tutorial: Create a vector Christmas ball

In this tutorial you will learn how to create a vector Christmas ball from scratch in Adobe Illustrator. In the first part of this tutorial I explain how to create a decor, in the second one how to create a 3D Christmas ball.
You may download the source file. I use the CS4 version but the file is back-saved to CS2.

Part 1 DECOR

Step 1

Choose the rectangle tool (M). Alt-click and set the width as 18px and height as 100 px. Fill the rectangle with R = 206 G = 21 B = 82 and set the stroke to none.
Copy Cmd/Ctrl+C your rectangle and paste it in front Cmd/Ctrl+F. Next holding the Shift key drag the copy 10 px down (don’t worry if you do a bit more).
Having your copy still selected to to Object > Stylize > Round Corners and set the radius to 10 px. Next expand it (Object > Expand Appearance).
Select both rectangles and choose Unite from the Pathfinder Panel.


Step 2

Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… and create 10 copies of the stylized rectangle with the settings as in the image below.

With your shapes still selected go tho Object > Expand Appearance. Next immediately ungroup your objects Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+G (or go to Object > Ungroup).

Select every second shape, go to the Appearance panel and set the Blending mode to Multiply and Opacity to 60%.


Step 3

Select all your shapes, again go to Effect > Distort& Transform > Transform… and create an inverted copy with the settings as in the image.
Make sure to expand your selection (Object > Expand Appearance).


Step 4

Select and drag your rectangles to the Symbols Panel.


Part 2 BALL

Step 5

To create the ball you may use the top right shape from the image as a template. Then it is most convenient to place it in its own layer, double-click the layer in the Layers panel, select Template, and click OK. Create a new layer Cmd/Ctrl+L and … just retrace it.

Alternatively you may create the half-ball shape starting from the simple shapes. First draw a circle using the ellipse tool (L) and holding down the Shift key. Next with the Rectangle tool (M) create a rectangle and place it as in the image. With the direct selection tool (A) drag the bottom right corner a bit to the right and upward so that it meets the circle. To obtain the smooth transition make sure that the handles are parallel (or almost parallel) to the tangent line to the circle in the intersection point.
Select both shapes, go to Pathfinder Panel, choose Unite, select the unwanted parts with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and remove them.

Step 6

Set the fill to white, stroke to none and go to Effect > 3D > Revolve. Set the parameters as in the image. To set the shading click ‘More Options’. Use ‘Custom’ as the Shading Color and set the color to R = 226 G = 68 B = 147.


Here is what you should obtain:


Step 7

In your 3D Revolve Options panel click Map Art… Go to the third surface and choose xmas_ball in the Symbol field (the left upper corner). Resize and reshape our symbol as in the image.


Here is what we get.


Step 8

Now we will add some shading to our ball. Choose the outline shape, copy it Cmd/Ctrl+C and paste in front Cmd/Ctrl+F. Go to the Appearance Panel. Now, we will change the 3D Revolve settings.
First go to the Map Art… and chose Clear All.


Next change the settings as below:


Here is the result.


Step 9

Change the blending mode to Multiply and decrease the Opacity to 52%



Step 10

Now, we will create the cap of the ball. In a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+L) create a rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (M). Fill it with light beige R = 229 G = 227 B = 214, no stroke. Choose the Direct Selection Tool (A) and convert the upper right corner. Next remove the bottom part and the left part.


Step 11

Go to Effect > 3D > Revolve.

Here is what you should get.

Step 12

Now, exactly as we did for the ball, we will add some shading. Copy Cmd/Ctrl+C and paste the cup in front Cmd/Ctrl+F. Change the fill color to white. Go to the Appearance Panel and change the 3D Revolve settings.
Next change the blending mode to Multiply and decrease the opacity to 30%.

Step 13

Replace and resize (if necessary) the cap shape so that it works well with the ball shape.


Step 14

Copy the cap shading Cmd/Ctrl+C and paste it in front Cmd/Ctrl+F. For your convenience set the cap and its shading invisible and lock them for a while.
We will expand this object so to speed up the process go to the Appearance Panel and in 3D Revolve options (More Options…) choose No Shading. Change the fill color from white to any more visible.
Go to Object > Expand Appearance. Next go to the Pathfinder Panel and choose Unit.

