How to make a Space Poster with Illustrator and Photoshop tutorial (2 of 3): the moon.

So here we are with the second step for the poster. If you didn’t, please check the first step of this tutorial here. This time we will draw the Moon that’s behind Mars in the poster and, after the third step, this is what the poster will look like.

Final Design


1. Canvas Set Up

So, to start, let’s open a new Illustrator file exactly like the one we used for Mars (you can use the same file, too), so CMYK and 300 dpi as we suppose this is for printing; this tutorial will use an A3 file, but you can go bigger or smaller, of course.


2. Planet Surface

With the canvas ready we can start set up a background to work on, the same we used for Mars should be good, so make a rectangle big enough and make it dark blue (#14111F). To begin with our satellite we will need another circle, as big as the one we used for Mars, so 140px, but let’s color this with a light yellow (#FFDB78). I chose this since the Moon is pretty light, but I also wanted to use a color that better reflects how we think it is, not just how it is. Again, to simulate the satellite spherical shape let’s add an inner circle (120px) and color this with a lighter and less saturated color, more similar to the actual grey of Moon’s surface (#EFECDA). As we plan to have the Sun on the left side this time, let’s create a shadow on the satellite consistently: like for Mars, copy the outer surface circle on top, duplicate it once more and then use the pathfinder to create a “moon” shape as shown in the picture. Make this shape brown (#594941), set its opacity to 10% and blend mode multiply. Make sure it stays on top of both surface circles.


3. Craters

Now that we have the basic shape of the satellite we can proceed to make it look more like the Moon. What first comes to mind when thinking of our satellite are, of course, its craters, so this is what we will use to characterize the illustration. Of course we need to exaggerate the size and shape of these craters to make the illustration pop out, and we will also use them to give the satellite more depth and spherical feeling.

First thing first, to make the craters we will use two ellipses, one will be the edge, the inner one will be the dark hollow, then we will make the crater pop out of the surface by raising it. Start by making an ellipse which width is around double the height. Copy this shape on top of itself, make it smaller and change its color. Be sure the proportions of the two are similar, so the crater’s border thickness looks even. To make the crater pop out the surface we will draw a slope below it: make a rectangle starting from the left anchor point of the bigger ellipse and make it as large as this ellipse. Make the rectangle height about half of its width. Select the right bottom anchor point of the rectangle and move it to the right, then do the same on the other side. Use the “Convert anchor point” tool (SHIFT + C) to edit the shape and make its left, right and bottom sides rounded.


When you have the crater shape done, you can color it using the following palette: use a dark brown for the hollow (#3c3232), a lighter brown for the slope (#716558), and three different yellows for the crater’s border (#faaf43; #fdc542; #ffdb78). Done so, make several copies of the crater and spread them all over the satellite surface, making some smaller and some bigger, some steep and some more flat by editing the slope’s sides curve, but be careful in considering the satellite’s curvature when placing them: you will have to rotate the craters according to where they are on the Moon and make the slope thicker or thinner depending if they are respectively more far or closer to the satellite center.


4. Shadows

Keeping in mind that the main light source for the satellite will be on the very left side, we can start drawing the shadows of the craters. To do so start drawing some raw rectangles under the craters and adjust them so they match the size of their crater. Also consider that the shadow will be parallel to the line that connects the light source (on the left) and the specific crater. The craters that are on the very right edge of the satellite will have the shadows falling out of the planet, so I decided for easiness to, once done, group all the shadows and give them a clipping mask: copy the biggest surface circle, paste it on top of the shadows group and use it as a clipping mask. Finally, to color the shadows properly, I treated them differently depending if they hit the inner light surface circle, or if they stand on the surface outer circle (the yellow one); both cases color them with this light brown (#c2b49b), set the shadows hitting the inner circle to normal, 50% opacity, the others hitting the outer circle to multiply, 100% opacity.


5. Sun and Earth

It’s time to add the Sun (the main light source) and Earth behind the satellite. You can take the same Sun and Earth we used for Mars, then just place them behind the Moon, Sun on the left, Earth on the right. One little detail we will add is a pretty strong sunset light right next the Sun, hitting the craters’ slopes. To do so, copy the Sun’s outer circle above the slopes but under the craters’ edges that it hits. Make it the same orange of the inner Sun circle (#f05b2c) and set it to Overlay and 50% opacity. Since we want this light to hit just on the satellite and not the Sun itself, just copy as usual the satellite outer surface circle, put it on top and use it as a mask.


