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How to Illustrate An Abacus Icon

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In this tutorial you'll learn how to create a realistic, vector abacus icon, using 3D Renders, Brushes, Blends and other tools of Adobe Illustrator. The skills you will learn can easily be transferred to creating various objects. So let's get started!

Step 1

Illustrate a rectangle by using the Rectangle Tool (M). Copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Go to the Object > Transform > Scale and decrease the rectangle copy. Then go to Object > Compound Path > Make (Command + 8). Fill it with orange and set the Stroke of it to None.

Step 2

Go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Set there the angles of the rotation, the extrude depth, the shape of the bevel, and the height of it. Choosing the values of these items will allow you to reproduce a wooden texture.

Pay attention to the angle of rotation around the Z axis. Let's name it "Main value." Memorize it. I use in this tutorial 8 degrees for the "Main value." But, of course, you may set this value as you like. The result should look like the image below. Change the above-mentioned values to achieve it.

Step 3

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle. Fill it with gray and set the Stroke to None.

Go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Set there the "Main value" for the rotation angle around the Z axis, extrude depth and lights in order to reproduce a metal texture.

Set a value for the extrude depth of the metal spindle, which keeps the spindle in the bounds of the wooden frame. See the images below for reference.

Step 4

Place the spindle under the frame.

Step 5

Now we need to bend this 3D spindle. Go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. Set the items as shown below.

Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform, and set there the acceptable options. You must fill the inner part of the frame with spindles. So, you are free to choose both: the number of copies and the space between the spindles.

Step 6

Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create the following figure filled with the Radial gradient that goes from white to orange. This will be a bead of the abacus.

Copy it and paste in back (Command + C then Command + B). Move it some pixels to the right.

Then go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and set there the Spacing to "Specified steps" and the number of steps to 1. Select both ellipses and go to Object > Blend > Make (Command + Alt + B).

Step 7

Create another elliptical figure filled with the Radial gradient that goes from white to black in color. This will be a central black bead of the abacus.

Copy it and paste in back (Command + C then Command + B). Move it some pixels to the right. And place both black beads under the orange ones.

Create another orange blend and place it under the black beads.

As you see from the diagrams above, all the beads are located horizontally, whereas they must be bent along the axis of a spindle. It is right in this step.

Step 8

Now select all the beads and rotate them slightly by going to Object > Transform > Rotate.

Step 9

Select the top spindle, copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Name it "Auxiliary spindle." Move it somewhat up (pointed by an arrow on the diagram). Place it over the wooden frame itself in the Layers palette.

The "auxiliary spindle" shows the right view of bending, so you need to place the abacus beads touching with it. Select the right orange bead of the first left blend and move it somewhat up.

Select the left black bead and move it up too.

Repeat these actions for the remaining beads of the abacus.

After that delete the "Auxiliary spindle."

Step 10

Now select all the beads. And go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Set there for both: the number of copies and the interval of vertical movement, as you set them in Step 5. You need to achieve the following result.

Step 11

Select the leftmost bead, copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Place it over the blend itself in the Layers palette.

Select the corresponding spindle, copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Place it on the top in the Layers palette.

Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an elliptical path filled with yellow. Rotate it by going to Object > Transform > Rotate to achieve the concentricity with the corresponding orange bead. In other words, both ellipses: yellow and orange must be inclined with the same mathematical degree value. Also, the big semi-axis of the yellow ellipse must be longer than the diameter of the spindle.

Step 12

Take the Pen Tool (P) and draw a blue trapezium where the short base coincides with the big semi-axis of the yellow ellipse.

Select the yellow ellipse, copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Place it on the top in the Layers palette. Fill it with green.

Step 13

Select both the yellow ellipse and the blue trapezium, and go to the Pathfinder palette. Now click there the Unite button.

Step 14

Now select both: the blue figure and the copy of the orange bead made in the eleventh step, and go to the Pathfinder palette. Click there the Intersect button.

Step 15

Select this blue figure and the copy of the spindle made in the eleventh step, and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7).

Send the green ellipse backward.

Step 16

After that fill the green ellipse with the Radial gradient filling to represent a hole in a bead. Follow the diagram below.

Distribute the holes on every leftmost abacus bead.

Step 17

Let's make the right lateral wooden surface of the frame brighter. Select the frame. Copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Then go to the Appearance palette and click there "3D Extrude & Bevel" command to edit effect.

Change the lighting of the frame copy. I have moved the light source into the center of the shaded sphere. You may do the same or vary the light intensity. Pay attention to the changes of the surface pointed by an arrow only in the diagram below.

Step 18

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a path that bounds the right lateral wooden surface of the frame (see the images below for reference).

Then select this path and the copy of the 3D frame and apply Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7).

Step 19

Let's draw shadows from beads. First, draw two ellipses on the right lateral wooden surface of the frame near the rightmost bead as you can see them in the diagram below.

Decrease the opacity of the big ellipse.

Go to Object > Blend > Blend options and set the Spacing to "Smooth color." Then select both ellipses and go to Object > Blend > Make (Command + Alt + B).

Now you need to cut away the unwanted part of the shade, because as you know, shadows cannot fall on limpid air. Illustrate a rectangle by using the Rectangle Tool (M).

Select both: this rectangle and blend, then apply Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Command + 7).

Send the shade backward.

Repeat these actions for all the rightmost beads. You can do it by going to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform.

Step 20

Draw an elongated ellipse filled with a dark gray color. Select the leftmost and the rightmost anchor points of it with the Direct Selection Tool (A) and convert them to corner anchor points.

Copy it and paste in front (Command + C then Command + F). Scale the copy by going to Object > Transform > Scale, and fill it with white.

Decrease the opacity of the big ellipse to zero and create a blend from these two ellipses.

Then drag and drop it into the Brushes palette. Select the Art Brush option in the dialog box. Set the items for the brush as shown.

Step 21

Create another elongated ellipse filled with any color. Select the outermost anchor points and convert them to corner too.

Create another Art brush from this ellipse.

Step 22

Take the Pen Tool (P), draw the following path and apply the first art brush, made from the blend, to it. It will represent a light spot on the spindle.

Do the same with the other spindles.

Step 23

Take the Pen Tool (P) and illustrate a path on the leftmost bead.

Apply the second Art brush to it.

Decrease the Stroke Weight.

Then go to Object > Expand Appearance. Then go to Object > Ungroup.

Fill it with an angled linear gradient with orange hues of color and with white middle color-stop.

Repeat these actions for the other orange beads.

Step 24

The light spot on a black bead is being illustrated the same way.

Repeat these actions for all the beads.

Step 25

Create an ellipse and fill it with a Radial gradient filling from yellow to white. Place it under the abacus.

Conclusion

The first abacus came into the world more than 43 centuries ago in ancient Sumer. Much water has flowed under the bridges since then. But it was the first step of humanity toward the era of cosmic technologies and the computer industry.

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