Design a trendy blog header with a retro styling

Handmade-looking graphics add a personal touch to a project and inspire a sense of nostalgia. Wendy Ding examines how this can be done for a web banner in Illustrator and Photoshop



With the boom of blogs and social networking sites, the web is getting more and more personal. New websites are sprouting every day, and while it is handy to simply pick a template from the plethora of pre-existing ones, the aesthetics can easily become generic as the site loses its own personality. Too much repetition can lead to an overhaul of similar-looking websites and a diminished sense of individuality, thus adding to the “I swear I’ve already seen a site just like this!” factor.

Naturally, every company, business owner and individual is different from one another, and their websites may be used for different functions, such as an online store, a virtual kiosk for the company or a personal blog. Ideally, their websites should aim to project an accurate and engaging reflection without sacrificing too much individuality. This tutorial will demonstrate how to add a dash of personality that simultaneously highlights the function of the website.

(Article originally appeared in Web Designer issue 153, by Wendy Ding)

Project files can be downloaded from here

01 Target audience


We’ve created a banner for a cute and girly dessert shop for young and fun-loving females like myself. In order to maximise appeal, we picked visuals that will attract them (and myself in fact): heart shapes, pastel colours, fashionable patterns in a bright and cheery tone. The right look is essential in drawing in the right crowd.

02 Choosing visual elements


A great exercise in choosing the right elements is to look at the selected images and see if it implies the correct idea. We chose four elements that best embodied the notion of dessert: icing, picnic tablecloth, hearts and cupcakes, because I couldn’t help but feel my mouth water every time I thought of them!

03 Colour palette


Make sure that you use colour wisely, as it sets the overall mood of a website. While it is subjective to individual taste, some rules will always apply: black is bold and serious, white is light and airy, blue is cool and tranquil, and so on. We’ll go for a pink and red palette to emphasise femininity, playfulness and fun.

04 Title text


Here we’ve chosen a fancy handwritten font to accentuate its delicateness. I also wanted it to emulate smooth chocolate and wrote it on a curved line. Create a curved line with the Pen tool, select the Type tool and click on the line to type. To change the placement, hover over it with the Direct Select tool and then drag.

05 Text vectors


You may also turn the text into outlines so that they are editable vector shapes. In our example we added more points with the Pen tool and elongated the descender of the ‘y’. The cream outline was also drawn with the Pen tool with an Inner Glow effect applied to it (found by following Effect>Stylize>Inner Glow).

06 Plaid pattern

For the tablecloth pattern, we’ve scanned a plaid shirt. In Photoshop, simply crop one swatch and use the Free Transform>Perspective to adjust then trim down to a perfect square. Using Hue/Saturation from the Image>Adjustments menu, we can change the original colour of black and red to more of a pink hue in keeping with our theme.

07 Swatch selection

Next place and embed the plaid swatch into Illustrator and drag it into the pattern swatch window. To apply it to the background, first select the shape and then click on the pattern swatch. We can apply more sheen by adding a layer of subtle gradients underneath in the Appearance window, and by changing its transparency to Overlay.

08 Repeating heart pattern

It is best to set the heart shape into a square because that is the area of one repeating pattern. To make even, seamless repeating patterns, place one heart slightly away from the top left corner, then click Alt+Shift to drag it along a 45-degree angle down toward the bottom right corner.

09 The equation of love

The distance between the top heart to the top left corner and the distance between the bottom heart to the bottom right corner must equal the distance between the two hearts in order for the repetition to be even. This will take time to finesse, and can be aided with grids (View>Show Grid).

10 Give the cakes a frosting pattern

The frosting pattern is organic and therefore has a more random placement. In a square, draw various oval shapes with the Pen tool and alter the shade of their colours slightly. Then select everything, including the square, and drag it into the Pattern Swatches window to turn it into a pattern swatch.

11 Starburst effect

The starburst adds glamour to the banner. First draw a circle to use as a visual guide. Then use the Pen tool and draw a starburst shape within the circle. Once completed, I adjusted it to a comfortable size. Last of all, reduce the Opacity down to 60 per cent in order for it not to be too distracting.

12 Simple button set


Adding a lined-paper pattern to the buttons creates a more textured quality. First, make rectangular shapes with the Rectangle tool, and click Alt+Shift to drag it across and duplicate it four times. Then rotate each rectangle slightly and apply a slight Drop Shadow (Effect>Stylize>Drop Shadow).

13 Lined-paper pattern

For the pattern, evenly place three lines inside a square and take away the square’s appearance, then drag the lines and square into the Pattern Swatches window. Finally add a new fill to the rectangles in the Appearance window and apply the lined-paper pattern at Multiply with 50 per cent Opacity.

14 Apply the lace trim

In Photoshop, the lace trim is drawn with a tablet using the Brush tool with Sensitivity turned on. This truly creates a tactile look and feel for lace, which is handmade in reality. The lace trim is then saved on its own layer as a PSD file and placed into Illustrator.