Urban designs are trendy. Look around, everywhere you'll see typical urban elements applied in graphic designs. They make use of various circle designs, which is trendy in all ages. Other elements that are quite common are clouds, swirls and starbursts. Often designs are given a grunge look, by adding or deleting non-defined shapes from the orignal drawing. Also quick design wins as partial halftoning or overlay of a design element by a pattern are applied. And of course silhouettes. The ipod people are everywhere!
In this Inkscape tutorial I will provide a quick method of making a simple urban design by only applying a few elements: circles, clouds and swirls. I use Inkscape as it is freely available and is very suitable for this kind of work.
First we need circles. I have a few sets of fancy circles in my symbol libraries and you can grab one of my sets for free at the bottom of this article. But don't let that stop you to create your own set.
I never bother picking colors for base sets but keep it simple black and white.
- Just start drawing a circle using the circle tool, hold down the Ctrl-key to scale uniformly.
- Use Ctrl+D to duplicate a circle. The new circle will be directly on top of the original, and have the same centre point.
- Now scale the duplicate smaller or larger to your likings, hold down both the Ctrl-key and the Shift-key so scaling is uniformly and from the centre.
- Vary the stroke style and width to create different looks for each circle. Also make use of the toggle to either affect stroke scaling with the object scaling or not.
- Use a fill for the innermost circle in a few symbols.
- Typically 3-5 concentric circles are used in a symbol.
- When you complete a symbol, select all circles for that symbol and use Ctrl+G to group them.
- Save your designs in a seperate Inkscape file as part of your personal symbol library, ready for re-use in many designs.
For our Urban design we start with a fresh Inkscape canvas: a new document. Import the cicle set into the current document: File > Import (or use Ctrl+I) and open the circle set from the first part of the tutorial. This allows us to use the circles in a design without damaging the original. Move the set such that it is not on top of the document. If you already have a basic idea and colour scheme for your design, you could color the set to match. In this tutorial I will create a square design, with the powerful colors of bright green, chocolate brown with dashes of white and orange. These are trendy colours, and you will see them in many contemporary designs. If you have troubles picking colour schemes that work, just hop over to Kuler and have a look at colour schemes that others have created, or create your own just by selecting a base colour you like and using Kuler's basic modes.
Anyways... like I said.. I decided to use a bright green. I recoloured the circles and then placed them on the canvas in a random order, randomly resizing and repositioning until I liked the composition. Hold down both Shift and Ctrl when resizing as it scales the elements uniformly and from centre. I started with the circles as they will be the focal point of the drawing, and if the composition is bad there, the drawing will not be too good when completed either.
In designs like these I make use of layers. There is no written law on how to segment any drawing in layers, and I just use layers by element type or colour groupings. It makes it easier to organise work and to hide and show elements is as easy as hiding or showing a layer. Open the layer manager, click the + symbol to create a new layer, name it circles and create it below the current one - which is Layer 1 by default and now holds our circle elements. Select the circle composition and use Shift + Page Down (or the move option in the Layer menu) to place it on the newly created layer.
Next step is creation of a layer to hold a a darker element which serves as a background against which the circles are displayed. This cloud will be created from the outlines of our circle composition, so it makes sense to use a duplicate of this layer.
- Select 'Create duplicate layer' from the Layer menu.
- Rename the layer by double clicking on the layer name. I named it brown cloud.
- Move the layer below the circles layer.
- Hide the circles layer so it is easier to see what needs to be done.
- Select all the circles in the 'brown cloud' layer.
- Ungroup by using Shift + Ctrl + G. Do this multiple times until the message in the status bar reads that there are no groups in the selection.
- With all circles still selected, choose any fill colour (tho brown is a good option already) and remove the stroke (hold shift down while clicking the X in the colour pallette).
- Next select 'Union' from the Path menu. This will merge all objects into one.
- Now there are probably still a lot of large gaps. Use a few shapes (circles or rectangles) to fill these, and again use Union with all objects selected. This should result in a basic cloud with the same outline as the circle composition.
- Assign an appropriate colour to the element, I used brown.
- Make the layer with the circle composition visible and then scale the brown cloud a bit up so it forms a nice background.
That was not too hard aye?
We are almost up to making the white clouds, but as our drawing background is white, they will disappear. Create a layer for the background below the brown clouds layer. Draw a simple rectangle that is large enough to be a background for your design. Hold down Ctrl to scale uniformly. Give it any fill you like, we'll tweak it later.
Then the white clouds. As you may have guessed, they are similar to the brown cloud, so select the brown cloud layer again. As before, make a duplicate layer of the brown cloud layer, move it down one step and name it white cloud. Hide the circles and brown cloud layer. Recolour the brown to a white, and flip the element both horizontally and vertically. Make the other layers visible again to check results. Resize and reposition the white cloud to your likings. That was easy!
Create a new layer just above the white cloud layer and call it floral swirls. Swirls are easy to create and give a design a bit of swoosh. I hide all other layers while I create the swirls. We use a spiro curve here. Check my Spiro Swirl tutorial if you have no idea how spiro works.
- Select the bezier curve, set the mode to Spiro Path, set the shape to 'Triangle in' and draw a curly curve.
- After completion, select "Object to path" from the Path menu. This applies the path effects permanently and allows us to resize and rotate the path without funny side effects.
- Add a simple circle and use Union to combine both shapes.
- Create a few duplicates and resize / rotate / reposition them untill you have a nice branch, use Union again to make a single object.
- To create a longer branch, just place 2 of the branches on top of each other and use Union to make them into a single shape. Use the node editor to correct bumps where needed.
- Unhide the other layers.
- Colour the branches in the same colour as the brown cloud and place the branches randomly over the top half of the brown cloud. Duplicate, resize and rotate to your liking. Hide/unhide the other layers temporarily if they get in your way.
Now let's spice up the background a bit. I chose a bright green matching the circles, but to make it more interesting I applied a radial gradient. I used white in the center and a green at the edges. Select colours that match your design and change the gradient to your likings.
The circle design in all green is a bit plain, so I selected a few circles and changed the stroke to orange or white. I also filled the centre of some circles with orange. The circles are grouped, but you can select an individual element in a group by first double-clicking the group, and then selecting the element you want to edit.
Brown cloud dripping
The last step is to apply a filter to the brown cloud layer. Filter extensions are new in Inkscape. The filter editor has been around for a while, but now it is very easy to apply certain standard effects. Note that using filters in a design really slows down working in Inkscape, so it is a good thing to apply filters at the very last step. It also helps to zoom out quite a bit so not too much detail needs to be rendered. There are also some options to render lower quality on display, but high on export. Tweak these settings if Inkscape slows down too much to work with. The filter applied to the layer is Protusions > Dripping.
That's all folks! I hope you liked this tutorial, feedback is appreciated.
Please do not claim this design as your own. Read our TOU.