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!
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).
- 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 You should see a new rounded rectangle within the one you had originally made.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!