Tips, Tutorials

Icon Design Tutorial – Designing a New Icon In Illustrator

October 15, 2008 • By

Following our free social icon giveaway, as promised, here is a tutorial explaining how they were made in Adobe Illustrator. We’ll try to cover the basics and give you an idea how things are rendered, how they appear in smaller sizes and the constraints we can find when using Vector (Illustrator) instead of Pixel (Photoshop) based image software.

Step 1

We are going to start this icon with the basics. A good suggestion is to envision this icon/image in your head before even designing it. First we sketch what we are thinking by simple scribbling our ideas. See below and example of it:

Step 2

As you can see there is some perspective applied to it and that’s something we should take into consideration when creating icons. We are to achieve similar results, as the sketch should be only to give us a blue print of what is coming next. After sketching, we then transfer this into our Art Board, on Illustrator. We simply create a “square-type” to start:

Step 3

Next we are going to mimic the perspective from our drawing, by applying some 3D effect. See the screenshot below:

Step 4

Here is the result after applying the effect.

Step 5

We have to start applying some effects to achieve the glossy-transparent look. Adding these will give us what we expect. We are going to use different transparencies (screen, multiply, darken, luminosity etc…) to get to them. Below are a few shapes where we are applying those effects! Take a look at the transparency “%” as well as the gradients used. This is very important.

These effects are “key” to use and achieve ANY result. All it takes is time and try things out. See below:

Step 6

After applying these to all your shapes, you should have something similar to the screen below:

Step 7

After designing the box we need to apply similar 3D effects and shape transparencies effects to the logo icon. We should have the same angles applied as well. Below you will see 4 basic steps of what we have already cover (Regular Shape, 3D Applied, Added Shapes and Final Rendering):

Step 8

Below are a few more step on how we create the effects. We first select the shape we wnat to apply the effect. Using our gradient tool (G), we will click and drag into opposite directions. If we want the gloss (Lighten) to be on the top of a shape we need to drag starting from the top to the bottom of the shape. This will apply the effect on top of the shape and one thing to keep in mind is that we need to try different “dragging” instances/moves, until we get the way we want. For every shape we use the same effect a few times. See below a few samples:

Step 9

Now that we have both rendered shapes, we can merge them. Notice that the “front” portion of the box, is placed “on top” of the logo icon, and a transparency of 85% is applied so it becomes see through.

Below is the final rendered icon:

Many thanks to for the fantastic icons and tutorial, make sure you check out the full set of free social icons.

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