This week we’re bringing you some special content, using a theme that is really close to all of us, which is why we had so much fun creating all the neat tutorials that are heading your way.
Yup, it's a whole week of fairy-tale-inspired tutorials, and I had the chance to work on one of my favorites: The Three Little Pigs.
If you’ve never had the chance to read or hear it, the whole story revolves around three anthropomorphized piggies that are trying to build a house for themselves, but each time it ends up being blown away by a big bad wolf—well, that’s until they build a brick one.
I won’t get into too many details, so I’ll leave you with a link that
will tell you all there is to know about this really awesome tale of three courageous little pigs.
That being said, today we’re going to be building our very own version of the brick house, using some simple shapes and tools that you would normally use on a daily basis.
1. Set Up a New Document
As always, let’s start by setting up our document, by going to File > New (or using the Control-N keyboard shortcut) and adjusting it 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
Normally, I would have asked you to create a document that has the same size as the icon, since we’re going to be creating only one item, but I wanted to show you the process for the brick house, and then let you build the other two using some of the same steps.
Quick tip: since we’re going to be creating the icon using a pixel-perfect workflow, I recommend you take a couple of moments and read my in-depth tutorial on how to create pixel-perfect artwork, which should get you going in no time.
2. Layer the Project
Whether you’re dealing with a small or large project, you should always try and use layers since they can help you a lot when it comes to creating and structuring your design, letting you focus on one thing at a time.
So, assuming you already know how to use the Layers panel, open it up and create three layers naming them as follows:
- Layer one: reference grid
- Layer two: icon
- Layer three: gradient overlay
3. Create the Reference Grid
Since reference grids allow us to build our icons with size and consistency in mind, we’re going to be creating one to do just that.
Make sure that you’re on the reference grid layer, and using the Rectangle Tool (M) create a 128 x 128 px square (
#FF6B57), which will
define the overall size of our icon. Then, align the shape to the center of the
Artboard using the Align panel’s Horizontal and Vertical
Align Center options.
Create another smaller 120 x 120
px square (
#FFFFFF), which will act as our active drawing area, and
position it on top of the one we’ve previously created, selecting and grouping
the two together using the Control-G keyboard
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 project asset.
4. Creating the Open Book
Since we now have our reference grid, we can zoom in on it and start working on our little icon, by creating the open book base.
The whole idea is to combine the book, which is a strong symbol for storytelling, with the house from Three Little Pigs to get a more interesting composition.
Start by creating a 112 x 4 px rectangle,
which we will color using
#93665F, give a 4
px thick outline (
#604946) using the Offset
Path method (select the shape >
Object > Path > Offset Path > 4 px), and then position the two
shapes at a distance of 4 px from
the bottom of the active drawing area.
Quick tip: since precise positioning is all about the ability to see and use the underlying pixel grid to your advantage, I recommend you switch over to the Pixel Preview mode whenever you can by going to View > Pixel Preview or by using the Alt-Control-Y keyboard shortcut.
Once you have the main shape of the book’s cover, grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 16 x 8 px shape (
#93665F) with a 2 px Corner Radius, and position it on
top of the two rectangles, making sure to align it to the top side of the brown
Select the shape that we’ve just created, and give it a 4 px outline (
#604946), making sure to
send it to the back of the larger outline by right clicking > Arrange > Send to Back.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M) add
a 112 x 2 px shape towards the top
side of the brown rectangle, and then turn it into a highlight by coloring it
#FFFFFF), and then adjusting its Transparency
by setting its Blending Mode to
Overlay and lowering its Opacity to 30%.
Add two more sets of highlights to each side of the book’s cover (at about 22 px from the sides) using the same values that we’ve used in the previous step.
Finish off the book’s cover by adding an 8 x 8 px rounded rectangle with a 2 px Corner Radius, which we will color using
#604946, and then
position on top of the brown rectangle, aligning it to the top side of the
Once you’re done, select and group all of the book cover’s shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Start working on
the upper section of the book by drawing a 50 x 6 px rectangle (
#F2D2CE), which we will adjust by rounding its
top right corner to 6 px using the Transform panel.
Give it the usual 4 px outline
#604946), and then position the two shapes above the cover, so that the larger
Add a 50 x 2 px black (
towards the lower section of the pages that we’ve just created, and
then turn it into a shadow by lowering its Opacity
to 20%, making sure to mask it
using the underneath shape as a Clipping
Quick tip: if you're new to Clipping Masks, I strongly recommend you read this technical tutorial that explains the advantages of using the Clipping Mask over the Pathfinder panel.
Finish off the left side of the book by adding some highlights to the pages using Overlay as the Blending Mode and 60% for the Opacity.
Then group all of its composing elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut, and create and position a copy towards the right side of the book’s cover.
With the pages in place, add a 104
x 1 px rectangle (
#604946) towards their lower section to give them more
detail, making sure to align it to their center.
Since at this point we’re done working on the book, we can select and group all of its elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut so that they won’t get separated by accident.
5. Create the Brick House
Start working on the little pig's house by creating a 44 x 62 px rectangle, which we will
#D1736B, and then position towards the center of our active drawing
area, aligning it to the outline of our pages.
Since we’ll need the shape to go underneath our little book, we will right click on it and then go to Arrange and select Send to Back.
Give the shape that we’ve just created an outline by selecting it and
then going to Object > Path >
Offset Path > and entering 4 px into
the Offset value field, making sure
to change its color to
Add a 44 x 6 px rectangle (
towards the bottom section of the house’s main shape, and turn it into a shadow
by lowering its Opacity to 20%.
