with linear gradient which consists of different shades of gray, black, and white.
The angle of the linear gradient is 90°.
Copy the ring and paste it in front (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F). Use the Dynamic Shapes Tool to change the diameter of the inner and the outer path of the object. Select one of the corner points of the external path and, without releasing the mouse button, press the key Cmd / Ctrl and move the path.
Those actions are repeated with the inner path of the upper ring, increasing its diameter.
Change the angle of the linear gradient of the upper ring. Set 150° in the Gradient panel.
Now go to, then select the both shapes and go to .
Copy the created blend object and paste it in front two times (Cmd / Ctrl + C, Cmd / Ctrl + F two times). Select the two upper blend object — it is convenient to do this in the Layers panel — and set the Overlay Blending Mode for them in the Transparency panel.
Change black and white linear gradient of the lower blend object with linear gradient consisting of the rotating orange and yellow colors.
Set 50% Opacity for this object in the Transparency panel.
Select and group up all the blend objects.
Place the created ring (group of blend objects) over background.
Now make the edges of the ring blurred. Select the large rings in the layers panel that belong to three blend objects, and set them to 0% Opacity via the Transparency panel.
The Layers panel is a very effective selection tool. This panel is always open when I'm working.
Duplicate the created ring (Opt + Alt while dragging) and place copies on the surface of the background. Reduce some of the ring's size using the Direct Selection Tool (V). In other words, create a composition.
Change the color of some rings. It is convenient to change the color of objects with the help of the Phantasm CS. Let's see how it can be done.
Select the blend with an orange linear gradient of one of the rings in the layers panal and go to. Tick Colorize in the dialog box, and by controlling Hue and Saturation sliders, adjust the colors of the gradient towards green.
Apply this technique to some other rings. In order to repeat the Phantasm CS Hue / Saturation effect quickly, select the necessary objects in the Layers palette and go to.
It took me less than 1 minute to recolor 6 rings.
By duplicating, create a few more rings and recolor blue them using Phantasm CS.
Set 15% Opacity for the blue rings in the Transparency panel.
Group up all the rings. I think it's a good practice to group up homogeneous objects as it allows you to organize your artwork more efficiently.
Create glow on the rings. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle. Fill it with radial gradient, which consists of a light yellow and black.
Set the Screen Blending Mode for the circle in the Transparency panal and place the circle on one of the rings.
Place these circles on the other rings. Circles that are located on top of green rings should be filled with a radial gradient, which contains light green instead of yellow.
Create lots of luminous small objects. With the Ellipse Tool (L) create a circle (3 by 3 px) and fill it with black and white radial gradient. Set Screen Blending Mode and 50% Opacity for this circle in the Transparency panel.
Use symbols to create a lot of objects fast. So, open the Symbols paneland save the circle as a new symbol.
Now take the Symbol Sprayer Tool (Shift + S) and spray circles on the surface of the background.
You can adjust the radius of spaying the objects, and other parameters of the tool by double clicking on its icon in the Toolbar, thus opening its dialog box.
After spraying the symbols, you can continue working on them. For example, you can increase the size of some symbols. Take the Symbol Sizer Tool, and increase the symbols that you think need to be increased.
Now we need to hide the objects that go beyond the background. There is no need in creating a new Clipping Mask. You can use the already existing Clipping Mask. Just drag groups with the rings and glowing circles to the group in which the Clipping Mask is.
Download the tutorial artwork
Click here for the Illustrator CS3 artwork…
Click here for the Illustrator CS4 artwork…
Click here for the Illustrator CS5 artwork…