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How to Design a Set of Multicolored Buddy Icons

Read Time: 6 mins

In this Illustrator tutorial, I'll show you how to create a set of multicolored buddy icons. This tutorial uses some basic shapes, gradients, Feather, and Illustrator's powerful Live Color feature. These techniques are easily translated into other designs and illustrations.

Final Image

Below are the final icon designs we will be working toward.

Final ImageFinal ImageFinal Image

Step 1

Create a new document and draw a 138 px wide by 170 px tall rectangle with the Rectangle Tool (L).

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Step 2

With the rectangle selected, go to Filter > Stylize > Round Corners to bring up the Round Corners Dialog. Change the Radius to 70 px and press OK.

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Step 3

Select the bottom middle anchor of the rectangle with the Direct Selection Tool (A), then drag the anchor down until it's about a sixth the original size of the rectangle. Now we have a head shape.

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Step 4

Create an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool (L) that is 15 px wide by 42 px tall. Place the ellipse over the head shape about halfway down from the top of the head on the left.

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Step 5

With the Selection Tool (V), press Shift + Alt and drag out a copy of the ellipse to the right side of the face, giving you two ear shapes.

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Step 6

Select the head and ear shapes, press the Add Shape Areas button from the Pathfinder Panel, then press the Expand button.

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Step 7

Fill the head with a Radial Gradient from the Gradient Panel. Change the first swatch in the gradient to a cyan color and change the second swatch to a darker cyan. Next give the head a 1 pt stroke with a dark blue.

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Step 8

Use the Gradient Tool (G) to adjust the Radial Gradient so the lighter part of the gradient is at the bottom of the head. To do this, click at the bottom of the head with the Gradient Tool and drag halfway up the head.

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Step 9

Create an ellipse that is 92 px wide by 54 px tall and place it towards the top of the head in the center.

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Step 10

Fill the new ellipse with a Linear Gradient and change the first swatch to a light cyan and the second swatch to the dark cyan in the head Radial gradient. Use the Gradient Tool (G) to adjust the gradient so the lighter part is at the top of the ellipse.

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Step 11

Select the head shape and go to Object > Path > Offset to open the Offset Path dialog. Change the Offset to -4 px and press OK.

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Step 12

Draw an ellipse that is 250 px by 250 px and place it over the head shape so the top left part of the head is not covered by the big ellipse. Select the new ellipse and the head offset and press the Subtract From Shape Areas button in the Pathfinder Panel.

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Step 13

Select the subtracted shape and fill it with white. With the shape still selected, go to Effect > Stylize > Feather and change the Feather Radius to 9 px and press OK.

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Step 14

Select the head shape and Offset it again like before at -4 px. Next draw a rectangle from the bottom of the ears up, encompassing the entire head shape. Select the rectangle and offset head shape and Subtract Shape Areas.

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Step 15

Select the new subtract area and Copy (Command + C) and Paste In Front (Command + F). Select the bottom anchor of the copied shape with the Selection Tool (V) and squish the shape upwards about a quarter of the way up from the original size. Select the original and the copy, then Subtract Shape Areas.

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Step 16

Fill the new subtracted shape with white and Feather the shape at 9 px like before.

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Step 17

Now that the head is done, we can create the bust area. Create a Rectangle that is 286 px wide by 156 px tall. Next create another rectangle that is 140 px wide by 75 px tall. Place the narrower rectangle over the horizontal rectangle so it is centered. Select both rectangles and press the Add to Shape Areas in the Pathfinder Panel.

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Step 18

With the combined rectangles selected, go to Filter > Stylize > Round Corners and change the Radius to 40 px.

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Step 19

Create an ellipse that is 700 px wide by 355 px tall and centered over the bust shape so a sixth of the bust shape is sticking out from the bottom of the circle. Select both shapes and press the Intersect Shape Areas button from the Pathfinder Panel.

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Step 20

Fill the new bust shape with the same Radial Gradient and stroke as the head shape, then adjust the gradient so the lighter part is coming from the left shoulder.

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Step 21

Offset the bust shape at -4 px like the head. Next, draw a 266 px by 266 px ellipse over the left side of the bust. Select the offset and the ellipse, then Intersect the Shape Areas.

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Step 22

Fill the new shape with a light cyan and give it a 17 px Feather.

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Step 23

Offset the bust shape again at -4 px. Next, draw a 147 px wide by 96 px tall ellipse, and place it over the right shoulder. Select the ellipse and the offset, then Intersect Shape Areas.

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Step 24

Fill the new shape with a light cyan and give it a 17 px Feather.

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Step 25

Place the bust behind the head artwork.

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Step 26

The icon is done, but it would look nice with a shadow. Draw an ellipse that is 360 px by 360 px. Fill the ellipse with a Radial Gradient with the first swatch black and the second swatch white.

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Step 27

With the Selection Tool (V), squish the ellipse so it is a fifth of its original size, then place it behind the buddy icon.

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Step 28

Now that the icon is done, I will show you a quick way to recolor copies of the icon. Select all the artwork and Copy (Command + C) and Paste (Command + V). With the copy selected, go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork to bring up the Live Color dialog.

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Step 29

Click on the Edit button towards the top of the dialog. Now you can edit certain swatches in the artwork or lock all the swatches and edit them together. To do this press the lock icon in the dialog.

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Step 30

You can grab the various circles on the color wheel and move them around to adjust the colors or you can specify the Color Mode to adjust the colors. I like using this option. To select a particular color mode, press the button that looks like a play button towards the bottom of the dialog and choose your color mode. I like using the HSB color mode.

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Step 31

Now with your color mode selected and colors locked, move the sliders around to edit the colors. If you want to return to the original colors, press the Get Colors From Selected Art button at the top of the dialog.

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Step 32

Now just start creating as many colored buddy icons as you like!

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Final Image

All done, have another look at the Final Image below!

Final ImageFinal ImageFinal Image

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