6. Apollo 11

Now the satellite should be ready and set to welcome some human touch to be more recognizable. I thought the most important non-natural thing ever got on the Moon is the Apollo 11 spacecraft and the flag americans put there. So this step will be about drawing a really simplified version of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, but still recognizable. If you search for some pictures of Apollo 11 you will notice how the main parts are a lower body with spider legs, an upper body connected to the lower part, and two octagonal components on the sides. These will be what we’ll use to illustrate the spacecraft.

Start by drawing a simple rectangle, about 60 by 36 pixels, select Effect > 3D > Extrude and Bevel so the effect panel will pop up. Use the default settings (Off-Axis front; 50pt extrude depth) to create a box and then expand it via the Object menu. From now on, since the process is quite difficult to describe with just text, i will just write the main steps and describe them properly in the following images, so please look at them for the full description. So, next, we’ll edit the expanded box so to make it the lower body, then add an entrance to the spacecraft on the front side. This done we’ll proceed by adding the legs to the lower body, then we’ll start with the upper body and the connection to it. To finish the spacecraft we will draw the two octagonal components that stand on the sides, then wrap everything together and place Apollo 11 on the Moon.


7. The American Flag

We’re almost done, last detail to add is the american flag. As the rest of the illustration, this will be a low-fi illustrative version of the original one. Start by drawing a waving line that will be the base for our flag; the line is made of four anchor points, the first and the last are horizontally aligned, the second goes down and the third goes up. The total width of the line is about 30 pixels, the thickness is 1,5 pt. When you are done, expand the line and cut out the edges as shown in the picture below. Now copy this shape, then select all the bottom anchor points and move them downwards until the shape is about 24 pixels high in total. This should look like the base of the flag, so make it red (#ec232e). Now take the shape you didn’t edit, place it on the red flag and make it white (#ffffff). Place this stripe so it’s aligned left and right with the flag, but leave about its same height from the top. Select first the top-left anchor point of the stripe and move it slightly downwards so the stripe thickness is consistent; do the same with the bottom-right anchor point, moving it upwards. Now make four copies of it (so you have five in total) and move them along the height of the flag. Place the last one distant from the bottom as much as the first is distant from the top, then distribute them vertically so they are equally distant. Now copy the red flag, place it on top of everything and make it blue (#2a3b8d). Move the bottom anchor points upwards so they get aligned with the third white stripe from top, then use the Pathfinder tools to cut the blue flag and make it about 12 pixels wide. Create a white star of about 2 pixels, then copy it many times to make a 4 by 3 matrix. Group the stars and place them on the blue portion of the flag, then go to Object menu > Envelope Distort > Make with mesh, then input two columns and two rows for the mesh. Edit the anchor points of the mesh you created to edit the stars matrix and make them move along the flag. To give the flag a bit more depth, copy the red flag on top of everything, use the Pathfinder to cut it in the half and make it brown (#c2b49b), set it on multiply and give it 50% opacity. Finish the flag by placing behind it, on the left side, a brown (#3c3232), 1pt line, rounded ends stick.


8. Poster Is Next

This was the last step for the Moon. In the next, and last, step, we will use the Mars and Moon illustrations to create the poster. Thanks for reading!

How to make a Space Poster with Illustrator and Photoshop tutorial (1 of 3)

Some weeks ago I got inspired by the work of Christopher Bettig who made some awesome icons for Google products. What I appreciate of his work is the ability to synthesize the main aspects and features of an object – or a concept – and turn them into an icon / illustration using pure hues and grey tones, without gradients. So I wanted to explore this myself, and I wondered how something complex as planets would look like, if I could extrapolate their character and make it in simple shapes. This turned subsequently into a poster for the Interaction Design Master stand at the Vetenskapsfestivalen in Gothenburg: here’s the whole process I took to make it.

Final Design


1. Canvas Set Up

This will be a three parts tutorial. First of all we will use first Illustrator to create the pure hues / simple shapes planets, then we will move to Photoshop to add depth, textures and more realistic shading. To start, let’s open a new Illustrator file, CMYK and 300 dpi as we suppose this is for printing; this tutorial will use an A3 file, but you can go bigger or smaller, of course.


