Christmas Tree

This tutorial shows you how to make a beautiful Christmas tree with Adobe Illustrator. The original tutorial can be found at This tutorial has been significantly modified so that regardless of your Illustrator knowledge you will be able to complete the tutorial.


Getting Started - Create a new File

  1. Select File > New
  2. Enter the settings you see below for your New Document options:

    new file

Step 1 - Create the Tree Foundation

The first step is to create a tree foundation using the pen tool, gradient fills, and the special effects roughen option.

  1. Create a triangle guide shape (Movie)- I want to create a triangle that I will use as my guide for my tree.
    1. Choose the Octagon tool under the shape tool set
    2. Click once on the art board (document window) and the window option will appear for this tool. Change the sides to 3 and click OK button
    3. Draw a rectangle that you can use as a guide for your tree.
    4. Change the fill and line color to red for the triangle
  2. Create the Gradient Fill (Movie)- First you will need to create a gradient for your tree. To create the gradient do the following:
    1. To create a new gradient, deselect all objects and click the gradient box at the bottom of the Tools panel. g1


    2. Your Gradients Window should already be open. If it is not just select Window > Gradient from the drop down menus. Your Gradient window should look something like the one below:

    3. To display only gradients in the Swatches panel, click the Show Swatch Kinds button and choose Show Gradient Swatches.g2
    4. In the Gradient panel, select a gradient type (Linear or Radial).
      Enter an angle of direction for the gradient in the Angle text box. Or, drag the Gradient tool in the document window to set the angle.
    5. Select colors for the gradient:
      • To define the starting and ending colors of a gradient, click the leftmost or rightmost gradient stop.
      • Specify a color in the Color panel,
      • or Alt‑click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) a color swatch in the Swatches panel.
      • Or, drag a color from the Color panel or the Swatches panel onto the gradient stop.
    6. To add intermediate colors to a gradient:
      • drag a color from the Swatches panel or the Color panel onto the gradient slider.
      • Or, click anywhere below the gradient slider, and then select a color as you would for the starting or ending color.
      • To delete an intermediate color, drag the square off the gradient slider.
    7. To adjust the midpoints of the gradient’s color stops (the point at which two color stops are 50%), drag a diamond icon located above the slider or select the icon and enter a value between 0 and 100 in the Location text box.
    8. To adjust the endpoints of the gradient’s color stops, drag the leftmost or rightmost gradient stop below the gradient slider.
    9. Click the New Swatch button in the Swatches panel to save the new or modified gradient as a swatch. Or, drag the gradient from the Gradient panel or Tools panel to the Swatches panel.
  3. Create the Tree Outline using the pen tool (movie)- Roughly create the tree path with Pen Tool and fill it with (green-darker green) gradient that you created in the previous step.
  4. Refine the tree using the Subselection tool (movie) - Click on the convert anchor tool and then click and hld down on the anchor points on the tree and drag them to give your tree a better shape.
  5. Rough Up the edges (movie) - Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen
    1. When the Roughen options window popup, enter the following values: Size: 5%, Detail: 100/in and select Points=Corner, then click OK.


Step 2 - Create the Art Brush

Create a tree branch and turn it into an art brush.

  1. Create the tree branch (movie) -
    1. With the Pen Tool, make a path as shown below(1), fill with dark green, and apply the same Roughen effect as the previous step.
    2. Your path now should look like path(2).
    3. Duplicate path(2) by ALT+Drag or Copy & Paste, vertically scale it down a bit, and change it to lighter tone of green(3).
    4. Repeat this step, duplicate one more path and fill it with a even lighter tone of green(4).


  2. Make the tree branch into an art brush (movie) -
    1. Select these 3 paths and drag it to the Brushes Library to make a New Art Brush.


    2. Set the Art Brush Options - Leave everything as default, but select Tints and Shades from the Colorization Method drop down menu.


Step 3 - Create the Tree Branches

What Christmas tree would be complete without branches. In this step you will create the branches inside the tree to give it a more realistic appearence.

  1. Create the Tree Branches on the tree (movie)
    1. Select the paint brush tool.
    2. Select the branch art brush inside your brush library by clicking on it to make it active
    3. Adjust the Opacity in the control bar at the top of the window between 40-50% so it blends with the tree.
    4. If you want bigger tree branches, apply thicker stroke weight, thinner stroke = smaller branches.
    5. Play around with the Opacity and Stroke Weight and try to make the tree looks as natural as possible.
    6. Use the example below for help.


Step 4 - Create the Christmas Tree Ornaments

In step 4 we will decorate the tree with ornaments designed with the ellipse tool and gradient fills.

  1. Create Ornaments (movie)
    1. Create various size and gradient Christmas ornaments with the Ellipse Tool.
    2. Select the ellipse tool, click on the screen, hold down your mouse and drag to create a circular ellipse.
    3. Create various radial fill colors and fill the ellipse with the gradient. You can use the Gradient window and design your own gradient as before,or you can select a Illustrator gradient from the library. To do this, click on the fill color icon > click on the Fill Swatches Library icon at the bottom of the fill color window > Click on Gradients > click on the gradient library you want to load.
    4. After creating your ellipse ornaments you can change out the gradient colors by selecting the ellipse with the black arrow selection tool and then choosing a new gradient from the library or create a new one in the Gradient window.
    5. You can change the direction of the gradient by selecting the gadient tool and clicking and dragging inside the ellipse in the direction you want the gradient to flow.
  2. Place the Ornaments (movie) - Once you have created the ornaments you need to place some on top of the tree, send some to the back, and put some behind the branches.
    1. To do this just click on an ornament to make it active and press the <command><c> keys to copy it and the <command><v> to paste the ornament, then move the ornament to a new location on your tree.
    2. To move a branch forward and place the ornament behind the tree, just click on the branch then select Object > Arrange > bring to Front from the drop down menus at the top of the screen. You can click on any of the objects and send them forward and backward in the order


Step 5 - Create the Light Bulbs

The tree still looks too plain, we need some more decorative lights.

  1. Create some light bulbs as shown on below (movie) (movie html)
    1. Select the paint brush tool, click on the document window, set your point size to 1pt, choose your line color, and click one time to make a single point. Make sure these are much smaller than the ornament ellipse you created previously. You can also use the ellipse tool to create the bulbs as well, just make sure they are small.
    2. Create various colors for your lights. It is very important that you use solid colors for your fills and strokes to create the elements for your scatter brushes. The artwork cannot contain gradients, blends, other brush strokes, mesh objects, bitmap images, graphs, placed files, or masks.
    3. Use the Black arrow selection tool and fence in all of your points and drag them to the Brushes Library to make a New Scatter Brush.


    4. When the Scatter Brush Options window popup, select Random for all options and enter the range values as shown below.


Step 6 - Create the Tree Lights


In this final step we will create lights for the tree using the pen, paint brush, and pencil toolsand the scatter brush.

  1. Create the tree lights on the tree (movie)
  2. With the Pen Tool, paint brush, or pencil, roughly draw a zig zag path from the top to bottom set your stoke point size to 1pt.
  3. Apply the Scatter Brush you’ve created in the previous step by clicking on the line you just created and then clicking on the scatter brush that you made in the library. If you used the paint brush to paint with then make sure that the scatter brush is active in the brush library so that you will paint with it when you create strokes.
  4. Notice how the light bulbs are randomly rendered base on the range values you’ve entered in the Scatter Brush Options, and you can change these setting at any time by double click on the Library object.
  5. If you want to have more lights, create another path and apply the same Scatter Brush.


Final Tree Design

Here is the final version of the tree. Your tree should look similar.