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Oct 12

Creating a ribbon in Adobe Illustrator

2006 at 06.33 pm posted by Veerle Pieters

Ever wondered how you draw a ribbon in Adobe Illustrator? A while ago a reader e-mailed me with this question. A prefect tip for a step-by-step tutorial, I hope you enjoy it :)

Step 1 - draw the first part of the ribbon

A basic knowledge on how to use the pen tool and how to draw bezier curves is needed to get started with this tutorial.

Step 1 - draw the first part of the ribbon

Draw a curved line that looks similar to the illustration above. Hold down the shift key while dragging the handles in the last point of the curved line. Drag a vertical guide onto the curved line as shown in the picture above. To make it snap to the exact position, make sure that Smart Guides is checked (View > Smart Guides or command/control + U).

Step 2 - break the curve into 2 parts

Because we'll have to apply different shades and we need to create depth into the ribbon, we need to cut the ribbon into different segments.

Step 2 - break the curve into 2 parts

Select the Scissors Tool and click on the location on the path as shown in the picture above. With the Smart Guides active you'll get the 'intersect' text when your cursor is at the right spot. Now the path is cut into 2 segments. Select both segments, hold down the shift + option/alt key and drag/copy the paths vertically as shown in the picture above.

Step 3 - close the paths

Close the paths as shown in the picture below, so the ribbon exists of 2 segments. Select both segments, select the Rotate Tool and click while holding down the alt/option on the location as shown below in the picture, enter 180° and click the Copy button.

Step 3 - close the paths

Step 4 - rotate and duplicate the 2 segments of the ribbon

Advanced users will probably just click on the exact location, hold down the alt/option and shift key while dragging the segment to the correct location as show in the picture below.

Step 4 - rotate and duplicate the 2 segments of the ribbon

Chances are that both segments don't perfectly match. Select the 2 new segments, zoom in, and drag them to the exact location. With Smart Guides still checked it'll snap and you'll see the word 'origin' appearing.

Step 5 - merge the middle segments of the ribbon into 1 segment

Select the 2 middle segments of the ribbon and click on the "Add to shape" option in the Pathfinder palette. This way Illustrator will treat these parts of the ribbon as 1 object which will make it easier when we give this segment a fill.

Step 5 - merge the middle segments of the ribbon into 1 segment

Step 6 - giving the ribbon segments a gradient fill

Our ribbon is now divided into 3 segments. All we need to do now is give each segment its own fill. To add dimension and depth we need to use a different (linear) gradient on each segment:

Step 6 - giving the ribbon segments a gradient fill

First segment gradient consists of : 50% cyan and 7% magenta, 32% cyan and 4% magenta, then again 50% cyan and 7% magenta followed by 69% cyan and 10% magenta.

Step 6 - giving the ribbon segments a gradient fill

Second segment gradient consists of the following swatches : 67% cyan and 15% magenta, 50% cyan and 7% magenta, then 23% cyan followed by 31% cyan and 5% magenta.

Step 6 - giving the ribbon segments a gradient fill

Last segment gradient consists of : 50% cyan and 7% magenta, then again 50% cyan and 7% magenta followed by 31% cyan and 5% magenta.

You probably have to use 'Send to back' or 'Bring to front' on the different segments to get them into the correct perspective.

Step 7 - fine tuning the centered curve of the ribbon

As you probably have notice, the curve in the center doesn't look that natural. That's because I drew that part holding down the shift key, but this was needed to make sure the rotated ribbon would match perfectly on the original one. I can correct this very easily, but first I need to expand the 2 merged segments. Select both segments and click 'Expand' in the Pathfinder palette. This way the vertical line connecting the 2 segments disappear and we have only 2 bezier points left. Now it's a matter of dragging the handles into the preferred position to smooth the curve of the ribbon.

