Create a Google Phone Styled Background in 6 Easy Steps

The new rumored “Nexus One” Google Phone has a pretty cool (and probably animated) background image. Today I’ll show you how to create that style with a few simple steps that powerfully integrate transparency modes to create cool lighting effects.

Brian Tom

Author: Brian Tom

Hi! My name is Brian Tom and I’m the San Francisco based Freelance Graphic Designer who works under the alias of Hoshimo. I focus mainly in logo and identity design, but when I can, I love designing anything I can get my sticky fingers on. Feel free to check out more of my work at Hoshimo.com, follow me on Facebook, or find me on Twitter.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Estimated Completion Time: 10-15 minutes

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image that you’ll get from working through this tutorial. Sweet huh! Here is the original phone image from Engadget. I’m also a strong believer of dissecting other people’s files to learn from them, so here is the .ai file (AICS3).

Step 1 – The Pattern Shapes

Create a new document in Illustrator with a Basic RGB Document Profile. 600px x 800px, 72ppi is good. Let’s start of with the patterned background. Create a 25px x 25px square using the Rectangle tool (M). Then using the Line Segment Tool ( \ ), click in the center of the square, and while holding Opt+Shift, drag it to the corners to create a perfect 45┬░ angle that divides the square from corner to corner. Do the same with the other side. Select everything and use the Divide Pathfinder from the Pathfinder Palette. Here is what you should have so far.

Step 2 – Finishing the Pattern

Now that each triangle within the square is a separate shape, we are going to color them in using shades of gray to give the shape some depth. The colors I am using are top: 20% black, left+right: 50% black, bottom: 70% black. The stroke is still there and we don’t want that, so select everything, hit ( X ) which switches focus between fill and stroke and then ( / ) which removes color. Now using the Rectangle tool (M) again, while holding Opt + Shift, drag from the center of the shape to just outside of it. Then hit Cmd + Shift + ( [ ) to send it to back. Give that square a 30% black. Copy that shape, paste to back (Cmd + B), make sure the fill and stroke is set to none, select the entire shape, and drag it into the swatches palette. this creates a pattern swatch that you can use. If you’re having weird issues, make sure the no-fill no-stroke square is all the way in the back.

Step 3 – The Background

If the pattern looks good, you can delete the original shapes or drag it off the artboard to the side. (if you do delete it but find out later that you need it again, just drag the swatch from the Swatches palette into the artboard to get your original editable pattern shape) Now create a large rectangle that fills up the artboard and fill it with your brand spankin’ new pattern. If all went well, it should look like one of those crazy studded belts you see those heavy metal rockers wearing. Copy the background shape and paste in front (Cmd + F). Fill it with a radial gradient and set the transparency to Multiply. I used R33/G188/B252 for the inner color and R0/G82/B138 for the outer color. Using the Gradient tool (G), give the background an effect of being lit closer to the top. This gives the entire background a cool, very editable color cast. It’s handy to use this method instead of coloring the actual pattern shapes blue because now if i wanted to change the color from blue to orange or to even a gradient mix of colors, i can easily do that just by changing the color of this shape. I’ve done this many times when having to create multiple icons of the same design but with different colors and trust me, it saves you hours of work.

Step 4 – The Beam

This is the fun part. Zoom way in to your background (best keyboard shortcuts ever? Cmd+Spacebar+Click to zoom in and Cmd+Opt+Spacebar+Click to zoom out) and create a rectangle that covers maybe 12 or so “studs.” Check the pic below if that doesn’t make sense. Make sure the rectangle perfectly covers the studs to the edges. Give the shape a Linear Gradient from a nice orange (R251/G164/B25) to black (R0/G0/B0) and set the transparency to Screen. Use the Gradient Tool and drag from the top of the shape to the bottom to give it a nice fade effect as if it was moving upwards and leaving a trail of light.

Step 5 – The Light

Create a 75px circle with the same orange-to-black gradient and place it in the center of the top square of our bream of light. Set the gradient to radial and set the Transparency to Screen. Now go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur and give it a 10px blur. Copy the shape and paste it in Front (Cmd+F). Using the Selection Tool (V) while holding Opt+Shift, drag one of the corners of the selection box in to shrink the copied circle a bit. Copy and Paste that one in front, and shrink a little more again. You should have 3 circles now. This will give us a nice light source that is super bright in the middle, but fades nicely.

Step 6

Copy the beam and light shapes, move them around, change the colors, and you have yourself an awesome google phone styled design!

Conclusion

We used some pretty fundamental Illustrator techniques and tools to create a sweet design that was inspired by online findings. Simple patterns, some powerful uses of transparency to create light and movement, and a great way to add color and depth in a very editable way to increase productivity are all techniques that can easily be applied to other ideas and work. I hope you enjoyed it!

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24 thoughts on “Create a Google Phone Styled Background in 6 Easy Steps

  1. My uncle who works at google was showing me this phone the other day and the first thing i noticed was the really cool background. And then this tut is like perfect! I’m gonna try to put my finished product on my own little phone.

  2. I cant get passed “I used R33/G188/B252 for the inner color and R0/G82/B138 for the outer color”. Im a beginner but i just cant understand how and where you change the inner and outer colour?! Taking me too long. please help

        • Hey, I’m running into a little problem(I’m a beginner) I was hoping you could help, every time my ‘beam’ is put to the orange and black linear gradient and have it over the ‘studs’ and set it to screen it just immediately just turns white and fades to nothing, it also does that with the circle.

          Please help!

          Thanks

          • I had the same issue with the screen effect. I figured out the problem was with CMYK mode. That trick only seems to work in RGB mode. You can change your document to RGB by going to File>Document Colour Mode>RGB Colour.

            Hope that helps!

  3. Troooooooooooooooooooooooooooon Awesome and very nice Heres a challenge
    try recreating the 1982 Tron light-cycle in Illustration in Illastrator, Now that would be some thing.

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