Friday, August 27, 2010

[AI] Icon #1 -- Recycle Bin tutorial

     I know the outcome is not "incredible" but you can achieve better results by changing the gradients&effects applied. I could not change those because I've made the tutorial while I was designing the icon. (Usualy I make my design, tweak it until it's perfect and then make the tutorial, but doing this way I might omit some steps...)

1. Create a new Illustrator web document (624*351). Place a guide to the Artboard's middle (X:312px).
Using the Ellipse Tool(L) draw 2 shapes as shown in the picture below:
2. Using the Pen Tool(P) draw another shape:
3. Copy the orange shape and the bottom ellipse. Select both this layers and use Pathfinder to merge them.
Note: If you're using CS3 or under you may need to alt-click the button to expand, or to manually expand the layer after using pathfinder.
4. Copy the top light-blue ellipse. Select the shape created in step 3 (the green shape shown below) and the upper light-blue ellipse. Make sure the green shape is above the ellipse and use Pathfinder->Minus Back.
This green shape will be the Recycle's Bin front part.
5. Now we'll take care of the back part. Hide the green shape for the momment. Duplicate the bottom ellipse shape and select it. Shift+click the orange shape to select it too. Having this two layers selected (the orange shape above the ellipse) use again Pathfinder->Minus Back.
6. Before doing this step you may want to copy the top light-blue ellipse and hide the copy. You will need it in a much-later step.
Select the orange shape and the top ellipse and merge them using pathfinder.
7. Below is a picture showing the 3 layer you should have until now:
8.  To make things easier lower the opacity of these 3 layers to 90%.
9.  Select the bottom ellipse shape and the orange shape and use Effect->Path->Offseth Path , value: -1px.
10. Let's get the Recycling icon. You could draw it yourself but I guess that's unnecessary as long as you can find it through the Illustrators' symbols.
11. We only need that 3 arrows (without the background). Expand the symbol and ungroup (CTRL+SHIFT+G) untill all the containing shapes are in their own layers. Using the Selection Tool(V) delete all the background parts and keep only the arrows. Change their color to make them visible.
12. Let's start stylizing the bin. Select the front (green) shape and apply these settings:
13. Select the bottom (orange) shape and apply these settings:
14. Group the layers forming the "recycling" icon and place them onto the bin. Apply a gradient to the group.
I've also change the background color (created a rectangular shape behind all the layer) to make my icon more visible.
15. Make two copies of the recycling-icon group. On the last group apply a white->gray gradient as shown in the picture below. Make the middle group green. For the first group go to Effect->Path->Offset Path with a value of -2 or -3px.
16. Let's add a reflection. Select the layer that is closest to the front (the green layer in step 7) and duplicate it. Brigh this layer to front (CTRL+SHIFT+]) and apply a white->black gradient mask to it.
17.  Remember that in step 6 I asked you to save a copy of the upper ellipse shape? If you did, great, if you didn't just select the Ellipse Tool(E) and draw another ellipse simillar to the light-blue one from step 1. Change It's fill to nothing and it's stroke to a 2px black stroke. Expand this layer and instead of leaving it black apply the smae gradient you applied for the bottomest recycling-icon group (that metal white->gray gradient).
Notice the top "rim" that we've created in this step.
18. Some color corection now. Again select the layer that was green in step 7 and duplicate it. Place it behind the recycling-icon groups. Make it white and change opacity to 50%.
19. Now we'll add some shadows. Using the Ellipse Tool(L) draw a circle and apply a black(100%opacity)->black(0%opacity) gradient if you're using CS4 or above. If not (as I do), make this circle black and add a mask to it.
20. Move it behind all the bin's layers and transform&move it until you have something like this:
21. Do the same thing as you did in step 16, but this time instead of making the layer white, make it black. And also add a clipping mask so that only the bottom-right corner will be visible.
22. Make 2 copies of the layer that was orange in step 7. Make both copies black, 50% opacity. On one of these copies apply Effect->3D->Rotate so that it will look like a shadow. Put this "shadow" layer behind all the bin's layers, it's also a good ideea to expand it.
23. I'm not really satisfied about the recycling icon. I've copied the last group (the one having white->gray gradient on it) and made it black, 50% opacity. Sent this backwards (behind the white->gray gradiented group) and moved it down-right few pixels.
24. We're done with the bin. What about the trash?
You may want to group all the layers and name this group Recycling Bin-Empty. Duplicate the group and ungroup it so you can "fill" the bin with trash.
Create a random sharp-cornered edge shape using the Pen Tool(P). Apply Effect->Styli/ze->Drop Shadow.
25. Make mulitple copies of this shape, also modifing them using the Direct Selection Tool(A). Group al these layers into a group. Place this group so that it is above the back-part of the bin and under the front-part of the bin.
26. If you look carefully in the picture bellow you can see that the drop-shadow effects on the trash are not totally inside the bin. We must mask them out. Create a new mask for the trash-group and draw a white shape covering only what you want to remain.
27. You also have to apply a mask on the top metal rim that's showing over the trash where it musn't.
28. And finally, you can select the shadow and apply a Effect->Blur->Gaussian Blur to it. Expand the layer after that.
29. The icon is finished. You can place it on a gradiented background. It's also "cool" to add some reflections :D .

If you want you can DOWNLOAD THE .AI HERE .

As I said you can tweak the icon a little and make it look much better, but the purpose of this tutorial was to make you understand the principle.

Comments are wellcomed! :)


  1. This is a horrible tutorial. I tried to follow all the written instruction and I I notice the info is somewhat confusing. I would not recommend this tutorial for the beginners.

  2. As you can see this is a long and complex tutorial and therefore it's not suitable for beginners.

    Can you please tell me which step is unclear for you?