How to Create the Washington Monument in Sketch

Difficulty: beginner | Length: medium

Today we are going to create a flat design illustration of the Washington Monument in the Sketch application. If you don’t have Sketch, you can get a free trial for thirty days. This is a short tutorial and it is a great way for beginners to get used to the tools, shortcuts, and features of the application.

Quick Tip: All keyboard shortcuts in Sketch can be found here.

Our final product! Let’s get started!

1. Set up a New Document and Artboard

When you open Sketch you are brought to a landing page to create a new document. You can also find other tutorials and features if you are interested.

Choose New Document.

Now you should have a blank canvas. You can create an artboard by pressing the A key on your keyboard or click Insert > Artboard and click and drag to create an artboard size. In the right sidebar you can specify exact dimensions. We are going to make our artboard 850px x 850px.

Insert > Artboard > Click and Drag to create
The sizing of the artboard is in the right sidebar

Now is a good time to save your file!

2. Create the Background

Now we are going to create that beautiful blue sky. To create a circle, press the O key (O for Oval) or click Insert > Shape > Oval. (Like we did for our artboard). Click and drag while holding the shift key to create a perfect circle that fills up most of the artboard. Make sure that it is centered on the artboard. I have set my circle dimensions to 793px x 793px.

By default, sketch makes all shapes a light gray fill with a dark gray border. Make sure that you have the shape selected. On the right sidebar, uncheck the border property and click on the fill color to change the color. Here we have many color and fill options. Click on the linear gradient property to make a gradient.

Click on fill color > linear gradient to activate a gradient on the shape.

To change the colors, click on the buttons in the gradient bar and use the color picker or hex code to input a color. In my illustration I have set the left button to #38A8EB and the right button to #CFEDFF. To change how much of the shape is filled by the gradient, you can pull on the handles that appear within the shape. I have moved the lighter blue up a bit, but feel free to modify to your taste!

Gradient position on the background

With the background shape selected, we should lock the layer so that we do not move it by accident. The keyboard shortcut for this is Shift + Cmd + L or you can right click on the layer in the left sidebar and select lock layer. You know the layer is locked when a little lock appears in the layers panel. To unlock the layer press Shift + Cmd + L again or right click and select unlock layer (make sure the layer selected). It is also a good idea to rename the shape layer. Double click on the layer name and name the layer background.

A locked layer

Don’t forget to save!

3. Create the Monument Base

The monument base consists of two rectangles centered and toward the bottom of the background. The bottom rectangle is 424px x 14px with color #DADADA. The top rectangle is 400px x 14px with color #E5E5E5. When you are happy with their position, group the base (Cmd + G), make sure it is centered (use the smart guides or align tools at the top of the right sidebar) and rename the layer base. At this point you should have something that looks like this:

Monument base

Don’t forget to save!

4. Build the Monument

The Washington Monument is a relatively simple structure. We will be using a rectangle and a triangle to build it, that’s it!

Build a rectangle by pressing the R key or selecting Insert > Shape > Rectangle. The rectangle on my illustration is 96px x 535px with the fill color #E0E0E0 and no border. Center it on the page.

Our progress

We need to make the building a little narrow towards the top. To get to the direct selection tool, double click on the shape. Select the top left corner and bring it in a little. Do the same with the top right corner.

Now we are going to create the shadow for the flat icon effect. Create another rectangle with no border, and a fill color of #000000. The size of the rectangle doesn’t matter, as long as it is bigger than the monument. Move the shape so that is covers half of the building.

Starting to make the shadow

Select the black shape and change its fill setting from Normal to Soft Light.

Fill settings for the black rectangle

Now select both the black shape and the monument shape (use shift + click) to select multiple shapes, or click and drag to make a selection. With both shapes selected, click on the Mask button on the top selection bar.

You will get the following shape:

Done with the bottom!

Now we need to make the triangle for the top section. Unfortunately there is no keyboard shortcut (but you could make one!) so click Insert > Shape > Triangle. Make the base of the shape the same width as the top of the rectangle we just created. My dimensions are 70px x 63px with no border and fill color #CECECE. Now through the same process of masking the shape with a black rectangle. (create a black rectangle, fill color: #000000, blending: Soft Light, select both shapes, click mask). This will be our result:

Monument: done!

