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How to Design an iOS 7 Email App in Photoshop

by
Gift

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In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a flat and modern, Gmail-inspired, iOS7 email app in Photoshop. We will begin by showing you how to sketch out your ideas, then we will see how to create your design in Photoshop, and finally, how to incorporate your design into an iPhone mockup. Let's get started!


Additional Screens

In this tutorial, we will also be creating the following mobile app screens for our mobile email app.

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Tutorial Assets

You will need the following assets in order to complete this tutorial. Please download them before you begin. If they are not available, alternatives should be easy to find.


Before You Begin

Step 1

Before jumping in to Photoshop, it's best to start sketching with pencil and paper. Start making outlines and rough images. No need to worry about small details. And don't forget to search for references, lots of them. This initial idea, we'll call it v1, comes from a friend of mine, Bagus Fikri from Fikri Studio. Here's the sketch (full version).

first sketch

First sketch –v1, made with paper and pen.

Step 2

In this case, after seeing the sketch, the client asked for some changes. After a few emails, here are some new sketches. Let's call them v2, v3, and v4.

second sketch

Second sketch–v2. Fixing header and tag, add profile picture and search.
third sketch

Third sketch–v3. Add tapped email condition, remove profile picture, fixing header, and adding email option and checkbox.
fourth sketch

Fourth sketch–v4. Perfecting v3.

1. Making Label Icon

Now that we have finalized our sketch, we can start working in Photoshop. Before we get started, however, it is important to note that interface designs often require quite a few icons. You can create them yourself or you can download them from the web. If you want to practice making them yourself, I will show you how to draw one of the icons used in this tutorial (the label icon). Basically, the other icons use the same techniques. You can download this icon, as well as all the other icons from the Free Icon Pack mentioned in the Tutorial Assets section above.

Step 1

Create new file (File > New...). In next dialog box, set Width and Height to 43 pixels. Click OK.

New file

New File dialog box.

Step 2

Activate Rounded Rectangle Tool with Radius: 4 px. Set its Fill to blue #1a72a5 and Stroke to None. Draw a rounded rectangle shape with size 19×19 pixels.

Draw a blue shape.

Draw a blue shape for label icon.

Step 3

Add rounded rectangle path onto previous shape. This time, set the size to 13×13. To help you see better, I temporarily hid the previous shape.

Rounded rectangle shape

Step 4

Hit Command/Control-T to transform the path. Rotate it 45°.

Rotate shape 45°

To rotate, click and drag outside the transformation bounding box.

Step 5

In CS6, it will inform you that the shape is going to be converted into regular path. It means that you can no longer edit its parameters on the fly from the option bar. Just click OK.

Turn live shape into regular path

In Photoshop CC, the shape will be changed into regular path.

Now, we have basic label shape.

Label shape

Step 6

Take a look at the path's point position closely. We want to make sure that our icon is crisp.

crisp icon

Step 7

Use Direct Selection Tool (A) to manually alter the position of the path point.

fixing icon detail
fixing icon detail
fixing icon detail

Here is what we have after the adjustment (left is the icon before adjustment, and right is after adjustment). In this situation, it turns out that the result is not so significant. But, in other cases, these extra steps might be important and can greatly improve the appearance of your icon.

icon in 100% magnification

The result before and after adjusting each point.

Step 8

On top of the icon, add a circle path. Set its mode to Subtract from the Option Bar.

Subtract with circle shape.

Step 9

Hit Command/Control-T and then rotate the icon 45°. Hold Shift to help you rotate shape at 15° increment.

Rotate shape 45°

Hold Shift to help you rotate at 15° increment.

Step 10

Again, we need to adjust all the point positions using the Direct Selection Tool.

Fixing icon detail

Notice the path points. They snap onto the pixel grid.
Fixing icon detail

Step 11

Below, you can see the icon before and after the adjustment.

Before adjustments

Before adjustment. Notice top part of the icon. Some pixels are leaking.
After adjustments

After the adjustment. Much better.

Step 12

Duplicate the big rounded rectangle shape by selecting it using Path Selection Tool. Hit Command/Control-J. Rotate it –15°.

duplicate label shape, rotate it 15°

Step 13

Duplicate the original, big rounded rectangle path. Paste it above the last path. Set its mode to Subtract.

Set path mode to subtract

Step 14

Hit Command/Control-T and then resize it. Don't forget to reposition each point to get a crisp appearance.

resize shape

Here's the result in magnification 100%.

icon in 100% view

Hit Command/Control-1 to set the Magnification in Photoshop to 100%.

Step 15

The final step is export this as an icon. Hide the Background layer by clicking on its eye icon. The icon background is now transparent.

hide background

Step 16

Save the icon for web (File > Save for Web and Devices...). Use the settings below:

  • File Type set to PNG-8
  • Transparency selected
save for web

If your icon contains more color or transparency, you may need to select PNG-24.

