Tutorial: Making a vector gift bag, card and tag in Illustrator

Hello there! I should begin by saying that I did not forget about publishing a tutorial last week, but a combination of waiting to hear some news and being incredibly busy meant I decided to roll it over to this week instead. It is a very big tutorial however, so I have split it into two.

This week will focus on making the vector templates, and next week I will publish the tutorial detailing how to mock a design up on the templates made this week.


PART 1 – Make a suitable document

It’s important with every project to start with a suitable document. For this, it is a case of opening Adobe Illustrator, and making a new document, at A3 size. From there, go to the Layers Palette, and add a new layer. I personally find it helpful to name my layers, so I renamed the bottom layer Background and the top layer Artwork.

Make sure you are on the Background layer, before selecting the Rectangle Tool, and drawing one to fill the canvas. Set the fill to 50% grey, and then click the padlock by the layer in the Layers Palette to lock it.


PART 2 – Making the Gift Card

This is really simple. Firstly we need to know the size needed. I decided to use the size of a credit card, as people store gift cards in their wallet or purse alongside their other cards. My research (a.k.a Googling it!) found that while there is a standard size, the corner radiuses can vary slightly.

Thanks Google! It picked out the following information about credit card sizes.

Step 1:

To make the card, select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and click once on the canvas to bring up a dialog box where the exact dimensions can be entered. For this I went for 85.6 x 53.98mm, with a corner radius of 2.88mm.

Using a rounded rectangle to make the basic shape of a gift card

Step 2:

To make it look real however, it needs a small shadow. To achieve this, duplicate the shape you have just made, fill it with black and place it perfectly behind the first one. Then, while the shape is still selected, nudge it down a little so it sticks out the bottom like I have shown below.

Duplicating the shape to help make a shadow

Step 3:

Next, it is a case of making the shadow look real. Something you may not know is that like Photoshop, you can also make a Gaussian Blur in Adobe Illustrator. By going to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur, a dialog box appears where you can enter a value. Ticking the Preview box is very useful when experimenting with the Radius, and I settled on 10 pixels.

Adding a Gaussian Blur in Illustrator to make the shadow look real

Step 4:

That is great, but it is too strong, so the final step is to lower the opacity to around 20% or 30% to fade it in.

The finished template for the gift card


PART 3 – Making the gift tag

To make the gift tag, it is largely a case of following the same procedure as detailed above, although there are some differences and more involved drawing required.

Step 1:

To make the basic shape of the gift tag, select the Rectangle Tool and draw two of them to look like the image below. To turn the top rectangle into the angled part of the tag, selected it with the Direct Selection Tool. From there, I clicked on each lower point and dragged it to the outside edge of the main shape.

How to draw the template for the gift tag

Step 2:

To combine the shapes so they act as one, select both shapes and open the Pathfinder palette (Window > Pathfinder if not visible) and click the top-left button for the Unite option.

Using the Unite function in the Pathfinder palette to merge the shapes

Step 3:

Now it’s time to make the hole in the tag. Select the Ellipse Tool and draw a circle as shown in the image below. Then, fill it black and check with the Smart Guides that it is centred.

Drawing the circular hole for the gift tag

Step 4:

It’s time to select both shapes and use the Pathfinder tool again to cut the front shape out of the bottom shape. This is achieved using the Minus Front option (positioned next to the Unite option).

Using the Minus Front function in the Pathfinder palette to remove shapes

Step 5:

The final touch for the basic shape which you may or may not wish to do is to use the Rotate tool, and move it 25° anti-clockwise.

How to rotate a shape in Illustrator

As we did with the gift card, it’s time to add a shadow. Make a duplicate of this shape, and then position it where you want the shadow to be.

Positioning a duplicate shape to start making a shadow

Then it’s a case of adding a Gaussian Blur set to 10 pixels and reducing the opacity to the same amount as we discussed in Part 2.

Using a Gaussian Blur to make a shadow in Illustrator

Setting the opacity of a shape in Adobe Illustrator

Step 6:

The final touch for the tag is the ribbon. For this I added a simple black ribbon, so highlights and shadows were not needed. Obviously though these will need adding if you want it to be another colour. To make the basic shape, select the Pen Tool, and for me, I used a template to draw around as it saves a lot of time, improves accuracy, and doesn’t stop you from making tweaks if required.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 13.03.19

I then drew the inner shapes of the ribbon, which will be cut out using the same technique as we used for punching out the hole in the gift tag earlier on. (The Minus Front function in the Pathfinder palette)

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 13.03.47

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 13.04.04

To place it on the gift tag it is a case of repeating the same steps as with the main tag.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 13.04.48

PART 4 – Making the Gift Bag

Making the gift bag uses the same skills as I have discussed for the card and tag. You may wish to start with a template. For this I used a free for personal/commercial use template, which was not of a high enough quality for me to use otherwise, hence why I needed to draw my own.

Step 1:

Trace over the image using the Pen Tool. For the resulting shapes make the fill white, and add a stroke so you know where the edges are. Don’t worry if the strokes look a bit odd as they will be removed in the next stage. Just make sure all the shapes line up though.

Creating a basic vector bag wireframe

Step 2:

The next stage is to add the shading to the bag, and for this I started by experimenting with colour values. By making the brightest areas pure white, tones can be based of this for the rest of the bag. Then the stroke can be removed. After some time and experimentation, I came up with the image below, which you can always use as an example.

Making the bag look realistic, adding colour

Step 3:

The final stage is to add some shadows. These use the exact same technique as has been previously discussed so I won’t repeat it here. However, it may be depending on the size you make your bag and the effect you want to achieve that your values for the Gaussian Blur will be different to mine. I have placed some images below that show the shapes I made for the shadows.

Adding shadows in Adobe Illustrator Adding shadows in Adobe Illustrator

And here’s the final result! So hopefully this tutorial has been of use, and next week I shall return to focus on how you can mock up a design using these templates.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 13.16.51

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