How to Create an Icon in Illustrator

October 14, 2009 in Featured, Illustrator by admin

How to Create an Icon in Adobe Illustrator

by Wendell Fernandes

Hello viewers and visitors. We wanted to pass along a basic tutorial of how these icons are usually done. We’ll be providing a Basic Icon Tutorial which combines a simple idea and approach to creating an icon that is really simple to use and fun to do. You will need some experience on using Adobe Illustrator for this tutorial. So Let’s get started on our tutorial.

1. First, look at the Final Result

We have to look at what we are going to try to accomplish here. We are trying to get a feel for a nice icon design and at the same time, keep it very doable for all users and I’ll see to provide you with specific details later on but for now, let us look at the final result and how we are going to accomplish it.

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Final Result – Figure 1

2. Create Rectangle Shape and Apply Gradient

As you can see above we have a pretty simple idea of what we are trying to accomplish here. Now let’s go ahead and try to get the same result following similar directions. We are going to design a base for our icon. You will accomplish this by doing the following:

Create a rectangle shape, and apply a default gradient to it. We are going to play around with the directions of the gradient. We need to click and drag from one side to the other to get different results. Please note that we are NOT applying any “Transparency Effect” on this shape just yet.

See results below:

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Figure 2

3. Change Transparency

Now that we have a basic shape like the above example, we are going to COPY + PASTE the same shape using the Key Board, press, Command + C and Command + F (Which is to paste right in front of the selected shape). Now you are going to change the transparency from normal, to “Multiply”. This should give you the following result:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 3

4. Apply another direction for the Gradient

As you can see the result above, I am applying a different direction to the gradient. Below is how you get different directions of the gradient.

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Figure 4

5. Create a Rectangle Shape

We are going to need as many as of this different shape we need, if we are trying to achieve a different type of result, you will need to play around with other colors etc. but for now let’s keep it simple. Next we’ll create a round rectangle shape, using the same position and angle of the last shape we did. You can round the corners of your shape by going to the “Effects”, then you go to “Stylized” and then finally “Round Corners”, add your round corner radius and you should get the following:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 5

6. Subtract the middle using the Pathfinder Tool

We’ll need to “subtract” the middle section of this shape by using the “Pathfinder” Tool. You can select this tool by going to the in context menu and choose it from Window>Pathfinder. By doing this you should get this following shape:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 6

7. Design the Base of the Icon

After accomplishing these steps so far, you should have a pretty good idea of how you will approach the rest of the shapes. Note that many of these are very simple but they need proper attention as you cannot lose consistency on designing icons specially when there are multiple icons involved in one project. The following will show you how we designed our BASE for the icon we are creating. See Below:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 7

8. Top Half of the Icon

As you can see this is a solid metal-like banner. You can see that there has been a shadow added. This gives a subtle touch to the icon. Remember, the more details, better off you will be, but will take up more time. Now we are going to use the COPY + PASTE as previously mentioned. We’ll get back to this point further down the tutorial. Below is the TOP half of this puzzle.

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Figure 8

9. Create the Following Shapes

Now we are going to hide this TOP cover for now and let’s focus a bit on the fun stuff. Take a look at this visual element. You will notice that you will need to create multiple shapes in order to accomplish the same look and feel. Using the same technique we have used before, let’s try making these following shapes:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 9

10. Add Shapes to the Icon

As you can see these shapes are very simple and added they form the middle section of the icon. If we have them added, you get this following result:

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -

Figure 10

11. Put the Cover On

We have to place our BASE on the bottom and “Bring to Back” and the cover we need to “Bring to Front”. This will give us a nice icon as the next image.

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Figure 11

12. Create the “Time Machine” Icon for the Top

If you have noticed in the very beginning of this tutorial, I have shown you an icon that has a spinning clock or “Time Machine” type of icon. Let’s call back up this icon for now. The question you might be asking yourself is, how do you get that shape? You simple create a circle, Edit it creating an arrow, subtract things and add things as you see fit, using the “Pathfinder” tool which is located inside “Window” on the top main menu.

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Figure 12

13. Final Result – The Icon

Now you should have a 98% chance of getting the same result. Here is the final version, Check it Out! Once again viewers, thank you for the opportunity to talk about some of what we provide!

Icon Tutorial Illustrator -


Wendell Fernandes


My name is Wendell Fernandes, Creative Director of, I am a Brazilian-born user interface and icon designer , I was also one of several designers who brought the new live. In addition to, I’ve also worked with clients like Dell, and DivX. My focus is bringing UI creativity in the industry and innovative solutions that make sense in today’s market. You can contact me by visiting