2. Preparing the Canvas

Step 1

Make a new file (File > New...). Set its size to 640×1136 pixels.

new file

Hit Command/Control-N to quickly open the New File dialog box.

Step 2

Make new guides to help us put the elements in precise positions. Click View > New Guide. We want a horizontal guide at 15, 30, 45, 60, 580, 595. 610, and 625 pixels. For the vertical guides, we want them at 40 and 128 pixels.

new guide

Horizontal Guide at 40 px.
new guide

Horizontal Guide at 128 px.
new guide

Vertical Guide at 15 px.
new guide

Vertical Guide at 580 px.

Here are the guides on the left and right corner.

canvas corner
canvas corner

Step 2

Select the top area using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Make a new layer and then fill it with black (Edit > Fill...).

select header area

You can use shortcut D then Alt-Delete to quickly fill selection with black.

Step 3

Grab the iOS 7 PSD mockup from Teehan+Lax. Shift-drag the Status bar group layer into our design.

add status bar

Step 4

Place it on top of the design.

add status bar

Shift-drag object and put it in the center of the canvas.

Here is the white one.

add status bar

3. Design Inbox

Step 1

We'll start working on the header. Use the Line Tool to draw a 4 px line on the bottom of the header. Activate the type tool and then add Inbox on its center.

header for inbox

Step 2

To make sure the text is in place, centered on the canvas, draw a rectangle with the same width as the canvas. Select both text layers and the last rectangle. From the Option Bar, click Align Horizontal Center.

centering header

We can see that the text now sits perfectly on the center of the header. You won't need this rectangle anymore and can delete it.

centering header

Step 3

Draw three rounded rectangle shapes. Place it on the left side of the header, at the center of the guides. We will use it as the inbox options menu icon.

option menu icon

Option menu icon, made from simple rounded rectangle shapes.

Step 4

On the right side, add a new email icon and draw three squares. The squares are going to be used for individual mail option icons.

new email and mail option menu

Step 5

Place each layer logically on a group layer. Select the layer and then hit Command/Control-G to put it inside a group layer. Make sure to give an easily recognizable name.

organize layer

Make sure to always organize you layers, especially when you're working in a team.

Step 6

Let's start working on the search bar. Draw a large gray rectangle shape under the header. Reduce its Opacity.

search

Step 7

Add the search icon and text next to it. Reduce its Opacity, we want it to be a bit more subtle.

search icon and text

Step 8

Next, we'll start working on one email. Add a 1 px gray line. On the left side, draw a yellow rectangle shape, sized at 50×50 px.

star icon background

Step 9

Activate the Pen Tool (P). Click the lower left corner of the rectangle to remove it.

star icon background

Now, we have a triangle shape.

star icon background

Step 10

Double the layer shape. Add Drop Shadow onto the layer.

Layer Style
shadow on star background

Subtle shadow underneath the star background.

Step 11

Use the Polygon Tool to draw a star. From the Option bar, select Star and set its Sides to 5. Click and drag to draw a star with a size of 26×26 px.

white star icon

Add the white star above the yellow triangle.

Step 12

Double click the layer and apply an Inner Shadow.

Use the following settings:

  • Angle set to 90°
  • Distance set to 1 px
  • Size set to 2 px.
Layer Style

Here's the result we have.

star icon

Subtle embossed effect on the star.

Step 13

Activate the Type Tool and then drag to draw a new Text Box. Add some text containing all the important information of an email, such as sender, title, and content. Add the time information on the right side of the email.

email content

See the pictures below for more details on fonts used in the email.

  • Font set to Open Sans.
  • Semibold for email sender, Bold for email title, and Reguler for email content.
text color

This color is for new, unopened email.

Step 14

Add another layer to the email content. Draw a gradient from white to black. Make sure the lower part is fading.

add layer mask to text

Fading indicates that there are more to see inside the email.

Step 15

Draw a new rounded rectangle shape with the size set to 17×3 px.

draw rounded rectangle shape

Step 16

Hit Command/Control-T to apply the transformation. Rotate the shape 45°.

rotate 45°

A warning dialog box will be shown. Just hit Yes to confirm it.

turn to regular path

Step 17

Duplicate the shape by hitting Command/Control-C and Command/Control-V. Hit Command/Control-T, and rotate it 90°.

