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Icon releases and tutorials en hourly How to create a glossy button icon (revisited) Vu Tran In order to cast a shadow, if you’re with Adobe Illustrator CS3, you can draw a path in black and then make the path bit by bit go transparent by using Mask Opacity Mask. However, on Adobe Illustrator CS4, which has already supported the transparent gradient, you only need to pick an available gradient and use it immediately. Fig 3 Step 3 Click on the black rectangle in the Transparency palette. Fig 4 At this step, we’re working with a black circle that will act like a shadow. The goal is to make the black shape blur and transparent with the background. The circle you’ve chosen to act as the opacity mask will disappear, but not to worry because it’s still there and just being hidden. Step 4 Draw one more circle at the position of the hidden one. Fill a Radial gray gradient to that new circle. Fig 5 Step 5 Adjust that gradient to full black. Oh yeah, there it is. The black color now appears to gradually grow faint from the center point and dissolve into the color of the background. Fig 6 Step 6 Go to the Transparency palette and click on the black circle. Next, select the shadow and press the E key to scale the shadow down so that it becomes a small ellipse. Fig 7 Still in the Transparency palette, change the opacity of the shadow until you got the result as shown in Fig 7. In this case, we need to cast the shadow in the shape of an ellipse because the button, in reality, is of the ellipse as viewed from the top. Voila. Here is the outcome! Fig 8. The finished glossy buttons To arrange those icons in Fig 8 in a straight line, first put each button into one group, then select the groups on one row or column and use the Align palette (Shift + F7) to align them. Please always keep in mind that all the icons must share the same smoothness of surface, the same intensity of light and the same perspective, in order to have an iconset in the same style. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) Pixel Perfection in Icon Design How to create a glossy button icon (revisited) As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. Pixel Perfection in Icon Design (revisited) Vu Tran Whatsoever method you choose to follow, please keep in mind that all of your icons should be designed with the same technique, giving a family relationship to them all (involved in color and lighting). The simpler an icon looks, the easier it is to create it. However, to give it simplicity and sensibility, long-time experience is required. In this article, we continue to deal with some last-but-not-least issues regarded as indispensable post-tasks in icon design: pixelation, resizing, retouching and exporting. Pixelation Resizing Retouching Solution: Select the shadow path. In the Appearance palette, double-click  on the Gaussian Blur fx (shown in Fig 3) and change the Radius value until the result is achieved as desired. Solution: What to do is snapping this path tightly in the size of pixels. Issue 3 At a small size, quite a lot of paths are invalid, because these paths that appear “behind” the icons will cause jagged edges for our icons. Fig 5. Retouching (issue 3) Solution: All you have to do is remove those useless paths. To get rid of pixelation, what tool do we choose to use? Every graphic application has diverse strong and weak points, and it depends on the user’s likings, habits and skills. Let’s take Photoshop, it obviously offers you a lot of various techniques to work with, and you can easily pick a texture to give your icon an actual look. However, when it comes to the resizing task, it’s like a pain in the ass. You have to pick your pencil in the pencil mode and re-dot the blurred pixels, or it even seems to go nuts if someone is compulsory to calculate how many pixels are enough for each path, so that their icon will not become blurry when resized. So, this painful process requires lots of experience and takes much time. If you, for some reason, want to take on Photoshop to create new icons or to retouch your icons without changing transparent pixels, simply select the layer/icon you want to deal with and then click on the clock transparent pixels button in the Layers palette. That’s it, the rest is yours. Pixelation solved in Illustrator Exporting The more paths there are in an object, the more time it takes to resize the icon. The more effects you apply in your icon (transparency, blending mode, or blur and drop shadow), the more tasks of re-editting and resizing there are you have to do with those effects. The more effects you use in the Effect menu, the more time it takes for the computer to render these effects. The 3-D effect in Illustrator CANNOT be used in professional icon creation. At a small size, you can remove the shadow and any invisible detail until your icon gets sharp as desired. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) Pixel Perfection in Icon Design As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. Resizing Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) Vu Tran As mentioned in the beginning of our last post, we had to cut the old long article into small and separate subjects for easier discussion. So today, we are going to continue to get back and dig into other essential aspects that have hugely significant effect in our icon creation: Material, Coloration and Gradient. This topic has been revised and updated as well. Material in Icon Design Your icon would look more real if you could successfully deliver its weight and feel as well as its appearance. To achieve that, there’s nothing better than practice as much as possible. Coloration in Icon Design Use color with care to help the icon tell its story. Don’t add color just to make the icon more colorful. Use smooth gradient to give balance and harmony. Use color in relation to the content and status that the icon shows. For example, the color of a paper icon must be white while the color of a floppy disk or binocular must be in black. The color of an icon is sometimes dependent on the style of the other icons when they all belong to one set. Consider using color and its intensity so that the icon must be displayed well in a variety