Are you keen on sci-fi movies, games, and fancy weapons? Follow this tutorial and try your hand at weapon design by creating a futuristic space blaster in trendy flat style.
How to Design a Flat Sci-Fi Blaster in Adobe Illustrator
We’ll be modifying simple shapes, so you don’t actually need any drawing skills or special equipment for this tutorial. You’ll learn how to apply gradients properly to make the elements pop out and attain a completed look. Furthermore, you’ll discover some tips and tricks while working with the Pathfinder panel, the Shape Builder
Tool and Blending Modes, creating subtle semi-shadows and gentle highlights to add some dimension to our weapon while preserving the overall flat style.
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have learned the ropes of creating a flat blaster and be able to apply these techniques and design a variety of flat guns, rifles, swords and other kinds of game assets. Check out GraphicRiver for more inspiration, and let’s get started!
1. How to Create a Nozzle With Liquid
First of all, we need to create a New Document of 600 x 600 pxinRGB Color Mode. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 600 x 600 px light-blue square for the background and Align it to the Artboard, using the Align panel.
Before we start creating any element of our weapon, we should have a certain idea of its design and overall look. Is it going to be a space rifle against aliens or an actual alien weapon? Will it be a powerful shotgun or a small hand-cannon?
After pondering and brainstorming ideas, I ended up with a rough sketch made right in Adobe Illustrator with the help of the Pencil Tool (N). It served me as a reference during the whole process of creating a final version of the blaster.
Let’s start building our weapon from its larger part—a glass nozzle with some green gooey liquid inside (that is
obviously lethal, so be careful with it).
Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and make a 250 x 40px shape. Apply a linear gradient from light green to darker green. You can use the color bar of the Gradient panel to move the color sliders, creating a distinct straight edge between the colors.
To do this, select the light-green slider on the left side of the color bar and drag it to the right. Do the same with the dark-green slider, dragging it in the opposite direction, making both sliders meet at a certain point of the color bar (either in the middle or closer to its right half). The closer your place the sliders to each other, the crisper and more distinct the border between them gets.
Set the angle of the linear fill to -90 degrees in the Gradient panel, or use the Gradient Tool (G) and holdShift to
adjust the direction of the fill.
Add two thin brown strips of the same length above and below the green rectangle.
Copy the green shape and Paste in Front (Control-C > Control-F).
Hold Alt and shrink the shape,
making it much narrower. Fill the new shape with dark-green solid color and
switch the Blending Mode to Screen in the Transparency panel, creating a highlight to make the
surface of the nozzle slick and glassy.
Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool and make a 5 x 60 px shape with fully rounded corners.
We can set the Corner Radiusby selecting the rectangle with theDirect Selection Tool (A)andeither adjusting the value in the control panel on top or by pulling the circle markers of the Live Corners that you can find next to each corner of the shape
while it is selected with the Direct
Selection Tool (A). Notice that this way we can adjust each corner separately or all the corners at once, depending on the desired result.
Fill the rounded rectangle with linear
gradient from brown to dark purple, placing both sliders of the gradient at the
same point to create a distinct border between the colors.
Finally, select the shape with the Selection Tool (V), hold Alt-Shift and drag the shape to the
side, creating a copy. Add a couple more copies and distribute them as shown
Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and make a few circles for the bubbles. Set the Fillto none and theStroke color to dark green, and switch to Screen Blending Mode.
Stroke Weight to 1.5 pt either
in the control panel on top or in the Stroke
(Control-G) the elements of the nozzle in order to
keep the image neat and organized.
Now let’s add a muzzle to the gun. Make a 20 x 95 px rectangle, applying a linear
gradient from white to light-grey color, imitating a frosted metal or plastic
Select the shape with the Direct
Selection Tool (A) and let’s adjust the corners. Head to the control panel
on top and click the Corners
parameter to open the drop-down options window. Select Chamfer Corner and set the Radius
to 5 px, making a bevel-edged shape.
Duplicate (Control-C > Control-F)
the shape and fill the top copy with dark-green solid color. Take the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold down Alt, hold the left mouse buttonand spread the selection over the left part of the
shape, leaving only a thin strip by the right side. Release the mouse key and—voila!—we have only the thin strip left. Switch its Blending Mode to Screen,
thus creating a highlight.
(Control-C > Control-F) the highlight
and double-click the Reflect Tool (O)
to open the options window. Select the Vertical
Axis and click the Copy button
to create a mirrored copy.
Let’s snap the copy to the opposite side of
the muzzle, using the Align panel.
