Tutorial Details: How to Create Vector Smoke in Illustrator

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS5 – CC
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Topics Covered: Warp Tool, Gradient Mesh, Transparency panel
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30 minutes

Final Image: Vector Smoke

vector smoke in illustrator

Today you’ll learn how to create vector smoke in Illustrator using gradient meshes, the Transparency panel, and the Warp Tool. This is a very simple technique, and any beginner can master it! So, if you’re looking for an easy smoke vector tutorial, this one is for you.

Step 1: Vector Smoke

To create your vector smoke in Illustrator, you’ll first want to start a new document (Cmd / Ctrl + N). Your artboard can be any size. As for color, we’ll be working in the RGB color mode.

how to design vector smoke in illustrator

Step 2

Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a dark-blue rectangle. This will serve us as our background. (But your background can be any color.)

Now create a rectangle with a black fill (R=0, G=0, B=0).

how to make vector smoke in adobe illustrator

Step 3

Take the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) and click on the black rectangle a couple times. This will create a gradient mesh.

vector smoke tutorial

Step 4

Re-color a couple of the inside mesh points into different shades of grey.

vector smoke illustration tutorial for adobe illustrator

Step 5

Take the Warp Tool (Shift + R) and click on the Enter key. This will allow you to open the Warp Tool Options dialog box. Increase the size of the brush.

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vector smoke tutorial

Step 6

Deform the gradient mesh (like in the example below).

vector smoke how to

Step 7

Apply the Screen blending mode to the gradient mesh in the Transparency panel.

how to draw smoke digitally

As you can see, black mesh points became transparent.

Step 8

And now you can continue curving the gradient mesh in order to get a better result.

smoke ai file how to

If necessary, mesh points can be re-colored into other shades of grey. This will cause the local change of transparency.

how to make vector smoke

Step 9

Create some more gradient meshes in different shapes by using the technique described above. When we put these half-transparent objects over one another, we create vector smoke.

smoke vector in adobe illustrator

After combining all gradient meshes, you may want to work some more on your form and smoke color. The last stage is definitely the most difficult, but I always try to get the best result out of it that I can.

If nothing else, at least try to do better than me!

Great job! You can now easily design vector smoke in Illustrator

how to create a smoky image - illustrating steam tutorial

And just like that, we’re done! Hopefully you enjoyed following along with this tutorial as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Now that you can quickly design vector smoke in Illustrator, you can use Adobe Illustrator to design all sorts of smoky images! This tutorial is perfect when illustrating smoke, steam, fog, and more.