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How to Create Flat Pirate Icons in Adobe Photoshop

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Ahoy, matey! Are you ready to make a fancy set of pirate icons in Adobe Photoshop? Hoist the colours! In this tutorial we’ll be using basic shapes as well as various handy functions and features of Adobe Photoshop to make pirate icons in a trendy flat style! It’s up to you to decide whether to make them clean and sharp or to add a textured touch, using rusty grunge brushes. 

Adobe Photoshop has its advantages and some really cool features for making flat icons. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able not only to make pirate icons, but also to apply these techniques to any other kind of flat icons or flat illustrations that you need. What's more, adding texture to the icons will make them look intricate, adding a certain retro look, which is trendy. 

If you want to make your icons unique and add an artistic touch, you might want to replace the default brushes with your own and find some really cool sets among these grungy textured brushes for Adobe Photoshop from Envato Market. Try out different options and see what works best for you! 

1. Create a Rum Bottle Icon

Step 1

First of all, let’s make a New Document of 3800 x 3800 px size. I’ll be working with large dimensions in order to be able to use any icon as a separate object, so I want to make sure that the image is big enough.

Fill the background with dark-blue color, using the Paint Bucket Tool (G).

Take the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) and make a 1024 x 1024 px shape for the icon base. Open the Properties panel (Window > Properties), and from here we’ll be able to adjust the size of our shapes and the colors and the Corner Radius of the rectangles.

It should be mentioned that when we create any basic shape (ellipse, rectangle, polygon, etc.), it has a special mark on its layer in the Layers panel, meaning that our shape remains vector before we Rasterize it. It means that our shape can be transformed, recolored and scaled up and down without quality loss, which is cool. However, we can’t color such a shape using brushes, so keep this in mind.

make the icon base

Step 2

Let’s start making our bottle from a 390 x 550 px rounded rectangle. We’ll be using the Properties panel all the time, so you can always see my settings for every shape in the screenshots. As for the bottle, we’ll set the Corer Radius of the top corners to 130 px and the bottom corners to 60 px, and we'll set the Fill color of the shape to bright turquoise.

Now, let’s take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and select the anchor points of the bottom left corner. Press the Right Arrow key a few times to move the points to the right (you can hold down Shift while pressing the arrow key to speed up the process).

Do the same for the opposite side, making the bottom of the bottle narrower.

make a bottle from rounded rectangle

Step 3

Let’s fill our bottle with rum! Duplicate the bottle layer (Control-J), press Control-T for Free Transform and make the copy smaller, thus creating the glass edges of the bottle.

Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to make a narrow rectangle over the top part of the bottle. Select both the rectangle and the rum shape, right-click and Subtract Front Shape, making our bottle partly empty.

subtract shapes to make rum

Step 4

Let’s form a bottleneck from a 115 x 190 px turquoise rectangle. Select all the created shapes and use the Align panel on top to Align horizontal center of the shapes.

Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) to add a rim to the bottleneck. Make a 210 x 75 px light-turquoise shape with fully rounded corners.

shape a bottleneck and align the shapes

Step 5

Now we’ll add a pirate label to the bottle. Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to make a dark grey stripe across the bottle. Duplicate (Control-J) the turquoise bottle base, select the copy together with the dark grey label, click the right mouse button and Unite Shapes at Overlap to make the unneeded pieces of the label invisible.

add a pirate label to the bottle

Step 6

Let’s form a stylized skull. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to make a 37 x 37 px white ellipse. Add two tiny dark grey circles for the eyes. Form a jaw from a small rectangle.

Make the glass surface glossier by adding a circle highlight on top of the bottle. Lower its Opacity in the Layers panel, making it semi-transparent.

shape a stylized scull

Step 7

Let’s finish up our bottle by adding a cork. Duplicate (Control-J) the bottleneck and change the color of the copy to brown in the Properties panel. Press Control-[ to place the copy under the bottleneck (or drag it down manually in the Layers panel).