Select both the copy and the muzzle and click the muzzle shape once again to
make it a Key Object (it becomes
marked with a thicker selection). Click Horizontal
Align Left in the Align panel to
stick the shape to the left edge of the muzzle.
Finally, change the fill color of the copy
to light green and switch the Blending
Mode to Multiply, thus creating
a subtle flat shadow.
Let’s continue adding elements to the
muzzle. Create a 30 x 45 px rectangle for the barrel of the gun and fill it with linear gradient from dark blue to dark purple. Send the shape to Back (Shift-Control-[) and
Duplicate it. Shrink the copy to 15 x 45
px, change its color to light purple, and set the Blending Mode to Multiply,
making a gentle shadow from the muzzle.
Finish up with this part of the weapon by
duplicating the dark shape and shrinking it to 30 x 15 px. Fill the shape with dark color and switch it to Screen mode, creating a glossy
highlight on the metal surface.
We still lack some shadows on the glass part of our blaster. Use the Rectangle
Tool (M) to create a few rectangles of the same height as the green shape.
Fill them with a light tint of blue and
switch to Multiply Mode.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the top left anchor point of
each rectangle. Hit the Enter key to
open the Move options window and set
the Horizontal value to 5 px and the Vertical value to 0 px. Click OK, moving the points to the right and skewing the
Select the created rectangles and Object > Compound Path > Make (or
press Control-8) to unite the separate
shadows into one compound path.
Position the shadows right beneath the
vertical lines, moving them either manually in the Layers panel or by Sending
Backward (Control-[) a few times.
2. How to Create the Barrel & Body
of the Weapon
Make a 210 x 25
px rectangle and use the Eyedropper
Tool (I) to pick the light-grey gradient from the muzzle. Send to Back (Shift-Control-[), placing
the shape beneath the metal construction of the nozzle.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the bottom right anchor point
of the shape. Press Enter to open
the Move window and set the Horizontal value to -20 px and the Vertical value to 0 px. Click OK to move a single point to the left.
Let’s add details, using the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), as we did
previously. Duplicate (Control-C >
Control-F) the shape. Fill the shape with darker color and switch the
Blending Mode to Screen.
Arm yourself with the Eraser Tool (Shift-E), hold Alt
and erase the bottom part of the shape, leaving only a narrow strip for
the highlight on top.
Repeat the previous step, adding notches
and shadows in Multiply and Screen Blending Modes.
Create another light-grey element at the
bottom of the nozzle. Use the Rectangle
Tool (M) to make a 270 x 24 px
shape and add highlights, shadows and notches, using our method with copies and
the Eraser Tool (Shift-E).
Next, make a 20 x 110 px rectangular piece and place it perpendicular to the bottom detail. Select both parts and make the bottom rectangle a Key Object by clicking it once again.
Head to the Align panel and snap the
rectangle to the bottom of the Key
Object by clicking the Vertical
Align Bottom button.
Let’s move on and keep designing the body
of our blaster. Attach a 113 x 103 px
rectangle to the left edge of the weapon, applying the same light-grey linear
Select its top and bottom left anchor
points with the Direct Selection Tool (A)
and make the corners Chamfered with 20 px Radius, using the menu in the top
Add a 113 x 30
px bright strip, applying a linear gradient from vivid orange to red.
Add notches, highlights and shadows, using
the technique that we’ve already mastered on the previous elements. Group (Control-G) this part of the
weapon and let’s move on!
Let’s depict a reloader or a magazine of
our gun. We’ll use the green part that we’ve already created in order to speed
up our work.
Duplicate the nozzle part of the blaster and make the green bar shorter,
shrinking it to about 164 x 40 px, and
reduce the number of dark vertical bars to two.
Duplicate the muzzle elements of the weapon
and attach them to the right edge of the reloader, changing the scale slightly.
Make the light-grey element a bit wider, to about 28 x 75 px.
Let’s make an external screw to make the
reloader part more detailed.
Use the Ellipse Tool (L) to make a 15 x 15
px circle of dark-green color. Switch it to Screen mode to make it semi-transparent and bright. Duplicate the circle and make the top
copy smaller, setting its size to 10 x 10
Select both circles and use the Minus Front function of the Pathfinder to cut out the top circle,
creating a ring.
End up by adding a dark circle inside of
the ring, picking the color from the muzzle of the blaster. Group (Control-G) all elements of the
Add the screw to the white part of the
reloader and proceed by adding a 230 x 15
px prop to connect this part of the weapon to the body of the blaster.
