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Design

How to Create a House Icon in Adobe Illustrator

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:
This post is part of a series called Fairy Tale Week.
How to Create a Queen of Hearts Photo Manipulation With Adobe Photoshop
How to Create a Fluffy, Feathery Ugly Duckling Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

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.

Also, if you decide you want to expand the project, you can always find inspiration by taking a quick look at Envato Market, where you can find tons of icons and fairy-tale related artwork.

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
setting up a new document

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
setting up the layers

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.

Step 1

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.

creating the main shape for the reference grid

Step 2

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 shortcut.

creating the reference grids main drawing area

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.

Step 1

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.

creating and positioning the main two shapes of the book

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.

example of using the pixel preview mode to precisely position an object

Step 2

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 one.

creating the main shape for the books joint

Step 3

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.

creating the book joints outline

Step 4

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 white (#FFFFFF), and then adjusting its Transparency by setting its Blending Mode to Overlay and lowering its Opacity to 30%.

adding the top highlight to the books cover

Step 5

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.

adding the secondary highlights to the books cover

Step 6

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 larger outline.

creating the inner section of the books joint

Once you’re done, select and group all of the book cover’s shapes using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 7

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 outlines overlap.

creating and positioning the left upper section of the book

Step 8

Add a 50 x 2 px  black (#000000) rectangle 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 Mask.

adding a subtle shadow to the left page section

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.

Step 9

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.

creating and positioning the second page section onto the book

Step 10

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.

adding finishing touches to the page sections

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

Step 1

Start working on the little pig's house by creating a 44 x 62 px rectangle, which we will color using #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.

creating and positioning the main shape for the brick house

Step 2

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 #604946.

adding an outline to the houses main shape

Step 3

Add a 44 x 6 px rectangle (#000000) towards the bottom section of the house’s main shape, and turn it into a shadow by lowering its Opacity to 20%.

adding the bottom shadow to the house

Step 4

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 well.

adding a shadow to the top section of the house

Step 5

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.

adding the little bricks to the house

Step 6

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.

adding the two vertical highlights to the houses main body

Step 7

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.

creating the main shapes for the houses door

Step 8

Give the door some details and then group them all together (Control-G) so that its composing shapes will act as a single object.

adding details to the door

Step 9

Move a few pixels up, and start working on the window by creating a 16 x 2 px rectangle (#C4BDBC), then give it a 4 px outline (#604946) and position the two shapes at a distance of 4 px from the door’s outline.

creating the main shapes for the windows sill

Step 10

Give the sill some highlights (color: white; Blending Mode: Overlay; Opacity: 60%), and then add two 4 x 6 px rounded rectangles (#604946) with a 2 px Corner Radius, and align one to each side of the grey shape, making them overlap with the larger outline.

adding details to the windows sill

Once you’re done, select all of the sill’s composing shapes and group them together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 11

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.

creating the main shapes for the window

Step 12

Add some details to the window, and then group all of its elements together using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

adding finishing touches to the houses window

Step 13

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.

creating the roof section using the pen tool

Step 14

Give the roof a 4 px thick outline using the Offset Path method, making sure to change its color to #604946 afterwards.

adding the outline to the roof

Step 15

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create three 52 x 2 px shapes (#604946), 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).

adding the main board lines to the roof section

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.

Step 16

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 to 40%.

adding the subtle highlights to the roof

Once you’re done, select all of the roof’s composing elements and group them using the Control-G keyboard shortcut.

Step 17

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.

creating the main shapes for the roofs gutter

Step 18

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.

adding finishing touches to the roofs gutter

Step 19

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).

adding the chimney to the roof section

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.

Step 1

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.

creating and positioning the bush decorative elements

Step 2

With the bushes in place, create the round background by drawing a 104 x 104 px circle, which we will color using #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).

creating and positioning the circular background

Step 3

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.

adding the clouds to the background

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 

Step 1

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.

creating a copy of the icons main shapes to use them for the gradient

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).

Step 2

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.

creating a compound shape for the gradient

Step 3

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.

adding the linear gradient to the compound shape

Step 4

Finish off the icon by setting the gradient’s Blending Mode to Lighten and lowering its Opacity to 40%.

adjusting the gradients blending mode and opacity

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.

icon finished preview
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