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Design

How to Create a To-Do List App Icon in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you'll create a fun to-do list or organizer application icon with a three‑dimensional effect, ready for desktop or market use. Combine radial gradients, blends, a sense of lighting, and the tiniest bit of perspective for a simply built, but eye catching, icon. This tutorial uses Adobe Illustrator CC 2014, though many of the techniques are applicable to other versions of the program.

1. Create the Icon's Base

Step 1

Start out by drawing a square using the Rectangle Tool (M). In the Gradient panel, apply a Radial Gradient of tan (#e3c184) to slightly darker tan (#c9a068).

Creating your icon base

Step 2

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to pull the square's Live Corners inward, rounding the square out slightly.

Then, using the Line Segment Tool (/), draw a vertical line with a 1–2 pt stroke of tan, and its Blend Mode set to Screen in the Transparency panel. Draw a second, darker tan line, slightly overlapping the first, and set the Blend Mode to MultiplyGroup (Control-G) the two lines together.

Copy (Control-C) and Paste (Control-V) the grouped lines a total of five times and spread them evenly across your rounded square.

Draw grooved lines on your square

2. Create Your Notepad

Step 1

Draw a rounded rectangle and Rotate it 15° with the Rotate Tool (R). Apply a Radial Gradient to it of white (#ffffff) to light beige (#f3dcca).

Draw the base for your notepad

Step 2

Copy and Paste the notebook object twice. Set the copied shape's fill color to dark tan (#a8783f). Align one of the copies with the notebook shape created previously and place the other copied shape to the lower right of the rest of the icon. 

Reduce the Opacity of the rightmost copied shape to 0% in the Transparency panel. Select both copied shapes and use the Blend Tool (W) to create a blend of 50 steps (or whatever amount gives your shapes a smooth blend).

Place the blend group beneath the notepad shape in the Layers panel.

Create a smooth blend to give the illusion of a long shadow

Step 3

Copy and Paste the notebook page drawn previously. Overlap the upper left corner of the shape slightly. Select both objects and use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift-M) to select the non-intersecting portion of the overlapped shapes. Deselect and Delete this extraneous shape. Set the bottom shape's fill color to beige (#dbb588) to create dimension within the icon.

Add dimension to your icon design

Step 4

For the spiral of the notebook, draw a small rounded rectangle (either with the Rectangle Tool or the Rounded Rectangle Tool) with a Radial Gradient of gray (#b6ada6) to dark warm gray (#6f5c4f). Use the Gradient Tool (G) to move the radius of the gradient to the top of the shape. 

Copy and Paste three instances of the spiral shape, line them up, and Rotate the group 15°. Place the shapes near the top of the notebook. Draw dark tan circles with the Ellipse Tool (L) for the holes in the notebook's pages. Place them below the spiral shapes in the Layers panel.

Use little rounded rectangles to create the spirals of the notebook

Step 5

For the turned-up notebook page corner, Copy and Paste the main notebook page. Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a small triangle overlapping the bottom right corner of the rounded rectangle.

Use the Shape Builder Tool to separate the three shapes. Delete the rightmost, extraneous shape. 

Rotate the rounded corner shape so it lines up with the edge of the page's bottom right corner. Apply a Linear Gradient that goes from light beige to white (the same as the page itself).

Place the newly turned up page underneath the spiral and hole group and above the rest of the notebook design in the Layers panel. Adjust the gradient of the shape below the turned-up page to be slightly darker.

Creating a simple turned-up page for your notebook design

3. Creating the Pencil Element

Draw a vertical rectangle in teal (#00a79d). Draw two triangles, either with the Pen Tool or the Polygon Tool, that face each other and overlap the vertical rectangle. As you did previously, use the Shape Builder Tool to delete the triangles from the rectangle. You'll be left with the pointed object seen below.

Using basic shapes to build an object

Step 2

Draw overlapping sections on the lower third of the pencil object in three shades of tan. Make sure that it goes from light to medium to dark, as that will be our ultimate lighting choice. For the scalloped edge, I drew an overlapping scalloped shape with the Pen Tool and used the Shape Builder Tool, once again, to delete it from the other shapes.

Delete a scalloped shape from the tip of your pencil

Step 3

Attach a short rectangle on to the end of the pencil to form the eraser. In the Properties panel, you can change the radius of the top two corners of the shape. Apply a Linear Gradient to the eraser shape in three shades of red: medium (#fd393e), light (#ff706a), and dark (#fd393e).

Draw three gray rectangles to form the metal eraser connector. Apply the Radial Gradient used previously on the notebook's spiral to each. Use the Gradient Tool to adjust the radius of each gradient so it's toward the upper left of the pencil. 

Draw the pencil components using circles and rectangles

Step 4

Draw rectangles that define the planes of the pencil on the teal portion of the object. Make sure they align with the scallops drawn previously. I added light teal (#14c9b8) and dark teal (#057f73) to keep the lighting consistent.

Draw a circle overlapping the pointed end of the pencil and use the same gray gradient from the notebook's spiral. Delete the non-intersecting portion of the pencil's graphite tip from the wood portion with the Shape Builder Tool.

Keep the lighting consistent in each of your icon elements

Step 5

Group together your pencil components, place your pencil on the icon base (rotate or scale as needed), and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Apply the following attributes:

  • Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 45%
  • X Offset: 7 px
  • Y Offset: 7 px
  • Blur: 7 px
  • Color: Brown (#3f1706)
Apply a drop shadow to your pencil element

4. Complete the Icon Design

Step 1

The check mark is the easiest element of the icon design. Draw a narrow rectangle and Rotate it 45°Copy and Paste the rectangle and Rotate it 90°. Overlap the two shapes and use the Shape Builder Tool to delete the bottom two shapes. Merge the remaining objects to create the check mark.

Apply a Radial Gradient of light lime green (#e5f034) to lime green (#bdd734). Copy and Paste the check mark and place the copied object beneath the original, slightly offset down and to the right. Set the fill color of the copied object to spring green (#9dcd34).

Group the two shapes together and create a blended shadow in the same manner as we did for the notebook earlier in this tutorial.

Draw the check mark

Step 2

Make sure your shadows follow the same direction. Group together your icon design. Copy and Paste the base rounded square created at the start of this tutorial and Align it with the original. Select the copied square and your icon design and Make a Clipping Mask (Control-7)

Paste a second instance of the rounded square and set the fill color to dark tan. Place it behind your icon group in the Layers panel, moving it down and to the right slightly (see below).

Clip your icon design

Great Job, You're Done!

With that, we're done! Add a simple background to your icon for display, or keep the background transparent for desktop or application use. What other items can you create from basic shapes for such an icon? Share your results in the comment section below.

The final icon design
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