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The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.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.
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.