of backgrounds. What about the coloring tools? The Color Fill seems to work for icons when working with Adobe Photoshop. Indeed, with this popular graphic edit software, you can easily create shapes by using the Color Fill along with brushes, and you got to have a Wacom tablet or Cintiq already to make this work at ease. Gradient in Icon Design As you already knew, the gradient modes in Adobe Illustrator are Linear and Radial. Each mode has its own strong and weak points. How to take them into use where it needs to be is a question of experiments. From our experience, it’s sensible to use a gradient from white to a darkest color (nearly black). How to properly use gradient and effectively apply it into icons? The darkest area does not receive and reflect light. The brightest area receives light most. The medium-light area is transitional between the brightest and the darkest. Form and Value diagram In the diagram, light emits vertically to the surface and creates different color levels, helping us realize the form of the surface. Use one gradient only to create the surface. Or, use two gradients, one gradient to depict surface without reflected light and the other set in the Screen mode to depict reflected light. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Vu Tran In this article, we are going to share with you some aspects of lighting and how to make it fruitful to our icon creation. Meanwhile, there are some new techniques in term of lighting we hope you will discover, too. Nevertheless, once you grasp the lighting principles, the problem would be partly avoided or solved. That also means you already got hold of the key: the light. Light in nature The natural light, generally coming from the sun, is the assembly of myriad of light rays. It’s huge and diversified. When you look at an object, light tells you what characteristics the object bring, in relation to such properties as dimension (height, length, and width), position (close or far), surface (smooth or rough, glossy or matte), nuance (warm or cool), and material. To make it clearer for you to see, let’s suppose that light from the sun to be parallel, it in reality isn’t so though. We will take a look at this supposition in terms of physics and reality. Light is grouped into three main properties (or phenomena): reflection, refraction, and absorption. Shown below are the direction of light, which is able to be seen from various viewing angles, regardless of in perspective or in side view. When light is incident on a surface (smooth or rough), it is reflected with an angle of incidence equal to the angle of reflection. Fig 3. Side view (light on a smooth surface) Fig 4. Defuse light (light on a rough surface) Fig 5. Refraction of light This phenomenon happens when light bends at an interface between two transparent materials. Many things in our livings refract light such as glass, water, air, and plastic. 3. Absorption of light So, how can we see other colors apart from the white? The only answer is that it’s all on account of the third phenomenon: the absorption of light. The absorption of light happens as light rays with various specific colors are incident on an object. If the light is white and so is the object, then the white light bounces off from the white object, meaning that the white light and the rest are not absorbed but reflected. But in case the object appears blue to our eyes, it means that only the blue light is reflected, and the red, green and other colors of light will be absorbed by the object. So, if the object appears black, then all of the lights will be absorbed and nothing is reflected. Still there is no absolute absorption of light as regards with all things in the nature. That is, when something is hit by light rays, it absorbs part of the lights and reflects the rest into the surroundings. Fig 6. Absorption of light Fig 7. On The Snowy Path by Peder Monsted Lighting in icon design Light source The direction from which we view a light source has a profound effect on our perception of it, and on how an icon will appear. There are several light directions to manipulate yet the light source should be slightly coming from above and exhibit between the eye and the icon. This could offer a uniform lighting appearance across all icons and spotlight effects. Fig 8. Lighting in Icon Design Shadow Shadow is strongly relative to light source. Shadow gives an icon dimensionality and reality. It also helps bind the elements of an icon together so that the icon will not look like a patchwork. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. Nevertheless, once you grasp the lighting principles. The problem would be partly avoided or solved. That also means you already got hold of the key: the light. 3 Vu Tran Basic shape Reminisce about your favorite hand drawings, the comics that you read, the paintings that you admired, they were all beautiful and perfect, weren’t they? But what we should know about them is that they were all depicted from basic shapes like circle, rectangle, triangle, square, and oval, etc. To be able to create masterpieces, a painter should master basic objects first. Practice in basic shape, however, requires you to put aside your mouse for a while and pick some drawing tools that you like to use, simply a pencil and small pieces of paper. Take them in and draw a few simple shapes like squares, cones, and spheres. You can save your time by drawing your objects in a small size (probably in a thumbnail). This also helps you avoid annoying lines as well as unnecessary details that may occur in your mind during your drawing. Meanwhile, you should focus on how to make your objects fit inside a piece of paper. This is very important to do as working on icons, each icon has a limited room inside a square, regardless of big or small versions. It would be better if you could deliver objects as expected. Any requirement here is not that strict. You can make it up to your drawing weakness by using the Illustrator’s Pen tool. Whenever you can’t depict the light of an object you drew in paper, put your drawing on a scanner or use your digital camera to take a picture of it, then open the file in Illustrator and try to refine its outline and add color to it. Perspective in