Today we’re going to kick it old school, and create one of the most iconic handheld consoles of all time: the original Game Boy.
This is probably going to be one of my favorite tutorials yet, since not only do I get to recreate this awesome device, but I also get the chance to share the process with you and show you how easy it is to build it. We’ll be using basic shapes such as rectangles, rounded rectangles and circles to gradually create our little illustration.
So, grab a cup of your favorite roasted coffee beans, and let’s get
Oh, I almost forgot, if you want to expand your illustration to a larger set,
you can find tons of great illustrations over at Envato Market.
1. Set Up a New Document
As with any new project, the first thing that we’re going to do is make sure that we’ve set up a proper new document.
To do this, go to File > New or use the Control-N keyboard shortcut, and adjust its settings as follows:
- Number of Artboards: 1
- Width: 800 px
- Height: 600 px
- Units: Pixels
And from the Advanced tab:
- Color Mode: RGB
- Raster Effects: Screen (72 ppi)
- Align New Objects to Pixel Grid: checked
2. Set Up a Custom Grid
Since Illustrator lets us take advantage of its powerful Grid system, we will want to set it up using the lowest possible values, so that we can take full control over our shapes by making sure they are perfectly snapped to the underlying Pixel Grid.
The settings that we’re interested in can be found under the Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid submenu, and should be adjusted as follows:
- Gridline every: 1 px
- Subdivisions: 1
You can learn more about grids by reading this in-depth article on how Illustrator’s Grid System works.
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 option, found under the View menu, which will change into Snap to Pixel each time you enter Pixel Preview mode.
Since we’re aiming for a 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. Set Up Some Layers
With our project file created, it would be a good idea to layer our illustration, since we’re going to be using a colored background which could get in our way.
So, assuming you know how to use the Layers panel, bring it up, and create two layers which we will rename using brief descriptions to make them easier to identify:
- layer 1 > background
- layer 2 > game boy
Normally we could have separated our illustration into different sections, each with its own layer, but I thought it would be a good idea to get familiar with Illustrator's Isolation Mode, since you'll find it really useful when it comes to managing grouped objects.
4. Create the Background
Now that we’ve made a couple of adjustments to our project file and Illustrator itself, we can start working on our little Game Boy.
The first thing that we’re going to do is add a colored background, which will make the device stand out.
Make sure you’re on the right layer, and then using the Rectangle Tool (M) create an 800 x 600 px shape, which we will color
#F96969 and then position in the center of the Artboard by using the Align panel’s
Horizontal and Vertical Align Center options.
Once you’re done, lock the current layer, and move on up to the next one where we’re going to start working on the actual handheld console.
5. Create the Front Section of the Game Boy
With the background in place, we can now focus on our little console, which we will create using some of Illustrator’s basic shapes.
We'll start by focusing on the front section of the device, and once we're done will move to the side section.
Start working on the device’s main body, by creating a 144 x 232 px rounded rectangle with an 8 px Corner Radius, which we will color
#EDE4E4 and position towards the center of our Artboard.
Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select the shape’s lower right corner and adjust its roundness by setting its radius to 32 px from within the Transform panel’s Rectangle Properties.
Create the side section of the console so that we can properly align the
device to the Artboard, by grabbing
a copy (Control-C > Control-B) of
the shape that we have, and moving it towards the left side by 24 px, making sure to change its color
to something a little darker (
Create another copy (Control-C) of the console’s main shape and paste it in place (Control-F), and then apply a -4 px offset to it, by going over to Object > Path > Offset Path and entering the value into the Offset field.
Quick tip: if you’ve never used the Offset Path tool to create outlines, I recommend you check out this tutorial that compares the two main methods for creating line icons, which shows you the exact process that can be applied to anything else, not just icons.
We will use this offset to create an outer highlight, by selecting both
it and the copy, and then using Pathfinder’s
Minus Front Shape Mode to create the
cutout. Then, select the resulting shape and change its color to white
#FFFFFF), setting its Blending Mode to
Lighten and making sure to lower its Opacity to 40%.
At this point it would be a good idea to start separating the front of the device from its side section, by selecting and grouping its composing elements using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
This way, you can add new details to it by simply double clicking on the grouped objects to enter Isolation Mode.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create
a 144 x 4 px horizontal divider line
#D8C5C5) which we will position towards the top section of the console,
leaving a 16 px gap.
Give the horizontal divider some depth by adding another darker 144 x 2 px rectangle (
above it, which will act as a shadow.
