Christmas Tree Branches

Using Art Brush and gradient

1. Drawing a needle

Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw an ellipse as shown in fugure 1. Select the anchor point using Direct Selection Tool (A) and click Convert selected anchor points to corner to make the needle end pointed.


Fig. 1 Drawing a needle

Select the resulting object and make a new brush in the Brushes (F5) window.

new art brush

Fig. 2 Making new brush

Select New Art Brush in the New Brush window. The brush options window should appear (figure 3). I prefer to draw from bottom upward, so I chose the corresponding direction. Let's call the new brush "Needle".

art brush options

Fig. 3 Setting brush parameters

2. Drawing a brunch

Select the Paintbrush Tool (B) and the Needle brush in the Brushes window. You can draw the rough contour of the future branch for convenience as shown in figure 4.1.

Let's draw the needles starting from the bottom up left to right and then right to left (figure 4.2). This way we'll be moving up and the upper needles will be on top of the lower ones. To visualize this process I set the brush transparency at 50% (figure 4.3).


drawing branches

Fig. 4 Drawing a branch

Now we can remove the contour, select the branch and make it opaque.

Select the branch and create a new brash the same way as we did it before. Figure 5 presents the result of applying the new brush to a path.

tree branch

Fig. 5 Drawing a branch

3. Adding volume

I prepared 3 gradient variations for branches with different illumination levels (figure 6).


Fig. 6 Gradients

First, we draw the branches at the back as shown in figure 7.

drawing dark branches

Fig. 7 Drawing branches at the back

Select the branches you just drew and open the Object/Expand Appearence menu item. Pick the Eyedropper Tool (I) and click the first gradient sample. Select 90° angle in the Gradient (Ctrl/Cmd-F9) window.

tree branches

Fig. 8 Branches after applying the gradient

Let's draw more branches in the new layer and repeat the same gradient applying procedure using the second gradient sample.

drawing christmas tree branches

Fig. 9 Drawing the second layer of banches

Finally, let's add the upper layer with the brightest branches.

drawing christmas tree

Fig. 10 Branches are ready

4. Adding shadows

Now we can add depth using shadows. There are several methods to do this. The simpliest way is to copy the branches to the background, shift them a couple of steps lower and a couple of steps to the right and apply the transparency mode "Multiply". The more careful you work with the shadows the better the final result will look.


christmas tree branches

Fig. 11 Christmas tree branches with shadows added

When the picture is ready you can crop it using the clipping mask or export it to a raster format using artboards.