1. Design & Illustration
  2. Interface

How to Create a Shiny Paint Bucket Icon


Learn how to create a simple three-dimensional icon of a paint bucket, complete with paint splotches, with this colorful tutorial. Harnessing the power of paths, layer effects and consistent lighting we'll obtain an effective, shiny icon.

Final Image Preview

Take a look at the image we'll be creating.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Photoshop CS4
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30 minutes

Step 1

Open a new blank document and choose 512px for both width and height. This is the maximum size required for icons (Mac OS X Leopard). Create an ellipse above the center and to the left and name it "outer rim" (1a). Make two copies and scale them down (1b). Name the first "inside." Move the other copy down, naming it "bottom" (1c).

Step 2

Create a new copy of the smaller ellipse and make it yellow, which will make the paint's surface (2a). Position it inside the bucket, erasing the unnecessary pixels (2b). Name this layer "paint." Now make a rectangular selection with the Marquee Tool (M) on the "bottom" layer and fill it to complete the bucket (2c). With the "bottom" layer selected hit Command + T to invoke the Free Transform Tool. Right-click and choose Perspective. Now drag the bottom corners towards the center to apply the correct perspective deformation (2d).

Step 3

Let's shade the bucket. Light will come from the right side. Apply a Gradient Overlay (3a) and an Inner Glow (3b) layer effect to the "bottom." The base color is a medium gray with lighter bands that simulate reflections, as shown below.

Step 4

Double-click the "outer rim" layer to open the Layer Style window and apply Inner Glow (4a). On a new layer below, paint a shadow for the rim using a big, soft brush. Choose black and paint lightly with one single stroke, following the rim's curve. Shadow layers are always set in Multiply mode with their opacity turned down (4b). Name this layer "rim shadow."

Step 5

Select the "inside" layer. Apply Gradient Overlay (5a) to make it look metallic and apply Inner Shadow (5b). The shadow is projected by the rim onto the inside, from the right side.

Step 6

We need to add a highlight to the top part of the rim since that spot is directly exposed to the light. To do that duplicate the "inside" layer (6a). With the Direct Selection Tool (A) select and erase the bottom point (6b). We will paint this path with a white stroke. Hit D to select the default black and white colors then X to swap them so white is in the foreground. Now activate the Brush Tool with B then hit F5 to bring up the Brushes palette and set up the brush according to image 6c.

Now in the Paths palette right-click the active path and choose Stroke Path. A dialog will appear: choose Brush and check the option Simulate Pressure (6d). You will see that the path is now a brush stroke that is tapered at the endpoints. Since it's too faint let's duplicate it, moving the copy a few pixels up, just enough to thicken the stroke (6e). Merge these two layers into one and name it "rim reflection." The final touch is to blur the highlight with the Gaussian Blur filter, set to 1 pixel (6f).

Step 7

Select the "paint" layer and add an Inner Shadow style (7a). Duplicate this layer, name the copy "paint reflection," and move it down (7b). With this layer still selected, Command-click the "paint" layer, thus loading its pixels as a selection, then go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection to mask out the unnecessary pixels.

We need to move the paint's shadow above the "paint reflection." Right-click the "paint" layer and choose Create Layer. This turns the Inner Shadow layer style into a separate layer (7c). Command-click the "paint" layer and apply this mask to the shadow (7d). On the "paint" layer add an Inner Glow layer style to simulate thickness at the seams (7e).

Create a new layer and select the same soft brush we used to paint the rim's shadow. Press down Alt and hold it: the cursor will change from brush to eyedropper. Click on the "paint" layer to sample its tint, release Alt and paint a color bleed across the left hand side of the bucket (7f). Name this layer "bleed," move it below the "paint" layer and reduce its Opacity to 50% (7g). Nice color variation!

Step 8

Let's draw the paint splashes now. Grab the Pen Tool (P) and be creative (8a). Give the paint some shadow (8b). Paint is reflective so we need to draw some highlights with the Pen Tool (8c, 8d). These paths will be of course lighter. Name them "refl 1" and "refl 2."

Let's add the final highlight. With the Lasso Tool (L) select the right half of the "refl 2" layer (8e), then go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy or simply hit Command + J. Add a nice Gradient Overlay to this highlight (8f). Now the paint splash reflects the environment (8g).

Step 9

Create a background (simple gradient) and a shadow (blurred black ellipse) for the icon. Pick the colors you like (9a). The last element to draw is the handle. On a new layer draw a dark gray ellipse on the left side of the bucket (9b). Add three layer styles: Satin (9c), Drop Shadow (9d), and Gradient Overlay (9e).

Step 10

Make a tiny copy of this ellipse and give it an Inner Shadow style: it's the hole for the handle (10a). Now draw the handle with the Pen Tool (10b) and name it "handle."

Stroke it with a dark gray brush like we did before for the rim reflection, but this time uncheck the Simulate Pressure option. Erase the unnecessary pixels so it looks like the handle is coming out of the hole (10c). Add a Satin style to the handle (10d).

Step 11

Finally let's create the shadow from the handle. Add a Drop Shadow style (11a), create a layer from it, see Step 7 for information on this technique (11b). Move the shadow layer down a bit, then scale it vertically so it touches the base of the handle (11c). Erase the unnecessary pixels (11d) and you're done!


You know what? These icons are easier done than said! Anyway I hope you learned a few new tricks from this tutorial and I hope you were creative enough to choose your favorite color for the paint ;-)

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