How to Create a “Time Machine”-Like Icon in Photoshop

Student iconAre you a student? Get a yearly Tuts+ subscription for $45 →

In this tutorial I will show you how to create an icon similar to the Apple Time Machine one. Even though it might look complicated the techniques we will use are very common and they will be very useful for your future projects.

Step 1

Create a new Document, fill the background with a dark grey and select the Ellipse Tool (U).

Create a circle in the middle of the document and rename it to B Circle.

Step 2

Duplicate the circle and resize it to make it smaller.

Holding the Command (MAC) / Control (PC) click on the layer’s thumbnail, that will create a marquee selection of the circle.

After that select the B Circle layer and go to Layer>Layer Mask>Hide Selection.

Step 3

Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to create two more ellipses like the Red and Green, as we can see on the image.

Rename the circles to M Circle (Red) and S Circle (Green).

Step 4

Select the B Circle Layer, double click on the layer to open the Layer Style dialog box.

First add the Gradient Overlay. Select Radial for the Style and for the colors use #474c57 (dark blue), #b3b4b8 (grey), white, and the dark blue again.

Step 5

Now lets select the Bevel and Emboss. Change the Depth to 1000%, the size to 144px and Soften to 16px.

The Shading settings are very important here.

Deselect the Use Global Light and use 94° for the Angle and 21° for the Altitude.

Step 6

Duplicate the B Circle Layer and change the Layer Style. The first thing here is deselect the Gradient Overlay and Bevel and Emboss. Then change the Fill Opacity to 0%.

After that add an Inner Shadow. Use Lighter Color for the Blend Mode and White for the color.

Step 7

Select the M Circle Layer and change the Layer Style, lets add a Gradient Overlay, this time use Linear for the Style, 132° for the angle. Use white, dark blue, and white for the colors.

Step 8

Now let's select Stroke. Change the size to 1px, Position to Outside, Blend Mode to Color Dodge, and the Fill Type to Gradient.

Step 9

Select the S Circle and again, open the Layer Style window. Add Color Overlay and use a grey for the color. Then select Stroke, use 2px for the size, Center for the Position, and black for the color.

Step 10

Group the 4 layers and rename the group to Metals.

Step 11

Create a new circle and align it in the middle of the other circles.

Open the Layer Style dialog box and select Gradient Overlay, use Radial for the Style and use the colors #05161a and #1b4a46.

Step 12

Create a new layer, make sure that the Background and Foreground are Black and White.

Then go to Filter>Render>Render Clouds.

Change the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay.

Now, holding the Cmd(MAC)/Ctrl(PC) click on the thumbnail of the Screen’s layer to create a marquee selection. Make sure that the Clouds layer is selected and go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection.

Step 13

Duplicate the Clouds layer, rename it to Twirl and change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. Go to Layer>Layer Mask>Apply. After that create again a marquee selection using the screen layer circle.

Then go to Filter>Distort>Twirl...

Step 14

With the Twirl Layer still selected go to Filter>Liquify and select the Pucker Tool (S). Make it the size of the screen and change the Density and Pressure to 100, and the rate to 60. This will give more depth to the twirl.

Step 15

With the Eraser Tool(E) select a regular circle brush with 30px diameter and 0% hardness.

Erase some parts of the Twirl Layer, mostly in the edges.

Step 16

Create a new layer and rename it to S Stars, fill it with black and change the blend mode to color dodge. After that go to Filter>Pixelate>Mezzotint, use Grainy Dots for the type.

Step 17

Go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Use Zoom for the Blur Method and Best for the Quality. For the amount use 90.

Now, again, holding the Cmd(MAC)/Ctrl(PC) click on the thumbnail of the Screen’s layer to create a marquee selection. Make sure that the Clouds layer is selected and go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection.

Step 18

Here, lets create some big stars. Create a new layer, fill again with black, rename it to B Stars, and change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge.

After that select the Brush Tool. Use 9px for the Master Diameter, and 1000% for the Spacing. Select the Shape Dynamics and Scattering as well. The panit some circles.

Step 19

Repeat Step 16 and apply the Zoom blur to the big stars. However this time use 50 for the amount.

Step 20

Duplicate the Screen Layer, and change the Layer Style, select the Gradient Overlay and change the colors to White and White, but the Opacity to 100% and 0%.

Now select the Elliptical Marquee Tool(L) and create and elliptical selection like I did. Then go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. Adjust the Gradient Overlay position and change the layer opacity to 40%.

Step 21

Lets create some small circles for the details on the border. To do that repeat Steps 1 and 2.

Step 22

Let’s change the Layer Style and use Color Overlay using black for the color. Then select the Stroke option. Use Gradient for the fill type and use white for the colors, start and end. However now create a opacity point in the middle of the bar and change it to 0.

Step 23

Duplicate the layer once and place it at the bottom of the icon. After that duplicate the top and bottom circles and rotate them 90°.

Select the 4 circles, duplicate them again, after that rotate then 45°. You can do that by holding ALT+SHIFT while rotating them.


And there you have it! You could go on to add shapes above the icon, but the main visual is complete. I recommend putting the final icon on a dark background where it really stands out...