Step 7 - fine tuning the centered curve of the ribbon

Ah! Much better don't you think? :)

my version of the  ribbon illustration

You can make the ribbon larger by copying the entire ribbon and paste it next to the ribbon. You can also merge the middle segment that connects the 2 ribbons. Then you can select the entire ribbon and use the Free Distort Filter to achieve extra depth. Last but not least you can rotate the ribbon. That's what I did in my illustration. In the picture below you see the result:

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


40served

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permalink this comment Kalle Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 06.57 pm

That looks really good Veerle! The gradients really add life to it. In fact, I’m gonna give that a try right now!


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permalink this comment izo Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 07.32 pm

Thanks, very useful


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permalink this comment Nando Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 07.51 pm

Very nice! ;-)


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permalink this comment Alex Buga Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 09.25 pm

It wasn’t so hard to draw. I drew one of those for a Christmas card a while ago, but it’s interesting how you explain it, Veerle. You have a very nice method of making yourself understood.

Keep up with the tutorials. I’m sure it’s not a piece of cake to write them. I actually recommend all of your tutorials to anyone that asks me about “something to read about Illustrator”. ;)


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permalink this comment Mike Cherim Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10.06 pm

How neat.


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permalink this comment Richard Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10.17 pm

This is an awesome tutorial, fun to read too. :-D Nice work Veerle


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permalink this comment Shani elharrar Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10.41 pm

As usual, amazing, useful :)


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permalink this comment José Carlos Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 11.44 pm

The way you put it it looks so simple!

Fantastic result!


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permalink this comment Emma Long Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 01.33 am

If you have Illustrator CS2 you can make ribbons similar to this in a few seconds by using 3D Extrude & Bevel.
The paths are still editable so you can adjust the curves of the paths whenever you like.

They would still need a bit of manual tweaking to get the extra twists you added in your final step but you can always “expand appearance” when you are happy.

Here is a quick example
Ribbon


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permalink this comment Juian Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 06.07 am

Awesome tutorial Veerle. Thank you.


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permalink this comment Kelly Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 08.46 am

Very interesting tutorial, Veerle! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us. :)


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permalink this comment Lena Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 09.31 am

Wow! I´ve been looking for that! Thank You!


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permalink this comment neocorsten Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 10.20 am

So neat ! The result is very nice though


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permalink this comment Laura Zucchetti Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 11.08 am

Oh Veerle… You make me want to play with Illustrator again… what a fun package it is. You make it sound and look so easy. I love it.


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permalink this comment A. J. Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 01.08 pm

Thanks.


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permalink this comment Marty Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 02.58 pm

Great article. I think, that i should use this for new logo of my web.


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permalink this comment Sam Wilson Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 07.41 pm

I didn’t know about the scissors tool. While I plan to have fun with the scissors, I have to remember not to run with them! ;^O


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permalink this comment Abdul Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 11.53 am

Ah, another great tut Veerle. Thanks!


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permalink this comment Lotta Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 08.00 pm

WOW, I have to try that! :) Thanks!


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permalink this comment Julian Schrader Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 09.47 pm

Thanks! Nice tutorial, I think I’ll find a use for this.


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permalink this comment Jackie Sat Oct 14, 2006 at 11.04 pm

This is great.  It looks fantastic, too in your final illustration.  I’ve always wondered how to create a ribbon, so I can’t wait to practice this. 
 
  Your little orange creature with the fork feet - is that supposed to be like your own personal logo?  I noticed some people used it in their photo collages for the imaging contest.  Maybe you can tell us the history of that sometime, and what it is supposed to be/represent.  ;)

Thanks for all the time you spend showing us how to create all of these neat things. It is very useful.


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permalink this comment Kamil Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 02.37 am

Very, very cool :) Thanks Veerle!


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permalink this comment vanni Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 05.23 am

ver nice…and something i can use. many thanks!!


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permalink this comment Vebo Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 01.28 am

Wow, that’s great. Really nice tutorial. Thank’s


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permalink this comment Ramon Bispo Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 04.00 pm

Great!!!

