Just in time for the the holiday season, this Adobe® Fireworks® tutorial will show you how to create a silky, flowing ribbon; the type that you could slap onto your graphic elements to make them more festive. I hope you enjoy my tiny Christmas present.
I apologize in advance for the shoddy typography. If anyone knows how to add a nice perspective to Text On A Path, let me know.
Drawing The Ribbon Body
Start off with a blank canvas, and use the Pen Tool to draw a Bézier curve that will be our basis for the “flow” of the ribbon. (See Figure 1.) Early on, keep in mind the following visualizations:
- The line will become the bottom edge of the ribbon, and
- The sharp curves will become the folds of the ribbon.
Figure 1. Draw Bézier curve of ribbon flow.
With the curve still selected, Duplicate it (Ctrl+Alt+D) and move it upwards until you get the desired height of your ribbon. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 2. Duplicate curve for ribbon height.
(Duplicate the same curve again, but this time, hide it from view (Ctrl+L); we’ll need it later.)
Use the Subselection Tool to nudge the specified nodes of the duplicate curve. (See Figure 3.) This will give us a flared perspective, making parts of the ribbon appear closer.
Figure 3. Nudge nodes for flare perspective.
With the Subselection Tool still active, select one end node of the duplicate curve . (See Figure 4.) Switch to the Pen Tool to add a V-shaped “snip” after the selected node. Place the last node of the snip into the corresponding end node of the original curve to connect both curves together . Do the same for the other ends of the two curves to close the shape up [3, 4]. You now have your basic ribbon structure with snipped ends.
Figure 4. Add V-shaped snips to close ribbon shape.
Fill our ribbon shape with a nice, rich base color of your choice. In keeping with the holiday spirit, lets color this one festive red. (See Figure 5.)
Figure 5. Fill the ribbon shape with color.
Use the Pen Tool to draw shapes that will fill in the empty parts of the ribbon shape. (See Figure 6.) Notice that I drew in concave curves where the folds of the ribbon will create edges. Once you’re satisfied with the overlapping of the images, select them all and do a Union (Modify → Combine Paths → Union). (See Figure 7.)
Figure 6. Draw shapes to fill in the gaps.
Figure 7. Union to create a solid ribbon shape.
Remember the duplicate curve that we hid previously? Bring it back into view by selecting the layer for that curve, then put it above the layer of the ribbon shape we just made. (See Figure 8.) This line will serve as our guide for drawing the rest of the stuff into the ribbon.
Figure 8. Bring back original curve as guide.
Adding The Details
Now on to the fun part: putting in the shadows and highlights! You’ll be using the Pen tool exclusively for the rest of the steps, so get your wrists and fingers warmed up properly.
The Front Section
Draw a shape that will trace over the front section of the ribbon, leaving a small gap of about 1 pixel along the top edge. (See Figure 9.) Fill this shape with a gradient going from left to right (black:100 → black:0 → black:0 → black:100)*, and give it an opacity of 30%. This will create shadows towards both ends of the front section. The small gap we left at the top creates a subtle highlight for the top edge. Can you say, “two birds, one stone?”
Figure 9. Add shadow to the ends of front section.
Next, draw a shape that roughly covers part of the front section not affected by the shadow we drew in earlier. (See Figure 10.) Leave a small gap along the top edge, just the same, but also leave a gap of about 2 pixels along the bottom edge. Fill this shape with a gradient going from left to right (white:100 → white:0 → white:0 → white:100), and give it an opacity of 30%.
Figure 10. Add highlight to front section.
Between The Folds
Now, draw a shape that traces over the left middle section of the ribbon (the one between the two folds), leaving a gap along the top edge, as well. (See Figure 11.) Fill this shape with a gradient going from left to right (black:100 → black:0 → black:0 → black:75), and give it an opacity of 40%. Space the gradient opacity handles such that the middle handles are closer to the right; this will give the appearance of darker shadows inside the fold than the outside.
Figure 11. Add shadow to middle section.
A Secondary Shadow
Let’s add another shadow; one that’s caused by a point source, such as a spotlight (as opposed to ambient light that’s diffused). Draw a shape inside the last shadow that swishes from the upper edge of the left fold moving towards (but not touching) the lower edge of the right fold, and close it by tracing back up along our curve guide. (See Figure 12.) Fill this shape with a gradient going from left to right (black:100 → black:0), and give it an opacity of 20%.
Figure 12. Add secondary shadow to middle section.
Repeat the last couple of steps to add shadows to the lower fold. (See Figures 13 & 14.) Draw your shapes within the right half of the area of the left bottom section of the ribbon (the one with the snip), this time with the gradients going from right to left.
Figure 13. Add shadow to bottom section.
Figure 14. Add secondary shadow to bottom section.
Next, draw a shape that traces along the left half of the bottom portion, leaving a small gap along all edges you encounter. (See Figure 15.) Fill this shape with a gradient going from the apex of the snip towards the right (white:100 → white:0), and give it an opacity of 30%. This will highlight the end of the ribbon, as well as create shadows along the edge of the snip.
Figure 15. Add highlight to end of ribbon.
Mirror The Details
Lastly, repeat the last several steps for creating the highlights and shadows on the right side of the ribbon. (See Figure 16.) You’ll need to draw the shapes manually to get the right curves, but for copying the gradient values over, you can follow my…
Gradient Mirroring Mini-Tutorial
- Select the shape whose gradient you want to mirror, and Copy it (Ctrl+C);
- Select the shape to which you wish to apply the mirrored gradient, and flip it (Modify → Transform → Flip Horizontal/Vertical) according to the direction of the gradient (in this case, horizontally);
- Paste the attributes (Ctrl+Shift+Alt+V) of the copied shape onto the selected shape;
- Flip it back the same way you did in #2 (in this case, horizontally); and
- Yell, “kick-ass!”
Figure 16. Mirror details onto other side of ribbon.
As a finishing touch, change the color of our curve guide to a dark red and move it up to the topmost layer. This will create a pronounced bottom edge shadow.
And there you go: you’ve a.) completed a graphic element that’s ready for use, and b.) created a new canvas on which to put other stuff to make it more attractive/functional. For instance, you can add some text to the ribbon. In my final product, for example, I created a Text On A Path (Orientation: Skew Vertical) and adjusted the size of each letter (poorly) to allow it to flow with the ribbon. (See Figure 17.) You can also add some Victorian or Celtic accents, like those intricate decorative ribbons have.
Figure 17. Final product.
I hope you find this useful, even after the holidays are over. If you have suggestions of other things to put in the ribbon, or if you get to use this in a project, do drop me a comment; I’d appreciate it. Merry Christmas to all!
* Gradient notation: (color1:opacity1 [→ color2:opacity2 [→ ... colorN:opacityN])
Need a quick sample to study? Download the source PNG (tutorial07.zip, 84KB) for this tutorial.