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Digital Art Ideas for Beginners: How to Make Value and Manage Shading in Illustrator

The tutorials you see below will show you how to do some digital art shading. They are a little more complex than the tutorials that I posted about line, shape, and color, but if you have a basic understanding of Illustrator and a little patience, you should be able to get them done! So jump in and learn a bit more about value and how to do some shading in illustrator!

Digital Art Ideas for Beginners: How to Make Value and Manage Shading in Illustrator

TWO VIDEOS for creating a value scale: video 1, video 2

You can’t learn how to do digital art without learning how to change the values in your picture. In these tutorials, you’ll learn how to create an Illustrator grayscale in 4 different colors. It is good to learn how to change values in Illustrator, and you’ll be learning how to do it through the color picker.

  • Tutorial Difficulty: 2/10
  • Time to complete: 30 minutes
  • Tutorial Type: Video 
    • 2 videos combined run time: 10:23
  • Presenter: Slow and easy to follow. 
  • Adjustments for Cloud: none
  • What you need to know in order to do this tutorial: nothing!
  • Tutorial corrections: For video one, the tutorial asks you to line the boxes up with the guide on the sides of the page. The lines are guides placed at a half inch from each edge.
  • Ideas for creative license: This is a pretty technical tutorial as you are creating your own value scales, but don’t stress about the size of your boxes. You’ll be resizing them to fit on the page anyway!


Digital Art Ideas for Beginners: How to Make Value and Manage Shading in Illustrator


A great way to learn Illustrator shading is through the Color Guide Panel. I highlighted the Color Guide in one of the previous tutorial posts. This panel is really helpful and it can be really helpful to find some good tints and shades to use in your digital art.

  • Tutorial Difficulty: 6/10
  • Time to complete: 50 minutes for a simplified version or 1 hour to add the optional extras
  • Tutorial Type: Video 
    • Run Time: 6:32
  • Presenter: Easy to understand, but he moves pretty fast and he gives some instructions that didn’t work. See the tutorial corrections below for details.
  • Adjustments for Cloud: none
  • What you need to know in order to do this tutorial: A basic understanding of perspective.
  • Tutorial corrections:
    • The presenter doesn’t give you any specific instructions on the size of the canvas you need to start with. I used a 400 x 400 pixel sized canvas.
    • IMAGE: Color Guides. If you have changed any of the “Harmony Rules” from the default. You can switch to complimentary colors by clicking the down arrow near the top right of the Color Guides panel.
    • At 4:56, the presenter skips a bit to save time. He doesn’t tell you that you will need to add color to both the inside and the outside of the hexagon to get the same design that he has made.
    • At 5:20, he skips again and  shows an optical illusion that makes it look like columns are coming up and to the side from the center of the design. You can try this out or you could just put the light color on the bottom third, the dark color on the top right third, and the main color on the top left third as shown in the picture
    • At 5:27, he has you go to object>expand to get rid of the grid marks. This technique did not work for me. The best that I could do was go to Image>Rasterize. However, make sure that you are done with your design before you do this because you will not be able to go back and edit it once you have rasterized.
  • Ideas for creative license: 
    • Choose any color that you want to for the shape, just make sure that you also choose an appropriate tint and shade. 
    • You can also do the extra details (that the presenter doesn’t explain at the end of the tutorial). Experiment with it and see what you can come up with!


Digital Art Ideas for Beginners: How to Make Value and Manage Shading in Illustrator

How to Create Mountain Landscape Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

This Illustrator project will give you an actual picture! It could be a great starting point for a background you could use in the future. It is a bit more advanced than any of the other tutorials that I have highlighted, but I think you’ll be able to make it through! Just take a look agt my notes below and be sure to work through it slowly and pause it when you need to backtrack.

  • Tutorial Difficulty: 7/10
  • Time to complete: 1 hour and 50 minutes
  • Tutorial Type: Video
    • Run Time: 8:51
  • Presenter: 
    • She has an accent, but she is pretty easy to understand. 
    • She moves relatively fast and doesn’t completely explain everything that she does.
  • Adjustments for Cloud: none
  • What you need to know in order to do this tutorial:
    • Good understanding of the Pen Tool
    • Some experience in Illustrator to know where to find general tools.
  • Tutorial corrections:
    • She does not tell you how big to make the document size. I made mine 400 x 600 pixels.
    • She has swatches saved in her swatches panel. You can use the same instructions from the previous tutorial to do this, or you could just use the Color Guides panel to select different colors of blue.
    • If you don’t have the layers pallet open, you can find it by going to Window>Layers
    • IMAGE: Gradient At 4:05, she asks you to drag the blue color from the color panel. Instead, you can double click on the black circle and choose your color blue from the pop-up.
    • At 5:12, she asks you to go to Object>Expand Appearance. That option was not available for me, so I skipped that step and it did not affect my design.
    • At 6:06, she tells you to add hot air balloons to the design and gives you a link to learn how to make them. I did not do this and the total time does not include the making of the air balloons.
  • Ideas for creative license: 
    • You can really have fun with the mountain shapes! It’s easy to quickly reshape and rearrange the mountain shapes with the pen tool or the direct selection tool.
    • Play around with the different tints and shades of your colors. The presenter does this a little bit when she creates her sun, but you could play around with the color values throughout the design.

That’s all the value tutorials for this week! I hope they help you understand how to use value in your art and learn some valuable tools in Illustrator that you can use for future digital art lessons!