Vector Tutorial: Creating Your Own Colorful and Patterned Christmas Balls


It seems like ages since I last shared a vector tutorial here. The last one was “Vector Tutorial: Creating Your Own Vector iPhone“, and with the quite busy schedule I’ve had these past few months I haven’t got much time to do another lengthy tutorial until this time. Luckily, I was able to find time to do one. Probably my last tutorial for the year. So I hope you’ll be able to get along with this one.

It’s December, and Christmas Season is in the air, so there’s nothing more appropriate than to show you how to create some shiny vector Christmas balls using Adobe Illustrator (CS4). So lets get it on.

Here’s a preview first of the Christmas balls that we will do with this tutorial.


Part 1 – The Christmas Ball

Step 1: Creating the basic shape

The Christmas ball shape consists of just two basic shapes, circle for the body and a small rectangle for the neck.


(1) Overlap both shapes as seen above.

(2) Open the “Pathfinder palette” and use the “Unite” tool to combine the two shapes into one.

(3) Cut the shape exactly in the middle to leave just one-half of the shape. To do that, you can overlap a rectangle big enough to cover half of the shape and use the “Minus Front” from the pathfinder palette (icon next to unite tool).

Step 2: Creating the 3D ball

Fill the whole shape with white and stroke to none. After that, go to Effect > 3D > Revolve. Set the parameters as shown in the 3D dialog box image below.


To set the “shading color” click “More Options” to reveal the additional options. Use “Custom” as the Shading Color and set the color to red (R-255, G-0, B-0). Click “Ok” to apply the 3D settings and produce the 3D ball shown below.


Step 3: Adding shade and highlights

Now let’s add some shade and highlights to our dull looking 3D ball. They consist of three shapes, one cresent moon shaped shade and two highlights in circle and droplet shape as shown in the image below.


After creating the 3 shapes, apply the following effects and settings to each of them.

Shade: Fill with “Gradient” using “Fade to black” with settings as shown below. After filling with gradient, apply “Gaussian blur” effect (Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur) with radius set to “20”. Then set the “Transparency” (Window > Transparency) to “Multiply” with “70%” opacity.


Highlight 1: Select the circle shaped hightlight 1 and apply gradient fill using also “fafe to black” with similar settings shown below. Apply the same “Gaussian Blur” with radius set to 20. Set transparency to “Color Dodge” with 100% opacity.


Highlight 2: The second highlight is similar to the first in gradient fill settings and transparency (color dodge) but without the Gaussian blur effect.


So there you go. We have completed the first part of our tutorial where you should already have one shiny red ball similar to the image shown below.


Part 2 – The Crown

Step 1: Creating the crown shape

(1) Create a comb-liked shape similar to the one shown below. Add a middle node on top of the shape using the “Add anchor point tool” from the “Pen tool” then copy the shape.

(2) Move the node up a bit using the “Direct Selection tool” (white filled arrow from the toolbar) to create a similar curve shown below.

(3) Now paste the previously copied shape on front and do the same node shifting but this time moving it down to create a similar curve.


Applying color, shades and highlights to the crown are done in five easy steps shown below.


(1) Fill the bigger crown shape with R-187, G-135, B-50, then move inside just a little bit the two sides of the smaller crown shape on front (using direct selection tool on nodes to be moved).

(2) Select the front crown shape and copy it first (for the shadow), then apply “Fade to black” gradient again using settings shown above. Apply Gaussian blur with 2.0 radius and transparency set to 100% “screen”.

(3) Now paste the copied object at the back, fill it with black and apply Gaussian Blur with 2.0 radius and set transparency to “Multiply”.

(4) For the crown shade on top, create an oval shaped object on top, fill it again with “Fade to black” gradient with similar settings as seen on the 4th image above and set the transparency to 100% “Multiply”.

(5) Finally, create an irregularly shaped object (an oval shape will do) as our final crown highlight on the top rightmost part of the crown. Fill it with white and apply Gaussian blur with 5.0 radius.

Step 2: Adding the string hook and string


(1) Create two circles then subtract the inner from the outer circle using the “minus front tool” from the pathfinder palette to create a donut shaped object.

(2) Create a bigger circle similar to the image shown above, then subtract it again from the donut shaped object.

(3) Curve both ends of the hook by editing the nodes using the “direct selection tool” (white arrow on the toolbar).

(4) Fill the object with linear gradient with colors from dark (R-96, G-57, B-19) to light (R-187, G-135, B-50).

Next thing is to add a string on the hook. You simply create two oval shape loops and shape the string using the “Pen tool”. Fill all objects with gradient from ochre (R-187, G-135, B-50) to yellow (R-249, G-237, B-50) with angle set to 24 degrees and slider location at 80% near yellow.


Putting it all together, at this point, our Christmas ball is almost done. We just need to add some shadow later on.


Part 3 – Adding shadow, changing colors and decorative patterns

Step 1: Adding shadow

Adding shadow is very simple. I have covered much about this in past vector tutorials. So quickly, you just need to create an oval underneath the Christmas ball. Position it somewhere on the left against the light’s direction.


Fill the shape with “Radial Gradient” from black to white “Aspect Ratio” set to 50%. After that, apply Gaussian blur with 20 pixel radius.


Step 2: Changing Colors

Changing our Christmas ball color is easy. Select the 3D ball object, then go to “Window > Appearance” to open the “Appearance Palette”. From the “Apperance Palette”, click “3D Revolve” to open again the 3D dialog menu.


With the 3D dialog menu open, select “More options” button to display additional options. Click the “Shading Color” current color tab (red in our example). The “Color Picker” dialog menu will open where you can now mix and set your new color. Click “ok” for both the color picker and 3D revolve dialog box to apply the new color.


We can try “green” this time.


Step 3: Adding decorative patterns

Let’s add some snow flake pattern to compliment our Christmas theme and add a variety of Christmas balls to our collection. You can get your free snow flake vector graphics from our previous post, “Free Vectors: Early Winter Snow Flakes“.

First, you need to copy your vector pattern and convert it to symbol. Open the “Symbol” palette by simply going to “Window > Symbol”. Drag your pattern to the symbol palette to convert it to symbol.


Now select the 3D Christmas ball and open the 3D dialog box similar to what we did while changing color. In the 3D dialog box, click the “Map Art” button.


In the “Map Art” dialog box, you basically need to do 3 things. First, select the surface where you will apply the pattern to. In our case, it’s surface number 2. Then select the symbol you’d like to use, in our example, it’s the snow flake symbol. Then lastly, turn on the “preview” option so you can see how your pattern is positioned in your surface. You can adjust the pattern’s position and size inside the Map Art dialog box. Clik “ok” when done to apply.


And here’s our new Christmas ball with some cool snow flake patterns.


That’s it. Whew!

Finally, once more, here’s the collection of some colored and patterned vector Christmas ball that we did for this tutorial. Download link for the source Adobe Illustrator file after the break.



  1. Sherry Smith 3 January, 2010 at 10:18

    I like your tutorial however I was not able to open your free early snow flakes vector pattern to finish the tutorial. I down loaded it and the file ends in rar, which I can’t open. I have Illustrator CS4 and all the files have ai. as there end. Can send me this file ending in ai.

  2. Graphire 3 January, 2010 at 17:21

    Hi Sherry. You will need WinRAR to decompress the rar file and extract the ai file. Anyway, don’t worry, I’ll email you the snow flakes ai file. Thanks for visiting my site.

  3. joshua 21 March, 2013 at 22:13

    Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was super
    long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any tips and hints for inexperienced blog writers? I’d really appreciate

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