Create Dazzling Vector Fireworks in Illustrator

Fireworks are a beautiful visual spectacle. Discover how to create vector fireworks in Illustrator in this easy to follow tutorial. Created in Illustrator CS6.

1. Create the background

Set the Fill color to black and draw a rectangle/square that matches the dimensions of your document. Fireworks look best in the dark so this is your night sky. Once complete, lock the layer in the Layer's panel.


2. Draw the firework trails

Use the Rounded Rectangle tool to create a thin vertical rounded rectangle. Simply click within the document to summon the tool's options. Use the values shown and click OK.


3. Crimp the bottom end

Zoom in to the bottom of the trail shapes to make this step easier. Use the Delete Anchor Point tool to delete the two side anchor points of the trail to get the result shown on the right. Enable Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides) to make locating the anchor points easier.


4. Apply a gradient to the trail shape

Here's where you decide the color of your firework. I'm going with a classic gold color. As such, select your trail shape and click the gradient fill at the base of the toolbar to set the fill color. Here are the settings and values I've chosen.


5. Rotate and copy the trail

Select the trail shape and then click on the Rotate tool. Now, hold down the Option key (Alt key on Windows) as you click on the remaining anchor point at the bottom of the trail shape. This will display the tool's settings. Enter the values shown and click the Copy button.


Create additional copies in the shape of the circle by holding down the Command key on your keyboard and then repeatedly pressing the D key. You can also go to Object > Transform > Transform Again but the shortcut key is way easier. Here's the result of the transformation.


6. Copy and rotate the shapes

Select all of the trail shapes and make a copy using Edit > Copy. Paste the copied shapes into the document using Edit > Paste in Front to maintain precise positioning. Now rotate the shapes using the bounding box around the selection


7. Scale the copies down

Next, scale the copies down using the bounding box. Press and hold down the Shift key and the Option key (Alt key on Windows) and click and drag a corner handle (of the bounding box) into the firework shape.


8. Create a circle

Lock the layer the firework shape is on and create a new layer above it in the Layers panel. Use the Ellipse tool to draw a circle that originates from the center of the trail shapes. The circle should closely match the outer dimensions of the longer trails. Hold the Shift key and the Option key down as you click in the center and drag outwards to maintain precise position.


9. Apply a gradient to the circle

Fill the circle with a radial gradient. I'm using the same gradient as I used on my trail shape to color the circle with the gold color in the center and the dark transparent color on the outside. Note that I adjusted the midpoint marker (above the gradient bar in the Gradient panel) to the right to increase the amount of glow the gradient has.


10. Change the circle's blending mode

This is a small step but makes the trail shapes a little more vivid. Select the circle and select the Lighten blending mode in the Transparency panel.


11. Create the first sparkle

Select the Ellipse tool and click in an empty area of your document to display the tool's settings. You want to create a very small circle. As you can see, I chose to create a 3 pt circle. Apply a white fill to the circle once you draw it.


12. Apply a glow

Select the circle and apply a glow effect (Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow) using the values shown.


13. Convert to a symbol

Drag the glowing circle onto the Symbols panel to create a symbol. To keep things orderly, name your sparkle (as you'll be creating a few more) and use the settings shown for Symbol Options. Click OK.


14. Spray the symbol on the firework shape

Select the Symbol Sprayer tool and spray a number of copies of the symbol on the firework shape. Try to keep within the bounds of the shape.


If you need more control over the Symbol Sprayer tool, just double-click on it in the toolbar to pull up its settings. Here are the values I used.


15. Create another sparkle shape

Lock the layer you created the first sparkle on and create a new one above it in the Layer's panel. This will just make things more manageable.

Use the Star tool to create your next sparkle. Keeping with the color scheme of gold, I created a 4 point gold star. I used the same 3 pt circle as I drew before to accent the star shape. The white fill will help the sparkle "shine" a little more. These sparkles are really small. I've zoomed in by 900% to show you detail.


16. Apply a glow, convert to a symbol, spray

For the sake of not creating too many tutorial steps, I'll be more concise here. Select your sparkle shapes and apply an outer glow effect to them (Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow) using the same settings as before.


Drag the sparkle onto the Symbols panel (I named this one "Medium Sparkle") and spray into the fireworks shape. Again, try to keep the symbol copies within the general fireworks shape. When done, lock this layer.


16. Create a final sparkle

Create a new layer for this last sparkle. This sparkle shape is just a bit larger and detailed than the previous two. It consists of that small white circle again in front of two differently colored (but still golden) 6 sided stars.


I used the Direct Selection tool to manipulate some of the points on the star shapes to give it a more random, less than perfect look.


17. Wait! Group the star shapes together

I recommend grouping the star and circles shapes together before you apply the glow effect. The reason: if you group the shapes together, only one glow effect will be applied. If you don't group the shapes, a glow effect will be applied to every shape and create too much of a glow for the firework. So, select all your sparkle shapes and apply the Group command to them (Object > Group).

Now apply the glow effect to the group (Effect > Apply Outer Glow).


Convert this to a symbol (named mine "Big Sparkle") and spray into the fireworks shape.


18. Adjust the big sparkles

We need to position some of the big sparkles on the ends of the fireworks trails. To do this, select your symbol set and click the Break Link to Symbol command.


Apply the Ungroup command just once (Object > Ungroup) so you can select individual sparkles. Ungroup too many times and the glow effect will disappear and you'll be working with the sparkle's individual shapes. NOT what you want.

In the following image, I've made position adjustments to a number of the big sparkles making sure to cover the ends of the trail shapes. I also moved some sparkles to fill empty areas and made copies to fill in other areas where I didn't have enough sparkles.


19. Final thoughts and adjustments

Bear in mind that you can make adjustments to any of the parts that make up the fireworks. If the glow circle is too bright, adjust its opacity level or even its blending mode. Too much uniformity of the other sparkles? Use the other Symbol tools to make adjustments, particularly those highlighted below.


Here's my final version after making some spacing and color adjustments.


About the author

My name is Mike Hamm. I like robots. I'm a designer, author, teacher and illustrator. I currently work as a Senior Designer at Expedia. I'm co-author of Introduction to Web Design Using Dreamweaver and have contributed articles and artwork to Layers Magazine as well as several Illustrator WOW! books. I've also been teaching and developing Adobe Illustrator courses for Sessions College for Professional Design since 2003. You can view my never complete portfolio website:

1 Comment

  1. Kyra says:

    Is it possible that you should also create a new layer between step 1 and step 2? Because it does not say so in your descrpition but I could not get it right before creating a new layer.

    Exept that one little thing the description is very good. It was easy to follow. Thanks!


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