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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Icon Design
Design

How to Create a Cactus Plants Icon Pack

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In today’s tutorial we’re going to put on our gardener hats and create a set of four little cactus icons using nothing more than the basic shapes and tools in Adobe Illustrator that you probably already work with on a daily basis.

Also, don’t forget you can always expand your project by heading over to GraphicRiver where you’ll find a great selection of garden icons.

That being said, let’s jump straight into it!

1. How to Set Up a New Project File

Assuming you already have Illustrator up and running in the background, bring it up and let’s set up a New Document (File > New or Control-N) using the following settings:

  • Number of Artboards: 1
  • Width: 800 px
  • Height: 600 px
  • Units: Pixels

And from the Advanced tab:

  • Color Mode: RGB
  • Raster Effects: Screen (72ppi)
  • Preview Mode: Default
setting up a new document

2. How to Set Up a Custom Grid

Since we’re going to be creating the icons using a pixel-perfect workflow, we’ll want to set up a nice little Grid so that we can have full control over our shapes.

Step 1

Go to the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and adjust the following settings:

  • Gridline every: 1 px
  • Subdivisions: 1
setting up a custom grid

Quick tip: you can learn more about grids by reading this in-depth piece on How Illustrator’s Grid System Works.

Step 2

Once we’ve set up our custom grid, all we need to do in order to make sure our shapes look crisp is enable the Snap to Grid and Snap to Pixel options found under the View menu, which will transform into Snap to Pixel each time you enter Pixel Preview mode (if you’re using an older version of the software).

Now, if you’re new to the whole “pixel-perfect workflow”, I strongly recommend you go through my How to Create Pixel-Perfect Artwork tutorial, which will help you widen your technical skills in no time.

3. How to Set Up the Layers

With the New Document created, it would be a good idea to structure our project using a couple of layers, since this way we can maintain a steady workflow by focusing on one icon at a time.

That being said, bring up the Layers panel, and create a total of five layers, which we will rename as follows:

  • layer 1: reference grids
  • layer 2: first cactus
  • layer 3: second cactus
  • layer 4: third cactus
  • layer 5: fourth cactus
setting up the layers

4. How to Create the Reference Grids

The reference grids (or base grids) are a set of precisely delimited reference surfaces, which allow us to build our icons by focusing on size and consistency.

Usually, the size of the grids determines the size of the actual icons, and they should always be the first decision you make once you start a new project, since you’ll always want to start from the smallest possible size and build on that.

Now, in our case, we’re going to be creating the icon pack using just one size, more exactly 128 x 128 px, which is a fairly large one.

Step 1

Start by locking all but the “reference grids” layer, and then grab the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a 128 x 128 px orange (#F15A24) square, which will help define the overall size of our icons.

creating the main shape for the reference grid

Step 2

Add a smaller 120 x 120 px one (#FFFFFF) which we will position on top of the previous shape, since it will act as our active drawing area, thus giving us an all-around 4 px padding to work with.

creating the active drawing areas main shape

Step 3

Select and group the two squares together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, center aligning them to the underlying Artboard afterwards. Create the remaining grids using three copies (Control-C > Control-F three times) at a horizontal distance of 40 px from the original, locking the current layer before moving on to the next section.

creating and positioning the remaining reference grids

5. How to Create the First Cactus Icon

Assuming you’ve finished creating the reference grids, move on up to the next layer (that would be the second one) and let’s kick off the project by creating our first icon.

Step 1

Start by creating the plant’s ceramic pot using a 68 x 32 px rounded rectangle with an 8 px Corner Radius, which we will color using #E5E5E5 and then center align to the underlying active drawing area, positioning it at a distance of 4 px from its bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the first cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 2

Give the shape that we’ve just created an outline using the Stroke method, by creating a copy of it (Control-C), which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then adjust by first changing its color to #3A2E2A. Flip the copy’s Fill with its Stroke (Shift-X), making sure to set its Weight to 8 px.

adding the outline to the first cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 3

Add the little horizontal detail line using a 68 px wide 4 px thick Stroke (#3A2E2A), which we will center align to the pot’s larger body, positioning it 4 px from its top edge. Once you’re done, select and group all three shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the horizontal detail line to the first cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 4