general If any shape you draw looks askew or plane and gives no sense of depth, then perspective is one of the demanding factors you need to grasp. You might be asking why we didn’t speak up this matter earlier. Personally we think, without practice in drawing by hand, you hardly realize your own weak points, from which you will find ways to overcome. Actually, you can find something joyful from hand drawing, like leave hold of the computer and spend some time to mess with pencils and papers; your hand that holds the pencil will get full of pencil grime, and you throw lots of paper into the trashcan. Would that bring an enjoyable feeling to you rather than everyday holding the mouse or grip pen to do vectors? Furthermore, hand drawing helps you enhance your light perception and art sense to a certain degree. In practical perspective techniques, depth and distance are the key elements that need to be exposed to view. These elements are of vital importance for painters and house/interior/product designers, and for us if we want to get rid of the most primary mistakes as working with vector objects. There must have been some perspective lessons available in basic drawing guides that you might have read, but if you still can’t get over such issues in your drawing then the only thing is you. What is left to do to develop this skill is practice and experience. Back to our childhood, most of the pictures we first draw normally look flat and funny, and we draw each sole picture presenting the people or objects very close to our heart like dad and mom or house and animals, etc. As time goes on and we grow up, we start to be conscious of a sense of space and distance, using such big elements as houses or mountains and hills in order to create depth and dimension in the paintings. This might happen naturally to us without being taught, therefore the depth and dimension in those paintings could be illustrated in some quite casual way. In order to make perspective really fruitful to us, it requires that we should know how to use perspective as a means to define and measure the space, depth, dimension and distance of an object. To instantly see what a perspective is, look at the picture below that shows the horizon line and several straight lines starting off from one point. Note that these straight lines are parallel in reality. One-point perspective under horizon line Two-point perspective over horizon line There are three typical types of perspective: One-point perspective Two-point perspective Three-point perspective Perspective in Icon Design Up to now, you might feel a bit downcast for having to read too much about this perspective thing. How come so problematic? What is more important in this section? We ourselves used to ask and feel that way. But learning from our effort and experience, this must be more extensive. Bringing perspective into icon drawing has already been a “tacit” and common rule for proficient iconographers. With one of the three typical perspectives listed above, we think that you could make out an icon that looks OK. However, being an iconographer, any icon we create must look not only nice, but sharp, clear and crisp. If an application uses icons that look blunt and dull, the application will degrade itself. So don’t let your handiwork go wrong caused by the perspective mistakes. There’s a very small chance that this problem could be fixed, even if we have to spend hours to retouch them in Photoshop. So, first things first, it’s necessary to sketch out your concept on paper in order to avoid any slanting line happened to your icon. Before now, we used to draw many icons with diverse perspectives, and we kept thinking that once you felt confident and sure about perspective techniques and lighting, any icon you made would be fine looking and useful, but that was wrong. After a while, we thoroughly checked them out and took a close look at a significant number of icons shared or distributed on the web, we found out some impacts, and strong and weak points in using these types of perspective. So, following is our own important round-up related to perspective in icon design, including advantages and disadvantages of each perspective. Milky iconset in one-point perspective Advantages: Easy to implement concepts. Suitable to small-sized icons that could be in high sharpness. Simple in design. Much less perspective concerns than the other perspectives’. Easy to create icons that look user-friendly and have a maximum size inside a square. Easy to pack an iconset in this same perspective. Disadvantages: Hard to introduce space and distance to icons. Hard to catch the attention of users due to the very simple look. Icon in two-point perspective You can easily find many of them on your desktop (Windows) or on the Finder (MAC OS), or look at the demo picture of our freebie Shine below. Shine iconset in two-point perspective With a feature that allows to show many details of an object, two-point perspective is used to illustrate an icon by these aspects: Advantages: Icons in this perspective are being loved the most. Icon size is nearly infinite. All known techniques like lighting, shadow, texturing can be utilized for this kind of icon. Pleasing look, depth-senses and space-senses will be showed up before the users’ eyes. Disadvantages: It’s not easy to implement concepts. It requires experience in perspective. It’s hard to create an iconset of the same perspective (due to the viewing angle). It’s not easy to represent small-sized icons in toolbars. Icon in three-point perspective Are you kidding? Yeah. In fact, we was wondering who in the world did use this three-point perspective to draw standard icons. This kind of perspective is just about worthless for drawing icons as we have to represent small-sized objects. Besides, you definitely encounter the pixelation issue caused by three-point perspective. Okay! That’s all about the perspective in icon design we could tell. We know that there must be some errors or unclear points in our explanation for this topic, partly because of our English usage. Please feel free to leave your comments for this article. Thank you for your reading. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. 