Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Illustrator: Custom Blends (Design Banner)


To explore creative thinking as it relates to typography. To learn Adobe Illustrator production techniques by recreating the art below:



Often, designers will replace one letter of a word with an object. This object usually will add an amusing, clever and memorable dimension to a logotype or headline. Choosing the right object is important as the wrong object will not add anything to the communication. How the object is rendered is equally important as legibility can not be sacrificed.

In this banner art, the mouse is a photo-realistic vector drawing based on a reference photograph. Mechanical (or man-made objects) are particularly suited for this style of illustration and often the results are "better" than a photograph. In addition, this banner art can be reproduced at any size without loss of integrity.


prepping for the exercise

  1. download starter files
  2. launch illustrator
  3. examine downloaded files
  4. file > new ""
  5. practice Adobe's navigation keyboard shortcuts (space; space+cmd; space+cmd+opt)

drawing the mouse

  1. file > place "mouse.jpg"
  2. view > show grid
  3. straighten image so that sides of mouse are straight verticals
  4. view > hide grid
  5. change layer to a template (double-click layer, do not dim so that colors can be sampled with eyedropper)
  6. new layer "mouse"; view > outline (cmd+Y)
  7. draw mouse (see sample file ""): use ellipse tool to trace circle at top edge of mouse image; add anchor points as needed; pull points to stretch shape to fit
  8. inspect image for "hot spot" (not highest highlight); copy outer shape and scale down to this area
  9. repeat copying & scaling of shape for each level of color
  10. adjust stacking order
  11. view > preview (cmd+Y); set fill (stroke = none)
  12. make custom blends (object > blend > make)
  13. cord: trace cord at center; copy & paste in front (cmd-F) twice
  14. apply stroke colors to each path
  15. adjust stroke weight to each path
  16. select all 3 strokes: object > blend > make
  17. repeat with button, highlight

adding the Parkland logo

  1. new layer "parkland"
  2. paste logo from ""; adjust size, position, color
  3. duplicate logo to make a mask, delete box
  4. select original logo: effects > stylize > drop shadow (opacity=35, blur=1.5, adjust X & Y offsets)
  5. position mask on top of logo (direct select tool)
  6. object > clipping mask > make

laying out the banner

  1. file > new "" (15x5 inches)
  2. rename "layer 1" as "mouse"
  3. paste art from "", adjust size, position
  4. new layer "bg"
  5. draw 2 boxes, fill with 100C+100M and 100C+75M, lock layer
  6. select mouse: effects > stylize > drop shadow
  7. repeat with cord
  8. new layer "design"
  9. type "DESIGN" (Univers 39, size=?, tracking=?)
  10. type > create outlines, ungroup, delete "G", adjust positioning
  11. new layer "type"
  12. paste type from "banner.txt" (Verdana Bold); add gradient
  13. duplicate layers as needed, change transparency
  14. new layer "logo"
  15. paste logo from ""; adjust size, position, color
  16. print a b&w proof for grading

invent your own logotype (extra credit)

  1. in your sketchbook, do thumbnails sketches of other possible words where one letter can be replaced with an object
  2. photograph your object using proper lighting (stock images not allowed)
  3. scan in your reference photograph, then trace over it in illustrator
  4. print a b&w proof for critique
  5. revise the design based on feedback
  6. print a color proof for grading


  1. submit proofs with your name on it for grading
  2. file graded proof in your Process Book for individual review
  3. publish a JPEG linked from your Process Page (no wider than 800px)

Last updated: 3/1/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young