Draw an apple

I drew a file the other day to upload to iStock when it occurred to me: This is a great example of how I’m using the Pencil tool and Pathfinder tools together these days. Hence this tutorial.

I have a series of hand drawings on iStock. Most of these hands are based on photo reference I’ve collected over the years. What I’ve done is taken all my crappy digital photos from parties, etc, and cropped out every hand I’ve ever taken a photo of. I’ve saved these pics into a folder on my hard drive and now whenever I need reference for a hand doing ‘just that’, I can go into this folder and access photo reference from the correct angle. I seriously, SERIOUSLY recommend this to any vector illustrator: Start saving your digital photos somewhere for the day you need to refer back to something.

Drawing a Hand Using a Reference Photo

So let’s get started. We’re drawing a hand holding an apple. Hand reference photo? Check:

Hand 01

Apple reference photo? Well in this case we don’t really need one; we’re going very stylized on our apple, plus we’ve all eaten a lot of apples in our time so memory should serve us just fine.

We’ve traced the hand from our reference photo, omitting a lot of unnecessary details like shading and highlights. We’ve flipped it upside down and changed the angle of the wrist and arm. We’re left with a cute stylized hand shape:

Hand 02

Drawing an Apple from Scratch

Now it’s time to add an apple. First off let’s draw the basic shape, which we will color a nice vivid red. We’ll start with using Adobe Illustrator’s ‘Elipse’ tool to draw a rough circle:


It’s always easiest to use AI’s default shape tools when drawing something vaguely rounded. The points are always perfectly aligned and it’s easy to edit down the road! Now we’ll use the direct-select (white) arrow and select the 2 side points on our circle. We’ll move them up a few points:

Hand 04

This gives us the start of a nice apple shape. Now we’ll add the divot on the bottom. Draw another circle shape, flattened, and align it to the center of our apple shape:


Select both the apple and shape on top and click on Pathfinder’s ‘Subtract from Shape Area’ tool. This will punch a hole into the bottom shape like so:


Now it’s time to round out the edge of each divot on the bottom. Click on the direct select arrow or hit ‘A’ on your keyboard, and click-drag over one of those bottom points. Now we’ve selected one of those pointy divot shapes:


Note how the selected point is filled with blue instead of white. Very handy for keeping track of what you’re working on 🙂

Now we’re going to convert this corner point into a smooth curve path. Click ‘P’ to bring up your pen tool and hover over the point while holding down ‘Option’ (Mac). You’ll notice your cursor turns into a little V shape – that’s what we want. Click on the point while holding down Option, and press Shift to keep our new curve bars on a level. Pull the new curve points out a bit until you’re happy with how things look, and you’ll end up with this:


Repeat on the other divot on the opposite side of the apple:


We now have our base apple shape. Time to add some highlights and shading.

Highlights and Shadows

For our shading, we’re going to use the Pencil tool again. Using the pencil tool is a breeze when you have a tablet, but could be a pain with a mouse. Well not really a pain, just a lot more mouse clicks to achieve the same results. This tutorial was made with a tablet so if you have a mouse keep in mind it might take a little longer to get the same results (sorry!).

Let’s start with defining a cavity in the top of the apple where our stem will emerge. We’ll use 2 levels of shading for this to give an illusion of depth. Using the pencil tool, draw in a scraggly shape at the top of the apple (this is to simulate the uneven texture of a real apple’s skin, which tends to have visible vertical ‘lines’ running down it):


For a bit extra visual depth we’ll repeat these scraggly shapes in yet another deeper shade of red:


Pencil tool tip: As you’re coming to the end of your shape, hold down the ‘Option’ key as you stop drawing. Your path will automatically close itself.

Adding a Stem and a Leaf

Let’s add a stem. Using the pen tool, draw a curved shape originating at the middle of the darkest shade in the top of the apple:


To add a highlight to the stem, copy and paste the shape in front of itself (Command-C Command-F on Mac, Control-C Control-F on PC) and offset the new shape a few points:


Copy and paste the original shape yet again (Command-C Command-F on Mac, Control-C Control-F on PC) and while it’s selected, hold down ‘Shift’ and select the offset shape. With both shapes selected click on the ‘Subtract from Shape Area’ Pathfinder tool and hit ‘expand’:


We’ll color the highlight a lighter shade of brown. Now we’ll add a leaf. To make things a little more interesting we’ll have the leaf shape curl at one edge. Using the pencil tool we’ll draw the outline:


Now we’ll draw the bottom of the leaf where it curls up. Don’t worry about trying to match up the edge of the new shape with the leaf underneath: We’ll use the Pathfinder tool to trim the excess shapes.


Copy the base leaf shape and paste it in front of itself (Command-C Command-F on Mac, Control-C Control-F on PC, select the top leaf shape, then use Pathfinder’s ‘Intersect Shape Areas’ to neatly trim it to the base leaf:


We’ll do the same thing to add highlights and shading to the leaf, using the Pathfinder to trim the shapes neatly to the edges of the leaf:


Almost done! We’ll add some highlights and a shadow to the body of the apple to finish up, using the pencil tool again:


Combining the Apple and Hand

Now we’ll put the apple into the hand, add a drop shadow, and we’re done!


> Purchase this file on iStockphoto

© 2009 Jennifer Borton


4 thoughts on “Draw an apple

  1. I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no
    one else know such detailed about my problem.
    You are incredible! Thanks!

  2. Stoner says:

    this is awesome tut. i bookmarked it and was going to share it along the social media avenues, but noticed there are no share buttons really save for the stumble and dig. nonetheless i posted it on my fb wall and thank you for putting this together. great job.

  3. Excellent! Keep them coming!!!

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