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Lately I’ve noticed an increase in popularity of the “Double Exposure” or “Multiple Exposure” photographic effect. Normally I would consider this effect best done within your analogue camera, but we are living in the digital age and there are a number of tutorials out there to re-create the effect in Photoshop. In this tutorial, we are going to use this concept to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 1: Make a silhouette. I don’t think I need to list out step by step how to create a silhouette in Illustrator as it is fairly simple. The only thing you need to do is make sure that once you are done, the silhouette is one combined object.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 2: Make a copy of your silhouette and save it on a hidden layer. We aren’t going to be using the copy, but it is always a good idea to save it just in case. On the same layer as your original copy of the silhouette, place a rectangle at the same dimensions as your art board and place it behind the silhouette. The color I am using here is #E8DBCB.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 3: We are going to use the silhouette to cut out and blank area from the background, which will allow us to draw within the confines of the silhouette shape. To do this, make sure that your silhouette is in front of the background triangle. Select both objects and through the Pathfinder click on “Exclude”.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

The exclude tool will usually take the color of the object on top, so you may have to set your background back to its original color. I’ve placed a rectangle behind the cutout shape so you can see that the silhouette is now cut out from the background.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 4: Lock this layer and create a new layer under it. We are going to start drawing out some flowers to show below the cutout shape. Before I start drawing, I usually like to set up my color palette. For this drawing I will be using a 5 color palette. From top to bottom: # 382C2A, # 8D5451, #AB5C53, #DD5848, # E68C79. These are going to be my base colors, I will be using them as the midtones and adding shadows and highlights based off these colors.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 5: Create a new layer under your silhouette cut out. This is where we are going to add our flower illustration. To get started you can either start drawing free hand, or paste in a reference image. This can be anything you want, really as long as it fits in with the overall composition. I like to use a large bunch of flowers. The great part about putting the image under the silhouette is that you can move the image around and get the composition down before you start drawing.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 6: Create a new layer above your image. We are going to start by applying our palette to create groupings of the flowers. Choose one or two flowers for each color. As you work it is best to keep each color grouping on its own layer. Here is what it looks like as we work through each color:

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 7: Now that we have our basic grouping down, we can start adding some strokes. As you work through this step, what you want to do is give the outlines of each flower a heavier stroke and then we can add the lighter strokes. I personally like to use the pencil tool for my outlines so that I can change the Variable Width profile as I work, but you can use whichever tool you are most comfortable with.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

As I work through adding the outlines I will be turning my flower reference image on and off to help with placing the outlines.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

As you can see, I tend to get a little messy when I draw out the lines. That is OK as I will just adjust the basic shapes later once I am happy with the main outlines. As I work, I am using the Width Profile 2 on my strokes. Your stroke weight will depend on the size of your artboard, but I am using a 3pt stroke here.

Here we are done with the thick lines.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 8: Next we are going to add some shading starting with the lightest color flowers first. To make the shading task a little easier, we are going to be using blends. Since everybody’s image is going to be a little different, I am going to just cover the basics of adding in the shading. First thing is to create a new layer above the flower fill layer. Select one of your flowers and copy it, then past it into your new layer. Make sure to use Ctrl + F so that it pastes back into the same spot.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 9: We are going to use the flower shape to help make quick work of our blends, so you want make sure you keep a copy of the overall flower shape copied onto your clipboard (don’t cut or copy any other objects and it will stay there ready to be pasted again). Start off by blocking out the areas where you are going to want the shading to be. Make sure to join the path when you are done drawing it (ctrl + J). These shapes are going to be the outermost part of our blend. I have made my shapes blue in the screenshot so you can see.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 10: This is where keeping a copy of the main flower is going to save us time. One at a time, you will want to cut any of the shapes that extend over the edge of the main flower shape. To do this quickly, just select the main flower shape, hold down shift and click on a shape that falls off the side of the flower, then click Intersect from the pathfinder. This will cut off any parts of your object that extend past the lines of your flower. Repeat this step until all of your shapes are within the flower.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 11: Change the color of the shapes to the same color as your flower. You will then draw another shape that will be the start of our shadow. After you draw the new shape, use the Intersect from the Pathfinder Palette like you did in Step 10.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 12: With both object selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options… Choose Specified steps then type in a number around 25. The number of steps you’ll need will depend on how large your artwork is, so adjust accordingly. If you notice the steps are too visible, enter a higher number. Click OK, then go to Object > Blend > Make or hit Ctrl + Alt + B.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 13: When you make your blends, you will run into issues where the blend doesn’t line up with your main shape.
How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

When this happens, you will need to adjust your blended shapes until they line up. The culprit is usually the outermost shape. Just move the lines around a little until the blend lines up.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 14: Repeat these steps throughout your design until you have shading throughout the design. I’m going to go ahead and fast forward here to what it looks like with all of the shading done on each color group.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator
How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator



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How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 15: Now we are going to give the design more of a sketchy look. Create a new layer above your main outline layers. Set your stroke to the same color as the main outlines and start drawing out more sketchy lines. After you have drawn out all of the lines, you will want to set their transparency to Darken at around 50%. I am using Variable Width Profile 2 on the strokes with the stroke weight set to 1 pt.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

As you draw, keep it loose and follow along your main outlines and also try to fill in the darker shadow areas.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 16: Now we are going to add some light texture. Create a new layer. Using the Ellipse tool, draw a very small dot and drag it over to the brush palette to create a new scatter brush. Your settings will differ depending on your image size, brush stroke, etc. Basically you want the spots to be spread out and fairly small.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 17: Start out by going over the darkest portions of the design and apply the scatter brush to these areas.
How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator
Continue until you have worked your way through all of the flowers.
How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 18: Make a copy of your scatter brush by clicking and dragging it down to the “new brush” icon.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 19: Double click the new scatter brush. Make sure the Colorization method is set to “Tints” and increase the overall size of the brush.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Step 20: Create a new layer under your dark speckle and outline layers and start adding some lighter color grunge. I chose a light beige color and set the transparency to Overlay at 100%.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

At this point you can this one done. If you want to scratch it up a little more, you can always overlay a grunge texture.

How to create a double exposure illustration in Adobe Illustrator

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