As Christmas is getting closer, you can 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 any Christmas scene you want. Using the Distort Tool technique, you can easily create a realistic Christmas tree texture in Adobe Illustrator. Once you’ve created the texture of your Christmas tree, it’s easy to add decorations or gifts.

How to make a Christmas tree in Illustrator

Before you add decorations, baubles, a star on top, or twinkling fairy lights, you need to build the tree itself. The texture you are going to create provides the realistic spindles you would find on a real Christmas tree.

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

Step 1: Create a Green Gradient

Start with a blank artboard in Adobe Illustrator. You can stick your finished tree on a different background later. You can also use it to create Christmas cards 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, go to Window > Gradient to open it manually.

On the Gradient panel, double-click the circular switch to the left of the Gradient slider and choose Light Green. Then double-click the right-hand circular swatch on the slider and select Dark Green. You can also choose black. You need enough contrast between the two colors to give your tree some shade.

Create and paste ellipses to fill tree shape

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

Go to the Layers panel and choose 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, perhaps a large triangle or a more varied or natural shape with layers of shapes. Once you have created the tree shape, lock the layer by selecting it in place next to the eye icon on the Layers panel.

Select again the layer with the ellipse on it. You are going to paste the circle several times in the shape of your drawn Christmas tree. The rough linework will be on top so you can see it—you’ll remove it later.

Paste your ellipses repeatedly 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 your circles as you paste for a finished result or place them next to each other for a sparse look at the end.

Create Christmas Tree Texture

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

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

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

Add Layers for Extra Texture

You can move around different ornaments to give your tree some more dimension. Try rotating some of them so the gradient moves, making some larger or smaller, or arranging some further or further back for more natural layering.

If you want to add more texture and dimension to your tree, take your already glued tree and remove or resize some of the ornaments. This time, group the orbs together after selecting them all by hitting Cmd+G (Mac) or Ctrl+G (Windows).

With this group selected, go to Effects > Distort & Transform > Roughen and set the Roughen settings slightly different than in the previous step. Select OK when you’re happy.

Place this tree group on top of your original tree, then right-click it and choose Arrange > Send to Back. This adds extra texture and hides any gaps, but it’s a completely optional step.

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