2. Planet Surface

Once we have our canvas ready let’s create a background rectangle with a dark blue (#14111F), to simulate the space and have a better color contrast perception. Next we want to create the basic shape of our main planet – Mars – so let’s add a circle in the middle of the canvas. I made this 140 px, dark red colored (#BE202D). To partially simulate the curvature of the planet we can make another circle on top of the first so to have a sort of darker outline. This second circle is 130 px and orange (#EE4136).


3. Mountains Base

Thinking about Mars I remembered the last rover Curiosity climbing big mountains and walking through wide valleys so I decided to exagerate this aspect into the illustration. Next step is so to draw the base of a mountains group going through all the planet. Try to make this shape irregular but not too much, making it wider and thinner along its body and remember to consider the planet curvature: the closer the mountains to the planet center, the more we will look at them from top; the closer to the planet edge, the more we will see their side. Make this shape of a red slightly darker (#A81D2D) than the outer circle, so we will have a nice contrast with the main planet surface.


4. Palette Set Up

This is a good moment to set up a color palette for our mountains: we will need many colors in the red range, ligher and darker than the base one, to simulate the sunlight hitting them. I added six more colors, other than the ones we already used.


5. Make The Mountains

Now its time to start shape the mountains. Try to make them as random as possible, bigger and smaller, but always remember to take care of the point of view. I made the mountains as three and four sides based pyramids, so the ones close to the planet center will have the upper vertex in the middle of their base. The more you get far from the center, the more tilt the upper vertex towards the planet edge. I also left part of the base empty simulating some valleys.

Once we’re done with the shapes, we need to color the mountains’ sides with the colors from our palette. I decided to have the main light source on the very right side of the planet, thus the mountains surfaces facing to the right will be lighter, using those two pink colors, while the ones facing left will be darker using the browns and the purples. Try avoiding two sides that touch each other to have the same color, then use the other reds.


6. Lonely Mountains

Now that the main mountains’ block is ready we want to add another couple of lonely mountains. I put one on the upper-left edge, the other down on the planet. Color these mountains too and add some shadow hitting the planet surface.


7. Planet Shade

When done with the mountains we can start adding some more details: we will need to make the planet look more spherical so we will add a curved shade together with two ice poles and a small atmosphere layer. To make the curved shade first copy the inner circle from the planet surface and put it on top of itself, then make another copy and move it top-right. Then use the pathfinder tool to subtract the last circle from the one behind it. This will give us a “moon” shape. Put it under the mountains, over the surface and give it the same color (#A81D2D) the mountains’ base have, but with 30% opacity. This should give the planet a more curved look.




8A. Poles And Atmosphere

To make the planet’s poles let’s add a small circle centered around the planet’s bottom anchor point, then shrink it in height to make it an ellipse. Copy the ellipse on top of itself and make it smaller, then make the bottom one 50% opaque. Color them with a light grey (#A6A8AB).




8B. Poles And Atmosphere

Once done copy both ellipses to the top anchor point of the planet, so we have two on the bottom and two on the top. Now select the biggest of the circles that make the surface, copy it on top of the four poles ellipses and use it as a mask. To do so select all the four poles ellipses and the circle on top of them, then right click and select “create clipping mask”. This should make the poles visible only on top of the planet and not out of it.





8C. Poles And Atmosphere

To make it a bit more dynamic let’s select the poles (now they are grouped with the clipping mask), rotate them by around 30° clockwise so the planet axis will look tilted and make the whole group 80% opaque to make it blend with the surface. To finish with this step we add the atmosphere: copy the biggest circle of the surface, paste it behind everything, make it 150 px big, color it with the lightest pink from the color palette and make it 10% opaque.




9. Earth

In the next step we will add behind the planet its moons, the Earth and the Sun. To make Earth let’s start by tracing an Earth image. I made the tracing pretty irregular, with no curves and very approximate. Once done create a circle (70 px, inner stroke of 11 pt, no fill) and expand it. Scale the continents to be slightly smaller than the circle, then merge them with it using the pathfinder. Continue making this shape brown (#594941), add a light blue (#2CA8DE) circle behind it and add a “moon shaped” shadow on top, as we did for Mars. For the shadow I used the same brown I used for the continents, with 10% opacity and multiply as blending mode. Finish by grouping all these elements and making the group 80% opaque.





