Enhance your skills with this step-by-step tutorial on creating a stylized vector icon. We'll cover how to use line weight, color and unique shading techniques to create this icon. Let's get started!
Before we get started please be aware...
• This is an advanced tutorial so some skills are assumed.
• I will not be pointing out when I use new layers. I encourage the use of separate layers when drawing different elements to make selection of objects much easier.
Start by using the Pen Tool (P) and drawing the outline of the bird. When beginning to draw the shape it is sometimes easier to not click and drag when creating the first point, as doing so will make closing the shape more difficult (certain curves will easily become distorted.)
Continue to draw the curve to make the basic outline of the bird. Getting the curve just right may take some finessing.
Close the shape.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to drag over any of the points to fine-tune the shape. Below, I'm repositioning the area inside the circle because the tail did not curve up as high as I would have liked.
Continue to draw the other elements that comprise the shape of the bird.
Close the shape to complete the wing.
Again, you can select certain points that you wish to fine-tune.
Use the Ellipse Tool (M) to draw a circle for the eye. Use the Pen Tool to freehand draw the beak
Once you have the basic shape of the bird drawn in you can move on to creating the foundation for the nest. When drawing certain objects I find it easier to first draw the overall shape that I want to achieve and then add in the details. This is what we'll do for the nest. First, draw the shape as shown below. Fill the shape with white so you don't have too many extraneous lines overlapping.
Draw the back of the nest to complete the overall object.
Next we'll make the eggs that should go inside the basket. Start by using the Ellipse Tool to draw an oval.
Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp… Select Shell Lower from the drop down menu then adjust the Bend to about 20%. Click OK.
To further work with the shape you'll first need to expand it. Go to Object > Expand then press OK.
Duplicate the egg shapes and place them behind the front of the nest. You can also use a clipping mask to create the impression that the eggs are inside the nest. To create a clipping mask simply draw a shape using the Pen Tool (if you are clipping more than one object, then group the objects first). Make sure the shape that will clip the eggs is in front of the eggs. To move an object to the front of all the other objects select it and go to Object Arrange > Bring to Front. Select the clipping shape and object, or grouped objects, then go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make.
We'll use the shape of the nest as a guide when we're drawing all the details of the nest. Select the shapes that comprise the nest and change their stroke color to a light gray.
Use the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a slightly irregular line using the gray lines as a guide. The shape below has no fill and a thick stroke.
Use the Pencil Tool again to draw the inside edge of the basket. This time give the shape a fill and no stroke.
To create the details that make up the nest you can either use the Pen or Pencil Tool to create a variety of unique shapes.
Draw several shapes that overlap each other to build up some volume. Follow the curvature of the nest to create a more pleasing texture. Notice on the edges my branches tend to curve slightly.
This is what your artwork should look like right now.
Creating variation with line weight is one critical factor in the overall look of almost any illustration, especially this one! Having said that, select the outline of the bird and give it a much more noticeable stroke weight.
Also give the eggs a thicker stroke so they stand out too. Notice I gave the eggs a subtle, irregular stroke. This is accomplished by expanding the stroke that comprises the egg and adjusting the points and position of them.
Add any other details that you feel are necessary. I've added a circular shape to the chest of the bird and I've decided to give a few branches on the nest a fill with no stroke to add some variety.
Once the details are added you can start adding color to each object. Select the different sections and give them vivid colors. You can use gradients to help give the objects a sense of volume. Although, that is up to you and depends on the overall look that you want to achieve.
Also observe that the outline of the bird is a dark blue not 100% black.
Fill the nest with a tan color. I've used a gradient for some of the branches that make up the texture within the nest. You can use solid gradients, solid to transparent gradients, or no gradients at all. The choice is up to you.
To quickly build up a large amount of branches simply copy and paste them all at once. Make them look varied by mirroring or flipping them simultaneously.
Give the birds eye a radial gradient to create the illusion of a sphere.
Create a reflection on the edge of the eye by first overlapping two circles and using the Pathfinder Palette and clicking Minus Front. Position the crescent shape over the eye.
It's easy to create shading using simple shapes. First, use the Pen or Pencil Tool to draw over the areas that should have shading.
To help the shadow blend more seamlessly with the object behind it, give the shape a fill color in the same family as the color behind it. Below, I've used a darker blue as the base color of the bird is light blue. After that, select Multiply in the Transparency Palette which helps the shape blend even more.
With the shaded shape selected go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur… Give your shape a blur amount that looks good to you. Click OK.
You can even use gradients instead of solid colors to create shading. Observe under the birds beak I've used a blue to transparent gradient to make it seem as though the shadow gets lighter as it moves farther away from the object casting it.
For a few of the branches on the nest I've given them a drop shadow to create a little more depth. To give an object a drop shadow select it and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow.
Use the same technique to give the birds nest a more dramatic shadow. This time we'll use a dark brown as the base color since the nest is tan.
This is what your artwork should look like right now.
Using a radial gradient, give the eggs some shading.
Adding highlights is similar to adding shadows. Below, I've added a highlight that uses a gradient that goes from white to blue.
I've added a few separate areas of highlights as you'll see below... Two above the beak, one over the eye and one large one over the wing.
To take the highlights one step further, I've added another type. Using the Pen Tool draw a crescent shape along the edge of he birds head. Adjust the transparency of it so it incorporates itself better with the colors behind it. Repeat this process for other areas on the bird... over the edge of the wing, along the birds back, etc.
Next we'll create leaves using a simple shape. Draw a circle using the Ellipse Tool.
Click the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) and click the top and bottom points of the circle. This will instantly turn them into sharp points.
Give the leaf a fill and stroke.
Place a few leaves throughout the nest and make sure to give them a drop shadow.
To create a drop shadow for the overall icon we'll use the basic shapes shown below to start. Select the shapes and in the Pathfinder Palette select Unite.
This should be your result.
The last step is to give the new shape a drop shadow by going to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter about 40 for Opacity and give it a blur that looks good to you. Select OK. Place the drop shadow behind all the other objects by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back.
Here's the final illustration. You've just learned how to create a stylized Twitter bird and nest icon in Illustrator!