Vintage Illustration: Back to the Future | Linda Eliasen | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Vintage Illustration: Back to the Future

teacher avatar Linda Eliasen, Illustrator & Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

2 Lessons (13m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Video Lesson 3 – The Work Begins

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

The mid-20th century was an amazing time for design and illustration in America. Space was on the horizon but technology was still a little behind, so hopeful illustrators used the tools that they had to mimic a new way of thinking through simplification, bold colors, and abstract shapes to welcome the future.


This class is for intermediate illustrators and designers who know their way around Adobe Illustrator and are up for the challenge of illustrating tomorrow's yesterday. Students will create a postcard of a city of their choosing. The postcard will be a greeting from the future to the past (today). The style of the postcard will be "vintage", but the city itself will be the way you think it will be in the future. (So it's like if Doctor Who went to New York City in 3013 and sent you a postcard of NYC illustrated in a 1950s style.)

This class will be broken down in a few phases.

  • First, we'll look at old illustrations to take cues from the old masters. We will spend a little bit of time making shapes and playing with opacity layers.
  • Second, you will choose a city. You'll collect images that you feel really represent the city well.
  • Third, you will sketch a composition of your city and get creative by implementing some futuristic components. You should keep typography in mind during this process and start to think about a color palette.

Finally, you'll bring it all together in Adobe Illustrator (30-day free trial available at This includes finding templates from the US Post Office or, setting up files, picking colors and brush strokes, etc.

We have a lot to learn from the illustrators of the midcentury. They were masters of simplification and spunk. They had a knack for making something look simultaneously sophisticated and fun. Today's visual world is getting more simplified and full of color, so this class is a deep dive into the world that inspired ours. 

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Linda Eliasen

Illustrator & Designer


Linda is a Designer and Illustrator living in San Francisco. She worked with some amazing people at MailChimp, Adult Swim, and Squarespace before taking her current role as a designer and illustrator at Dropbox. Linda's style is often playful and full of color with a gentle nod to the past.


