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In the following Quick tip you will learn how to create a retro icon style. You will use a standard web symbol and the Appearance Panel to create a retro style that can be re-used on everything from icons to text. This is the perfect tutorial for beginners wanting to learn more about the Appearance Panel. Let's begin!
Because this design is intended to be used as a web icon, begin by making a 96x 96 pixel artboard. Other popular sizes for web icons are 48px and 16px. Set the units to Pixels.
Because this is a basic tutorial we will use some pre-made icons from the Symbols Library. Go to Window > Symbols Libraries > Web Icons. I've chosen the scissors icon to demonstrate the effect on. Drag the symbol to the middle of the artboard and scale it so it's approximately 64px high.
Break the link between the symbol and the library by either going to Object > Expand Appearance, or if you're working with a symbol that needs some parts grouped and deleted you can use the Shape Builder Tool (Shift + M) to combine and subtract areas of the illustration (in previous versions of illustrator you can use the Pathfinder settings).
With the symbol I'm using I right clicked the symbol to break the link then took the Shape Builder tool to delete the white circles from the handle, you can do this by holding down option and clicking the areas that need to be deleted.
Open the Appearance panel by going to Windows > Appearance. Go to the "fx" button at the bottom of the Appearance panel and navigate to Convert to Shape > Ellipse and enter an Absolute width and height of 92 px.
In the Appearance panel, click the Add New Fill button at the bottom of the panel to make a new fill above the first one in a contrasting color, I'm using yellow.
Click on the first fill and change it from the default black to a light grey, or another color that looks good with the symbols color.
Select the Ellipse fill color in the Appearance Panel and go to the "fx" and navigate to Distort & Transform > Transform and move the fill 3px Horizontal and 3px Vertical, click OK.
In the Appearance panel, click the Add New Fill button at the bottom of the panel to make a new fill above the first symbol color in a shade a darker shade in a color that compliments the first one. I'm using brown.
With the second fill color still selected, go to the "fx" button and navigate to Distort & Transform > Transform and move the fill 1px Horizontal and -1px Vertical, click OK.
With the second fill color still selected, go to the "fx" button and navigate to Pixelate > Color Halftone and set the Max. Radius to 8 px, click OK.
You should end up with an effect like the example below.
Click on the opacity settings of the halftone fill and change it to Multiply with an opacity of 25%.
We will now add the final touches to the effect. First we will add some grain. With the object selected, go to the "fx" button and navigate to Texture > Grain. Play with the Intensity and Contrast settings until you find a style you like, I've used an Intensity of 30 and contrast of 45. Click OK.
Then add a rounded corner effect to the halftone fill. Do this by selecting the halftone fill and go to the "fx" button and navigate to Stylize > Round Corners. Preview the Radius to make sure the effect looks good. I've used 2px. The scale of the icon will effect how good the rounded corners look and how many px you should use.
Add the effect to the Graphic Styles panel (Window > Graphic Styles) by clicking the New Graphic Style button at the bottom of the panel.
You will now have a graphic style that can be applied to many different shapes and icons to create a quick set of retro icons. To take this tutorial further you can edit and change the halftone layer of the style you have made to create a range of retro styles without having to start from scratch. See what you can come up with, and feel free to share your work on the Vectortuts+ Facebook Page.
If you enjoyed this tutorial, you may like "How to Make a Reusable Icon Style using the Appearance Panel" which will guide you through the process of creating an icon with basic shapes and the pathfinder tool, and then how to add a nice re-usable style. Have fun!