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How to Illustrate a Marvelous Violin Icon

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This post is part of a series called Icon Design.
How to Draw a Glossy Yo-Yo Icon using Adobe Illustrator
How to Create a Hyper-realistic Flashlight

Flex your creative muscle with this cool tutorial on how to create a violin icon. We'll explore how basic shapes and a solid understanding of perspective and volume work together to quickly build a successful icon.


Step 1

The basic shape of the violin is drawn using the Pen Tool (P). Pay special attention to ensuring that you curves are natural and pleasing.



Step 2

Continue drawing the bottom half of the shape.



Step 3

Only draw half the shape as we'll use the reflect tool to complete the other half. Using the reflect tool will allow us to make sure the shape is completely symmetrical. Select the violin shape then double click the Reflect Tool icon to bring up the dialog. Select vertical and click OK.



Step 4

Now you'll have two halves that you'll combine using the Pathfinder. Select both shapes and click Unite.



Step 5

Use the Pen Tool to draw the foundation of the "S" shape. If desired, you can also simply draw the top half of the "S" shape and reflect the bottom half so it's completely symmetrical too but I find it easier, in this case, to just draw the entire shape in one fell swoop.



Step 6

Use the Ellipse Tool (L) and draw two circles, one at the top and the other at the bottom. Unite all three shapes using the Pathfinder.



Step 7

Reflect the "S" shape and place them over the violin.



Step 8

To give the illustration an angled look first group all your shapes (violin and "S" shapes) then go to Effect > 3D > Rotate.

Enter the variables shown below, X: 23, Y: -27 and Z: 32.



Step 9

Go to Object > Expand Appearance. To further edit the shape you'll need to remove the box around it. Accomplish this by using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select each of the points highlighted in yellow and delete them.



Step 10

Next, go to Object > Flatten Transparency. Move the Raster/Vector Balance slider all the way to the right then click OK.



Step 11

Last, ungroup your object so the "S" shape and violin shape are separate again. Go to Object > Ungroup.



Step 12

Give the violin depth by duplicating the face of the violin and placing it below all the other shapes. Ensure that you keep the top and bottom of the violin centered (as indicated by the blue lines on the sides.)



Step 13

Use the Pen Tool to draw the sides of the violin. Draw each section one at a time.

Note: when you draw shapes that overlap each other or that are very close to the edge of another object, it's sometimes difficult to not interfere with the existing line-work. In this case, I find it more helpful to lock all the objects by going to Object > Lock, then I draw my new shapes.



Step 14

Below, each side section of the violin has been drawn.



Step 15

The blue guides help determine if your angles and vertical items are in fact correctly drawn. There is a level of artistic ability that comes into play in order to visually (as opposed to technically) place the elements. The center bridge is completely vertical while the fingerboard (neck) is at the same angle as the violin. You can use the 3D Rotate dialog, as we did for the basic violin shape, however, once you can envision what the correct angle and placement of the elements should be, it's easy to draw the items in by hand. All the gray elements shown below were drawn and placed by hand.

Drawing by hand is especially important when objects have an angle as well as depth. The fingerboard of the violin can easily be positioned using the 3D Rotate dialog but the tailpiece (bottom stem) has depth to it that can't easily be reproduced by simply rotating a flat object. So, get familiar with envisioning how the elements should look when on an angle and you'll be able to quickly draw most any element!



Step 16

Here is what the violin looks like without any guides.



Step 17

Duplicate the fingerboard to give it some depth as well.



Step 18

Draw the sides of the fingerboard as was done for the violin.



Step 19

The tuning pegs (knobs at the top) also follow the same angle as the rest of the objects.



Step 20

Draw an ellipse to create the tip.



Step 21

Rotate the ellipse to give it the proper angle.



Step 22

Having a strong ability to envision the shape in 3D is key to adding the other elements. Illustrator has limited 3D capabilities but if you combine a basic knowledge of perspective and Illustrator's Pen Tool, you'll be able to create exactly the look you need. Think of the angled guide as piercing the scroll (large curvy gray shape) in the center. The green ellipse sits at the center of the scroll.