7 Vu Tran Not a few people could have been confused about how to use gradients in a sensible way and how to depict light, and why deal with these matters. These are the most common mistakes for those who begin to learn drawing without knowledge of fine art. Normally, they face to perspective problems and don’t know how to draw icons that represent actual objects. The easiest-to-recognize picture is one paint bucket with a paint dripping down to the ground. Take a look around all your applications you can see this icon appear pretty much. Finished paint bucket icon Okay, let’s get to it. A round cylinder, theoretically, is made up from one rectangle with two ellipses. Yet in life, if a metal bucket was made from the cylinder shape, it would look unsafe with a feeling that the user’s hand might be cut or injured. Therefore, product designers always create a round and smooth surface near at intersect of the rectangle and ellipses, making the product look safe to use. We will bring this practice into our icon design. Try to illustrate the intersecting surfaces or the highlighted areas in this icon, then create a cylinder by using the Rectangle tool to draw a rectangle. Step 3 Use the Divide Pathfinder to divide the paths, and clean up the outline. Next, insert a strap into the bucket. Fig 3 Step 4 Spin the bucket to a 45-degree angle. Add a dripping paint to represent the action. Fig 4 Step 5 Turn the bucket back to its initial standing position. Fig 5 Step 6 Put the dripping paint into a group and hide this group in order to work with the bucket only. Fig 6 Step 7 Apply a metal gradient to the bucket. Add color to the plastic strap. Fig 7 Step 8 Now, start messing with lighting. Highlighting some areas, bit by bit, will make the bucket look more round and deep. What to do is add more paths and drag a gray-to-black gradient across them, and then use the Make Opacity Mask command to dissolve those additional paths into the main paths (the bucket body). Fig 8a Fig 8b Fig 8c Step 9 In the Layer palette, locate the ellipse path that depicts the hollow for the bucket, and then move the duplicate group below the ellipse path. Select both the ellipse path and the duplicate group, right-click on the artboard and select the “Make Clipping Mask” command. You will see the result as shown in Fig 9. Fig 9 Draw one or two more paths to represent a reflection since the bucket is too glossy. Choose Screen mode or Multilayer and adjust the transparency of the new paths. You can now unhide the group of the dripping paint and add any color you want to it. Continue to represent another reflection that shows interactions among the bucket, the strap and their color. To do that, draw some more paths on the bucket and add the same color of the strap to them, and then adjust their transparency until the desired result is achieved. Finish To finish off, create a shadow to make the icon look more consistent. You’re done. How to Create a Simple Button Icon in Adobe Illustrator Adobe Illustrator’s Tools and Palettes Used Most for Icon Creation How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon in Adobe Illustrator How to create a realistic globe icon How to create a glossy Network icon Lighting in Icon Design (revisited) Material, Coloration and Gradient in Icon Design (revisited) As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. How to create a glossy Network icon Vu Tran Tutorial facts Application: Adobe Illustrator Tools: Most of the tools and palettes are in requisition, especially played around as much as Pen tool, Selection tool, Ellipse tool and palettes of Layer, Pathfinder, Transparency, and Blending mode and Gradient. Level: Advanced Complete Network icon Make a duplicate of the Globe icon and then delete the paths that create the continent. Step 3 Fig 3 Step 4 Fig 4 Step 5 Fig 5 Step 6 Fig 6 Step 7 Fig 7 Put all these paths into a group. Step 8 Fig 8 Step 9 Fig 9 Make the circle a little bigger using the Scale tool. Go to the View menu and choose Pixel Preview to check pixelation problem. If any, you have to re-edit the icon so that it looks sharp before exporting to image files. As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. How to create a vivid globe icon Vu Tran Tutorial facts Application: Adobe Illustrator Tools: Most of the tools and palettes are in requisition, especially played around as much as Pen tool, Selection tool, Ellipse tool and palettes of Layer, Pathfinder, Transparency, and Blending mode and Gradient. Level: Advanced Finish time: About 45 minutes or more What we need So, here are two first things you need to know: Are you ready? Here we go. First, download the image below that shows the basic outline of the globe. Create a new document and drag the file into the artboard, and then lock this layer. Create a new layer and use it to draw the outline. The sphere-shape portion includes three main paths of round shapes. The smallest round path inside will play the role of specular light, and the semi-circle path will be used for the reflected light. The continent portion has to show the two ground pieces, but it will be outlined in a clean and tidy way and has no detail about uneven surface, so that the icon will look simpler. Fig 3 Fig 4 4. Use the Direct Selection tool to move the bottom anchor point and change the length of control handle until you get the result as shown below. Fig 5 5. Draw another circle as shown in Fig 6 below to create the specular-light area. Fig 6 6. Go back to the circle path created in Step 4 and make it bigger by using the Direct Selection tool to drag the path. The purpose is to prepare well for the following step of dividing paths. If you skip this step, you will get lots of tiny paths after the dividing step is done. Fig 7 Fig 8 8. Ungroup the group just created by the Divide option and delete useless paths. You only need to maintain the reflection path and the circle path that’s similar to the one created in Step 4. Fig 9 9. Put all the remaining paths into a group. Now you got the basic outline of the sphere shape. You can create the continent outline like ours or choose a viewing angle of your own to make it different. You may also trace directly from some images from the internet, but you need to bring in its main figure only. Scatter some islands to make the globe look more real and prominent. As working on this portion, we use the Pen tools to draw, and the Select Direction tool to edit. Note that the best way to master the Pen tools is picking up a very complicated image and trace it. After the continent portion is done, put all of its paths into a group and hide this group. 