How to create psychedelic landscape vector CD-cover with Adobe Illustrator. Part I

This is the first of two parts of a tutorial about creating a vector design for the second album “Marsh tales” by non-existent psychedelic band “Psyctor” (You can see the tutorial about creating the design for their first album “Dreamland” following this link.). In the first half of the tutorial you will learn to create a landscape with trees, grass, water-plants and water. The color scheme is going to be very vivid and trippy. If you wish you can make it “normal”, so the design will be natural. The second part of the tutorial is focused on psychedelic transformations, reflections and typographic experiments!

Final Image Preview

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illusrtator
  • Version: CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30 – 50 minutes

Step 1

Create a new document 4.72×4.72 in with bleed 0.125 in.

Step 2

Using your tablet and Brush Tool (B) create a quick sketch. As an alternative you can make a pencil sketch and scan it or take a picture of it or else-wise make it digital and place it in the Layer 1. Rename Layer 1 to “sketch”, lock it and create new layer “rocks and grass”

Step 3

With the help of Pen Tool (P) create a shape in the bottom left corner of the art-board (including the Bleed – the red line). This is going to be the first rock. Create another shape overlapping the rock – this is the rocks lightened side. Intersect the rock’s light with the copy of the rock using Pathfinder panel. Add smaller light shapes.

Step 4

Create more rocks on left and right bottom sides of the artboard using the same technique.

Step 5

Use the Pen Tool (P) to create a leaf of grass. Create an object that divides the leaf in two parts and intersect it with the copy of the leaf. Select both of them and press Cmd+G (mac) or Ctrl+G (pc) to group ’em. Create plenty of copies of the grass group. Rotate and stretch them to make the hole grass mass look more natural. Group all grass leafs.

Step 6

Copy the grass from the left part of the art-board to the right one. Rotate the leafs inside the group, so it won’t look like an absolute duplicate.

Step 7

Create a new layer “water and water-plants” and move it under the layer “rocks and grass”. Use Pent Tool (P) to create the water shape.

Step 8

Use Pent Tool (P) to create the stem of a water-plant. Use Brush Tool (B) to create the hair-like foliage of the plant. Select the stem and foliage and press Cmd+G (mac) or Ctrl+G (pc) to group them. Create few copies of the water-plant and adjust their size and position. Select the foliage in a plant and adjust it’s stroke width. After that with the foliage selected go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Repeat this process within each plant.

Step 9

Copy the grass from “rocks and grass” layer and paste it in “water and water-plants” layer. Make it smaller so there will be some perspective illusion and add as many grass leaves as needed.

Step 10

Use Pent Tool (P) to create the bended grass leaves. As you can see on the image each of them is a single object. Don’t pay to much attention to their arrangement. You will fix it later. Group the bended grass leaves together.

Step 11

Add some grass and water-plants on the right side of the art-board too.

Step 12

Create a new layer “trees” and move it under the “water and water-plants” layer. Use the Pen Tool (P) to create the trees. Each of them consists of a trunk and branches. As you can see they are rounded and have gaps between each other. There are smaller shapes inside the bigger ones. Select a big shape then a small that lays over it, go to Pathfinder panel and click Minus-Front to subtract it. If the resulting shape is big enough add a small one in the middle of it.

Step 13

Use Pent Tool (P) to create the foliage. There is nothing special about these shapes. Just try to make them a bit sharp on the edges, so their curves style will differ from the rounded trunk and branches.

Step 14

Use Pent Tool (P) to create the roots. Use the same technique as you’ve used for the trunk and branches.

Step 15

Create few wavy shapes that overlap the water shape using Pen Tool (P). Select them and the water shape. Divide the selection (Pathfinder panel – Divide). Delete the shapes that don’t fit within the art-board.

Step 16

Create a new layer “background” and move it under the “trees” layer. Select Rectangle Tool (M) click anywhere on the art-board – 4.975 in wide and 4.975 in high. Select the Move Tool (M) and align the square to the center of the art-board using Align panel and “Align to artboard” mode. Select all – Cmd+A (mac) or Ctrl+A (pc) and press D – this will fill all shapes white and stroke black. Press Shift+X to make the fill black and the stroke white.

Step 17

Here comes the coloring part. We are going to use 7 colors: pink, orange, yellow, green, azure (light blue), light purple and dark purple. To find the nice variants of these colors go to Swatches panel, click the small triangle, Open Swatch Library > Color Books > PANTONE process coated. Color one half of each grass leaf with black and other with gradient fill with black for the left slider, pink in the middle and orange on the right. Change the angle to 180o for the grass on the right. Remove the stroke color of the leaves. Fill the big light shapes of the rocks with gradient fill – from left to right: black, light purple, pink. Adjust the angle of the gradient. Fill the smaller light shapes with gradient fill – black on the left and azure on the right, adjust the angle. Remove the rock’s strokes.

Step 18

Fill the water shapes with gradient fills. Use the combinations of black + some other color for the sliders. Make the angles of the fills different and try to make them contrast with each other. Remove the white strokes.

Step 19

Color the grass on the background the same way you’ve colored the grass on the foreground using Eyedropper Tool (I).

Step 20

Double-click the bended grass group and arrange the leave’s Z-axis – Select the leaf, right click > Arrange > Send to Front or Back depending on where the object should be. You can use Cmd+Shift+[ (mac) or Ctrl+Shift+[ (pc) to send object to back. To send object to front select it and press Cmd+Shift+] (mac) or Ctrl+Shift+] (pc).

Step 21

Fill the water-plants with gradient fill: black-green-azure and adjust the angle of the gradient. Remove the white strokes.

Step 22

Fill the trunks, roots and branched with gradient fill same as grass – Select the objects you are going to fill, select Eyedropper Tool (I) and click on a grass leaf. Fill the foliage with gradient fill: black-green-yellow. Add some light purple to the trunk’s fills and azure to the foliage fills to make the image more dynamic. Remove the white strokes.

Final Image

Adjust the size of the water-plants. Fill the background square with a radial gradient fill with dark purple in the middle and black on the side. Use Gradient Tool (G) to adjust the position of gradient’s center. It should be somewhere on the top of the image.


Check out the second part of the tutorial. You’ll learn to create a kaliedoscopic psychedelic image out of this small landscape. There are going to be some typographic tips too.

1 thoughts on “How to create psychedelic landscape vector CD-cover with Adobe Illustrator. Part I

  1. Pingback: How to create psychedelic landscape vector CD-cover with Adobe Illustrator. Part II

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