In this tutorial we’ll go through the process of creating a lighthouse icon in a trendy flat style using Affinity Designer. We’ll be using simple shapes, such as rectangles and ellipses, and manipulating them with Boolean Operations to transform the shapes. Let’s start!
1. Create the Base of the Lighthouse
First of all, let’s create a New Document of 600 x 600 px size.
We’ll be using a sketch of our future icon in order to make it easier to build composition and pick the colors. Use the Place Image Tool in your Tools panel and select your sketch in the pop-up folder window. Click Open and then click on your workspace in order to place the sketch image at its default size. If you’re confused about how to use some tool, you can always find descriptive tips and instructions in the status text, which is located in the bottom panel of Affinity Designer.
Now we can rename our image as “Sketch” in the Layers panel and lower its Opacity to 75%, making it more transparent and less distracting.
Let’s start from the body of our lighthouse. Make sure you have the Draw Persona selected in the area above the Tools panel. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and form a shape above our sketch with black Stroke and no Fill. Click the Convert to Curves button in the upper context toolbar (the area below the Persona selectors). This way we have turned our rectangle into curves, and now we can edit its nodes separately.
Let’s make the lower part of the lighthouse wider. Select the lower left node with the Node Tool (A), head to the Transform panel, and type +15 in the X cell, thus moving the node 15 px to the right. As you can see, Affinity Designer will do all the calculations for you, adding, subtracting, dividing or multiplying all the appropriate values.
Do the same with the lower left node, typing -15 in the X cell and thus moving the node 15 px to the left. You can adjust the stroke weight of your shape in the context toolbar above, making it thicker.
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to add the bottom part of our lighthouse. Then select both created shapes and Align their centers with the help of the Align Horizontal function in the upper context toolbar.
Select the bottom rectangle, hold down Alt and Shift, and drag the shape up, thus creating a copy. Repeat this action several times, forming the stripes across the body of the lighthouse.
Select the three stripes that we’ve created and head to Operations in your upper Toolbar. Press the Add button to unite our stripes into a single compound shape. You can check how it looks in the Layers Panel.
Now we need to get rid of the parts outside the body shape. Make a copy of the body shape of our lighthouse (Command-C > Command-V), select the newly-created body copy together with the compound stripes shape, and use the Intersect Operation to cut off the unwanted parts.
Let’s move on and create the door and windows of our lighthouse. Place a small rectangle in the bottom part for the door, and make its corners 45% Rounded in the upper context toolbar. Extend the shape, dragging its lower part under the bottom part of the lighthouse.
Select both the bottom part of the lighthouse and the rounded rectangle, hold down the Option (Alt) key, and use the Subtract Operation to hide the unneeded piece of the door shape. Holding down the Option key helps us to perform the Operations in a non-destructive way, so that you can still edit the initial objects in your Layers Panel.
Finish up with the base of our lighthouse by adding all the rest of the windows and forming the top with the help of the Rectangle Tool (M) and Triangle.
2. Color the Lighthouse and Form the Background of the Icon
We’ll be picking the colors directly from our sketch and applying them to the base we've created. Using the Color Picker in Affinity Designer may seem tricky at first, but when you get used to it, it turns out to be very convenient.
Find the eyedropper icon at the top of your Colour panel. Click it, holding down your left mouse button, and drag onto your workspace. You will see a magnifying circle, showing the color beneath it. Once you hover over the desired color, release the mouse button and notice the selected color is saved in a tiny circle next to the eyedropper icon.
Now you can select the desired object (the bottom part of the lighthouse, for example) and click the eyedropper icon in the Colour panel to apply the saved color. Then you can select all other objects that require the same color and apply it again by clicking the eyedropper icon.
Apply the colors to all parts of our lighthouse and Group (Command-G) the parts.
Let’s add a gentle shadow to the right part of our lighthouse to make it more intricate and three-dimensional. Create a grey rectangle the same height as our lighthouse, and place it so that it covers the right half of the object. Set its Opacity to 50% and its Blend Mode to Multiply in the Layers panel.
Copy the lighthouse group, Ungroup All its parts and merge them into a single shape with the help of the Add Operation, thus creating a lighthouse silhouette.
Now for the tricky part: we need to hide the unneeded part of the shadow outside the lighthouse by creating a Mask Layer. Affinity Designer offers a very simple way to do this through the Layers panel. You need to grab the lighthouse silhouette shape in the Layers panel and drag it over the thumbnail preview of the shadow shape. You will see a tiny blue rectangle next to the thumbnail preview of the shadow shape in the Layers panel indicating that you are about to create a Mask Layer. Release the mouse button and check your result.
Add a red circular frame with the Ellipse Tool (M), following the outlines of our sketch and using Operations to create a hollow ring.
Now we need to form the ocean waves. To make it easier to work with, let’s turn on the grid by selecting Show Grid in the View menu, and enable Snap to grid in the snapping options in your Toolbox, under the magnet icon. Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a zigzagged line. Select all its nodes with the Node Tool (A).
Convert the nodes to Smooth with the help of the Convert option in the context toolbar above. You can use the Pen Tool (P) again and click the side node of the wave to form a closed path along the inner part of the icon frame.
Fill it with dark-turquoise color from your sketch and add another wave of a slightly lighter color.
Another way to create waves of the proper size inside the frame is to create larger shapes and then use the Mask Layer to hide the unwanted parts, as we did previously. Group (Command-G) the waves, place a white circle on top of the shapes, and drag the ellipse above the waves group thumbnail in the Layers panel.
Add the dark-blue night sky and a small piece of ground, placing them in the same Mask Layer group as the waves.
Form the clouds by placing three even circles, and merge them with Add Operation. Use the Vector Crop Tool to cut off the lower part of the cloud.
Follow the initial sketch and add the stars and the light coming from the top part of the lighthouse.
We can add depth to our image by using subtle gradients. For example, let’s select the sky shape, take the Gradient Tool (G) and drag it from top to bottom, creating a vertical linear gradient. Move to the Gradient options in the Fill drop-down menu in the upper context toolbar.
Here you can adjust the colors of the gradient parts by double-clicking on the Colour preview box, and add a nice textured effect by moving the Noise slider. Apply some more gentle linear gradients to other parts of our image, such as the beams of light and the sea waves.
Use gradients to adjust the color of the frame, making it brighter and cleaner. You can apply the same Noise effect from the Colour panel by clicking a small circle icon under the Colour Wheel and choosing the desired Noise value from the box in the bottom right corner.
Congratulations! Our Lighthouse Icon Is Finished!
We’ve switched the frame color to white and added some more finishing details to give our icon a completed look: another semi-transparent shadow on the right, a shadow under the frame, and a dark-grey background with subtle noise effect.
This is it! Our lighthouse icon is complete. I hope you’ve enjoyed this short tutorial and found some useful tips and tricks on working in Affinity Designer. Stay tuned for more!