Step 15

With the Pen Tool (P) create the shape about as in the image. Make sure that its bottom boarders are all above the bottom boarders of the cap shape.


Step 16

Select the two shapes and choose Divide from your Pathfinder Panel. Ungroup immediately Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+G and remove the unwanted parts.


Step 17

Unlock and set visible the two cap parts. Select the whole layer and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+7.


Step 18

Now we will create the shadow that the cap drops on the ball. In fact it is not very visible so you may omit this step.

Create a new layer Cmd/Ctrl+L, name it Shadow and put it between the ball and the cap layers.
Alt-drag the the ball shading from the Ball layer. In the Appearance Panel change the 3D Revolve options to No Shading and choose some fill color. Go to Object > Expand Appearance and next to Pathfinder Panel in order to choose Unite. (Yes, you have already done it once).
Next alt-drag the Clipping mask shape from the Cap layer to the Shadow layer. Choose some fill color.

Step 19

Select the the copy of the cap clipping mask, move it down and resize a bit. Once you are satisfied with its shape and position Shift-click the ball shape so that both shapes are selected. Go to the Pathfinder Panel and choose Intersect.


Step 20

Set the blending mode to Multiply and decrease the opacity (34%)


Step 21

Now we will create the tiny hook. With the Ellipse tool (L) draw an Ellipse. Drag a little bit the handles of the upper point with the Direct Selection Tool (A).
Next go to Object > Path > Offset Path… Make sure that the Preview is checked and attune the Offset value (keep it negative). The appropriate value will vary depending on your ball size.
Select both paths and choose Minus Front in the Pathfinder Panel.
Starting from the point a bit above the hook top point draw the Ellipse (L) holding down the Alt-key. Intersect it with the hook (Pathfinder).


Step 22

Play a little with the hook shape. Next apply the gradient fill with the settings as in the image.


Step 23

To finish you only have to add a tiny string (I clicked twice holding down the Shift key with the Pen Tool (P)). Add some background that you like in the new layer. Move that layer to the very bottom. You may also want to add some shading. Create an ellipse (L) and fill it with the black to white radial gradient as in the image. Set the blending mode as Multiply decrease the Opacity to 30%…. and MERRY CHRISTMAS..


16 thoughts on “tutorial: Create a vector Christmas ball”

  1. I have a question, why do you expand the objects? I don’t know what is that for.
    Thanks for the tutorial, the ball is beautiful.

    1. Thank you very much.

      To create the ball I use Expand in two cases:
      1) I create the decor pattern to be a symbol using the Effect > Distort & Transform >Transform. If I do not expand what I get then in the 3D Revolve Map Art panel I will be only able to resize the single initial stylized rectangle.
      (Or easier: if I do not expand I’m not able to change the blending mode of every second shape in Step 2)
      2) I expand before going to the Pathfinder panel so that to get the intersection with the revolved surface and not the outline that is revolved.
      Is it clear enough?

  2. Ufff, this is so hard, in step 7 I obtein four surfaces. In yours the half circle and rectangle are one, but in mine the half circle is one surface and the half rectangle is another surface, I don’t know why, i have try to do it a lot of times.

    1. First, make sure that you object to be revolved has fill no stroke. If this is the case, the problem is that the “transition” between your two parts ot the ball is not smooth enough. Try to play a bit with the handles (make sure that your ball’s initial circle shape is not changed and that the ‘transition’ to the rectangle is smooth. Or simply try to be close to my ‘template’ shape from Step 5).

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you, that was exactly the problem, not smooth enough. I have upload my design to flickr with a link to your flckr page.

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  4. Very good tutuorial. I was actually looking for free graphic vectors that I could use once I have my blog on Christmas Markets up and running. Will this information if I dont come across enough good stuff for free online. Thanks for sharing

  5. These are great! I get through the stripes well enough, but I totally get lost on making the ball. When I go through the 3D process and colourizing, it always comes out smeared across and out of the ball lines. Do you have any suggestions? I’m very new to Illustrator, and I guess this is a little too advanced for me…

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