Creating an elegant frame using Illustrator

Robert LaneGraphic Design, Tutorial

I recently posted a file for sale on the Envato Marketplaces. The download contains 25 frames/enclosures for use in print and website design projects. Three file types, an Adobe Illustrator file(.ai), an Adobe Photoshop shapes file(.csh), and a layered Photoshop(.psd), are all included in the download. I would like to show you how I created one of these frames using Adobe Illustrator. I am also including a free download that will hopefully help you with your own frame building.

Sketch one fourth of your frame

1. Sketch & Scan

Using the small guide(guide.jpg) that I created in Photoshop, create one fourth of your frame by drawing any style line from the right solid line of the guide to the bottom solid line. The dotted line on the guide is to help reference your sketch for a more geometric line/sketch. I don’t think the guide is absolutely necessary, but you will see the reason for utilizing it in my next step. I also did not sketch directly on the guide; I used a light box and traced over my guide onto a piece of vellum; this is an idea I learned from Von Glitschka. Once I was finished with all my sketches, I simply scanned those into my computer as a tiff image(frames.tif).

Trace your sketch with the pen tool.

2. Trace & Transform

Using Adobe Illustrator( create a new document(File>New) at any size that works for you. I usually create mine at 800pt x 600pt. Why? I don’t know. We’ll just call that my ‘personal-comfort-zone’ size. Place the tiff(File>Place) into your new document and lock it’s position(Object>Lock>Selection.) It might be a good idea to save your document at this point. Next, select the Pen Tool from the tool bar. I know I just lost half of my readers right there, but before you go remember you have sketched your shapes before hand. All you need to do is trace your sketch with the pen tool! I could not completely break down what it would take to get good at the Pen Tool, but basically if you want to make a curve click and drag and simply click if you want to make a corner point. For a more detailed description of how to use the Pen Tool you could study Logo, Font, & Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga. You might want to clean up your lines a little bit by moving around the points and biezer handles with the Direct Selection Tool(white arrow.) I draw with a bright color on the stroke alone. This helps me see my black and white sketch while I am trying to trace.

Copy and combine your lines.

3. Copy & Combine

Once you have your sketches traced, select any one of the lines you have just traced using the Move Tool(black arrow.) With that shape selected reflect it horizontally(Object>Transform>Reflect.) In the dialog box that opens check the Preview check box and select the Horizontal radio button and then click Copy. This creates an exact copy of your line flipped horizontally. Click this new line and drag it downward until both points on the left meet. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly right. Illustrator might even snap it into place for you. To make sure those two points are at the same location, click and drag over both points using the Direct Selection Tool(white arrow.) With only those two points selected choose Object>Path>Average from the top menu and click the Both radio button. This places both points on the exact same spot. Again go under the Object menu and select Path>Join and click the Smooth radio button. This combines those two points into one and preserves the curve you originally created. If you wanted there to be a sharp point at that location you would choose the corner radio button instead. Now select this new longer line with your Move Tool(black arrow) by clicking any where on that line. Choose Object>Transform>Reflect from the top menu. This time select the Vertical radio button and click Copy. I hope you see a pattern emerging here. This new shape you will need to click and drag to the right until the top and bottom points are aligned. To make sure that these points are in the exact same location select both top points with the Direct Selection Tool by clicking and dragging over both points. Again choose Object>Path>Average and select Both. Also, choose Object>Path>Join and select the correct radio button depending on the nature of the point you are joining. You will still need to do the same all over again for the bottom two points. You’re finished!

Swith to your fill color of choice. Your finished.
I have included a few screen shots in the download as well. Let me know if anything above is unclear in the comments below. You could also add something that I perhaps forgot. If you enjoyed this tutorial please consider purchasing one of my files from Graphic River, and I appreciate your attention.