Let's go back in time and look at Windows XP system icons. We'll get inspired by an old computer icon. Then we'll create a simple monitor icon in that style. Icon Factory is the company that created the icons for both Vista and XP Windows operating systems. Their works serves as inspiration for not only this tutorial, but many icons created today.
Editor's Note: This tutorial was originally published in the Czech language at
Grafika have kindly given permission for Vaclav to republish here on Psdtuts+ for those of us who haven't quite mastered Czech...
Final Image Preview
Before we get started, let's take a look at the image we'll be creating. As always, the layered Photoshop file is available via our Psdtuts+ Plus membership.
First, we copy the XP system icon into a new document to use it as inspiration for this design. Then choose a purple color (#9693B0) and draw a rectangle, which makes the basic shape of a screen. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool and set a proper radius.
Change the color to blue (#1E7EDB) for the desktop background. Then draw the inner part of our monitor. Make this radius a little smaller. Also, leave some space below for the control panel.
It's good to draw buttons on the right side into one layer. Hold the Shift key while drawing. Then move to the other side and create a bigger switch shape. Then set the Clipping Mask of the previous layer (Ctrl+Alt+G). The switch layer is called "Shape 11."
That's enough for now, so let's transform it by going to Edit > Transform > Distort.
The 100% size result so far is shown below.
Now we will add a third dimension to our monitor. Copy the first layer (Ctrl + J). Then use the same transformation, but make it bigger on the top left and top right. Change this layer's color to dark purple (#A19ECA). Then set our first layer to a light purple color (#D6D3F6).
Make selections from both layers (Ctrl+Shift+Click on the layer). Then from the Edit menu call the Stroke function. Set the size to 1 pixel, and the color to dark purple (#6A6887). Then press OK. Of course, we could use the layer effects, but we chose this way because we'll want to hide a small piece of this contour.
Create more layers above the monitor back. Then set the Clipping Mask of the previous layer (Ctrl+Alt+G). Pick up the Brush Tool. Then with a soft brush selected, draw the highlights (1) and shadows (2).
We can play with the control panel as well. Copy the switch layer, give it a lighter color (#9693B0). Then make it a little smaller. These tiny details will always make your work more interesting.
Now we work on the monitor screen. Add a new layer, and draw a light blue (#70B5F4) gradient. Then add more shapes to create the illusion of having a taskbar.
To give the screen a more plastic look, draw an appropriately dark and light outline around it. We could use the Stroke function, but we'll try something different this time. Draw the outline as a layer shape, so it disappears towards the edges.
First, copy the layer of the screen (Ctrl + J). Then select the shape with Select Path Tool (A). Copy the shape and insert it. Then move it slightly on the sides, and subtract it from the original shape (second icon on the tray). Use Distort Transformation to make the shape disappear towards the edge and stretch the shape well.
Copy the layer again (Ctrl + J). Then fill it with a white color. Move it 1 pixel up and toward the left. This makes the outline more visible. The 100% view so far is below.
We'll work with the bottom part of the screen in the same way. You'll need only one shape filled with a white color. The screen looks quite plastic now.
Now let's add some reflections. The Pen Tool comes in handy. It's up to you to choose where the reflection will be.
An important thing to do here is set the Layer Mask of our reflection (1). Load it (Ctrl+Shift+click on all layers) to make the reflection visible only there. This is where we want it to be - above the monitor layer (2), and the back side of the monitor (3).
Make the desktop background more attractive with an old trick. Draw an Ellipse (any size) with the Ellipse Tool. Then make a selection from the layer (Ctrl+Shift+click). Then set the Stroke as a 1 pixel outline into a new layer.
Turn the ellipse around, transform it, and give it a 1 pixel Stroke in a new layer again. Do this several times. Then add a layer mask to every ellipse layer. Fill it with a black color so that nothing is visible. Then use a soft white Brush to draw where you want the outlines to be visible. Add more white on places where the outlines cross each other.
The final part of the monitor to create is the monitor stand. Draw an ellipse (#DCDBEE color). Then transform it with the Distort function.
Copy this (Ctrl+J), make it smaller (Ctrl+T), and fill it with darker shade (#B6B4D4).
To draw the main part of the stand you will have to use the Pen Tool. Then create a shape, as shown below.
Then we will create outlines of every shapes. First, make the selection from monitor stand layers (Ctrl + Shift + click the layers) and choose Stroke function - #5D5B7B color.
All you need to add now are some shadows and highlights. You can use the Pen Tool again. Just don't forget that the stand isn't the main area that users should focus on. Be careful with shadows and highlights, don't make them too expressive.
The final step is to erase the outline of the monitor screen where it touches the stand. Add a Layer Mask and draw into it with hard black brush. If you don't use 100% opacity, you could leave the outline visible a little. This is the reason we didn't create the whole outline of this spectacular icon. Instead, we have two basic outlines - one for the monitor screen, and a second one for the stand itself.
And that's all! I hope you learned something new about icon design in Photoshop.