10. Moons And Sun

For the moons just make two pairs of circles one on top of the other as shown in the figure (or make two circles with an outline). I made the outer circles respectively 50 and 40 px, for the inner circles I used #EFECDA and for the outer (or for the stroke) I chose two pale colors (#FFDB78 and #C2B49B). Create the Sun in the same way, just make it 70 px big and use more saturated colors (#FAAF43 and #F05B2C). When done place the Earth top-left, just behind the lonely mountain, to make a nice contrast, the Sun on the right, as it’s the main light source, and the moons on the left, as secondary light source, all behind Mars. The Sun and the moons should project sunset light just on the edge of the planet, so copy their outer circles on top of Mars’ surface, color the Sun one with it‘s inner orange (#F05B2C), the moons ones with their respective outer colors (#FFDB78 and #C2B49B) and mask them so they don’t appear out of the planet. Then make the whole group 50% opaque and choose overlay as blending mode.





11. The Comet

To complete Mars we need two more items: a passing comet and the Curiosity Rover Nasa just sent there. To create the comet use the pen tool, start a new path from the top-left edge of Mars, just next to Earth, dragging towards outside the planet. Then click somewhere close to the planet center and drag until the path gets a parabolic shape. If you have Illustrator CS5 or more, you can now use the variable width stroke tool (MAIUSC+W) to make the inner edge of this path thicker, and the other thinner, to give the comet its shape. If not you will have to do this by hand. Continue by making the path endings rounded via the stroke palette. Make sure the comet’s tail ends behind Mars, if necessary use planet’s surface and pathfinder to cut it. Then proceed with the comet core: make a small circle and drag its left anchor point to the left. adjust the handles to make the tail slightly bigger, then rotate this shape about 45° clockwise and place it on the comet head. Copy the shape, make it slightly bigger and 40% opaque.







12. Curiosity

To finish we add Curiosity. We will simplify it pretty much, as a box with a head and six wheels. Start by making the front side as a rectangle, then a thin, tall rectangle as a neck and another one to make the head front face. For the side create a rectangle similar to the front one, but shorter in width and move it’s top-left anchor point down to simulate perspective. Do the same for the neck and the head. Then we will add to the rover it’s eye, or sensor: just make a small circle, duplicate it on the bottom and move the back on to the left. Then fill the gaps with the pen tool or with a rectangle. Continue by making a moon shape to simulate a reflection on the lenses and make it point top-left. To finish we make a wheel similarly to how we made the eye, then duplicate it, shrink it (or enlarge it) and put the duplicates along the side. Do the same for the wheels on the other side but inverting colors. I used black for the eye and the wheel’s tire, a mid grey (#403F41) for the back of the eye and the back and inner part of the wheels and several shades of brown for the rover’s body. To finish rotate Curiosity 210° counterclockwise and place it on the opposite side than Earth. Behind it place two shapes to make the rover shadow: one directly beneath the rover (#966E70, multiply) the other more rounded as a casted shadow (black, multiply, 20% opacity). It’s important that the last one covers the first too, so the shadow beneath the rover will result darker.






13. Moon Is Next

This was the last step for Mars, next step will be creating the Moon with a similar procedure. Thanks for reading this, see you at the next step!

The Peter Pan Syndrome


So, it looks like eventually I’ll start this blog.

As a first post I thought I wanted to talk about something funny and frustrating for every designer I met out there: most people don’t take us seriously.

Six months ago I started my master programme in Interaction Design and Technologies and so far I’ve been playing a lot, our class is full of toys and kindergarten supplies. Most of my projects, or our projects, working with my fellow designer classmates, are toy-looking prototypes, videogames, silly electronic robots and so on. Right now I’m taking a course in Gameplay Design. Our goal is to dissect and analyze game mechanics in order to understand game interaction and people fun. How to do so? Playing games! We meet in school and yes, we do play board games. If we have to read tons of papers and books, learn theory and use it as designers, why not to make the process fun? Gamification is increasingly permeating every aspect of our life so, as a designer, I need to know how to have fun!

So, people out there, please, keep not taking us seriously. It’s our job.