Step 23

Draw another ellipse that give the edge of the tuning peg a rounded shape. Unite the ellipse and the tuning peg using the Pathfinder.



Step 24

Adding shading is essential to the overall appearance of the object. Give the face of the violin a radial gradient (G). Adjusting the highlighted area will allow you to narrow the gradient from a circle into move of an oval. Since the violin is long and not square, an oval works better for the overall shading.



Step 25

Give the scroll a radial gradient of its own. Notice that the left bottom edge is much darker as it should be in shadow.



Step 26

Give the sides either a linear or radial gradient depending upon the effect you're after.



Step 27

To create the side of the scroll first draw a perfect circle, give it a radial gradient then condense and rotate the circle into an oval shape. Completing this step in the order described above will make it easy for you to achieve a perfect gradation around the entire perimeter of the oval.



Step 28

Create the various center rings of the side of the scroll by copying and pasting the ovals in place. To paste in place press Command+F. After you paste the oval in place simply scale them smaller from their center point by holding option+shift while you scale the oval smaller.



Step 29

Give the pegs a linear gradient so they look voluminous. To create the depth around the oval area of the peg, place another smaller ellipse on top of the oval and give it a white to transparent gradient fill.



Step 30

Give the "S" shape an outer glow by going to Effect > Stylize > Outer Glow. Pick a color slightly lighter than all the other brown colors in the illustration. Enter an Opacity and Blur that look good to you then click OK.



Step 31

Give the chin rest an inner glow by going to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. This time select Multiply for the Mode and use black for the color.



Step 32

Give each of the brown shapes that comprise the violin an inner glow too. Use a darker brown color for their inner glows as the basic color of the violin is brown.



Step 33

To create a uniform and slightly smaller shape on each side of the violin select the first shape and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Depending upon the scale and size of your illustration will determine what values you should enter. Use a negative value and adjust the Offset to your liking.



Step 34

This is a close-up of what the resulting effect of offsetting each side of the violin looks like.



Step 35

Next we'll draw the strings by using the Pen Tool and drawing a line from the top to just above the bridge and the 3rd point just above the tailpiece.



Step 36

With the line selected, go to Object > Expand, then click OK. Using the Direct Selection Tool select the points at the end of the line and drag them close together to create a tapered line. Do this to both ends of the string.



Step 37

Draw three other strings and give each string a gray stroke.



Step 38

Give all the rings a linear gradient so they give the illusion of being reflective.



Step 39

Creating shadows for the various elements on the violin can be done using the following technique. First draw (or duplicate) the basic shape that the shadow should occupy. Set the shape to Multiply in the Transparency palette and give it a black to white gradient.

Note: While this particular shadow won't need to, using a black to white gradient will ensure that your shadow can fade all the way out to 0 if necessary.



Step 40

Select the shadow shape and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a value that looks good to you and click OK.



Step 41

Give all the other voluminous elements a drop shadow using the same technique.



Step 42

To create the main reflection on the violin first copy and paste the face of the violin. Using the Pen Tool, draw an arbitrary shape over the top.



Step 43

Select both shapes and in the Pathfinder click Divide. Ungroup the object until you can no longer ungroup them (generally four times.) Below, I've deleted shapes around the edges so you have a better idea of the result you're after. The only shapes you need are the red shapes shown below. Remove those shapes and place them over the violin.



Step 44

Give the shapes a white to transparent gradient to create a stunning reflection! Use the same process to give any other areas of the violin reflections if you so choose. Don't go overboard with the reflections though. Usually one or two is enough.



Step 45

Draw a square using the Rectangle Tool (M) and give it a blue radial gradient.



Step 46

Apply rounded corners by going to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners.



Step 47

The music notes are made of basic shapes.



Step 48

Combine the shapes by clicking unite in the Pathfinder.



Step 49

Give the music notes varying degrees of rotation and shading to create a sense of movement. When placing the music notes add them in clusters as opposed to sporadically, this will give the overall illustration a more balanced look.



Final Image Preview

That's it! Your icon illustration is complete! You've just learned how to create a cool vector violin.


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