3. Select all and set their stroke weight to none. 6. Fill the gradient you just created into the paths. We will take the blue gradient created above to color the continent. 3. We wanted the continent have a thickness so that it would look more prominent. Select all the continent paths and use the Offset Path command to make duplicates. Up to this step, we saw that the continent portion was not yet thick enough. So we decided to add a little more thickness to it by using effects. 3. Icon perfection 3. In the Transparency palette, change the Blending mode to Screen. 4. Oops, the color is not quite apposite. Try with a gray gradient and set its opacity to 37. OK, now it looks fine. 8. Switch to Pixel Preview to check the outcome before exporting. 4. Icon Sizes Select the icon and scale it at 75% using the Scale tool. Click Copy. We now have a globe icon designed with 4 different sizes. Besides, there’s no troublesome pixelation at all, so we don’t have to worry about fixing anything more. Here is another globe icon that looks quite different to the one above. As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. How to Create a Simple Stroke Dashboard Icon Vu Tran What is a stroke icon? Simple to say, it's an icon that's made up of only strokes filled with only one color. This kind of icon is useful and suitable for a graphic user interface on which everything needs to look as simple as possible, friendly, easy to recognize and especially consistent with the neighbor elements (like text for instance). So, is it hard to draw a stroke icon? Totally no! In fact, it takes several effortless steps and some of the Illustrator's basic tools then you can freely have as many simple, easy and fast-made icons as you want. Just take the following guide and you'll see how easy to create one. Stroke icons on a navigation bar As you see, all the icons on the navigation bar have a simple appearance and the same one color with the text alongside. This helps the navigation bar look gentle and easy to comprehend. Tutorial facts Application: Adobe Illustrator Tools: the Shape tools, the Offset path, and Divide/Unite/Ungroup commands Level: Beginner What to do Step 3 Select both paths and click on the Divide button from the Path Finder palette. Fig 3 Step 4 Step 5 Fig 4 Step 6 Delete the smallest circle that stays inside of all. You will have one like this: Fig 5 Step 7 With the Rectangle tool selected, draw a rectangle at the position like below: Fig 6 Step 8 Fig 7 Step 9 Choose the Ellipse tool and draw a circle that makes up the wheel of the hand (4 px). Fig 8 Select the Round Rectangle tool to draw the hand. Then, point the hand tip towards the position as seen in Fig 9. Fig 9 The final result Final result The additional steps like pixelation solving, scaling, and exporting, we will mention in other articles later. Followings have the same style as the one above. Hoping that you could make these on your own by this guide. As a perfectionist, not only have we wanted our products to be as perfect as possible, we have also wanted to improve the quality of each and every article published on this blog. Any suggestions or contributions to this article are highly appreciated. We appreciate your time. Vu Tran Getting started: Create a new document Launch your Adobe Illustrator, go to File and choose New or press the keys combination Ctrl+N (Windows) or Command+N (Mac OS) to start a new document. Hit the OK button to get your artwork started. By default, the Illustrator interface shows a Tools panel on its left and some other palettes on the right, and your document window will appear between those palettes. Press the F key to switch to the Preview mode. Adobe Illustrator CS3 User Interface The Tools panel (or the Toolbox) However, followings are the ones we always rely on when making an icon. The Zoom tool (Z) The Zoom tool allows us to enlarge or reduce the view of artwork we are viewing or when we want to edit everything in detail. Select Zoom tool or press the Z key and right click on the canvas to select Zoom in or Zoom out, or we can press the keys combination Command/Ctrl++ to enlarge and Command/Ctrl+- to reduce. The Hand tool (H) We use the Hand tool to scroll to different areas of the document. This tool is usually taken right after our artwork has been zoomed in or zoomed out. Click the Hand tool in the Tools panel and drag downward or upward in the document window. Everytime we drag, the artwork moves with the hand pointer. The Shape tools The Shape tools include the Rectangle tool, the Rounded Rectangle tool, the Eclipse tool, the Polygon tool and the Star tool. Use this when you want your path to be a rectangle or square shape. Click on the Rectangle tool in the Tools panel (or press the M key) to select it. Click the left mouse button and drag on the artboard. Select the appropriate tools then click on your canvas, a dialog box appears for you to type units in, hit OK and start drawing. The Pen tools (P) The Pen tools are the essence of Adobe Illustrator. We use the Pen tools to draw and edit curves. The Pen tools quartet includes: Pen tool, used to generate straight and curved lines. Add Anchor Point tool (+), allows you to add new anchor points. Delete Anchor Point tool (-), enables you to delete existing anchor points. Convert Anchor Point tool, used to change corners to curves and vice versa; it also allows you to tweak the exact character of a curve. The Pen tools are not only the heart of Adobe Illustrator but also the core of our job. So we will pay much attention to these tools more than the others. With the Pen tool, we can easily draw straight or curved lines. Curved lines are also called Bezier curves (named after the French mathematician, Pierre Bezier, who developed a method for defining curves mathematically). Drawing Bezier curves, which is one of the tasks we do most, costs a little more time and effort. That means “practice, practice and practice”. And once the Pen tool is mastered, it becomes a really cool weapon for icon designers. Note Play with it To draw straight-line segments: Select the Pen tool (P). Add your start anchor point by clicking one time with the left mouse button. Now add the end anchor point to make your first straight-line segment by clicking the mouse once again. From now on, you can make more straight-line segments with a few more clicks. To draw a curve: Now add the end anchor point for your first curve by clicking and holding the mouse button down. Drag the mouse to bend the curve the way you want it to be, and then release your left mouse button when you see the curve is okay with you. To create a shape with straight-line segments (a cornered shape): Select the Pen tool (P). Add your start anchor point and end anchor point to make the first line segment. Add another anchor point to make the second line. Position the mouse pointer over the start point, a small circle will appear next to the Pen tool pointer once it is positioned correctly. Click to close the path, making a complete shape. To create a shape with curved segments (a shape with Bezier curves): Similar to drawing a cornered shape but you need to drag the mouse instead (See how to draw a curve). Note that you normally encounter an opened shape, of which the start point and the end point don’t connect. To connect and close this shape, just click back onto the start point (make sure the Pen tool pointer has to change to a closed circle icon before clicking). To draw a Bezier curve, right after one left-click is made on your artwork you need to hold down the left-mouse button and drag for the control handle to appear, and then release the mouse button. You can do these same actions two or more times until you have Bezier curves as desired. There are times when you need to edit a path to get it just right. There are also plenty of times when you have a complex path, and you want to modify it to create a new path that is less complicated. And editing a path can be done in several ways, and the following tools will help you do these tasks. These two tools give us more power and control to drive a path. Specifically, they help us easily edit our paths and Bezier curves. We will have to add some anchor points when we prepare to re-shape a path, and we can reduce the complexity of a path by deleting its unnecessary anchor points. Notes a. If you add one point to a straight path, the new anchor point will be a straight anchor point, and clicking a curved path brings about a new smooth anchor point. b. A path with fewer anchor points is easier to edit and display, so it is not a good idea to add more points than necessary. c. If you delete the corner or curve (smooth) points of a path, the shape of the path will transform; if you delete the points on a straight path, the shape of the path will be still intact. Play with it To add an anchor point: Select the path you want to modify. Select the Pen tool (P) or the Add Anchor Point Tool (+), move the pointer over the path segment and click. To delete an anchor point: Select the path you want to modify. Do one of the two following ways: Select the Pen tool (P) or the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-), position the pointer over the anchor point and click. Or, select the anchor point with the Direct Selection tool (A) and click Remove Selected Anchor Point in the Control panel. (docked at the top of the work area, by default) 3. The Convert Anchor Point tool (Shift+C) This is another wonderful tool that you will take over and over again when you draw an icon. What do you do when you already have an anchor point but you need to change it from this type of point to something different? The answer is using the Convert Anchor Point tool, which is the last one from the Pen tool quartet. With this tool, you can convert an anchor point from corner to smooth, or vice versa. It works similarly to the Add/Delete Anchor Points tool. Play with it To convert a corner point to a smooth point: Select the Convert Anchor Points tool. Click on an anchor point you want to convert and drag the mouse until you have a Bezier curve as expected. To convert a point with control handles to the point without control handles: Select the Convert Anchor Points tool. Click on a smooth point you want to convert and release the mouse button. Notes a. Clicking on a smooth point will convert it to a straight anchor point. b. Dragging a point will make that point turn to a smooth anchor point. c. Dragging on a control handle will make a smooth point turn to a combination point. If you want to convert a straight anchor point to a combination point, you must first make the point become a smooth point, and then drag on the control handle. The Pen tools quartet should be used along with the Direct Selection tool, completing an essential tool set in your icon-drawing process. Process of editing a shape Draw a rectangle shape. Add some more anchor points to the rectangle. Select the Direct Selection tool (A) and use it to move those anchor points you just made to your intended positions where your shape will be formed. Select the Convert Anchor Point tool and use it to change the corner points to smooth points. The Selection tool (V) As named, this tool allows us to make selections on our paths or Bezier curves. Play with it Select the Selection tool (V). Click on the outline of a path to see it highlighted with a different color. Note In case the outline doesn’t appear, press Command+Option+B (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Shift+B (Windows). The Direct Selection tool (A) It allows us to change the shape of a path by moving the position of anchor points, or it helps transform a curve by adjusting the length of control handles. This tool probably is the best of all in the Tools panel, we guess. It is a helpful and easy-to-use tool that you should use all the time you work with Adobe Illustrator. Play with it To move a straight segment: Select the path by using the Selection tool (V). With the Direct Selection tool (A), select the segment you want to adjust. Drag the segment to a new position. To adjust the length or angle of a straight segment: Select