Now select both shapes, group them (Cmd + G) and rename the layer monument. You can lock them too if you want (Shift + Cmd + L). Our layer structure should look like this:

Layer structure

Don’t forget to save!

5. Create the Structure Next Door

Now we will build the little building next to the monument. All we need are rectangles with varying colors and dimensions. Here are mine:

Building: 107px x 29px, #C7C7C7

Building Shadow: 70px x 29px, #000000, Blending: Soft Light

Front entrance: 17px x 10px, #747474

Windows: 5px x 10px, #747474

This is the result:

Exterior building

Don’t forget to save!

6. Create the American Flags

I went for a more general approach rather than realistic for the American flag. We are going to make two types of flags and then duplicate them. First, create the flag pole and top circle:

Pole: rectangle, 3px x 147px, #D8D8D8

Top circle: oval, 6px x 6px, #FAE12D

Start the flag by making a rectangle (46px x 25px, #9E0000). Double click the shape to get the direct selection tool. If you hover over the edges, a pen tool appears that will add an anchor point. Hover over the top edge and hold down the Shift key — this will make the anchor point in the middle of the line. Add a center anchor point to the top and bottom edges of the flag.

Select the top anchor point and drag it towards the middle of the shape. The edges will look sharp, to make them rounded, double click on the anchor point, or click on mirrored in the right sidebar:

Making the flag wavy

When you’re happy with the shape, select the middle anchor point on the bottom and pull it down as well.

Now make a rectangle shape for the stripes. They will have a fill of #FFFFFF and a size of 46px x 1.6px. Again, use the direct selection tool to add anchor points to the middle of the top and bottom edges, and pull them down to match the shape of the flag. When you’re happy with this, you can use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + D to duplicate a shape (It will appear directly on top of the copied shape). Make several copies of the stripes and distribute them on the flag.

Flag with stripes

Now make a smaller square for the blue part of the flag. Add the anchor points to the middle again, and line up the edges with the top left corner. (This might take a little maneuvering with the handles on the anchor points. I used a shape that was 17px x 17px, #021355. Group all of the elements (flag base, stripes, blue shape, pole, and top circle) and name the group flag.

Flag #1 done!

To make the other flag shape, duplicate the current flag that we have (Cmd + D). Double click on the red shape to get the direct selection tool. (Tip: When shapes are grouped, you might need to double click more than once to get to the direct selection.) Select both of the corners on the right side (Shift + click) and move them down to make a wave shape in a different direction. Do this for each stripe as well. In the end you should have something like this:

Flag #2 done!

Now make a few copies of each flag shape and move them all to the front (Arrange > Bring to front). Group the flags together (Cmd + G) and name the layer flags.

Here is what we have now:

Almost done!

We are almost done…finish up with some clouds!

Don’t forget to save!

7. Add Clouds to the Sky

Create a two rounded rectangles with the U key, or Insert > Shape > Rounded Rectangle. Both are without borders, fill color #F9F9F9, opacity 65%. Make the corner radius 18px. The size of one is 182px x 36px, the other 255px x 36px, but use your best visual eye to make them how you like! Offset the shapes a little like this:

Cloud offset

Create a rectangle with the same color and opacity that spans the separation of the shapes, and just reaches where the edges become flat on both rounded rectangles:

Rectangle between the shapes

Now make two circles that are the same height as the rectangle we just created. Align their centers with the edge of the rectangle.

The circles have full opacity for demonstration purposes only. These can be the same color as the other cloud elements.

Now select the circles and the rectangle and click on Subtract from the same menu where we masked our shapes. Make sure that the circles are in front of the rectangle (Arrange > Bring to Front) , or it will subtract the wrong section!

This will give us the following shape:

The final step is to select all elements of the cloud shape and select Union from the top menu (next to subtract). This will combine the elements into one shape.

Once again, group the elements (Cmd + G), and rename the layer clouds.

If you want, you can duplicate the cloud shape and place another set on the other side of the monument as well. Feel free to edit the size of the clouds as you want!

To export your awesome creation use the shortcut Shift + Cmd + E or click Share > Export… from the main menu at the top.


Woo hoo! You made it to the end of the tutorial!

Do you have more questions? Did I not explain something well? Want a different tutorial? Let me know in the comments!

I hope that you were able to learn a few new tips and tricks, and I would love to see your finished designs!

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