Make the top of the cork slightly rounded by setting the Corner Radius to 30 px.

shape a rounded cork

Step 8

And here we have it—our rum bottle icon is ready! Let’s move on to the next one!

rum bottle icon is ready

2. Design a Steering Wheel Icon

Step 1

Let’s form the base of the steering wheel from a 460 x 460 px light-brown circle. Duplicate (Control-J) the circle, press Control-T for Free Transform, and make the copy much smaller (you can see a smaller copy marked with a dark stroke in the image below). Select both shapes, click the right mouse button and Subtract Front Shape to cut out the inner circle.

shape the base of the steering wheel from circle

Step 2

Now we’ll form the inner part of the wheel. Make a 160 x 160 px yellow circle inside the steering wheel and use the Align panel on top to align both shapes horizontally and vertically.

Duplicate (Control-J) the brown wheel shape, place the copy on top (Shift-Control-]), press Control-T for Free Transform and shrink it, making the shape much smaller.

form the inner part of the wheel

Step 3

Let’s add the bars or holders of the steering wheel. Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to make a 30 x 540 px dark-brown shape and place it beneath the wheel (Shift-Control-[). Don’t forget to Align the bar to the wheel.

make a bar from narrow rectangle

Step 4

Let’s add more elements to the bars. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) to make a holder on top of the bar. Make the top of shape a bit more rounded than its bottom, using the Properties panel.

Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to make the bottom of the shape a bit narrower (the same as we did with the rum bottle).

Duplicate the created element, rotate it upside down in the Free Transform mode and attach it to the bottom of the bar.

Now we can Group (Control-G) the bar together with the holders, duplicate the whole group by selecting the group folder in the Layers panel, press Control-T and rotate it 90 degrees.

Make two more copies and rotate them 45 degrees in different directions, as shown in the image below.

add more bars to the wheel

Step 5

Let’s finish the steering wheel icon by adding some nail-heads to the wooden wheel base. Start by placing a tiny dark-grey ellipse on top of the wheel. Place another one at the bottom, group both circles and duplicate the group. Rotate the group 90 degrees and make more copies, as we did with the bars.

Great! Now we can place our icon onto the icon base and move on!

add nail-heads to the wooden wheel base

3. Make a Pirate Chest Icon

Step 1

Start making a chest from a 670 x 530 px yellow rectangle. Now let’s add the wooden parts of our chest. Continue using the Rectangle Tool (U) to make a 585 x 260 px dark-brown shape and Align horizontal center of both shapes.

Add a smaller rectangle of lighter color on top of the chest and Align top edges of the yellow and light-brown shapes.

add wooden parts and align the shapes

Step 2

Now we’ll form the wooden planks on the surface of our chest. Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to create a 585 x 20 px dark-brown stripe and place it above the top wooden shape, aligning the horizontal centers of the shapes. Duplicate (Control-J) the line a few times and place the copies over the wooden shapes.

Add another golden metal element to the top of our chest: make a 67 x 165 px vertical rectangle, placing it in the center of the lid of our chest.

shape the wooden planks on the surface of our chest

Step 3

Let’s add a lock to our chest. Create a darker yellow rounded rectangle of 130 x 155 px size with 30 px Corner Radius. Make the keyhole by combining a tiny circle with a triangle. We can make a triangle with the help of the Polygon Tool (U), setting the number of Sides to 3 in the control panel on top.

 add a lock to our chest

Step 4

And our chest icon is ready! Let’s move on to our final icon!

chest icon is ready

4. Render a Fancy Pirate Hat Icon

Step 1

Start forming a hat from a 910 x 160 px dark-grey ellipse, and let’s see how we can transform this shape to make it slightly arched. Press Control-T for Free Transform and find the Warp Modes button in the control panel on top. 

