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How to Design a Media Player with Vector Tools


In this tutorial, we'll be using basic Illustrator tools to create a Media Player design. This is an excellent tutorial for beginners to Illustrator, as it's mostly creating and manipulating basic shapes to arrive at a polished final result. Let's get started!

Final Image Preview

Below is the final design we will be working towards. 

Important Notes and Hints for This Tutorial

I am assuming you know how to use the Gradient Tool well. You create a gradient with the Gradient palette but it is the Gradient Tool that allows you to manipulate it.

  • Do not worry about getting the balance in the gradients exactly right initially. All gradient can be fine-tuned after initial creation, after all the components of the artwork are in place.
  • Try to put every structure (or group of similar structures) on it’s own layer and promptly name that layer.
  • Try to group all the components of one structure so that it is possible to resize or move it easily.
  • The Pen Tool is awesome. The Pen Tool combined with Snap to Grid and Smart Guides is monstrously awesome. You cannot achieve Illustrator Nirvana without mastering the Pen and the Pathfinder palette. I cannot emphasize this enough.
  • When you have to create very small structures, it is sometimes best to start big and then shrink your artwork into place (Quality won’t be lost. That is the magic of vector artwork). To shrink or enlarge symmetrically, simply hold down Shift + ALT and use the arrow handle with the Selection Tool to resize.
  • You will use the Zoom Tool frequently. A very handy shortcut is to press Alt and use the scroll-wheel of your mouse to zoom in or zoom out. To pan around the workspace, hold down the Spacebar, Left-press, and move.
  • To come back to the default view simply press Command +0.
  • Finally, below are all the colors I will be using for this tutorial.

Step 1

Pick the Rounded Rectangle Tool, and click once on the workspace. A dialogue box will open. Enter the options below and click OK. Assign a linear gradient of five colors as shown, and adjust with the Gradient Tool. Name this layer "Base."

Step 2

Create another Rounded Rectangle with the following options and place it on a new layer.

Step 3

Directly below it on the same layer create a boat-shaped figure with the Pen Tool, as outlined below. It is important to use the Grid and turn Snap To Grid on (View > Snap To Grid).

Step 4

Select both shapes and make sure they are aligned horizontally (Horizontal Align Center), and then nudge them with the arrow keys on your keyboard so that they just overlap. With both selected, use the Pathfinder Tool to unite the two shapes with the Add To Shape Area button. Make sure you press the Expand button after this. Name the layer "Screen." Next, change the fill to a gradient of four colors.

Step 5

Place the "Screen" on top of "Base" and align as shown.

Step 6

This is an important step. We will use it so many times, but I will describe it once only here. I call it Dotha Outline (I know it’s a stupid name, but what the heck, it’s all about having fun learning). Basically, we want to form a thin gradient outline for the screen to give it depth and realism.

First, copy the shape to be outlined (here the "Screen") and paste in front. Next select the copy, get rid of the fill and stroke with 3 points. With the shape still selected, go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke so that it is turned into a fill (Strokes cannot have gradients applied to them directly). Next you simply turn the new fill into a two color gradient, then adjust that gradient to your heart’s content with the Gradient Tool

Step 7

This is what we have so far.

Step 8

We want to form the outline containing the buttons on the bottom. Create a Rounded Rectangle and a perfect circle, as shown below. Select both, align them, unite them with the Pathfinder tools, stroke the new shape, and get rid of the fill.

Step 9

Follow the instruction in the image below.

Step 10

Repeat the steps above with a new rounded rectangle and position as shown.

Step 11

Now for the Play button and it’s highlight. Create an Ellipse as shown below.

Step 12

Complete the Play button by positioning it in place, then create a white triangle with the Polygon Tool. Position it under the highlight and then go to Effect > Stylize > Round corners to give it. Finally, group all three (Button, highlight, and triangle) into one object.

Step 13

Let's get started on the Forward and Backward buttons.

Step 14

Apply a gradient to the button, position it into place. Create a gradient outline by doing a Dotha Outline and use the Gradient tool to get the result below. Finally, create two triangles and one rectangle. Do not round their corners. Position them into place and group all the components of the button. Grouping them is important, as in the next step we are going to make a copy positioned to the left of the Play button.