Duplicate shape and rotate it 90°

You can also right click and choose Rotate 90° CW

Step 18

Move its position downward. You can see closely that the vector points need some adjustments.

move its position

Step 19

Activate the Direct Selection Tool and then reposition the point until it snaps onto the pixel.

fix icon details
fix icon details

Here's the arrow icon at 100% Magnification.

icon in 100% magnification

Step 20

Activate the Rounded Rectangle Tool, set its radius to 3 px. Draw a rounded rectangle shape on left side of the email with a size of 18×18 px and fill it with the color #eaeaea.

rounded rectangle shape

Step 21

Double click the layer shape and apply Stroke. Use the following settings:

  • Size set to 1
  • Fill Type set to Gradient from #b4b4b4 to #d5d5d5.
  • Angle set to -90°.
Layer Style

Step 22

Create an Inner Shadow and use the following settings:

  • Distance set to 1
  • Choke set to 0
  • Size set to 3
Layer Style

Step 23

Create an Inner Glow. Use the following settings:

  • Opacity set to 100%
  • Color set to #ffffff
  • Size set to 1
Layer Style

Step 24

Here is the check box appearance.

check box

Step 25

Inside the box, draw a black check mark icon using the Pen Tool.

check mark icon

Step 26

Double click the layer and apply an Inner Shadow using the following settings:

  • Distance set to 1
  • Choke set to 0
  • Size set to 1
Layer Style

Step 27

Add an Inner Glow. Use the following settings:

  • Opacity set to 30%
  • Color set to #eaeaea
  • Size set to 5 px
Layer Style

Step 28

Here's the result. You can temporarily hide the guides for better view by clicking Command/Control-H. Hit Command/Control-H again to bring the guides back.

check mark icon

Below is the result at 100% Magnification.

check mark in 100% magnification

Step 29

Draw a simple, colored rounded rectangle and add a tag on top of it. This will be the label or tag of the email.

add email tag

Step 30

Of course, we will need more email samples. Duplicate the previous email. Change the title to a subtler, lighter gray. This indicates that the email has already been read. For unstarred or unbookmarked email, change the star background to gray.

duplicate email and change its color

For already opened email, use a subtler color such as light gray.

Step 30

We also want to add conditions for when the email is in tapped. Move the email 130 px to the right. You can do this easily by selecting the layers and then hitting Shift-Right Arrow 13 times. Hide the label and check mark icon.

email in tapped condition

Step 31

Add Open and Reply icons on left side of the email. Add the icons next to the text. Make sure to keep them aligned with previous icon (the left menu icons we added at Step 3 above).

open and reply icon

Step 32

Add a blue rectangle shape and then add a white delete icon above it. This rectangle behind the icon will mark it as selected.

delete icon

Step 33

Add another email in the normal position.

add more email

Step 34

Here's the result for the inbox view.

inbox view

3. Design Read Mail

Step 1

We have finished with the inbox view. Next is designing the read mail view. But first, we need to organize all the layers. Make sure you have put all the layers in groups. We want to add new groups specific to this next part only. Name the group, read email.

organize layer

Remember to always organize your layers .

Step 1

The process is very similar to what we did earlier when designing the inbox view. Add a header with the text, Read Mail in the center and an inbox icon on the left side.

header

Step 2

Draw a text box under the app header. Add an email title that is currently active. For its font, use Open Sans Bold with the size set to 30 pt.

email title

Step 3

Add left and right arrow icons on both sides. We already designed this icon in Section 2.18. You just need to rotate it 180° to get same icon, but facing left. Using these icons, an app user can scan through emails.

navigation icon

Use the same arrow icon we created earlier for design consistency.

Step 4

Add a star icon on the top right corner of the email.

star icon

Step 5

Add an email tag above the email title.

email tag

Step 6

Add a sender profile picture.

add sender picture

You can use a circle shape if you want to.

Step 7

Next to the face, add a name and a time, and some email content.

add email content

Step 8

Add layer mask and then apply a gradient from white to black. The lower part of the email should be fading.

add layer mask

Step 9

Next, we'll add a reply button to this email. You simply need to duplicate the email and change its detail. At the top right corner, add a reply icon. The user will click this icon to reply to this email.

add reply icon

The reply icon used here was made from an arrow in custom shapes.

Step 10

Here's the result.

read mail view

5. Design Right Menu

Step 1

Now, we will design the right menu, which will control the options for the selected email. Make a new layer group, and place the right menu layers in it. Draw a white rectangle shape and place it above the header.

add white rectangle

Step 2

Double click the layer and then apply a stroke. For its color, use same color as the header bottom border, #1872a6.

