How to Make a Christmas Tree in Adobe Illustrator

As Christmas is getting closer, you might want to start making Christmas crafts. Digital crafting allows you to enjoy the season without the expense or waste of paper crafts.

Adobe Illustrator enables you to draw or create whatever Christmas scene takes your fancy. Using the distort tools technique, you can easily make a realistic Christmas tree texture in Adobe Illustrator. Once you have your Christmas tree texture in place, it’s easy to add decorations or presents.

How to Create a Christmas Tree in Illustrator

Before you add the decorations, baubles, a star on top, or flashing fairy lights, you need to build the tree itself. The texture you’re about to create provides realistic spindles that you’d find on a real Christmas tree.

These easy steps use simple Adobe Illustrator tools, but the result looks complex, impressive, and in line with the Christmas spirit.

Step 1: Make a Green Gradient

Start with an empty artboard in Adobe Illustrator. You can paste your finished tree onto another background later. You can even use it to create a Christmas card in Photoshop.

On the toolbar, set the Fill color swatch to Gradient and the Stroke color swatch to None. Selecting the gradient swatch should bring up the Gradient panel, but if it doesn’t pop up then go to Window > Gradient to manually open it.

On the Gradient panel, double-click the left circular swatch on the Gradient slider and choose a light green. Then double-click the right-hand circular swatch on the slider and select a dark green hue. You also could choose black. You need enough contrast between the two shades to give your tree some shadows.

Step 2: Create and Paste Ellipses to Fill the Tree Shape

Adobe Illustrator green gradient ellipse on white Artboard.

Select the Ellipse tool (L). Ensuring the Fill is set to your green gradient, draw a small ellipse on the artboard—hold down Shift while drawing to keep it an equal circle. With the ellipse shape still selected, copy it by hitting Cmd + C (Mac) or Ctrl + C (Windows).

Adobe Illustrator artboard with rough Christmas tree outline.

Go to the Layers panel and select Create New Layer. Then select the Pencil tool (N) or Paintbrush tool (B) and draw your rough tree shape. You can choose whatever tree shape you like, maybe a large triangle or a more diverse or natural shape with shaped layers. Once you’ve drawn the tree shape, lock the layer by selecting the space next to the Eye icon on the Layers panel.

Adobe Illustrator Christmas tree pasted with green orbs.

Reselect the layer with the ellipse on it. You’re going to paste the circle multiple times into your drawn Christmas tree shape. The rough linework will remain on the top so you can see it—you’ll remove it later.

Adobe Illustrator Christmas tree made of green orbs.

Repeatedly paste your ellipse using Cmd + V (Mac) or Ctrl + V (Windows) and arrange them using the Selection tool (V) until your tree shape is filled. It doesn’t have to be neat. You can layer up your circles as you paste them for a fuller result or place them next to one another for a sparse look at the end.

Step 3: Create the Christmas Tree Texture

Once you’ve filled your tree shape, hide or delete the outline layer. Then with the Selection tool (V), click and drag over your tree to select all the circles. Copy the tree selection and paste it outside your artboard—you can use it to make thicker layers later if you want to.

Adobe Illustrator with rough Christmas tree texture.

Go back to the original tree and select it again by clicking and dragging your cursor over it.

Now you can add the Christmas tree texture. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Set the Size between 40%80%, but experiment with the result you want. Then set the Detail to around 80. When you’re happy with the result, select OK. This is the basis of your Christmas tree.

You can move individual orbs to give your tree some more dimension. Try rotating some of them so the gradient moves, making some bigger or smaller, or arranging some to the front or back for more natural layering.

Adobe Illustrator two Christmas trees.

If you want to add further texture and dimension to your tree, take your previously pasted tree and remove or resize some of the orbs. This time, group the orbs together after you’ve selected them all by hitting Cmd + G (Mac) or Ctrl + G (Windows).

Adobe Illustrator rough texture Christmas tree

With this group selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and set the Roughen settings a little differently than in the previous step. Select OK once you’re happy.

Christmas Tree on Adobe Illustrator Artboard.

Place this tree group on top of your original tree, then right-click it and select Arrange > Send to Back. This adds extra texture and hides any gaps there may have been, but it is a totally optional step.

Step 5: Style Your Christmas Tree

With Illustrator’s shape and path tools, you can easily add simple Christmas decorations to your tree. This gives it a personal touch and a more realistic result. Use your own Christmas tree as inspiration for the decorations.

Add the Star

Select the Star tool and hold Shift while drawing a star. Size it and place your star at the top of the tree.

Christmas tree with golden star on Adobe Illustrator.

Select the star and select the Gradient swatch on the toolbar. Set the left circular swatch on the slider to a light yellow and set the right circular swatch to a dark yellow, orange, or brown hue to replicate golden shadows. Change the gradient type to Radial.

Hang Baubles

Adobe Illustrator Christmas bauble.

For traditional red baubles, use the Ellipse tool (L) to draw a small circle, holding down Shift to ensure it stays equal. Again, select the Gradient Fill option, but this time set the colors to shades of red, keeping on the Radial gradient setting.

Adobe Illustrator Christmas tree with red baubles.

Once you’re happy with the gradient, copy and paste the red bauble around your tree in whichever pattern you want to hang the decorations.

Adobe Illustrator Bring to Front setting.

To add some realism to your tree illustration, right-click a few of the baubles and select Arrange > Send Backward. Or alternatively, you can right-click random spiked tree elements and select Arrange > Bring to Front.

Adobe Illustrator Christmas tree full of baubles.

This adds layers of tree spindles to look like the baubles are hanging within the tree and are not just pasted on top. You can also add fairy lights and animate your Illustrator drawing in Adobe After Effects, so they twinkle. You could use your tree animation to send an eCard to loved ones.

Plant the Tree in a Pot

Whether your illustration is a real or fake Christmas tree, you should add a plant pot below it to give it something to stand in. No Christmas tree floats willy-nilly on the floor.

Use the Rectangle tool (M) and draw a rectangle at the base of the tree. Then select the Direct Selection tool (A) and select the bottom left corner anchor and drag it inwards slightly. Do the same with the bottom right corner anchor. This results in a flowerpot shape.

Adobe Illustrator Christmas tree with brown gradient.

Then select your pot and choose the Gradient Fill option. Using a vertical Linear gradient setting, choose hues of browns—or whatever color of base you’d prefer—and move the Gradient slider settings so the lighting hits the pot shape realistically.

If you’re happy with the color, right-click the pot and choose Arrange > Send to Back. Now your tree stands inside the plant pot.

If you need to scale your tree up or down, ensure you scale your strokes proportionally in Illustrator. Once you’ve finished your tree illustration, you can easily sell it along with your other graphic design work or incorporate it into a design challenge competition.

Create a Realistic Christmas Tree in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a great tool for illustrating almost anything. Using its Roughen tool allows you to create a realistic fir tree texture for your Christmas tree illustration. It’s easy to add extra tree decorations like baubles or tinsel using similar techniques to customize your tree.

Once you’ve illustrated your Christmas tree, you can easily turn it into a Christmas card, eCard, or add it to other Christmas designs.

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