Tutorial: How to create a Bokeh vector background in Illustrator

In this tutorial we will create some cool Bokeh, quick and easy using simple gradients and blending modes.

Difficulty: Intermediate

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Completion time: 30 min – 1 hr

Tools used: Adobe Illustrator CS3

This is how the final image looks like.


Create a new document of 600 x 600 px.


Let’s create a base background for our image.

Grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your canvas. Set the dimensions to 600×600 px, then hit OK. Open the Color window (F6) and set its Fill to 90% black. If you don’t see the grayscale “slider”, open the drop-down menu from the top right corner of the window and select “Grayscale”. Make sure you have no Stroke on the rectangle.


Let’s align our shape with the canvas.

Select the rectangle using the Selection Tool (V), then open the “Align to clipboard” menu on the top menu bar. Now click the “Horizontal Align Center” and “Vertical Align Center” buttons.


Open the Gradient window and add the colors like below. Then apply it to our shape at a -45 degrees angle.


Open the Transparency window (Window > Transparency or CTRL+SHIFT+F10) and set the rectangle’s transparency to Overlay.


Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and click your canvas. Set both Width and Height to 407 px. Now set the Fill and Stroke colors like below. Open the Stroke window (Window > Stroke and set Weight to 3 px.


Select the newly created circle and go to Effects > Blur > Gaussian blur and give it about 11 px. Then hit OK.


Place it over the square and set Transparency to Color Dodge and Opacity to 39%  in the Transparency window (CTRL+SHIFT+F10). It should look like below.


Repeat STEP 6: create a circle with the same colors, but this time set Weight to 2 px and make the circles smaller. Create a few of different sizes. Now select the newly created circles (use Selection Tool (V) and hold SHIFT key to make a multiple selection) and set Transparency to Color Dodge and Opacity to 21% in the Transparency window (CTRL+SHIFT+F10).


With the circles still selected, go to Effects > Blur > Gaussian blur and give it a 2 px radius. Hit OK. Now it should look like below.


Create a new circle using the Ellipse Tool (L) like in STEP 6. Make it smaller than the first one. Now open the Transparency window (CTRL+SHIFT+F10) and set Transparency to Color Dodge and Opacity to 24%.


Select the circles we created in STEP 9 using the Selection Tool (V) – hold SHIFT key to select multiple, then while holding the ALT key, click-and-drag to the top left corner of the square. This will make a copy of what we created in STEP 9.


Make more copies and rotate them. Make sure you play around with Opacity until you are satisfied with the results. It should look something similar to the image below.


Select the first circle we created, then copy it (CTRL+C) and paste it to front (CTRL+F). Then right-click > Arrange > Bring to front (CTRL+SHIFT+]). Give it more Blur if you see fit. It should look like below.


Now we’ll create a clipping mask so our design would be trimmed nicely.

Copy the background shape and copy it (CTRL+C), then paste it (CTRL+F). Now right-click > Arrange > Bring to front (CTRL+SHIFT+]) and remove its Stroke and Fill.


Select all artwork, then right-click > Make Clipping Mask. And you’re done!

The source file for this tutorial is available in the link below.

  Bokeh background (5.0 MiB, 1,585 hits)

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20 Comments Tutorial: How to create a Bokeh vector background in Illustrator

  1. Pingback: Tutorial: How to create a Bokeh vector background in Illustrator | Design Newz

  2. Vero Apr 20, 2010 at 14:34

    I think this tutorial is great, thanks for sharing…!!!!

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  5. DaiHoang May 27, 2010 at 20:42


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  7. Clippingimages Aug 8, 2010 at 08:22

    Superb piece of work indeed…thanks for sharing man…

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  11. Kevin Feb 13, 2011 at 21:55

    You should mention that the document must be in RGB mode. Forgot that I was working in CMYK and couldn’t understand why the blending looked wrong.

  12. Jeanette Feb 22, 2011 at 15:23

    The outer rings that appear on the circles, I can’t seem to replicate that.
    Or even the circles adjust to the color that it is over, I can’t seem to replicate that either.
    I am pretty new at Illustrator and I am using CS5. I’ve been working on this for a couple of days and seem to can’t make it like in the tutorial. Could use some help please.

    1. Jeanette (the same as above) Feb 22, 2011 at 15:31

      I just figured it out. How to make the outline around the circles that is. I didn’t understand the part about filling the circle with the color of the ingredient.

      Thanks for this tutorial! It’s really helped me get started doing come cool effect.

  13. Leon Ouwendijk Mar 30, 2011 at 19:14

    Thanks for this!
    I never really sat down to figure out how to achieve this effect with a resolution-independent method.

    Based on this very helpful tutorial, I’ve worked out a quicker method to achieve the same effect in Illustrator CS5 (in which the circles are also more random):

    1. Follow step 1 through 8.

    2. Open up the symbols palette (Command/ Control + Shift + F11)

    3. Drag your circle to the palette in order to turn it into a symbol. Unless you plan to import it into Flash you don’t need to worry about the Type. Just give it a name and hit OK. you can now delete the one circle on your canvas.

    4. With your new symbol selected in the Symbols palette, select the Symbol Sprayer tool (Shift + S) and drag over your canvas.

    5. With your just sprayed Symbol Set selected, double-click the Symbol Sprayer tool in the Tools palette. In the options dialog, select the Symbol Scruncher (3rd icon from the left) and fiddle with the Symbol Set Density.
    Still in the options dialog, select Symbol Sizer (4th icon from the left) and deselect ‘Resizing Affects Density’. Hit OK.

    6. You’ll now have the Symbol sizer tool selected, as that was your last stop in the options dialog. With your Symbol Set still selected, drag over it to randomize the size of the circles. Do the same thing with opacity through the Symbol Screener tool.

    You now have multiple instances of the same symbol. If you want to fine-tune it, double-click the symbol in the Symbols palette and edit away. After you’re done, hit the escape key on your keyboard and voila; all instances will update.

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  15. Antonb Feb 6, 2012 at 15:31

    WTF whith you guys?
    step 5 rectangle is allmost black
    step 6 rectangle is colored whith gradient
    step 7 rectangle is black again?
    But how? It was colored!

  16. Joe'd Apr 17, 2012 at 23:48

    @Antonb he forgot to mention that you do the gradient as a New Fill layer via the appearance palette. So set your gradient up – add it as a new gradient to the gradient swatches then do create new fill on the rectangle and change opacity to colour dodge there.

  17. Monjure Elahi Apr 4, 2013 at 07:11

    সুন্দর! সুন্দর!! সুন্দর!!

  18. Safi Sarkar May 28, 2014 at 11:54

    The illustrator work is very beautiful.

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