Create the right plant’s main body using a 28 x 80 px rectangle (#88AF66), which we will position on top of the pot, at a distance of 38 px from the active drawing area’s right edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the first cactus icons right plant

Step 5

Adjust the shape that we’ve just created, by first selecting it and then setting the Radius of its top corners to 14 px from the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties.

adjusting the shape of the first cactus icons right plant

Step 6

Next, take a couple of moments and draw the two diagonal texture lines with the help of the Pen Tool (P). Use a 4 px Stroke (#6D894E) for the top one, followed by a thicker 8 px one (#6D894E) for the bottom one, setting both of their Width Profiles to one of the default ones included in Illustrator (Width Profile 5).

adding the diagonal texture lines to the first cactus icons right plant

Step 7

Group (Control-G) the two strokes together and then mask them using a copy (Control-C) of the underlying shape which we will paste in front (Control-F) and then use as a Clipping Mask. With the copy in place, simply select both it and the strokes and then right click > Make Clipping Mask.

masking the first cactus icons two diagonal texture lines

Step 8

Give the cactus an 8 px thick outline using the Stroke method, making sure to set its color to #3A2E2A.

adding the outline to the first cactus icons right plant

Step 9

Add the vertical detail line using a 66 px tall 4 px thick Stroke (#3A2E2A) with a Round Cap, which we will center align to the plant’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all its shapes together before moving on to the next step.

adding the vertical detail line to the first cactus icons right plant

Step 10

Start working on the icon’s left plant by creating its main body using a 28 x 52 px rectangle (#A9D884), which we will adjust by setting the Radius of its top corners to 14 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties. Position the resulting shape on top of the pot, at a distance of 38 px from the active drawing area’s left edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the first cactus icons left plant

Step 11

Add the two diagonal texture lines, following the same process used for the right plant, flipping the top Stroke’s width to give it some variety.

adding the two diagonal texture lines to the first cactus icons left plant

Step 12

Give the plant an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), followed by a 38 px tall 4 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A) in the center of its bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group all its composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline and vertical detail line to the first cactus icons left plant

Step 13

Add the smaller rock using a 14 x 12 px ellipse (#BAB6B3) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then position on top of the pot’s right edge, making sure to send it underneath its larger shapes afterwards (right click > Arrange > Send Backward).

adding the smaller rock to the first cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 14

Take a couple of moments and draw the larger rock section with the help of the Pen Tool (P), using #9B928E as your Fill color. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A) with a Round Join, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two behind the ceramic pot (right click > Arrange > Send to Back). Also, don’t forget to select and group (Control-G) all the shapes that we have so far before moving on to the next step.

adding the larger rock to the first cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 15

Start working on the icon’s foreground by creating a 96 px wide 8 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A) with a Round Cap, which we will align to the active drawing area’s bottom-left corner.

adding the larger foreground line to the first cactus icons bottom

Step 16

Finish off the foreground, and with it the icon itself, by adding the smaller line segment using a 4 px wide 8 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A) with a Round Cap, which we will align to the active drawing area’s bottom-right corner. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the current section’s composing shapes together, doing the same for the entire icon afterwards.

finishing off the first cactus icon

6. How to Create the Second Cactus Icon

Assuming you’ve finished working on the first icon, lock its layer and then move on up to the next one (that would be the third one), where we’ll start working on our second plant.

Step 1

Create the ceramic pot using a 68 x 40 px rounded rectangle (#E5E5E5) with an 8 px Corner Radius and an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the second cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 2

Add the horizontal detail line using a 68 px wide 4 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A), which we will center align to the pot’s larger body, positioning it at a distance of 4 px from its top. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all three shapes together before moving on to the next step.

adding the horizontal detail line to the second cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 3

Start working on the cactus’s main body by creating its outer section using a 64 x 64 px circle (#A9D884) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the ceramic pot.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the outer section of the second cactus icons plant

Step 4

Add the plant’s inner section using a 34 x 64 px ellipse (#88AF66) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to its larger body.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the center section of the second cactus icons plant

