This post was originally published in 2009
The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

The best way to learn the ropes of a new application is to get stuck in with a working project. This Adobe Illustrator tutorial covers the simple steps involved in creating a vector RSS icon and includes a range of handy techniques that can be put into practice in future creations.

Vector RSS Icon

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics application, so it doesn’t matter what size the icon is created at. We can simply select all the objects and scale them up to the size of King Kong, or likewise scale them down to the desired size. Unlike Photoshop, all our lines and shapes will keep their crisp lines and colours because they’re made of mathematical calculations rather than good old pixels.

Open up Illustrator and create a new document. Click and hold the mouse over the Rectangle tool to select the Rounded Rectangle option hiding underneath. Draw your shape on the artboard while holding Shift, use the arrow cursor keys to adjust the roundness of the corners while dragging.

Another difference between Illustrator and Photoshop is the options sat at the bottom of the main tool palette. In Photoshop, I’m sure you’re familiar with the foreground and background swatches – In Illustrator this is replaced with the fill colour and stroke colour. Click the stroke option and clear off any defaults, then bring the fill into focus. Over in the Gradient Panel, add an orange fill that varies from dark to light vertically across the shape.

With the shape selected, go Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter -1mm in the options. Grab the corner of the new shape and rotate to 180 degrees so the gradients flow in opposite directions.

Grab the circle tool and draw a shape elsewhere on the artboard. Clear out any fill, and add a thick 16pt black stroke.

With the Direct Selection Tool (White Arrow), select only the left and bottom points of the circle. Hit delete on the keyboard to trim the circle down to a quarter.

Copy (CMD+C) the quarter circle and paste in front (CMD+F). Scale it down while holding the shift key to keep everything tight. Tip: Check the Scale Strokes and Effects option in the preferences and alter to your personal liking.

Adjust the stroke weight to match the 16pt of the original.

Press CMD+R to show the rulers, then drag a couple of guides out in alignment with the quarter circles. Using the intersection as a source, draw a small circle to finish off the traditional RSS shape.

Our two quarter circles are currently set as stroked paths, but we can quickly convert them to complete shapes by heading to Object > Expand, then selecting just the Stroke option.

With the three objects selected, add a grey-white gradient fill running vertically, and a 1pt light grey stroke.

Press CMD-G to Group the objects together, then scale and position them into place in the overall orange container.

Select the inner rectangle from the orange box, Copy (CMD-C) and Paste in Front (CMD-F). Fill it with white. One tip to remember is unlike Photoshop, Illustrator can hold multiple items in just one layer, each stackable on top of each other.

Draw a large, flat oval over the entire graphic. Pay close attention to how the bottom curve overlaps the white rectangle. With the oval and rectangle selection, click the Intersect Shape Area option in the Pathfinder palette.

Reduce the Opacity of this new shape down to around 15%, giving a sleek shine to the icon.

Finish off the graphic with a couple of specular hightlights in the form of circles. Use 15% opacity again to maintain a subtle appearance.

There we go, a simple vector RSS icon using some simple steps, but covering some of Illustrator’s powerful tools.

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  1. There are loads of Illustrator tutorials about the RSS icon out there. Still, love this one because of the detail of the tut itselve: It really learns you some basics of the tool.

    Great work (once again) Chris :) !

  2. Hey Chris!

    Great stuff. I’m more the Photoshop expert and I never took the time to take a look into Illustrator, but this turtorial was quite usefull to me. Thanks!

  3. Hey Chris, I’m having huge trouble selecting the colours for the gradient, it just changes to black and white and I can’t figure out why, can you walk it through slower for an idiot like me please?



  4. Sorry for another reply, it was my fault! The colour palette for some reason was set to grayscale. Duh!

  5. Chris, I love these tutorials. I don’t get the opportunity to play in Illustrator as much as I would like to so when you send these tutorials, as simple as they may be, I learn something new each time! Today, I learned about creating an object by using Offset Path. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for this post, actually learnt something. Mind you I still look at Illustration as alot of work…things just don’t seem to flow as easily as they do with Photoshop…but maybe that is just me getting older!!!

  7. Really great tutorial for beginners to watch. By watching you make this one simple icon, I was able to learn techniques that I’m sure will come in extremely handy. Thanks for taking the time to put this together!


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