the path by using the Selection tool (V). With the Direct Selection tool (A), select an anchor point you want to adjust. Drag the anchor point to the desired position. To adjust the position or shape of a curved segment: Select the path by using the Selection tool (V). With the Direct Selection tool (A), select a curved segment or an anchor point on either end of the curved segment and some direction lines will appear. Note that some curved segments need only one direction line. Do one of the followings: - To adjust the position of the segment, drag the segment. - To adjust the shape of the segment on either side of a selected anchor point, drag either the anchor point or the direction point (the control handle). The Scale tool (S) Sometimes we need this tool to deal with our artwork when we want to change the size of a shape. Specifically, we need this tool to enlarge or shrink the paths of a shape, or scale two anchor points to make them symmetrical. Play with it Press the V key to activate the Selection tool and select the shape you want to resize. You can select multiple paths/anchor points by holding down the Shift key and click. The Eyedropper tool (I) This tool is to extract (or pick) color or gradient or stroke already filled in a path or image. Play with it Select the Eyedropper tool (I). Once you finish your icon, this tool allows you to export the vector format to raster-based image. What about the other ones? The Blend tool (W): A nice tool to use but you will have to meet this tool later in a single particular tutorial. The Gradient tool (G): This tool has a close relationship with the Gradient palette so we will mention both of them later. The Mesh tool (U):  This tool, as a matter of fact, is used when someone wants to draw a Mesh surface (visualized 3-D) like a leaf or a drop of water, for instance. Based on our experiments in the icon-drawing process, this tool really could not work it out and not worth our efforts with it. There are some other simple tools that could totally replace this one thanks to their flexible and straightforward use, and with these substitutes, our icon designs take less time and have similar outcomes as desired, and it is easier for us to re-edit anything when needed. The Flare tool: The Flare tool is rarely used to draw icons and therefore we can forget it. Okay folks, that’s all you need to know about the Illustrator’s basic tools that you have to get used to and master, if you wish to shorten your study time as well as to facilitate the process of drawing and creating beautiful icons. These tools must not only be comfortable with, but also be of combined use. This aims to increase your confidence with each tool and to help you get more flexibility in creating shapes. For example, to create a complex shape that requires highly-precise curves, we normally select the Shape tool first to create a simple shape, and then add some extra anchor points to the segments and transform the shape from simple to complex as expected. The Tools palettes The Tools palettes are another great feature in Illustrator and not less powerful than the Tools panel. Adobe Illustrator CS3 User Interface As we can see, all of these palettes are in the same form, which provides the same components. During the whole process of icon-drawing, we regularly remain in touch with their options, settings, and parameters. Followings are some common ways we frequently do in our practices: -Moving a palette to any convenient location, by dragging on its title bar. -Changing the size of a palette, by dragging this little triangle  appeared on the bottom-right corner of that palette. -Clicking the little triangle appeared on the upper-right corner of a palette to call up a pop-up menu that allows us to unhide hidden options with many commands. The Color palette This palette consists of some color standards. The aim of using is to add color to your paths or change their color. Play with it Draw one or two paths using the Pen tool or the Shape tool. Select a path and add some color to it by doing one of the followings: Drag the slide bars, or Type values in the color fields, or Use the color bar, or Use the Color Picker dialog box, by double-clicking on the Fill icon Notes b. The color setting options are identical, meaning that if there is a change in one option. The others will change correlatively. c. The path will turn in gray color when the color fields have the same values. The Swatches palette Play with it To adapt yourself to the use of the Swatches palette - Draw some paths. Select one path or two you want to add color/gradient. Go to the Swatches palette, click on the color/gradient you like to add to the path(s). The swatches you picked now should appear in the path(s), and the swatch values will also display correlatively in the Color palette. Here are some small tasks you are recommended to do frequently: The Stroke palette “For stroke, we call it outline in icon design.” Note The Gradient palette You have to befriend with this palette like you do with the Gradient tool before entering the world of icon design. Because icons love gradients and that is what is all about once you choose Adobe Illustrator to create icons. Play with it Draw some paths using the Pen tool or the Shape tool. Select the path(s). Click the gradient shown in the Gradient Fill box (or you can pick one in the Swatches palette). Activate the Gradient tool (press G) then click and from one side, drag across the path filled with the gradient and release the mouse button when you get to the other side. Notes a. You can freely drag from any direction or angle. b. You can hold down the Shift key while dragging to constrain the drag in a straight line, making the blend occur equally. You might as well keep dragging until the desired result is achieved. If you don’t like the color of your gradient, you don’t have to call for the gradients that come from the Swatches palette. Instead, use the Gradient palette to change colors, add colors, remove colors, and change the way the colors behave. Play with it To create a new gradient: Click on the Gradient Slider bar or the Gradient Fill box. Drag the gradient slider to create a color gradation. To adjust the gradient color: Click once on the