Step 5

Split the center section in half by adding a 64 px tall 8 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A) to its center, selecting and grouping (Control-G) all of the plant’s composing shapes together before moving on to the next step.

adding the vertical divider line to the second cactus icons plant

Step 6

Since we want the plant to sit behind the ceramic pot, we’ll have to select it and then position it underneath by right clicking > Arrange > Send to Back.

positioning the second cactus icons plant behind its ceramic pot

Step 7

Start working on the little red flower by creating its center petal using a 12 x 16 px ellipse (#EF835E) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the active drawing area’s top edge.

adding the center petal to the second cactus icons flower

Step 8

Create the left petal using a 16 x 16 px rectangle (#EF835E) which we will adjust by setting the Radius of its bottom-left and top-right corners to 12 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A) with a Round Join, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two onto the side of the center petal.

adding the left petal to the second cactus icons flower

Step 9

Create the right petal using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the one that we’ve just finished working on, which we will position onto the opposite side of the plant. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all of the flower’s composing shapes together, making sure to send them to the back afterwards (right click > Arrange > Send to Back). Also, since we’re pretty much done working on the plant, you can select and group (Control-G) all the shapes that we have so far as well.

adding the right petal to the second cactus icons flower

Step 10

Create the smaller rock using a 16 x 14 px ellipse (#BAB6B3) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then bottom align to the ceramic pot’s main body, positioning it 4 px from its right edge.

adding the smaller rock to the second cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 11

Take a couple of moments and draw the larger rock using #9B928E as your fill color. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A) with a Round Join, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two underneath the other shapes (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

adding the larger rock to the second cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 12

Finish off the icon by adding its foreground using a copy (Control-C) of the one we created for the first icon, which we will paste onto the current layer (Control-F) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all its composing sections before moving on to the next one.

finishing off the second cactus icon

7. How to Create the Third Cactus Icon

Make your way to the next layer (that would be the fourth one), locking the previous one, and then zoom in on its reference grid so that we can start working on the third plant.

Step 1

Create the ceramic pot using a 68 x 32 px rounded rectangle (#E5E5E5) with an 8 px Corner Radius and an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the third cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 2

Add the horizontal detail line using a 68 px wide 4 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A), which we will center align to the pot’s main body, positioning it at a distance of 4 px from its top edge. Once you’re done, select all three shapes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the horizontal detail line to the third cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 3

Start working on the actual plant by creating its bottom section using a 64 x 64 px circle (#A9D884), which we will center align to the ceramic pot, positioning it at a distance of 28 px from the active drawing area’s top edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the bottom section of the third cactus icons plant

Step 4

Add the three diagonal texture lines using #88AF66 as your main Stroke color, making sure to group (Control-G) and then mask them using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the larger underlying circle.

adding the diagonal texture lines to the third cactus icons plant

Quick tip: notice that the longer your stroke paths are, the thinner the texture lines will get, so try playing around with them until you get something that looks good.

Step 5

Give the current section an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), selecting and grouping (Control-G) all its composing shapes together afterwards.

adding the outline to the bottom section of the third cactus icons plant

Step 6

Create the plant’s top-left section using a 36 x 36 px circle (#88AF66), on top of which we’ll add the usual diagonal texture lines (#6D894E) and 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A). Select and group (Control-G) all three shapes together, aligning them to the active drawing area’s top edge, making sure to position them underneath the larger section (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

creating and positioning the main shapes for the top-left section of the third cactus icons plant

Step 7

Add the first of the smaller sections using a 16 x 16 px circle (#A9D884) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then position onto the right side of the previously created shapes.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the top-right section of the third cactus icons plant

Step 8

Create the second smaller section using a 24 x 24 px circle (#88AF66) with two diagonal texture lines (#6D894E) and an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then position on the larger body’s right side, at a distance of 16 px from the active drawing area’s top-right corner.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the right section of the third cactus icons plant

Step 9

Select and group (Control-G) all of the plant’s four sections, making sure to send them to the back of the pot (right click > Arrange > Send to Back) before moving on to the next step.