Layer Style

Here's the result.

rectangle with stroke

Step 3

Double click the layer. In the Layer Style dialog box, activate Layer Mask Hides Effects.

layer mask hides effects

Step 4

Add a layer mask onto the layer shape. Select the upper rectangle, right above the header border, and then fill it with black.

hide top part of the rectangle

Step 5

Use Type Tool to add "menu" inside the rectangle.

add menu

Step 6

Here's the result we have.

right menu view

6. Design The Left Menu

Step 1

We are now designing the left menu, which shows the app options. Make a new layer, and then fill area below header with #1972a5 and then reduce its Opacity to 80%.

cover area below header

Step 2

Draw a white rectangle shape covering about 60% of the main canvas width. Double click the shape and apply a stroke with settings similar to the right menu in Section 5.2.

add a rectangle shape on the left side
Layer Style

Step 3

Add a layer mask, select its upper area, right above header bottom border. Fill the selection with black. Make sure you have activated Layer Mask Hides Effect in the Layer Style dialog box. If you haven't, double click the shape to open it.

add layer mask, hide upper rectangle

Step 4

Add a menu inside the rectangle.

add menu

Step 5

Below are the settings I used in the Character and Paragraph panels.

character and paragraph settings

Step 6

Add an icon next to each menu item.

add icon

Step 7

This right menu can be opened when the inbox is active or when you reading an individual email. Below, the left menu is opened while the app user is reading mail. In Photoshop, we simply reveal the read email group layer and hide the inbox group layer.

left menu while reading email

And this is the result when the inbox is active. In Photoshop, we just need to hide the read email group and reveal the inbox group.

left menu while reading inbox

This is the full result from right menu.

right menu view

7. Design the Compose Tab

Step 1

We are now entering the final part of the design, the compose tab, where users will write new emails. Make a new layer above all the other layers and then fill it with blue, #1872a5.

cover all area below status bar

Step 2

Reduce the layer's Opacity to 80%.

reduce opacity

Step 3

Draw a white rectangle shape at the center.

draw white rectangle

Step 4

Add a close icon on its left corner. Add a circle path into the rectangle shape, then place it behind the icon. This will make it so that the icon can be seen easily.

close icon

This is the result with the guides hidden.

hide icon

Step 5

Add text inside the compose box. See the following images for the settings used.

  • Font type set to Open Sans Regular
  • Font size set to 24
  • Space Before Paragraph set to 30 pt
character settings
paragraph settings

Step 6

Add a profile pic next to To.

add profile pic

If you choose a circular profile pic in read mail, you should use the same here.

Step 7

Behind it, add a blue rectangle with same height as the profile picture. On top of it, add the name or email address.

contact background

Step 8

Add another picture if you want to.

add another contact

Step 9

Under the attachment, add a small photo representing the image file attached to the email. If you attach other type of files, you may change this to file type thumbnail.

add photo attachment

Step 10

Draw a plus icon made from two overlapped rectangle shapes.

draw a plus icon

Step 11

Add Send and an icon next to it.

send text and icon

Step 12

This compose window can be opened when the inbox or an individual email is active. The key is revealing and hiding the appropriate layer.

compose window

Step 13

This is the result when the white status bar is used.

white status bar

This is the result for the compose tab.

compose window

8. Organizing Layers with Layer Comps

Step 1

Currently, we put all our screen designs in one file. This makes it effective because we can share layers across all the designs. To make things easier, we can use Layer Comps. This allows us to quickly hide and reveal layers for each design.

Make sure you have layers set up for the inbox. Open up the Layer Comps panel. Create a new comps layer. Name it inbox, activate Visibility, and then click OK.

make new layer comps

Make sure you have organized your layers neatly before using Layer Comps.
prepare layer for inbox

Layer set up for inbox design.

Step 2

Set up a layer for Read Mail.

layer for read mail

Step 3

Make a new Layer Comp again. This time, name it read mail. Make sure you have activated Visibility.

new layer comp

Step 4

Set up layers for the right menu.

layer for right menu

Step 5

As in previous steps, save this into Layer Comps.

new layer comp

Step 6

Keep working this, until we have Layer Comp for the inbox with the left menu, the inbox with the right menu, the inbox with compose tab, read mail with the right menu, and read mail with the compose tab. Click the triangle icon to scroll to next previous layer comp.

scroll layer comps

Right arrow icon for next layer comp and left arrow for previous one.

9. Presenting App Designs in a Mockup

Step 1

Grab the free flat iPhone mockup from PixEden. To edit the screen, choose the phone color you want and double click the smart layer YOUR SCREEN HERE inside the color's phone group layer. The smart layer will be opened as a separate file.

edit black iphone screen content

Edit black iPhone screen content.

Step 3

Return to our app design. Activate the inbox design, select all (Command/Control-A), and then copy all (Command/Control-Shift-C).

copy app design

Copy app design.

Step 4

Paste the design (Command/Control-V). Make sure it is placed above all layers..

Paste design

Paste design.

Step 5

Save and close the smart layer file. In the mockup file, the black iPhone screen content is now automatically updated. You can now repeat this process for all your other screens.

Update iphone screen content

Update iPhone screen content.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, I showed you how to design a Gmail-style, iOS email app from beginning to end. In this process, I showed you how to sketch out your ideas, draw some icons, design your screens, as well as how to incorporate your designs into a realistic mockup. I hope this tutorial has helped you better understand the workflow involved in creating an app like this, and I look forward to seeing the designs you create as a result.

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