See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Trailer: My name is Linda Eliasen, and I'm going to be teaching a class called Creating Vintage Postcards back to the future. Students are going to be creating a vintage inspired postcard of a city of their choosing, but the postcard has to come from the future. Students are going to learn how to illustrate the postcard in a certain style, so we're going to look at the past and really dig into these styles that they can adapt to their portfolio. People see these staff and they love it. It's nostalgic, and it's warm, and friendly, and inviting. Its going be fun. 2. Video Lesson 3 – The Work Begins: In this section, you're going to be sketching compositions, and you're going to be diving into the computer. So right now, we're going to be setting up our Illustrator Artboards. There are a few different ways that you can do this, and the postcard size is going to change depending on who you're going to have print it. I personally am having Moo print mine, You can get the template from the class on Skillshare. I've put the PDF in there for you. So, what I did is I started my file based off of that template. So, I just opened the template, and it looks like this. They go ahead and they give you everything that you need, and it's all set up on the right side and everything which is really handy. Another thing that I did is download the USPS guidelines. Our guided postal service has a lot of amazing resources on the web like these. They tell you exactly where you can design and where you can't. This is where the address goes. This is where the bar code goes down here, and of course, your stamp. So, you can really only design in this white area. What I did is I created guides, these little blue lines, marking those because they can be really distracting so that I can turn that layer off and still have the guides there to remind me where I can design and where I can't. Okay, so now that I've done all my sketching and scanned them and brought them into the computer, I can bring them into Illustrator. I like to keep everything separate on different layers. It just keeps everything organized, and if you have a different idea, you can start a new layer. In that way, you're not just selecting shapes and guessing all the time. You can also turn things off easily which I really like. It helps to keep things really organized. So, what I did is I brought my main compositions that I like into the Illustrator document. I also brought in a picture of the building that I'm trying to to show. So, I'm not going to be drawing this building exactly. I'm not going to be doing all the details and everything, but it's good to have it there as a reference point. So, I started to illustrate this building and this composition. I started by drawing my little flying taxicabs and starting to think about what those would look like. Originally, I was thinking it might be a night time scene, so those would be brightly colored and they'd be set on a night sky. I also started to draw the Chrysler Building and from my sketches down here. I just wasn't loving the way that it was looking in this style. So, I tried to take cues from those old illustrations, and instead of just showing this, I decided to show more of a geometric approach where I just show the basic shapes that made the Chrysler Building what it is, with some of those vintage shapes in the background. I started to think about what it could look like to have those flying cars in there, but I'm still just trying to kind of make something that looks like it's working. So, I created these background shapes that I really liked and was just starting to play with the color a little bit. So, then I decided to take an entirely different approach. I wasn't really loving how these buildings were looking or how the Chrysler Building was looking, so I decided to try a different style. So, then I started to draw Rockefeller Center and I started to think about the different ways that I could show this simply against the night sky, and using shadow and different colors like that green, and also showing it in its native state as this silvery color. I really liked how these buildings were starting to look. So, from here, I decided that I had enough steps and I had enough junk in my art board that it was time to create a new document. I personally like to create a few different art boards. So, I decided that it was time for take two. So, during take one, I really liked the way these buildings were feeling. I liked the Rockefeller Center, and I really liked the overlapping shapes. So, I decided to see if I could try to make those work together somehow. So, then I started this new document where I started to piece those together. I simplified the Rockefeller Center building even more, and I mixed them with those shapes. I still wanted it to be night time at this point. I started to think about where my type could go and I even brought in my little taxi flying car thing to see if that would work. Then, I wanted to see what it would look like during the day, so I created this. Then, I realized that the Rockefeller Center building wasn't looking iconic enough. So, I got this idea about the Guggenheim. To me, the Guggenheim is such a futuristic looking building that I thought what if the Guggenheim inspired the future. I drew a very simple version of the Guggenheim. As you can see, it looks really different from my sketch. So, as I was drawing through this, I started to remove elements that felt like they cluttered up too much and just add the main few things that made it feel like the Guggenheim. I also took a different approach to the Rockefeller Center and started to play with the idea of adding maybe a fountain here or some trees to represent Central Park. Since I liked where this was going, I created yet again another take. During take three, I started to think heavily about color. I didn't really like how that dark spacey color was looking. It was looking a little bit too heavy to me, and I wanted us to feel whiter and more approachable. So, I developed this color palette that felt very retro to me and created a secondary color palette to use just in case. I ended up not needing it, but it's still nice to have it. When developing your color palette, it's important to make sure that the colors can work well together and that each of the colors offers something that the other doesn't. So, mine it's really just a basic primary color palette. It's blue, red, and yellow, essentially. I've modernized the colors a little bit and I've made like a teal out of the blue, more of a coral or salmon out of the pink, and more of a gold out of the yellow. I'll take you through a few more steps before we get to the final. So, I really liked how the Guggenheim was sitting in this rectangle of color. I felt like this was really starting to get somewhere. I was starting to feel a little bit uncertain about this part with the trail of the taxi and the trees, and I really liked the Rockefeller, but it didn't feel like it fit anymore. So, I started to think about new ways to approach this problem. So, I created two other colored rectangles and I was starting to think about what could go there. Then, I remember in a few old illustrations that I saw where a city was represented as shapes and I really liked that. So, I made some just to see what it would look like. So, as you can see, all of these shapes look like different colors, but they're actually all just a part of the same color palette. What I've done is I've just set them to a different opacity. So, my yellow, for instance, overlapping my blue. You set your transparency to multiply, it creates this awesome green color in the middle. So, that's where this green comes from. That's where this violet comes from. It's actually the coral it's just laying on top of the blue. You can do a lot of fun stuff with these different effects here, but I usually, for this type of illustration, just try to keep it to multiply. Then, you can overlay a few shapes on top of each other and see how those feel. So, I kept trying to evolve my city, and I decided to simplify the Guggenheim a little bit. So before, I have these curves in here that made it feel like a little bit more of a playful version of the retro era. So, this kind of feels the wave like the Jetsons or something like that would with these lines in here. It was just kind of starting to make it feel a little bit busier than I wanted, and I wanted it to match the background city more. So, I created this. These shapes were starting to get a little distracting to me. I felt like they weren't really adding anything to the drawing, so I decided to turn them off and see how that looked. I really liked where this was going now. There are a lot of thick black lines in the Guggenheim, so I thought about how to bring them into the rest of the piece to create more of a balance. So from here, I started to feel like I was really close and it was time to create my next, and hopefully last art board. So from here, I continued to build this city up around the Guggenheim, and I really felt it looks like the Guggenheim inspired this city to look and feel more futuristic. It also felt sort of digital, but sort of retro at the same time, and I really liked that. So, I decided to think about typography and what I could do there, and I decided to keep it really minimal. It was inspired by the typography that's actually on the Guggenheim which is an altered version of Neutra. I think I used Verlag because Verlag is a typeface that's pretty close to both of those. Then you get to create the back of the postcard, don't forget about that. So for the back of mine, I just took the Guggenheim, and I made it really small on a blue background using that Neutra face with the year and sampled some of my colors. I'm saying, "Greetings from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Now, it's ready to print. I've saved them as a full size 300 DPI PNGs because that's what Moo called for. The PNG has also allowed the transparencies to show through, which I used on the front of the card. Just to be sure, before I ordered my postcards, I did a test print at home with the crop marks to show where it's going to be cut because you just want to make sure that all of your type is legible and that, at this scale, everything looks great. It's really easy to zoom in to 1600 percent and look at all those details and pat yourself on the back and feel awesome about it. But then, when you zoom out, you realize that everything is really, really busy looked at from far away. So, now you've sketched your compositions, you've digitized them. You've brought them into the computer, and you've set everything up in Illustrator. Be sure to post those sketches up so we can all take a look at them. Also, once you finish your postcard, be sure to upload that to the class as well. As the final part of your project, be sure to upload a picture of it on Instagram using the hashtags #MakeOurMarkandDream. Together with the other station to station artists, I'll be judging the top three postcards to be put into a time capsule. Thanks for taking the class. I can't wait to see what you guys have come up with.