Add another 44 x 2 px rectangle (
#000000) towards the top side of the house’s main shape, and turn that into a shadow as
In this next step, I will give you some creative freedom, since we need
to add the little bricks to give the house some texture. So, take your time,
and using small 4 x 2 px rectangles
#AF5652) give the house its brick look, making sure to group them all together
(Control-G) once you’re done.
Using the Rectangle Tool (M), add two 54 px tall vertical highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 20%), and position them towards the right side of the house.
Start working on the door by creating a 16 x 30 px rectangle which we will color using
#93665F, and then
adjust by rounding up its top corners to 8
px. Then give it the usual 4 px outline
#604946) and position the two shapes towards the bottom section of the house.
Give the door some details and then group them all together (Control-G) so that its composing shapes will act as a single object.
Move a few pixels up, and start working on the window by creating a 16 x 2 px rectangle (
give it a 4 px outline (
position the two shapes at a distance of 4
px from the door’s outline.
Give the sill some highlights (color:
white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 60%), and then add two 4 x 6 px rounded rectangles (
a 2 px Corner Radius, and align one
to each side of the grey shape, making them overlap with the larger
Once you’re done, select all of the sill’s composing shapes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Create the actual window by drawing an 8 x 8 px circle (
#93B5D1), and then give it a 4 px thick outline (
#604946) and position the two shapes just above
the sill, making sure their outlines overlap.
Add some details to the window, and then group all of its elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Start working on the roof by drawing a 20 px tall shape (
#93665F) using the Pen Tool (P). As you can see in the reference image, make sure to
add a 2 px tall base since we’ll
need it for the outline.
Give the roof a 4 px thick
outline using the Offset Path method,
making sure to change its color to
Using the Rectangle Tool (M),
create three 52 x 2 px shapes (
which we will position at a 2
px vertical distance from one another and then place onto the upper section of the roof,
making sure to mask them using the shape from underneath (both shapes selected > right click > Make Clipping Mask).
Quick tip: if you’re wondering why we’ve created only three board lines, well that’s because we will be adding another section to the roof in the following steps, which would have masked them.
Add another set of three 52 x 1
px rectangles (
#FFFFFF), which we will position next to the ones that we’ve
previously created, and then turn into subtle highlights by setting their Blending Mode to Overlay and lowering their Opacity
Once you’re done, select all of the roof’s composing elements and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool create
a 52 x 2 px shape (
#C4BDBC) with a 1 px Corner Radius, and position it
towards the bottom section of the roof, making sure to give it a nice 4 px thick outline (
#604946) to make it
look like a gutter.
Add the usual highlights and two 2
x 2 px squares (
#604946) to each side to give it more polish. Once you’re
done, select all of the gutter’s composing elements and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.
Finish off the house by adding a 4
x 8 px rectangle (
#D1736B) with a 4
px outline (
#604946) chimney towards the right section of the roof. Give it
a subtle shadow (color: black; Opacity: 20%), and then group all of
its shapes together (Control-G).
Once you’re done working on the house, select all of its composing sections and group them (Control-G) so that they won’t get separated by accident.
6. Create the Background
Now that we’re done with the house, we can start working on the background by creating the little bushes and clouds that will give the icon the visual pop it needs.
Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create
two 8 x 8 px circles, positioned 6 px from one another, and then add
a 12 x 12 px one between
them. Color the shapes using
#5FAA7D, and then give each one of them a 4 px outline (
#604946) making sure to
send them to the back of the green circles. Give them some subtle highlights,
and then group (Control-G) and create
a copy (Control-C > Control-F),
positioning a bush on each side of the house.
With the bushes in place, create the round background by drawing a 104 x 104 px circle, which we will
#C3D8E5, and position towards the center of our icon, aligning it
to the book’s joint, making sure to send it to the back (right click > Arrange > Send to Back).
Finish off the
background by adding the little clouds which we will create using a bunch of 4 px tall white (
#FFFFFF) Rounded Rectangles with a 2 px Corner Radius and an Opacity of 60%.
Take your time, and create a couple of variations using different widths for the segments, and once you’re done, group (Control-G) and mask them all using the blue circle as a Clipping Mask.
When you’re done working on the background, you can move on to the final part of our tutorial, where we will give the icon some finishing touches.
7. Add the Gradient Overlay
Before you lock the icon layer, and move on up to the third and last one, you’ll have to grab a copy of each of the icon’s main outlines, so the roof, the chimney, the outer sections of the bushes, the pages, the book cover and the background circle, which you can then paste onto the empty layer.
Quick tip: you can easily select any shape that has been added to a group by clicking on it using the Direct Selection Tool (A).
With the copies in place, select them all, and then open up the Pathfinder panel, and click on the downward-facing arrow to bring up some of its hidden features. From the new menu, select Make Compound Shape which will allow you to apply a smooth gradient onto the entire surface of the copies.
Apply a Linear Gradient to
the Compound Shape, setting the
angle to -90°, using
#ED1C24 for the
left color and
#29ABE2 for the right one.
Finish off the icon by setting the gradient’s Blending Mode to Lighten and lowering its Opacity to 40%.
I'll Huff and Puff and Blow Your House Down!
We’ve done it! It took us a while, but we’ve finally reached the end of our little story and managed to create a cool-looking icon to go along with it. I hope that you’ve managed to keep up with all of the steps, and learned something new and useful during the process.
Oh, and since all fairy tales have a happy ending, I decided to attach the source file for the project so that you'll have all three houses, not just the brick one.