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How to Create a Simple Cardboard Box Icon

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In this tutorial you will learn how to create a simple cardboard icon using 3D Extrude & Bevel and basic gradient fills. It's a great starting point for budding icon designers or people who have previously used Photoshop for their creations and will teach you a few useful techniques to get you started with Adobe Illustrator.


Step 1

Create a 256 by 256px document. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 55 by 15px rectangle, this will make the "Fragile Tag". Next select the Type Tool and add the word "FRAGILE" in Myriad Pro, Bold. Select the text and the rectangle, press Shift + Control + F11 (to open the Symbols panel) then go to the flyout menu and click on New Symbol. Name it "Fragile Label", check Movie Clip then click OK.

Let's continue with the cardboard box. Reselect the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 140 x 111px rectangle and fill it with the color shown in image "3" then go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Follow the data shown in the following image. Pay attention to the highlighted sections. You will need to add the fragile label. Click on the Map Art button, go to"Surface 1" and select the "Fragile Label" from the Symbol drop down menu. Place it as shown in image "5" then click OK.


Step 2

Delete the symbol from the Layers panel then select the box created in the previous step and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Ungroup the resulting shapes and organize them to keep your work simple. Take a closer look at the group with the fragile sticker shapes. Group the letter shapes and the red rectangle and make them invisible, this will make it easier to work until you need it later. For now we will focus on the box shapes.

First, create a copy of the top shape, name it "vvv" and make it invisible. You will need this shape later to add a discrete effect. Next, select the Pen Tool (P) and draw an oblique path like the one shown in image "1". Select this path along with the top shape and click on the Divide button from the Pathfinder panel. This should make two new shapes. Select the left shape and with the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the anchor points highlighted in image "3" and move them as shown in the same image. Repeat this action with the right shape, select and move the anchor points highlighted in image "4". Finally send this shape to the back (Shift + Control+ Left Square Bracket) and fill it with the gradient shown in the final image.


Step 3

We will now make the Scotch tape. Create a copy of the front side of the cardboard box. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle like the red one shown in image #1. Select both the tape and the front copy and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Zoom in on the top of the resulting shape, with the Add Anchor Point Tool (+) add some random anchor points (image "3"). Move some of these anchor points a few pixels down (image "4"). Reselect this shape then, with the Wrinkle Tool add a discrete effect for this shape. Double click on the Wrinkle Tool to change the settings. Finally, fill this shape with the gradient shown in image "6". Pay attention at the opacity of each gradient slider.


Step 4

Create a copy of the left side of the box. Select the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a shape like the red one shown in image "1". Select the two shapes and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select this new shape, add a wrinkle effect then fill it with the gradient shown in the final image.


Step 5

Create a copy of the top left shape. with the Rectangle Tool (M) create a thin shape. Rotate it and place it as shown in image "1". Select the two shapes and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Add some new anchor points and move them as shown in the following images. Finally fill it with the gradient shown in "5".


Step 6

Finally, duplicate the top left shape. Create a new thin rectangle, rotate it and place it as shown in image "1". Select this new shape and the previously created copy then click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape, add a discrete wrinkle effect, fill it with white then lower its opacity to 20%.


Step 7

Select the front side of the box and fill it with the gradient shown in image "1". Next, add two new fills (from the flyout menu of the Appearance panel) and use the gradients shown below images "2" and "3". Select the left side of the box and fill it with the gradient shown above image "4". Add two new fills for this shape and use the gradients shown above images "5" and "6".


Step 8

Select the top left shapes and fill them with the gradients shown in images "1" and "2". Continue with the interior of the box. Select these two shapes and fill them with the gradients shown in images "3" and "4".


Step 9

Turn "vvv" back to visible. Add a 0.5ptstroke, aligned to the inside. Select this shape and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Next, create a shape like the one shown in image #3 using the Pen tool (P). Fill this thin shape with the same gradient used for the expanded stroke. Remember to use Smart Guides (Control + U ) to make your work a bit easier.


Step 10

Using the Pen Tool (P) create two simple paths over the edges of the cardboard box (as shown in images "1" and "2"). Add a 0.5pt stroke (color R=199 G=178 B=153) to each of these shapes. Select both paths and go to Object > Expand. Select the resulting shapes and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.


Step 11

Select the anchor points highlighted with red and go to Object > Path > Average. Repeat this technique for the anchor points highlighted with yellow, green and blue. Lower the opacity of this shape to 30%. Create a vertical path like the one shown in image #1 using the Pen tool (P). Add a 0.5px stroke (color R=199 G=178 B=153). Select this stroke and go to Object > Expand. Select the top anchor points and go to Object > Path > Average. Lower the opacity of this shape to 30% then move it behind the front side of the cardboard box.


Step 12

Turn the Fragile label back to visible. Fill the rectangle with the radial gradient shown in image "1" and add a 0.5px outer stroke (color R=153 G=153 B=153). Add a new gradient fill to the rectangle, using the settings shown in image "2" then lower its opacity to 20%. Select the letter shapes and group them then add a new fill (from the flyout menu of the Appearance panel) and use the linear gradient shown in image "3". Create a copy of the red rectangle. Create a shape like the yellow one shown in image "4" with the Ellipse tool (L). Select this new shape along with the copy of the rectangle and click on the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the gradient shown in image "5" then lower its opacity to 30%.


Step 13

Finally you need to create a simple shadow effect below the box. Using the Pen tool (P), create a shape like the one shown in image "1" and send it to the back. Fill it with black, add a 7px Gaussian Blur effect then lower its opacity to 25%. Create a bigger shape (as shown in image "2") using the Pen tool (P) and send it to back. Fill it with black, add a 15px Gaussian Blur then lower its opacity to 20%.


Conclusion

As you can see, it's pretty easy to use gradients and keyline highlights to make a nice looking 3D box. As with any object, the key to a realistic finish is to keep your light source and vanishing lines consistent. Illustrator makes drawing geometric shapes easy.

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