Illustrator Tutorial: How to Create a Colorful Retro Style Poster

From this Adobe Illustrator tutorial you will learn how to create a colorful retro style poster using gradients, geometric shapes, patterns and 3D effects.


All CS versions of Adobe Illustrator are applicable.

End result:

Step 1

Create a new .ai document of 3000px height and 2000px width. If you like to print the resulting image, set resolution to 300 dpi and color mode to CMYK. For the purpose of this online tutorial, I’ll use 72 dpi and RGB color mode.

Firstly we are going to make the background.

Select Rectangle Tool from the Tools Bar and draw a rectangle to cover your Art Board. While the background rectangle is selected, open the Swatch Libraries menu (Window, Swatches), select Gradients from the fly out menu, then select Sky. From Sky gradients swatches choose Sky 14. Now your art board will be covered in a lovely sunset colored gradient.

I have shown at the right hand side of my screenshot how to find the sky gradient among the many swatch libraries.

Step 2

Now we are going to add a lovely exotic pattern to the background. While the Background rectangle is selected, go to Appearance panel (Window, Appearance), click on the tiny black arrow at the upper right hand side of the panel to call the fly out menu. Select Add New Fill. Now go to the Swatch Libraries menu, select Patterns, Decorative, Decorative Primitive and choose Mayan Bricks Color.

In Transparency panel (Window, Transparency) change Blend Mode to Luminosity and reduce Opacity to only 5 %.

Step 3

Select Rounded Rectangle Tool and click onto your art board to call the Rounded Rectangle dialog box. For Width option insert 130px, change Height to 1900px and set Corner Radius to 80px.

Open Swatch Libraries menu (Window, Swatches), select Gradients, Metals and fill the selected Rounded Rectangle with Gold gradient.

Step 4

In this step we are going to multiply the previously created rounded rectangle. Select it with Selection Tool, hold down Alt key and move aside the Rounded Rectangle to duplicate it. Repeat this action five more times. When ready, try to arrange your rounded rectangles as per my screenshot. Play with Transparency and Opacity. For three of the rounded rectangles I changed Transparency to Overlay and reduced Opacity to 90%. The other four rectangles are with Soft Light transparency option, Opacity: 100%.

It is not obligatory to follow me 100%. You can choose other gradient and different settings for Transparency and Opacity.

Step 5

Add five thinner rounded rectangles to your design. Fill the two rectangles in the middle with Gold Gradient from Metals Gradients set, then for the two left rectangles (one of them placed in front of the golden one) choose Ruby gradient (from Gems and Jewels gradient set) and finally fill the right side rectangle with Copper gradient (from Metals gradients set).

It’s time to play again with Transparency and Opacity options.

Change Transparency of the first rounded rectangle (from left to right) to Multiply and reduce Opacity to 15%. For the second ruby filled rectangle choose the same Multiply Transparency and decrease Opacity to 9%. For the two golden rectangles choose Exclusion type of Transparency and set Opacity to between 7 and 11%. Change Transparency of the copper filled rectangle to Overlay.

Use Selection Tool to select all rounded rectangles created in Step 4 and Step 5 and press Ctrl+G to group them.


Have a look at my screenshot to get a better impression of how I have processed those gradient filled rounded rectangles.