Step 15

To create the backward button, we will make use of the Reflect Tool. Master this technique, as it is very powerful. Note that where you click with Alt held down determines where the reflected copy is placed. Turning Smart Guides on makes locating the center of any object becomes easy.

Step 16

Now to create the Shuffle button. I created the arc with the Pen Tool set at 1pt weight, and then created a reflected copy as done previously with the Forward button.

Step 17

Add Arrowheads to both arcs (you can do this to the original arc before creating a reflected copy). After creating both arrowheads, group them, shrink, and then position them into place. If the arrowheads become too large after shrinkage, you can edit them by going to the Appearance Palette and double-clicking on Add Arrowheads, then adjust the scale.

Step 18

For the Repeat button, create a circle and with the Add Anchor Point Tool add a single point on the path as shown. Next, with the Direct Selection Tool, select the little arc between the point you just created and the point at 12 O'clock and delete it. Just add an Arrowhead and position it into place.

Step 19

Create a division line and stop buttons with simple rectangles. The former with a gradient fill and the latter with a solid fill.

Step 20

Make the volume slider by first creating a rectangle with a gradient fill. Make a copy of that rectangle and turn the copy into a gradient outline. Overlap the two perfectly so that the one with the fill sits above, then reduce its width to about halfway, so that the outline shows on the right.

To create the knob of the slider, simply make a copy of the Play button, Ungroup it, then change one of its gradient colors as shown below. Get rid of the white triangle and position it into place. Remember to group them when all done.

Step 21

Let's work on the volume icon now. Believe me, there are so many ways to create this (legend has it there are at least there ways to create anything in Illustrator). Out of the methods I experimented with, the quickest is the following method.

Use the Pen Tool to create the sound waves made up of a single semi-circle (with rounded corners) and a fill, but no stroke. Use two arcs and position them as shown below. The main speaker is simply made up of a square and a triangle (three sided polygon) joined with the Pathfinder Tool.

Step 22

Let's make the upper bar that houses the text and browser buttons. Create a rectangle with a gradient fill and a black stroke positioned.

Step 23

Let's make the highlighted Now Playing navigation button at the top next. Create a rounded rectangle and then a normal rectangle with the same width. Overlap them partly and unite them with the Pathfinder Tool.

Step 24

Position the button created above as shown, adjust its size, and fill it with a gradient. Next, apply the two effects shown shown below.

Step 25

Let's work on the formation of the browser buttons at top left. Select the Play button. Get rid of the white triangle. Make a copy and put the two side by side as shown below. They must not overlap.

Select both and go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Choose default options and click OK. Deselect everything, then select the two new, bigger circles at the back, then unite them with the Pathfinder Tool.

Step 26

Make the new shape curvier by selecting its only two sharp corners and turning them into smooth curves with the help of the Direct Selection Tool and the grid.

Step 27

Next step is to simply turn the new stroke into a gradient fill. Yep, I did the Dotha Outline again, grouped the buttons, and positioned them into place. I then used the Pen Tool to create one browser arrow, which I then made a reflected copy of. Note that the arrows are below the reflection in the stacking order.

Step 28

Let's create the two highlights on the two rows housing the navigation buttons. Make two rectangles with a gradient fill of pure white and black, a Screen Blending Mode and a Transparency of about 25%, which is the same method you used to create the highlight for the play button.


Finally, I created the six text buttons at the top and positioned them. For the minimize, maximize, and close buttons in the top right corner, I created three shapes with a faint white stroke and gradient fills. On top of each one I create a filled rectangle, one stroked rectangle, and a letter x. For the large content area in the middle of the media player, I created a rectangle with a linear gradient fill and no stroke.

Next, I tweaked all the gradients (position points mostly and swapped some of the colors around) to get this final picture shown below. Experiment with especially the colors in the various gradients and also try changing the positions of the two major highlight bars (created in Step 28 above) on the vertical axis to get various results.

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