Deke’s Techniques 138: Creating a Superhero Shield in Adobe Illustrator

138 Creating a superhero shield in Illustrator

Have you ever wanted to create a superhero shield in Adobe Illustrator? Well, sure you have. I mean, it’s Captain America’s shield, for crap’s sake. And just in time for the Fourth of July! I mean, seriously, who on the face of this red, white, and blue planet is more patriotic than Captain America? Iron Man’s too wrapped up in himself. (Hey, like me!) Thor is an alien, and therefore ineligible to run for the office of Patriot. The Hulk just wants to smash (honestly, I gotta come up with a technique for this guy). Black Widow and Hawkeye are not superheros (altho Black Widow has a superbutt). And Loki hates our freedom. Okay, clearly, Nick Fury is a patriot, but he shoots at airborne enemies with a pistol, which makes him an idiot. So, really, the only one left standing is Captain America.

Better still, U.S trademark law does not protect his shield, so we can riff on it all we want.

Here’s the official description from

In this week’s epic episode of Deke’s Techniques, Deke guides you through the process of making a shiny superhero shield in Adobe Illustrator, festooned with all the obligatory gloriousness such an object would need to ward off the most nefarious of villains. But before you can add all that freedom-loving, evil-thwarting sparkle, you’ll need to create the properly aligned shapes of the shield first. This is one of those things that Illustrator makes slightly more complicated than you might expect. Never fear, you’ve got your Illustrator-superhero mentor (Deke) at your side.

Like any good hero’s journey, this adventure begins with a quest for the elusive center of a standard American-shaped, five-pointed star. Unfortunately, Illustrator’s Find Center command doesn’t help because it only reveals the center of the star’s rectangular bounding box, which—due to the laws of geometry—isn’t the center of the actual shape. Unthwarted, you’ll have to deconstruct your star, find the center of its five inner points, and then combine that center with a copy. After you’ve overcome that challenge, your path to adding the concentric circles that round out the shape is clear.

Once you’ve got the shape, armed with the Flare tool and an emboss effect, you can make your shield properly reflect light (and repel evil villains), as shown below.

A patriotic Captain American superhero shield created from scratch in Adobe Illustrator

In just 17 minutes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your own Illustrator superhero.

Happy Fourth of July a day early! Deke will be back next week with another festive technique!

Next week, I’ll show you how to make that very same super-shield photorealistic in Photoshop.

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  • But can it only be done in CS6?


    Followed your lastest clip over at Lynda. The one where you transfer appearance free shapes in Ai over to PS and then jump the selected paths to their own layers. But this does not work in CS5 (also big difference in the layers panel with shape layers - no masks shown?). Also Ctrl Shift J does not work at all for me in CS5 with paths selected. I did find a workaround but maybe easier ways? You can select each shape layer in Ai and copy and carry over to PS. Each shape positions in place on top of the first, second and so one (much the way you did it) on its own shape layer and can be worked from there. Is that the only or easiest way to do if not in CS6? Actually it probably is just as fast as doing it the way you show in CS6.

    One other feature I like about AI for paths. I was recreating an old multi-line graph with unusual graph lines (curving lines). Using the pen tool in PS to trace the curve and then trying to stroke the path leads to a complete closed loop - rather than the line stroked you get a closed shape outline. But if you trace with the pen in Ai and carry the selected path back over to PS it works. So can you only work with closed paths in PS and open paths in Ai?  I hope the above makes sense



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