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I Heard it Through the Grapevine

by Sara Froehlich


Here’s how to make a grapevine in Illustrator, complete with winding tendrils of vine and juicy grapes!

For this week’s How-To we’ll construct a grapevine in Adobe Illustrator. Let’s start off by making the leaves to use for a scatter brush. Open the color palette and mix four new green colors. As you mix each, add it to the swatches palette by dragging the chip from the color palette to the swatches palette.

Green 1: Red: 50; Green: 68; Blue: 52
Green 2: Red: 35; Green: 100; Blue: 52
Green 3: Red: 28; Green: 112; Blue: 68
Green 4: Red:129; Green: 146; Blue: 130

Choose one of the three lighter greens for the fill color and draw an ellipse, 80 pixels wide by 30 pixels high. Don’t add a stroke for now.


Duplicating with Math

Now we’ll use a neat duplication trick to make the rest of the points for the leaves. Activate the rotate tool and hold the opt/alt key and click on the right point of the ellipse to set the point of origin, which will also open the options box. When the options box opens, we’re going to let Illustrator figure out how to space the points of the leaves by using a mathematical formula.

We want 5 leaf points to be evenly spaced in a half circle; therefore the degrees we need are 180°. To space them evenly, 180° needs to be divided by 5 to find the precise angle. We could just do the math and know it is 36°, but it isn’t always so clear cut and this is where this trick comes in very handy!

In the Angle box, enter 180/5, which means 180 ÷ 5, and click the Copy button.

As you click the Copy button, you’ll see the angle change in the box from 180/5 to 36.

Hint: If you want to go around the complete circumference of a circle, for petals for a flower for instance, use 360/? of petals. For the petals to touch at the bases, place the point of origin on the base of a petal; for the petals to be rotated around a center, place the point of origin at the center point of the flower center.


Now you have two leaf points; type cmd/ctrl + D three times to make the remaining three leaves, spaced 36° apart.


In the pen popout, choose the convert point tool and click once on the end point of each of the leaves to convert them to points rather than curves. Here you can see three points converted, one being converted, and one waiting its turn.


Once all five points are converted, select them all, and open the pathfinder palette. Option/alt click the Add to shape area button to combine the shapes into one leaf.


Use the bounding box and the selection to to squish the leaf together a little to make a more realistic shape. Now you can choose the darkest green of the new shades you mixed and use the pencil tool to paint veins and add an outline stroke. Draw a stem with the pencil tool and give it a 3 point stroke and rounded endcap. (Set the endcap in the stroke palette.)

Select all of the pieces of the leaf and group them. Duplicate it two times by option/alt+dragging copies. Use the direct select tool to select just the leaf of the two extra leaves and change their color to the two remaining lighter shades of green we mixed at the beginning of this How-To. Arrange the three leaves something like this and scale them down about to this size. Group the three leaves, and select them.


In the brushes palette, open the palette menu and choose New Brush. Then choose New Scatter Brush, and click OK. When the options box opens, set the options as follows and click OK again. Your new scatter brush will be in the brushes palette. Notice the Colorization Method is set to None. This so we keep the brown stems and the shades of the leaves.



Making the Vines

The vines are a simple matter of the line tool or pen tool. Use either to draw a straight line and give it a brown color. I did three separate lines, three shades of brown, all in 3 point width. The top line is a dark brown I mixed, and the other two are browns in the Illustrator default color palette.


Select each line in turn and apply Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. Here are my settings, but they are just a guideline, so feel free to tweak the settings.

Line 1: Options: size 7 px; Absolute; Detail: 5; Points: smooth
Line 2: Options: size 14; Absolute; Detail: 6; Points: smooth
Line 3: Options: size 8; Absolute; Detail 11; Points: smooth


Move them closer together so they overlap:



Adding the Leaves

Use your scatter brush to add leaves. There are two lines of leaves here. Draw a line with the brush tool, and apply the leaf brush. The draw a second line and apply the leaf brush again to make the leaves denser.



Adding the Grapes

Draw small circles, and fill with a purple radial gradient (or whatever color you want for your grapes). When you have the bunch as you want them, select all of the grapes and group them.


Use cmd/ctrl + [ to send some of the grapes behind leaves. Experiment until you’re happy with the way it looks. Finally, use the pencil tool to draw the curly vine tendrils in brown, and set the stroke width to 2. That’s it!



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©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich