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Understanding the fundamental process of creating an icon in Photoshop can become a valuable skill to learn. Today we will be creating a chalkboard icon inspired the Icon Resource website by Sebastiaan de With, whom has given permission to make a tutorial inspired by his work. In this tutorial you will learn some important concepts as well as how to work with some third-party apps.
Create a new document with the settings shown below. You can fill your background with any color, but I prefer to work with a transparent canvas. It's up to you.
Create a new layer folder and call it "Frame". Inside, create a new layer and call it "Wood". Select the Rectangle Tool (U) and draw a rectangle shape as shown below.
Open the Blending Options of the Layer "Wood" and apply the following styles: Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, and Gradient Overlay with the settings shown below. When you finish you will get a yellow-orange rectangle like the one shown in the last image.
Create a new layer and call it "Wood Texture". Fill this layer with black and go to filter > noise > add noise and set the options shown below. With the same layer selected, go to filter > blur > Gaussian blur and type in the settings shown bellow in the second image. Next with the same layer selected go to image > adjustments > levels (or press cmd+L for Mac or ctrl+L for windows), and type in the settings from the third image. Finally with the same layer selected press cmd and click in the "Wood" layer to make a selection, go to select > inverse, and press backspace, to remove the extra layer and match the rectangle shape of the "Wood" layer. Change the Blending Mode to "Soft Light" and reduce the opacity to 30%. The image so far should look like the one below.
Duplicate the "Wood Texture Layer" twice and rename them to "Wood Texture 1" and "Wood Texture 2". In the "Wood Texture 1" Change the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the opacity to 10%, and in the "Wood Texture 2" Set the Blending Mode to "Soft Light" and reduce the opacity to 15%. At this point you should see something like this:
Create a new layer and call it "board". With the new layer selected hold shift and click over the "Wood" layer, this will make a selection. Go to select > modify > contract, and when the dialog box shows, enter 60px and click OK. Fill the selection with black. Right now you should have the "Wood" Layer with the orange rectangle and the "Green" Layer with a smaller black rectangle. Open up the Blending Options of the "Green" layer and apply the following styles:
Create a new layer and name it "Board Grunge", you need a corner grunge brush set. I used the Grunge Corner Brush Pack by midnightstouch. Set the foreground color to black and select a corner brush and make some grunge effects. Set the Blending Mode to Normal and reduce the opacity to 10%. Hopefully, you came up with something like the image below:
Create a new layer and call it "Old Effect". Make sure the foreground color is black and select a Chalk brush (these brushes are included by default in Photoshop). Set it to 100px, draw some lines to make an old effect and reduce the opacity layer to 10%. At this point you should have something like:
Create a new layer and call it "Shadows". With the Shadow layer selected press cmd and click on the board layer to make a selection of that size, fill the new selection with black. Now go to your layer palette and make a new layer mask, select a big soft brush (about 600px) and with black as your foreground color and the brush opacity of 50% start drawing a circle in the middle of the layer. You will see that the black color start to fade; when you are happy with the result reduce the layer opacity to 50%. Your creation must look similar to:
Here, you should fire up your creativity. Create a new layer and call it "Content". Draw whatever you want here; for the purpose of this tutorial I already have a bearing illustration ready. Make sure that all you draw or write in this layer have is white. When you are done, reduce the layer opacity to 70%. Here are some examples of what you might do in this part:
Now we are going to grunge the content drawing. To your content layer add a layer mask like we did in Step 8 with the shadows. Select a grunge brush, I used Function Brush Set: 33 Subtle Grunge Textures & Effects, you could also use the chalk default brushes. Set the foreground color to black and add some grunge effects to your Content layer, until you feel it looks right. At this point, hopefully your image looks akin to:
Now we're going to do the wood joints. With the Rectangle Tool (U). Draw a 2px vertical rectangle; make sure your height is the same of your wood frame. Apply the following layer style to your shape. Then place each line in each of the corners of the frame. Select the 4 layers and merge them (cmd+E). Call this layer "Lines" and move it below the "Wood Texture" layer.
Select all your layers and copy them by right clicking and selecting duplicate layers. Merge your new duplicate layers and press cmd+J or ctrl+J three times to duplicate your new merged layer. You can put the original layers in a folder since we need to hide them and work with the new ones. Don't do anything to the top layer, as we are going to work with the other two copies to make the shadows. Add a Gaussian blur (filter > blur > Gaussian blur) of 5.0px to both layers. Move one of the blurry layers 3px down. This is sort of how your icon looks at this point:
On this step you must merge your three layers and click cmd+t or ctrl+t to open the Free Transformation Tool and rotate 9 degrees counter-clockwise. Finally, resize your image to fit in your canvas.
We are finished our icon, and now we are going to learn how to prepare it and export it. You have two choices, we can use the IconBuilder from the Iconfactory, which is a Photoshop plug-in that helps you create and save your own icons in different sizes. It costs $79, with a free trial, so if you really want to learn how to do it, you can download and work with the trial version. The other choice is with an App called IMG2ICNS from Shiny Frog. Like IconBuilder, IMG2ICNS has a freeware version that you can use while you decide whether to buy it or not. This one costs just $12.90 for the Pro version, which is really cheap! So if you are interested in designing icons you may consider buying this application as it's really a good deal.
Option 1: IconBuilder (Step 1)
Download the IconBuilder from the Iconfactory webpage provided in the last step. You need to install it, its very easy just follow the instructions. Open the "IconBuilder Essentials" Folder and you will see several folders and some tutorials and guides; we are going to search into the "IconBuilder Grid Files" folder and I'm going to open the "Expanded.psd" file.
Option 1: IconBuilder (Step 2)
Go to your icon file, and copy your icon image by pressing cmd+A (ctrl+A) and cmd+C (ctrl+C). Now go to the "Expanded.psd" file and press cmd+V or ctrl+V to paste the selection. Hide the blue icons layer and with the Free Transform Tool (cmd+T or ctrl+T) resize your icon to fit into the big square (512x512)
Option 1: IconBuilder (Step 3)
Repeat the last step with the 256, 128, 48, 32, 16 boxes.
Option 1: IconBuilder (Step 4)
Merge all the layers and go to Filter > Iconfactory > Iconbuilder. A new window will open. Make sure the initial settings are "Expanded" like the image below:
Option 1: IconBuilder (Step 5)
Click on the left arrow and the icons will fit the left boxes. Click "Save" and set the following parameters. Check the folder where you previously save your icon and you will see a new folder named "Board" and there are your new icons, ready to use in Mac and Windows, also you have a PNG copy of each size.
Now that we've finished with the IconBuilder, if you want an easier way to create your icons, follow these steps. We are going to use IMG2ICNS.
Option 2: IMG2ICNS (Step 1)
Go to your main icon file, and copy the image. Open a new document in Photoshop of 512x512 and paste your icon, resize the image using the Free Transform Tool (cmd+T or ctrl+T) to fit in your canvas. Save your icon in PNG format. Open IMG2ICNS and drag your file. Now, select the "ICNS" option and save the new icon in any folder you want.
This is how your icon will look in the finder.
That's it, now you have a new icon. If you are a Mac user I highly recommend you buy Candybar by Panic, to manage all your icons.
I want to give a special thanks to Sebastiaan de With for allowing me to write this tutorial inspired by one of his icons.