I'm looking to make futuristic/modern swirls in Illustrator for a background for a project that I'm doing. Here's an example I found:

enter image description here

I don't want to rip the picture off and I'm not looking for this is exact design but am curious as to what method I could use to make something similar. It appears to be using some outer glow and gradients but is that something likely done with a pen tool?

I've Googled around for a tutorial of that nature and am not necessarily looking for someone to teach me completely, just point me in the right direction so I can play around with it. Sorry if this is a super basic question, just trying to learn some new techniques. Thanks!


There's a 95% chance your sample image was created in a raster application - Photoshop or similar.

Xara Extreme is good with these types of images and is vector. That could also be the originating application.

With Illustrator you are in for some work. The subtle gradients and variations could only be achieved by Gradient Meshes. And due to how the colors interact, some blending modes and transparency. In addition, this would be MUCH easier created in RGB. Trying to do this with CMYK in Illustrator will be a lesson in patience since many blending modes won't yield expected results in CMYK mode.

This was done quickly....


The image above uses gradient meshes for the purples and yellows. Then some feathering, glows, and a whole bunch of blending mode adjustments. So it can be done with care. But there's no quick and easy guide. It'll pretty much just take soem trial and error.

  • Thanks! I'm curious why this was likely done in a raster application. I use Photoshop CS5 as well. Nov 5 '12 at 14:22
  • I'm guessing due to all those subtle color variations and soft edges everywhere, raster would just be easier.
    – Scott
    Nov 5 '12 at 16:10
  • Ok cool. Thanks for the pointers. I'll play around with gradient meshes a little bit and see if I can get something close. Thanks! Nov 5 '12 at 17:49
  • Do you still have the AI file for that design? I'm struggling big time with this and would love to study your technique (again, I'm not trying to rip anything off I would just love to learn this much better). Nov 5 '12 at 19:59
  • No. Sorry I didn't keep it. It's long gone.
    – Scott
    Nov 5 '12 at 22:24

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