Really good! :D


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permalink this comment Sam Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 08.01 pm

Very cool. Thanks Veerle!


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permalink this comment Navstar Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 10.20 pm

Have you tried doing a Ribbon with 3D Extrude?  It can produce some really nice results.


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permalink this comment Tazz Thu Oct 19, 2006 at 10.35 pm

Great tutorial, would be even greater if you publish an illustrator how-to book.


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permalink this comment Jackie Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 04.52 am

I tried creating the ribbon, and somehow ended up with four pieces that had to be joined together at all the points.  I am not sure if I missed something in between the steps 5 and 6 where you are supposed to merge the ribbon segments.  I guess the MAC shortcuts confused me since I’m on a PC.  But I did get the ribbon created finally - just not quite the way you show us above. 

Oh, well!  Still a neat tutorial!


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permalink this comment Veerle Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 01.48 pm

Happy to hear you all enjoy the tutorial and think it’s useful ;)

Emma long said:

If you have Illustrator CS2 you can make ribbons similar to this in a few seconds by using 3D Extrude & Bevel.

Thanks for the tip! I haven’t fully experimented with this feature, but the first things I tried didn’t give the satisfying result to be honest. Guess I’m a bit of an old long-time Illustrator user who’s stuck on old habits :) Maybe I just need some more 3D practice ;)

Jackie said:

I tried creating the ribbon, and somehow ended up with four pieces that had to be joined together at all the points.

You did everything fine I think, maybe except for the middle piece where you need to ‘merge’ 2 pieces using the Pathfinder option “Add to shape” (select both pieces and click Add to Shape). You need to end up with 3 pieces. It might be best just to Group the pieces so it’s easier to handle when you want to move the ribbon around. The 3 pieces are there so you can add a different fill to each of one of them. If I merge them all together you can’t, you can only apply 1 fill, or they’ll become 1 fill.


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permalink this comment Daus Fri Oct 20, 2006 at 09.53 pm

Nice tutorial


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permalink this comment Jackie Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 02.55 am

Thanks, Veerle for the explanation.  I found out that after joining the pieces together, I did end up with only one fill, I think for the whole ribbon, but I realized that you used different fills on your three sections which gave it a nice variation.  I will have to try it again. I think you are right that when I was supposed to merge the two middle pieces, I didn’t - because I could not get the pathfinder tool doesn’t always work if you can’t get two open end points and join them the right way. Or else I didn’t understand how to merge them.

Illustrator takes a lot of practice!


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permalink this comment Jackie Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 06.01 am

I think I didn’t “expand” the two segments in the pathfinder palette - so that’s probably what I missed.

The free distort filter worked well though - that was something I had not used before, too.


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permalink this comment Birgit Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 03.33 pm

Seems very useful…bookmarked, thanks a lot! (I wonder how you find the time to do these awesome tutorials and everything. Do you have 10 hands and two brains? ;))


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permalink this comment alecs stan Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 12.39 pm

You can also make a killer ribon using illustrator’s mesh tool, but i think the first couple of steps in achieving that are the same as in this tutorial although. here’s an example of mesh play:

http://www.dreamstime.com/redribbonwrapped-image683091


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permalink this comment Saffron Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 01.28 am

Thanks so much for that! Very easy to understand. Nice and simple for a new illustrator user like myself.
Off to sus out your other tutorials now!


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permalink this comment Neo Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 12.56 am

Very useful tip. Congratulations.


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permalink this comment caryn Tue Oct 31, 2006 at 06.15 pm

Hi there
Thanks, I am loving working through your Illustrator tuts. Have been working on a job that has sapped skills and creativity for too long… I need to get back in the game. Thanks for the inspiration.
Caryn


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permalink this comment Kim Fri Nov 3, 2006 at 03.52 pm

Just what I needed! Thanks!


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permalink this comment Aaron Wed Nov 8, 2006 at 09.35 am

Great! I could have used that 2 weeks ago :)

Good work!



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