Deke’s Techniques: Creating a railroad track in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

In this week’s free video, Deke shows you how to create train tracks in Illustrator—and not your simple Thomas the Tank Engine tracks—but real honest-to-goodness wooden ties with shiny rails. The basics of this technique involve using nothing more than a total of 19 strokes heaped into a single path outline, and the rest is just a series of colors and numerical settings applied from the Appearance panel.

The key is leveraging Illustrator’s ability to apply a multitude of attributes to a single path and carefully offsetting them so that you create the shadows and highlights that really sell the effect. The result is this authentic railroad track that will make any train nerd proud.

Just so you have an adequate appreciation of what’s going on, here’s your everyday-average Illustrator train track effect (made with just 3 strokes):

Illustrator train track effect

And here’s Deke’s subtly more sophisticated railroad effect (made with 19 strokes):

Illustrator train tracks, option two with 19 strokes

If you’re not a straight-and-narrow (gauge) type of artist, Deke also has an exclusive movie for members this week called Bending the railroad track around curves, in which he shows you an alternative technique that allows you to create curvy tracks.


Interested in more?
• The entire  Deke’s Techniques weekly series on
• All Illustrator courses on
• All Design courses on
• All courses by Deke McClelland on

Suggested courses to watch next:
• Up and Running with Illustrator
• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced

• Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

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