square icon below the gradient slider. In the Color palette, drag the Color sliders. To add color to the gradient: Drag a color from the Color palette or the Swatches palette and drop it onto the Gradient Slider bar. To delete color from the gradient, drag the square icon off the gradient slider. Note If a gradient pleases you, don’t forget to save it as a swatch to reuse as necessary. The Transparency palette This is the palette you can hardly miss in the process of blending colors for icons. You will need it to depict bright or dark areas, making a variety of colors for the mono-colored pieces of the path you are drawing. In the Transparency palette, there are some options and settings like Blending, Opacity…, and some commands in its pop-up menu like Make/Release Opacity Mask… But at the moment, we are going to focus on the Blending and Opacity options, the others will be mentioned later. Although you can see all of the Blending modes in the palette, we would like to list them all here. Normal Mode: Normal Play with it Draw some paths that pile up together and disorder. Add different colors or gradients to each path. Select one path or some more, then change the Opacity. Alternate the options of Blending. Notes a. Keep your eyes open to the changes of the heaped-up color layers. b. Try to keep in mind on how the effects occur while you are changing the Opacity and the Blending modes. c. This will give you a little bit experience in seeking out and creating multi-colored pieces. Practice this process as long as you feel acquainted with the effects generated from the Opacity and Blending options. The Appearance palette A path has certain attributes that can define the appearance of that path. When you specify such attributes as settings of stroke, fill, transparency, gradient, effect, etc. these attributes will appear listed in this Appearance palette. In other words, this palette gives you a way to every attribute of a path or a group of paths. Play with it Select a path or a group of paths then look at the Appearance palette. Could you tell me what attributes are in there? But if you look over it, you will know that the Appearance palette not only gives details about the settings of the paths’ appearance (such as stroke, fill, transparency and effects), but also brings about a visual interface for you to select and adjust any of these settings. You just need this interface to delete attributes you don’t want anymore or to add more effects to them. Select a path. Click on an attribute (Stroke or Fill) in this palette to highlight it. The Layers palette Hold on. Why layers? Okay, first, we have to give you a little bit of a lengthy explanation. As you might know, or you can search on the net, when talking about any kind of Classical Painting (water color or oil color) and any technique used in the work like wet-in-wet, washes, glazing, transparent, etc., we could say that most traditional painters tend to create an illusion of depth through layering process in their drawings. So it’s clear to see that layers are inevitable in a graphic depiction of paintings, or that’s to say, in forming a complete painting. Layers can be viewed sequentially or simultaneously to reveal relationships between the initial sketch (the under-painting), the finished work and any compositional change within the painting layers. Any viewer to a painting can themselves manipulate these layered images to look beneath the surface of a painting. OK, that’s enough. Now go back to our main subject. When working on a complex artwork with lots of paths or groups of paths, it’s a challenge to keep track of all the paths in our document window. Small paths get hidden under bigger paths, making it hard to work with everything inside the artwork. And then here comes our savior – the Layers palette. The Layers palette provides a way to manage all the paths that make up our artwork. Just relate the layers in Illustrator to those in the classical painting mentioned-above! By viewing only certain layers, you can concentrate more easily on the task at hand. Layers are extremely versatile and can really help keep our complex illustrations under control and manageable. The structure of layers in your document can become as simple or complex as you want it to be. By default, all paths are organized in a single parent layer. However, you can create some more new layers and move the paths into them, or move the elements from one layer to another at any time. The Layers palette also makes it easier for you to select, hide, lock, and change the appearance attributes of your artwork. Note You will have to work with multi-layers in a document where there are a great deal of icons. That means you won’t have to worry about multi-layers if you’re drawing one icon only. Play with it Create a new layer/sublayer: In the Layers palette, click the name of the layer above which or in which you want to add the new layer. Do one of the followings: -To add a new layer above the selected layer, click the Create New Layer button in the Layers palette. -To create a new sublayer inside the selected layer, click the Create New Sublayer button in the Layers palette. Delete a layer: Do one of the followings: -Click the name of the layer and drag it to the Delete Selection button in the Layers palette. -Click the target button on the right side of the layer group and then click the Delete Selection button in the Layers palette. -Click the target button on the right side of the layer or the group of paths you want to delete. When it appears as a double ring icon, press the Backspace key (Mac OS) or the Delete key (Windows). To lock or unlock a layer, check or uncheck the right-hand box. To hide or show a layer, check or uncheck the left-hand box. Select or un-select a layer/path/group: Position the mouse pointer at the far right of the path, and click. A little dot appears to indicate your selection. Moving a layer/path/group: Click the name of the path to highlight it. Drag it to a new position inside the layer or another layer. The Brush and Symbol palettes These are rarely used so we bypass them at the moment. We will talk about these palettes later on when needed. Final Words

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