Once you’ve added the second horizontal divider line, select both it and the thicker one and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Next, we will add two 6 x 16 px rectangles
#D8C5C5) over the two horizontal divider lines that we created a few moments ago, positioning each one at a distance of 12
px from the front body’s sides.
Give the two vertical dividers that we’ve just created some depth, by
adding two 6 x 2 px rectangles (
which we will position towards their top side, and then group them (Control-G) into two pairs so that the
details won’t get misplaced by accident.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create
two more 2 x 10 px shapes, which we
will color using white (
#FFFFFF), and then position to the left side of each
vertical divider, making sure to adjust their Blending Mode to Lighten and
lower their Opacity to 40%.
Next, we’ll start working on
the off/on switch, by creating a 10 x 4
px rectangle (
#D8C5C5) which we will align to the front body’s top section,
positioning it towards the right side of the first vertical divider.
Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool, create
a 28 x 8 px shape (
#D8C5C5) with a 4 px Corner Radius, and then add a
smaller 20 x 4 px rounded rectangle
#EDE4E4) with a 2 px Corner Radius on
top of it.
Create two 2 x 4 px rectangles
#EDE4E4), which we will adjust by rounding their bottom corners. Position them 2 px from one
another, placing them over the rectangle from the base of the off/on switch.
Fill in the little gaps surrounding the
switch’s two vertical lines, using three 2
x 2 px squares (
#C1A8A8) which will act as shadows, thus giving this
section more depth.
Finish off the switch by adding some details such as the shadows from underneath
the vertical lines and the button itself, using duplicates of the shapes that
we already have, making sure to adjust them by setting their color to
Once you’ve added the shadows, don’t forget to
cast a subtle highlight onto the switch’s button top half, using white (
#FFFFFF) for the
color, Lighten for the Blending Mode, and 40% for the Opacity.
Move a few pixels towards the bottom, and add a 136 x 2 px white (
underneath the thicker horizontal divider, which we will turn into a highlight
by setting its Blending Mode to Lighten and lowering its Opacity to 40%.
At this point we’re pretty much done with the upper section of the device, which means we can now focus on creating the display, which is where all the fun takes place.
Grab the Rounded
Rectangle Tool and create an 88 x 120
px shape with a 4 px Corner Radius,
which we will color using
#7E7E89 and then align to the device’s front
section, positioning it just under the horizontal highlight at a distance of 4 px.
With the display in place, we’ll have to adjust it a bit, by setting its lower right corner radius to 20 px instead of the default 4 px that we’ve used for the other ones.
Give the screen an all-around shadow by creating a copy of its main shape (Control-C > Control-F) and then applying a -2 px offset to it, which we will use to create a cutout with the help of Pathfinder’s Minus Front option.
Then, select the resulting shape and change its
color to black (
#000000), lowering its Opacity
Using a similar process, add an all-around 2 px thick inner highlight, using white for the color (
#FFFFFF), Lighten for the Blending Mode, and 20% for
With the help of the Rectangle
Tool (M), create an 80 x 64 px shape,
which we will color using
#82874D since it will act as the active area of the
display, and position it over the grey section, making sure to align it to its
Give the dot matrix screen some depth by casting a 4 px thick inner shadow (color: black; Opacity: 20%) using the Offset Path tool.
Once you’ve added the shadow, grab the Pen Tool (P) and trace a couple of diagonal highlights, using white
#FFFFFF) as your fill color, setting the Blending
Mode to Soft Light, and making sure to lower the Opacity to 40%.
At this point the screen is almost done. All we need to do now is add the
little decals that you would normally find on the device, and the little
battery indicator. I’m going to let you get a little creative and draw them
yourself, so take your time and add them using some basic shapes which you will color using
Finish off the screen by adding two pairs of vertical highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Lighten; Opacity: 20%), and then select all its composing elements and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Move a couple of pixels towards the bottom, and using the Ellipse Tool (L) create a 44 x 44 px circle (
#DDCCCC) which we
will position about 24 px from
the screen’s bottom section.
Once you’ve added the circle, it’s time to start working on the d-pad by
creating a vertical 14 x 36 px rounded
#6B6B75) with a 2 px Corner
Radius on top of which we will add a rotated copy of it, making sure to
center them to the underlying shape.
Give the button some depth by adding a 12 x 12 px circle (
#5E5E68) which we will position in the center.
Finish off the d-pad by adding a couple of highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Lighten; Opacity:
20%) and shadows (color:
and then select all its composing shapes and the circle from underneath and
group them together (Control-G).
Since we’ll be adding a couple more buttons, it would be a good idea to add the vertical highlights now, so that we won’t have to create and send them to the back afterwards.
