July 4th is a pretty big deal here in the U.S. It’s an excuse to watch fireworks, eat BBQ and get the day off from work. But more importantly it’s our celebration of our independence. I’ve put together a set of facebook covers showing off our flag, the fireworks we use to celebrate the day, and some fighter jets to depict our our hard won freedom.
July 4th: Independence Day Facebook Covers
For this set of cover images, I’ve used Adobe Illustrator 6 and I’ve documented a number of my steps. I’ve also saved different versions along the way so you can pick your favorite. If you’d like to skip the tutorial steps, just jump to the end of the page for the download link.
Step 1: United States (U.S.) Flag
To get started on creating the flag, I needed to know the specifications for it. Fortunately wikipedia was more than happy to help with their Flag of the United States page.
As always to start a facebook cover image, I started with a new file that was 851 pixels wide and 315 pixels tall. I also made sure that my color profile was set to RGB since this image is designed for the web.
Basic U.S. Flag
To save a little time, I started off by importing wikipedia’s U.S. flag image into illustrator and drawing a large white rectangle over it. That rectangle would provide the background for the flag.
The next thing I did was draw a red rectangle over one of the red stripes.
Since there are seven red stripes, I copied this red rectangle 6 more times.
Not a bad start, but it needs some blue. We’ll draw a blue rectangle that will extend for the first four red stripes.
Once the blue background for the stars is in place, we need to add some stars. The current U.S. flag has 50 stars divided over 9 rows (5 rows of 6 and 4 rows of 5).
To get the first star, we need a star shape. Unfortunately the basic star shape in illustrator will not work for this. But I imported a basic star shape into Illustrator and used Image Trace to create a white star.
Now that there is one white star, we duplicate it 5 times to create the top row of white stars. To help with this I used the handy image I downloaded from wikipedia to get the correct star placement.
Once I had one row of 6 stars, I duplicated it 4 times and positioned the other 4 rows of 6 stars according to the wikipedia image.
I then selected the top four rows of stars, copied them and repositioned them to fit into the shorter rows of stars. I just removed the last star from the copies so the shorter rows would include only 5 stars.
The final U.S. flag image. Wikipedia does provide an SVG image, however Illustrator balked at trying to load it (something about nesting of groups). So, you can download my Illustrator file for the flag (PDF in download package at end of tutorial).
Waving U.S. Flag
Now that we have a basic U.S. flag, let’s add some dimension to it by making it appear to be waving.
Before I apply any effects, I’ve enlarged the size of the flag so that it is now larger than the 851×315 artboard size. This means when I save the final image, it will only be a cropped portion of the flag instead of the whole flag.
First I selected my entire flag (Edit > Select All) and then chose Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh. This turned my flag into a mesh.
Next I applied Effect > Warp > Wave and tweaked the settings until I was happy with the flag.
You can see some nice bending to the flag, however the color looks a bit flat. Illustrator doesn’t have all of the lighting settings that Photoshop has, so instead we will create a new layer and use it to enhance the flag coloring.
First we create a new layer and draw a rectangle in that layer which is larger than the 851×315 artboard.
Then we color the rectangle with a gradient. I applied white to the brightest part of the flag and a medium grey to the darker parts. Then using the Appearance pane, I set the opacity for the rectangle to 50% and it’s color mode to Multiply.
This provided a nice subtle shading to give the flag a more realistic look.
I’ve saved this stage of the flag and called it “us_flag_facebook” in the download package. Useful base for memorial day, flag day, and veterans day.
Step 2: Fireworks
To draw the fireworks I enlisted the help of Google and came across Vector Diary’s excellent tutorial on Fireworks.
To get started I hid all of my layers used for the flag. This gave me a nice clean slate on which to start making fireworks. I then turned on my rulers and added a horizontal line to help me.
Using the pen tool I drew very simple straight lines converging mostly on one point. I only drew half of a firework.
Once I had half of my firework drawn I removed the horiztonal guide. Then I copied and pasted the half firework. I applied a reflection and now had a whole firework.
Now that we have a basic outline, time to give the firework some style. Using the convert anchor point tool I made the straight lines into curves and also adjusted a number of the endpoints a little. Tweak it as needed to create an artistic firework.
Now that the firework looks a bit more realistic, select all of the firework and go to the brush tool. Change the brush from uniform to oval. And adjust the width to 3px or more, depending on the size of your firework.
We now have a pretty good looking firework. To add a bit more realism, apply a gradient to the firework. Then copy the firework to make a few others, and change the colors.
Step 3: Fighter Jets
Fighter jets are on display at a few of the major July 4th activities around the U.S., so I decided to add them to this as well. Since I didn’t particularly want to draw out a fighter jet, I imported an image of an F-16 and then used live trace in Illustrator.
Once I had one fighter jet, I made 5 copies and arranged them into a flying formation.
Step 4: Text
I wanted a simple but bold font. I picked Nexa Bold from Font Squirrel and added some celebratory text.
Final Independence Day Package
Here is a preview of the four cover images included with the download package! Use your favorite.
Please download and enjoy. Also, we’d love it if you would share with your friends by tweeting or liking this post!
The graphics are free to use for personal or commercial purposes, but you can not resell them or claim them as your own.