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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Illustrator
Design

How to Create a Simple Documents Icon in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

In the following steps you will learn how to create a simple documents icon in Adobe Illustrator. 

For starters you will learn how to set up a simple grid and how to create the main shapes using simple tools, basic vector shape building techniques and the live corners feature. Moving on, you will learn how to add colors, shading and subtle highlights for this shapes using complex linear gradients, basic blending techniques and the Appearance panel. Finally, you will learn how to easily recolor your icon.

1. Create a New Document and Set Up a Grid

Hit Control-N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the width and height boxes, and then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). You will need a grid every 1 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, and enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid—it will make your work easier, and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control-" keyboard shortcut.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

setup grid

2. Create the Front Cover

Step 1

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke and then select the fill and set its color at R=247 G=148 B=30. Move to your artboard and simply create a 290 x 150 px rectangle.

Focus on the bottom side of this orange rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor point and drag it 45 px to the right and then select the right anchor point and drag it 45 px to the left.

orange shape

Step 2

Return to your Toolbar, replace the existing fill color with R=249 G=193 B=72 and then focus on the top left corner of the existing shape.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 130 x 25 px shape and place it as shown in the first image. Switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A) and focus on the right side of this new rectangle. Select the top anchor point and simply drag it 10 px to the left.

yellow shape

Step 3

Reselect both shapes made so far, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click the Unite button.

unite shapes

Step 4

Keep focusing on your shape, pick the Direct Selection Tool (A), and select the three anchor points highlighted by the black circles in the first image. Move to the top bar and simply enter 15 px in that Corners box.

Move to the bottom side of your shape, select the two anchor points highlighted by the blue circles, return to the top bar and enter 20 px in that Corners box.

Next, select the anchor point highlighted by the red circle, get back to the top bar and enter 50 px in the Corners box.

Finally, select the anchor point highlighted by the green circle, move back to the top bar and enter 10 px in that same Corners box. In the end your yellow shape should look like in the second image.

You should know that the Live Corners feature is only available for CC users. The best solution to replace this effect would be the Round Any Corner script that can found in this article: 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts. Save it to your hard drive, return to Illustrator and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select those anchor points and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter the radius values mentioned in the following image and then click OK. The end result might look a bit different, so in some cases you will have to increase/decrease the value mentioned in that Corners box.

rounded corners

Step 5

Disable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-') and then go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1 px.

Make sure that your yellow shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 5 px down using the down arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with R=39 G=170 B=225.

blue shape

Step 6

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up using the up arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Replace the existing fill color with a simple white (R=255 G=255 B=255) and then click that "Opacity" piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel. Change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 50%.

blue shape highlight

Step 7

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down using that same down arrow button from your keyboard. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple black (R=0 G=0 B=0), lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

blue shape shading

Step 8

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy, move it 1 px up and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Select this new copy and move it 1 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple black, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

blue shape shading

Step 9

Make sure that your blue shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, select the fill and replace the existing color with R=249 G=193 B=72. Next, add a second fill for this shape using the Add New Fill button.

Select this new fill, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and then add the complex linear gradient shown in the following image. Keep in mind that the yellow zeros from the Gradient image stand for Opacity percentage while the blue numbers stand for Location percentage. In the end things should look like in the second image.

complex linear gradient

Step 10

Make sure that your main yellow shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 7 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black, lower its Opacity to 5% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

yellow shape shding

Step 11

Make sure that your main yellow shape is still selected and replace the existing fill color with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

Select all the shapes made so far and simply hit Control-G to Group them. Move to the Layers panel, open the existing layer, double click on the name of your group and rename it "frontCover".

front cover

3. Create the Back Cover

Step 1

Enable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-'). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 280 x 150 px shape, set the fill color at R=39 G=170 B=225 and place it as shown in the first image.

Focus on the bottom side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor point and drag it 45 px to the right and then select the right anchor point and drag it 45 px to the left. This will turn your blue rectangle into a simple trapezoid as shown in the second image. Make sure that it stays selected and that the Direct Selection Tool (A) remains active, focus on the top bar and simply enter 15 px in that Corners box.

blue shape

Step 2

Disable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 5 px down. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with R=57 G=181 B=74.

green shape

Step 3

Make sure that your green shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple white, lower the Opacity to 50% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

green shape highlight

Step 4

Make sure that your green shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple black, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

green shape shading

Step 5

Make sure that your green shape is selected and make a copy in front (Control-C > Control-F). Select this copy, move it 1 px up and then duplicate it (Control-C > Control-F). Select this new copy and move it 1 px up. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel.

Make sure that the resulting shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Replace the existing fill color with a simple black, lower the Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

green shape shading

Step 6

Make sure that your green shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. First, select the fill and replace the existing color with R=249 G=193 B=72. Next, add a second fill for this shape using that same Add New Fill button.

Select the new fill, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and then add the complex linear gradient shown in the following image. Remember that the yellow zeros from the Gradient image stand for Opacity percentage while the blue numbers stand for Location percentage. In the end things should look like in the second image.

complex gradient

Step 7

Reselect your blue shape and replace the existing fill color with R=244 G=151 B=45. Select this orange shape along with rest of the shapes used to highlight it and Group them (Control-G).

Make sure that this new group is selected and send it to back using the Shift-Control-[ keyboard shortcut. Move to the Layers panel, find this new group and simply rename it "backCover".

back cover

4. Create the Piece of Paper

Step 1

Enable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-'). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 250 x 115 px shape, set the fill color at R=39 G=170 B=225 and place it as shown in the first image.

Focus on the bottom side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the left anchor point and drag it 30 px to the right, and then select the right anchor point and drag it 30 px to the left. Make sure that this blue shape stays selected and that the Direct Selection Tool (A) remains active, focus on the top bar, and simply enter 10 px in that Corners box.

blue shape

Step 2

Disable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-').

Make sure that your blue shape is selected and make two copies in front (Control-C > Control-F > Control-F). Select the top copy and move it 1 px down. Reselect both copies made in this step and click the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and replace the existing fill color with a simple white.

subtle highlight

Step 3

Make sure that your blue shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the fill and replace the existing color with R=245 G=245 B=240. Add a second fill for this shape, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and add the linear gradient shown in the following image.

file shape color

Step 4

Reselect the two shapes highlighted in the following image and Group them (Control-G). Make sure that this new group is selected and send it backward using the Control-[ keyboard shortcut. Move to the Layers panel, find the group made in this step and rename it "file".

file

5. Add Subtle Shadow and Recolor the Icon

Step 1

Enable the Grid (Control-') and the Snap to Grid (Shift-Control-'). For this step you will need a grid every 1 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 188 x 4 px shape, make it black and place it as shown in the following image.

black rectangle

Step 2

Make sure that your black rectangle stays selected, send it to back using the Shift-Control-[ keyboard shortcut and then move to the Appearance panel.

Select the existing fill, lower its Opacity to 20% and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Bur. Enter a 5 px Radius, click OK and return to the Appearance panel. Add a second fill, make it black and lower its Opacity to 3%. Keep focusing on the Appearance panel, make sure that the entire path is selected (simply click on that "Path" piece of text from the top of the panel) and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 2 px Radius and then click the OK button.

shadow

Step 3

Finally, here's how you can easily recolor your entire icon. Select the four yellow shapes one by one and simply replace the three yellow tints with the blue tints shown in the following image.

blue version

Step 4

Here are the colors that you could use if your prefer a red version. Feel free to try different sets of colors.

red version

Congratulations! You're Done!

Here is how it should look. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

final product
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