Quick Tutorial: Create A Sleek Bevel Styled Icon With Just a Few Illustrator Tools

I love simple and sleek looking icons. I love them even more when they’re easy to make, and completely versatile as a foundation for a ton of other icons. With a little practice, you can probably whip out some really beautiful icons in under a few minutes!

Brian Tom

Author: Brian Tom

Hi! My name is Brian Tom and I’m the San Francisco based Freelance Graphic Designer who works under the alias of Hoshimo. I focus mainly in logo and identity design, but when I can, I love designing anything I can get my sticky fingers on. Feel free to check out more of my work at Hoshimo.com, follow me on Facebook, or find me on Twitter.

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image that you’ll get from working through this tutorial. It’s my logo! But as you trek through this tutorial, you’ll soon see that you can apply the steps to almost anything you want. I’m a strong believer of dissecting other people’s files to learn from them, so here is the .ai file (AICS3).

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Estimated Completion Time: 10-15 minutes

Step 0 – Check it Out

Let’s take a quick look at what we’re making here. Wait, what? Two shapes with just some minor variations? Yep. The beauty of this tutorial is that it’s simple, but also shows tips on how to apply transparency modes and simple shapes to create the effect of light, shadow, and depth.

Step 1 – Shaping a Solid Base

Create a rounded square by using the Rounded Rectangle Tool. Make sure to hold down shift to keep it proportionally constrained. Before you let up on the mouse click, toggle the radius of the corners by hitting the up or down arrow keys. Fill the shape with a 30% black (in the swatch palette it says K=30) to a 60% Black gradient and use the Gradient tool (G) in the toolbar to get it going from top to bottom. Set the stroke to a 1px black. Select your beautiful new shape, Copy (Command + C) and Paste in Front (Command + F), then while this copy is still selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and set the Offset to -3 (make sure its NEGATIVE 3!). You should see a new rounded rectangle within the one you had originally made. Select the top two rounded rectangles (the copy and the offset, not the original), and go to Object > Compound Path > Make or you can just hit (Command + 8). With the new shape selected, remove the stroke and set the transparency mode to Multiply. Check below to see what it should look like by now.

Step 2 – More Depth

We’re basically going to be repeating what we just did to create another inner bevel. Select the original rounded rectangle, Offset it -3px, then without clicking anything, offset it -3px AGAIN. Select those two new shapes and make a Compound Path out of it. Remove the stroke and set the Transparency Mode to Screen at 25% Opacity. Time to create some environment by adding a simple shadow. Create a white Ellipse. Copy, Paste in Front, change color to black and shrink it down. Select both objects and Blend (Command + Alt/Option +B). Set the Transparency to 75% and the Mode to Multiply. Send this shape to the back (Shift + Command + [) and place it nicely under the icon. Resize it if needed.

Step 3 – The Icon

Time for the fun stuff! Create a simple shape (even a letter will do). Copy, Paste in Front, then Paste in Front again. We have three of this shape now, with the newest one selected. Tap the down arrow a couple times, then select the top two objects and use the Subtract Pathfinder. Set the Transparency to Multiply at 75%. Now select the original shape, Offset Path 3px (positive 3 this time) and give that shape a black to white gradient. Make sure the gradient goes from top to bottom with white on the bottom. Set the Transparency to Screen. And. We. Are. Done!


Some simple techniques, some tools we might not usually use in Illustrator, and a little bit of time can get us some awesome results. These steps are great for adding subtle depth to graphics and getting pixel perfect highlights and shadows. I’m sure you’ve noticed this style in many other graphics online, in typography and website designs too. Now you know how to do it! I hope you enjoyed it!

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35 thoughts on “Quick Tutorial: Create A Sleek Bevel Styled Icon With Just a Few Illustrator Tools

  1. This tutorial was really easy!

    I thought the 15 minutes estimate seemed a bit ambitious but was able to complete it in about 20. It has a great bang for your buck and is great for the mockups I’m working on now. Obviously, there’s a ton of room for customization and flourish which I love; you give the user lots of room for their own creativity.

    As far as unprofessional, I wouldn’t agree, especially for a user who is following a “beginner” level tutorial. It’s just very basic, but I think that was the goal 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this, Brian!

  2. Get article! Long gone are the days of filtering through istock looking for the perfect icon. Definitely one to bookmark and email round the office.

  3. I can’t select the levels underneath without moving the upper ones, and then they get trapped when you use the Make Compound Path command.

  4. Good tutorial – although not up to the usual standard of vectips tutorials.
    A few things I would have done differently,
    – apply round corners effect to the rectangle (lets you stretch the shape without stretching the corners)
    – you could have made much better use of the appearance panel, creating a neater work file and more importantly letting you create a graphic style for future use.

    All in all a nice end result and a well written tutorial! thanks for sharing!

    • if my tutorials were as good or better than ryan’s tutorials, it would be blasphemous! haha, nonetheless, thanks for the tips. a lot of times for small operations like these icons, i don’t consider neatness of my files enough and i know i should. the appearance panel is definitely an option too, but i wanted to showcase the offset-path abilities since ryan has written a couple quick tuts using the appearance panel for complex styles for text already 🙂

  5. yeah nice one Brian, i would say 30 mins is more realistic by the time i read the tut. and flick back and forth to AI. many thanks for sharing your knowledge all the same.

    • Touche indeed, touche! Haha, nice one, and I too love the bevelled style, and I use it a lot when making icons and navigation tools in particular – it can lead to some really nice looking user interfaces

      • Accepting critiques is professional, but “Hmm, ugly and nonprofessional” is a poorly worded, stilted comment with no constructive insight and is far from being a critique.

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