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!