Use the Reflect Tool (O) to flip and copy the elements over the Vertical Axis and attach them to the opposite edge of the reloader.
Remember to group the elements in order to keep everything in order.
3. How to Design the Grip & Trigger
of the Gun
Now we can finally move to the bottom part
of the blaster and create a hand grip. Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to make a 75 x 140
px shape with dark linear gradient fill that we can pick from the muzzle.
Select those bottom anchor points of the
shape with the Direct Selection Tool (A)
and hit Enter to open the Move panel. Set the Horizontal value to -50 px and theVertical value to 0 px,
thus making the shape skewed to the left.
Keeping the bottom anchor points selected,
make the Corners Chamfered in the
control panel on top and set the Radius
value to 12 px.
Duplicate the grip and use the Eraser
Tool (Shift-E) to create a narrow shadow at the top of the element. Set its
Blending Mode to Multiply.
Let’s make the grip as detailed and three-dimensional as possible. Duplicate
the shape, hold Shift and move the
top copy far to the right, so that the copies overlap a bit.
Select both copies and take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M). Hold down
Alt and click the right section to
delete it. Switch the remaining piece to Screen
mode, creating a highlight.
Now we need to add a few thin notches, as
we did previously, but this time we need them to repeat the shape of the grip
in order to make the elements fit each other.
Copy (Control-C) the grip shape and Paste in Front (Control-F). Hold Shift and drag the copy to the right side (the yellow shape in the
screenshot below). Paste in Front
again (the red shape in the screenshot below) and drag the new copy a bit further right, making the
copies overlap so that there is only a thin strip visible between
Keeping both copies selected, click Minus Front function of the Pathfinder to delete the shape, leaving
only a thin notch. Adjust its color and switch to Multiply mode. Duplicate the created shape, move it to the side a bit, and turn it
into a highlight.
Let’s add a shadow to the bottom part of
the grip as well. Create a rectangle, overlapping the bottom of the grip.
Select both the grip base and the rectangle and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) while holding Alt to delete the unwanted part of the rectangle. Switch the
remaining piece to Multiply mode.
Let’s move on to the next detail of our
blaster. Take the Rectangle Tool (M)
and make a 145 x 50 px shape with
dark-purple linear gradient fill. Attach it to the grip, snapping its bottom
left corner to the edge of the grip.
Select the highlight on the right side of
the grip together with the new shape. Take the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) andclick and drag over the highlight, connecting the piece of the new rectangle to it. Release the mouse key, and there you have it! The unneeded piece of the rectangle disappeared as it
was merged with the other shape.
Create a 93 x 35 px rectangle and fill it with a bright color (red, for example) to make it
Duplicate the horizontal dark rectangle,Bring the copy to Front
(Shift-Control-]), and move it to the left, covering the red shape so that there is only a triangular piece left outside (I fill the top copy with brown color to make it visible, too).
Select both shapes and apply theIntersect
function to modify the red rectangle, cutting off its triangular piece.
Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the top right point and both
bottom anchor points of the red shape. Set the Corner type to Chamfer
and the Radius to 6 px.
Select both the red shape and the dark
rectangle beneath it and apply theMinus
Front function to cut out the top shape.
Add details—shadows, highlights, and notches—to the shape, using the Rectangle Tool
(M) and the Shape Builder Tool
(Shift-M), as we did previously.
Now let’s make the trigger. Create a 17 x 20 px rectangle with dark-purple linear
fill and attach a narrower rectangular strip to its bottom edge. Send both shapes to Back (Shift-Control-[).
Select the anchor points of the bottom
right side with the Direct Selection
Tool (A) and press Enter to open
the Move window. Set the Horizontal value to 0 px and the Vertical value to 7 px and click OK to move this part of the trigger down.
Finish up with the trigger by duplicating its base, making it
smaller, and turning it into a shadow by switching to Multiply mode.
This is how the bottom part of our blaster
looks now. Almost finished! Just a few minor details left.
Add a bright metal element on the right
side of the construction. Complement it with minor details and use the Rectangle Tool (M) to add a shadow in Multiply mode.
Finish up by taking the Curvature Tool (Shift-‘) and dragging
the left edge of the shadow further left, making the shape arched.
Bang-Bang! Our Flat Sci-Fi Blaster Is
Great job! I hope you’ve enjoyed the
process of designing a weapon and discovered some tips and tricks that might be
useful for your future artworks. Feel free to share your results in the