So, using the Rectangle Tool (M), create
four pairs of highlights, using white (
#FFFFFF) for the fill color, setting the
Blending Mode to Lighten and lowering the Opacity to 40%, and position them towards the right side of the console.
Once you’ve added the highlights, you can grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and use it to create the first of two 16 x 16 px buttons (
#A86578), which we
will position 36 px from the right
side of the device and 62 px from
its bottom side.
Start adding details to the button by creating a subtle highlight (color: white; Blending Mode: Lighten; Opacity:
20%) and casting a small shadow using a copy of the shape which we will
#DDCCCC and then position underneath it.
Once you’ve added the finishing touches, group all the buttons elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Create a copy (Control-C > Control-F) of the button that we’ve just created, and position it towards the right side, at a distance of 8 px, moving it towards the top side by 12 px.
Grab the Pen Tool (P), and
using an 8 px thick Stroke (
#7E7E89) with a Round Cap, draw a diagonal line which will act as the select button, and position it
towards the bottom side of the d-pad.
Give the button a subtle highlight (color:
white; Stroke Weight: 2 px; Cap: Round Cap) and an underlying
#DDCCCC; Stroke Weight: 8 px; Cap: Round Cap), group them (Control-G), and create and position a
copy towards the right side at about 4
Add the little speaker grille from the device’s lower right corner, by
drawing six 4 px thick Stroke lines (
#AD9C9C) with a Round Cap, which you will stack next to
one another in a diagonal line.
Once you have the speaker grille, finish off the front of the device, by
adding an 8 px thick decal (
in-between the screen and the d-pad, and a copy of the off/on button towards
the bottom, where you would normally find the headphone jack.
Quick tip: when you create the headphone indicator using the copy of the off/on button, remember that you will have to slightly adjust it, since flipping it will reverse the positioning of the shadow and highlight.
6. Add Details to the Side Section of the Game Boy
At this point we’re pretty much done working on the front of the device, which means that we can now focus on its side section.
Grab a copy of the front section’s main highlight, and paste it over the side section, making sure to align it to its left side settings its Opacity to 60%, and then group (Control-G) and send them both to the back (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).
Create a copy (Control-C >
Control-F) of the console’s front section and then apply a 4 px offset to it, from which we will
create a cutout with the help of our copy. Then, change the resulting shape’s
#BAA0A0, and position its left side so that it gets aligned to the
center of the visible area of our device’s side section.
Since we’ll want the vertical divider line to be constrained within the surface of the side section, we will use a copy of the underlying shape to create a Clipping Mask (right click > Make Clipping Mask) in order to hide the areas protruding outside of it.
Using the Rectangle
Tool (M), create a 10 x 4 px shape
which we will color using
#BAA0A0 and then position towards the top side, next
to the front section’s horizontal divider.
Next, add a 10
x 2 px shadow (
#A58888) above the horizontal divider that we’ve just
created, and a subtle 10 x 2 px highlight
(color: white; Blending Mode: Lighten; Opacity:
60%) right underneath it.
Grab the Rectangle
Tool (M) and create a group of ten 8
x 2 px shapes, which we will color using
#A58888, and vertically distribute
at 6 px from one another, making
sure to position them towards the left side of the device’s side section, 48 px from its bottom.
Create a copy of the group of rectangles that we’ve
just created, and push them towards the bottom by 2 px, changing their color to
#BAA0A0 so that they can stand out
from the originals.
Finish off the side grille by adding a third
copy of the horizontal rectangles underneath the lines that we’ve just created,
which we will need to adjust by changing their Width from 8 px to just 4 px. Then, change their color to white
#FFFFFF), and set their Blending Mode to
Lighten while making sure to lower
their Opacity to 60%.
Since the idea of doing a tutorial is to learn not only by recreating but by trying new things out, I’m going to let you finish the side section of our little Game Boy by adding the power input and the contrast wheel.
That being said, take your time, get them done, and then move on to the last step.
If you’ve reached this final step, that means you’ve managed to do a great job on finishing off the side section of our little Game Boy.
Now it’s time to finish off the tutorial by adding the final piece to the illustration, which is that subtle shadow from underneath the device itself.
To create it, simply grab the Ellipse
Tool (L) and draw a 148 x 16 px ellipse,
which we will color using a darker red (
#DD5252) and then position underneath
our device, at a distance of 12 px from
Game Over, Baby!
It took us a while but we’ve finally done it, and boy does the result look good! I hope that you’ve managed to keep up with each step, and most importantly learned something new in the process.