positioning the third cactus icons plant behind its ceramic pot

Step 10

Create the smaller rock using a 14 x 12 px ellipse (#BAB6B3) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then position onto the left side of the larger ceramic pot, making sure to send them underneath its larger shapes (right click > Arrange > Send Backward).

adding the smaller rock to the third cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 11

Take a couple of moments to draw the larger rock section, using #9B928E as your Fill color. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A) with a Round Join, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning the two underneath the ceramic pot (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

adding the larger rock to the third cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 12

Finish off the icon by adding its foreground using a copy (Control-C) of the one we created for the second icon, which we will paste onto the current layer (Control-F) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all its composing sections before moving on to the fourth and final one.

finishing off the third cactus icon

8. How to Create the Fourth Cactus Icon

We are now down to our fourth and last icon, so make sure you’re on the right layer (that would be the (fifth one), and let’s wrap things up!

Step 1

As we did with all the other icons, start out by creating the ceramic pot using a 68 x 24 px rounded rectangle (#E5E5E5) with an 8 px Corner Radius and an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge.

creating and positioning the main shapes for the fourth cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 2

Add the horizontal detail line using a 68 px wide 4 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A), which we will center align to the pot’s main body, positioning it at a distance of 4 px from its top edge. Once you’re done, select all three shapes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the horizontal detail line to the fourth cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 3

Start working on the actual plant by creating a 24 x 24 px circle (#A9D884), which we will center align to the underlying active drawing area, positioning it 4 px from its top edge.

creating and positioning the main shape for the upper section of the fourth cactus icons plant

Step 4

Create another slightly larger 44 x 44 px circle (#A9D884), which we will position at a distance of 24 px from the smaller one.

creating and positioning the main shape for the bottom section of the fourth cactus icons plant

Step 5

Open up the two circles’ paths by individually selecting their inner facing anchor points using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and then removing them by pressing Delete.

opening up the paths of the fourth cactus icons two circles

Step 6

Unite the two paths into a single larger shape by selecting them and then pressing Control-J twice.

uniting the paths of the fourth cactus icons two circles

Step 7

Adjust the shape of the resulting object, by selecting and smoothening out each of its four inner facing anchor points using the Convert selected anchor points to smooth option, and then repositioning its handles until you get a smooth transition between the two sections.

adjusting the side curvatures of the fourth cactus icons plant

Step 8

Take a couple of moments and add the diagonal texture lines using #88AF66 as your Stroke color, making sure to mask them afterwards (right click > Make Clipping Mask) using a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the underlying shape.

adding the diagonal texture lines to the fourth cactus icons plant

Step 9

Give the plant an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), followed by an 80 px tall 4 px thick Stroke line (#3A2E2A) in the center of its bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group all its composing shapes together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding the outline and vertical divider line to the fourth cactus icons plant

Step 10

Position the shape that we’ve just grouped underneath the ceramic pot (right click > Arrange > Send to Back), selecting and grouping both sections together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

positioning the fourth cactus icons plant behind its ceramic pot

Step 11

Add the smaller rock using a 22 x 16 px ellipse (#BAB6B3) with an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A), which we will group (Control-G) and then position onto the right side of the ceramic pot, at a distance of just 4 px from its right edge.

adding the smaller rock to the fourth cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 12

Take a couple of moments and draw the larger rock section using #9B928E as your Fill color. Give the resulting shape an 8 px thick outline (#3A2E2A) with a Round Join, grouping (Control-G) and then positioning them underneath the ceramic pot (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).

adding the larger rock to the fourth cactus icons ceramic pot

Step 13

Finish off the icon by adding its foreground using a copy (Control-C) of the one we created for the third icon, which we will paste onto the current layer (Control-F) and then center align to the active drawing area’s bottom edge. Once you’re done, select and group (Control-G) all its composing sections before saving the entire project.

finishing off the fourth cactus icon

All Shovels Up!

There you have it, fellow cacti lovers—an easy step-by-step approach to create your very own garden icons using nothing more than some basic shapes and tools found within good old Illustrator.

finished project preview
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