Select the Arc Warp and set the Bend value to 20%, thus bending the shape up.

apply arc warp to bend the shape

Step 2

Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a 400 x 400 px circle and place it in the center of the arc. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to move both side anchor points down a bit, making the circle look more like an egg. Select both shapes, click the right mouse button and Unite Shapes.

add the elliptical top of the hat

Step 3

Let’s add a bright outline to our hat. Duplicate (Control-J) the united hat shape, head to the control panel on top, and set the Fill color to none. Set the Stroke to yellow with 4 pt Stroke Weight. Use the Free Transform function to shrink the shape and extend it down a bit, so that it crosses the bottom edge of the hat.

Apply the transformation and let’s see how we can hide the unneeded part of the yellow outline. Select the dark-grey hat shape, switch to the Rectangle Tool (U), click the right mouse button and Make Selection. Set the Feather Radius to 0 px. Now you'll see the “marching ants” selection around the hat.

add a bright outline with yellow stroke

Step 4

Go to Select > Inverse and move to the Layers panel. Select the yellow outline layer and click the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the panel. This way we’ve created a mask around the hat, hiding the unwanted pieces of the yellow stripe. Great work!

add layer mask

Step 5

Copy the skull group from the bottle icon and place it on the hat. Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) to make a thin horizontal stripe for a stylized bone. Rotate the bone 45 degrees and make a copy, rotating it in the opposite direction, making the bones crisscross.

add scull and bones to the hat

Step 6

Let’s finish up the icon by adding a bright bandana to our hat. Use the Rectangle Tool (U) to make a 575 x 60 px red stripe and place it beneath the hat (Shift-Control-[). Duplicate the stripe and drag the copy down, changing its color to lighter red.

Finally, add two smaller vertical stripes on the left side, shaping the tips of the bandana.

add a bright bandana to our hat

5. Add Decorative Details to the Background

Step 1

Let’s make the overall composition look more intricate by adding a few final strokes to the background. Arm yourself with the Freeform Pen Tool (P) and draw a swirly flowing line with a few loops. 

Head to the control panel on top and click the Shape button to Make new Shape Layer.

use the Freeform Pen Tool P and draw a swirly flowing line

Step 2

Now we can adjust the settings and change the appearance of our swirly line. Set the Stroke to dark blue in the control panel on top (make sure that you have the Shape tool mode selected), set the Stroke Weight to 4 pt and open the drop-down Stroke Options menu. 

Select the dashed line and click More Options. From here we can change the Cap and Corner to Round and adjust the Dash and Gap values, making the line fit the composition. 

change the settings to make a dashed stroke

Step 3

Go ahead and add a few more lines. Switch to the Ellipse Tool (U) and speckle some tiny circles here and there, filling the blank spots of our image.

And that’s pretty much it! Our icon set already looks complete. From here, we have two options. If you want to preserve this clean flat look of your icons, then go ahead, save your file and you’re done!

add minor details to the background

Step 4

Otherwise, we can continue improving our icons, using the opportunities of Adobe Photoshop by adding some grungy textures to the icons, thus giving them an old, worn-out look. If you like this kind of adjustment and you want to use some of the default brushes or some of the custom grunge brushes from Envato Market, be sure to check Part 5, Step 1 and onwards from my How to Create Flat Weather Icons in Adobe Photoshop tutorial and discover how to add a textured touch quickly and easily.

Apart from that, if you’re wondering how to add a trendy long shadow effect to your icons, you might like the tutorial How to Create Stylish Flat Space Icons in Adobe Photoshop from Part 1, Step 10 onwards.

textured icons

Yo-Ho-Ho, and a Bottle of Rum! Our Pirate Icon Set Is Ready!

Aye! We’ve done a great job and finished our flat icon set with pirate assets! I hope you’ve enjoyed following this tutorial and discovered some new tips and tricks that will be useful for your future icon sets or flat illustrations.

Have fun and don’t forget to share your results! So long and smooth sailin’, matey!

Pirate Icons Set is Ready
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