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Illustrator – How to draw a sound wave

Illustrator – How to draw a sound wave

You might have already seen the previous article I wrote on how to draw a sine of sound wave using Photoshop.

This trick resulted in a pretty nice sine wave, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for when I was preparing for an article. I needed a fancier drawing of a sound wave.

In this article I’ll show you a neat little trick where we will use Adobe Illustrator to make a fancy sound wave.

Sound waves with Adobe Illustrator

This trick is a little bit more difficult than the Adobe Photoshop trick, but still very do-able. A little bit of experience with Adobe Illustrator however will make things a little easier.

For this trick to make a nice sound wave, we will use the Illustrator ZigZag and Blend option.

The process I followed:

  1. Create a new document – I used the standard “web” size (960 pixels x 560 pixels) in landscape mode.
  2. Draw a straight and horizontal line.
  3. Select from the main menuL “Effect”  Distort & Transform”  Zig Zag …“. (Note: older Illustrator versions might need: “Filter”  “Distort”  “Zig Zag”)

    Illustrator - ZigZag Effect (or Filter)

    Illustrator – ZigZag Effect (or Filter)

  4. When the effect window opens, start by checking “Preview” – it will be very helpful when tweaking the settings.
  5. Check the option “Smooth” under “Points“, since we want smooth curves and not pointy zig zags.
  6. Now use the sliders “Size” to increase amplitude (height) of the waves, and “Ridges per segment” to change the number of waves.

    Illustrator - Zig Zag settings

    Illustrator – Zig Zag settings

  7. In the image above you can already see how nice the sine or sound wave is starting to look. Click “OK” when you’re done playing.
  8. From the main menu now select “Object”   “Expand Appearance” which reveals the vector we want to modify.
  9. Next we copy our wave since we need 2 waves – simply use “Edit”  Copy” (or: CTRL/Command + C).
  10. Create a new layer (CTRL/Command + L).
  11. Use “Edit”  Paste” (CTRL/Command + V) to get the copy wave on that new layer.
  12. Use the “Selection Tool” (press “v” on your keyboard) to select and drag the copy of the wave directly on top of the other wave.
  13. Use the “Direct Selection Tool” (press the “a” on your keyboard), click a high or low point with the left mouse button, now press and hold the SHIFT key and use the pointer to drag the point up or down. These points should represent the extremes you have in mind.

    Drag highs and lows

    Drag highs and lows

  14. Release the SHIFT and mouse button and repeat the previous step (13) for all waves that you’d like to modify so you get something like the picture below.

    Modified all lows and highs of the sound wave

    Modified all lows and highs of the sound wave

Pretty neat so far right? And most of all: smooooth … 

Filling in the gaps

In this (optional) second step we are going to fill in the gaps with additional waves that fit nicely between the two waves.
For this we will use the “Blend” tool.

  1. Select both waves (CTRL/Command + A).
  2. Select from the main menu “Object”   “Blend”   “Blend Options“.

    Illustrator Blend Options

    Illustrator Blend Options

  3. Try starting with the settings you see in the picture above and click “OK“. (preview does not appear to work)
  4. Next select from the main menu “Object”  “Blend”  “Make” (or ALT + CTRL/Command + B) which will add the waves “in between”:
    Nice looking sound wave illustration

    Nice looking sound wave illustration


As you can see: a nice sound wave for illustration purposes is the result.

Now that you have gone through this exercise, you’ll probably want to do it again to fine tune your sound wave even more.

Copy it to Photoshop 

If you’d like to use this drawing in Photoshop: simply select all (CTRL/Command + A), copy (CTRL/Command + C) and go to photoshop.
Create a new document there and use paste (CTRL/Command + V) to paste the drawing in Photoshop.
It will ask what type of paste you want. If you expect scaling of this drawing: choose “Smart Object”.

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