Introduction: Incredibly Easy Cigarette Smoke in Adobe Illustrator

About: I'm a novice electronics hobbyist. I am a Steampunk fanatic and am a bit obsessed with LEDs... and Star Trek, Star Wars, geeky stuff in general, things that are shiny, bacon, robots, zombies, Doctor Who, zoo a…

I love Adobe Illustrator, being that I create vector art as a hobby. Recently, while vectoring a piece created by a friend of mine I found that the cigarette smoke I had started with needed at least 80% more awesome then I had originally thought. So, while figuring out how to make it, I figured I would share it with my 'ible pals as well.

This 'ible will show you how to easily make a vector object of cigarette or other light, whispy smoke.

You will need some minor experience with Adode software. (dublicating, selecting, tools, etc).

-Adobe Illustrator CS2 or higher.
-A computer to run IA

Step 1: Create Your Workspace

Open IA and create a new, blank document. This can be any size/shape as you can copy and paste your smoke as needed to any size later (one of the HUGE advantages of vector images).
If you plan on printing this or submitting a shirt design, or really any real world media, make sure to create a CMYK document, as the colors will come out better when printed.

Step 2: Make Your First "Feather".

When making the smoke, I call the pieces "feathers" because of their rough shape. Feel free to call them what you want.
Select the Pen Tool and make a point near the top of the workspace. Hold Shift and create another point about half way or farther down the workspace.
While still holding the mouse button, let go of Shift and move your mouse to adjust the curve of your newly created line. You will see the "handle" of the curve follow your mouse with a twin handle mimicking the length and angle on the opposite side. Watch this twin handle and adjust the curve until this handle is roughly half the length of your line and slightly to one side of the line itself.

You should now have half of a feather. Congrats!

Finish the feather by clicking your original point and following the same process for the new curve.
Remove the Stroke from the object and set the fill color to something easy to see, say... gray!

Step 3: Dublicate and Adjust Feathers

Now give it a little extra detail.
Copy your feather twice: Once to the left, and once to the right. Once duplicated, rotate each new feather away from the original. You don't need to rotate them very far though. I would say anywhere from 3 to 5 degrees will do it.
Next scale each duplicated down, vertically, from the top a bit. I usually make one a bit shorter than the other, but this is up to you as the artist.
Once rotated and scaled, move the 2 outside feathers so they share the same base point as the original, as in the image shown here. This is also your chance to make the feathers a bit taller if needed, as I have here.
You know have the base set for your smoke!

Step 4: Get Warped Bro!

Let's get a few of those sexy curves into the smoke. Make sure all 3 of your feathers are selected. Do this via the Select Tool (black arrow) or on the layers pallet.
Grab your Warp tool. in case you don't know where it is: This tool icon looks like a finger poking at a line (also shown selected in the image). Once the warp tool is activated, hold Alt, then Shift and move your mouse to adjust the brush size to be roughly 1/3 of the size of your feathers.
Once your brush size is set, click and hold on your mouse and run the warp tool over your feathers in a "Z" shape.
This will have pushed your smoke around, giving it the familiar bends of smoke.

Step 5: Add a Little Wind

Everything affects air in a room, and that air affects smoke.
This step is optional but will give your smoke an extra detail.
Activate your Twirl Tool, located in the same tool set as the warp tool (click and hold on the warp tool icon and the alternate tools will appear).
Use the same method of adjusting this tool's brush size as you did for the warp tool. I usually make it about half the size of the feathers/smoke, but again this is up to you. Find 3 points along the smoke and make a quick click at each, spinning your smoke inward slightly.

Step 6: Smoke!

There you go!
Sexy vectored cigarette smoke. Use it for your school project, your billboard, maybe even just for something awesome.
Above you can see an example of what I used/designed if for. Original artwork was done by

Thanks and enjoy!