How to Make a Professional Buddy Icon in Photoshop

Preview

Preview

Introduction

Throughout the tutorial, almost every shape is drawn with Photoshop’s Pen Tool. If you are not experienced with the Pen Tool, you can refer to this excellent tutorial called "Become a Master of the Pen Tool in Under 30 Minutes" by Simon Hubbert on PSDFan.

Step 1: Set up the Photoshop document

To start, create a new document in Photoshop with these settings.

Set up the Photoshop document

For convenience, fill the Background layer with a shade of gray and position a vertical guide (View > New Guide) at the center of the document. This guide will help us keep things symmetrical.

Step 2: Start with the body

Start with the body

One easy way of achieving symmetry for such a shape is to make just one half of it first. Choose the Pen Tool (P) from the Tools Pnael and draw a shape as shown below. Before you make the shape, make sure to select Shape layers option from Options bar, and to set black (#000000) as your foreground color.

Start with the body

Once you have done half of the shape, select Path Selection Tool (A) and click on the shape in the canvas.

Now press Ctrl/Cmd + C and then Ctrl/Cmd + V to copy and paste a copy of same path on the layer.

Next, go to Edit > Transform Path > Flip Horizontal and move the other half rightward so that the ends of two halves join together.

Start with the body

With Path Selection Tool (A) still selected, stretch out a selection over the two halves then click the Combine button in the Options bar; this will add the two halves together, resulting in just one symmetrical shape.

Start with the body

Name the shape layer as "body" to keep our layers organized.

Step 3: Add layer styles to the body

Go to Layer Style options for the "body" layer and give it these styles:

Inner Shadow layer style

Start with the body

Inner Glow layer style

Start with the body

Gradient Overlay layer style

Start with the body

Here’s what it should look like after the layer styles have been applied.

Start with the body

Step 4: Add shadow to the body

Create a new layer and place it below "body" layer.

Fill a selection on it using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and reduce its opacity to 30%.

Next, apply two filters on it (Gaussian Blur and Motion Blur).

Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur 

Set the radius option at 3.0px.

Add shadow to the body

Filter > Blur > Motion Blur

Set the Angle at 0 degrees and Distance to 30px.

Add shadow to the body

Create a new layer and Ctrl/Cmd-click on "body" layer to load a selection around it, and then fill it with black (#000000) on the new layer.

With the selection still loaded, go to Select > Modify > Expand and expand the selection by 2px.

Move the selection 5px up then hit the Delete key to clear the area below the selection.

Select Move Tool (V) and move the layer 3px down.

Finally, apply a Gaussian Blur filter of 2.5px radius and reduce the opacity of layer to 50%. If followed correctly, you’ll have something like this by now.

Add shadow to the body

Step 5: Create the shirt

Using the Pen Tool (P), draw a shape like the one shown below and name it "shirt".

Add shadow to the body

Once the shape is finished, give it a Gradient Overlay of light gray shade.

Add shadow to the body

Add shadow to the body

Step 6: Create the neck

Choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and on a new layer, fill a selection with any color as shown (we will add a layer style to it so the color you fill it with doesn’t matter).

Add shadow to the body

Give the layer a Gradient Overlay layer style afterwards.

Add shadow to the body

Add shadow to the body

Step 7: Create the tie

Next up is the tie. It’ll be a red tie, but I encourage you to experiment with different tie colors and patterns! Create the tie shape with Pen Tool (P) using similar processes as the ones we’ve been talking about.

Add shadow to the body

Next, we’ll give the tie some layer styles:

Drop Shadow layer style

Create the tie

Inner Shadow layer style

Create the tie

Gradient Overlay layer style

Create the tie

Voila, here’s what the tie looks like now.

Create the tie

Next, we need to make another shape with the Pen Tool (P) for the knot.

Create the tie

Let’s apply some layer styles to the tie knot.

Drop Shadow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Inner Shadow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

Here’s our entire neck tie finished.

Gradient Overlay layer style

Step 8: Make the shirt collar

It’s time to make the collar of the shirt. Draw a shape as shown; the fill color you pick is arbitrary since it’ll be covered up by layer styles later on (just pick a color that you can easily distinguish from the background).

Name this new shape layer "collar".

Make the shirt collar

After drawing the shape, give it these Layer Styles to make it look consistent with shirt.

Drop Shadow layer style

Make the shirt collar

Inner Shadow layer style

Make the shirt collar

Pattern Overlay layer style

Make the shirt collar

Here’s the left collar after it’s finished.

Make the shirt collar

To complete the collar, you need to duplicate the left collar and flip it horizontally. Since the "collar" layer contains Layer Styles, transforming a duplicate copy won’t work.

Therefore, to get the desired outcome, select the "collar" layer and press Ctrl/Cmd + J to duplicate it.

Now create a new layer and merge the duplicate layer with it. This flattens the left collar so that when we transform it, the styles won’t be affected.

After that, go to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal and move the other half rightward using the Move Tool (V) in order to complete the collar.

Make the shirt collar

Step 9: Add lapels to the suit

Set your foreground and background colors to default by pressing D (this sets the foreground color to black and background to white).

Then make a shape for the left lapel of the suit as shown below.

Add lapels to the suit

Add the following layer styles to this shape layer:

Drop Shadow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Inner Shadow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Outer Glow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

This is our left lapel finished with layer styles.

Drop Shadow layer style

Just like the collar in the previous step, add a copy of this shape on right side so that you get something like this.

Drop Shadow layer style

Step 10: Delineate the arms of the suit

Select the Brush Tool (B) and pick a 4px soft brush tip.

Drop Shadow layer style

Now grab the Pen Tool (P) and click on the Paths option as shown.

Delineate the arms of the suit

Delineate the arms of the suit

Create a new layer and draw a curve over right shoulder. With the foreground color set to black (#000000), right-click on the path and select Stroke Path from menu.

Delineate the arms of the suit

Click OK after setting the Tool option to Brush.

Delineate the arms of the suit

Now give the new path these layer styles:

Drop Shadow layer style

Drop Shadow layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

Put a duplicate copy of layer on the opposite side so that you get something like this.

Gradient Overlay layer style

Step 11: Create the head

Draw an elliptical shape for the face as shown below.

Create the head

Next, and give it shades of skin color with these layer styles:

Inner Shadow layer style

Create the head

Gradient Overlay layer style

Gradient Overlay layer style

You should end up with something like this:

Gradient Overlay layer style

Step 12: Add a shadow to the face

Create a new layer and Ctrl/Cmd-click on the "face" shape layer to make a marquee selection around it automatically.

Move the selection 4px down and fill it with the color #423820 on the new layer.

Add a shadow to the face

Apply the Motion Blur filter (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur) with an angle of 90 degrees and Distance at 10px.

Repeat the same exact filter by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + F.

With the shadow layer selected, Ctrl/Cmd-click on "neck" layer to create a marquee selection around it, then press Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + I to invert the selection.

Press the Delete key to clear the area beneath the inverted selection.

Add a shadow to the face

Step 13: Create the hair

The last thing to be added to the icon is the hair. Feel free to create any hairstyle for the icon, but the purposes of this tutorial, let’s start with something simple.

Create the hair

After making the simple shape, give it a white to black Gradient Overlay layer style.

Create the hair

Create the hair

Step 14: Add shadow to the hair

Just like you did with the shadow for the face, add a shadow for the hair over the face using the same color, but with a lower opacity (about 70%).

Add shadow to the hair

Step 15: More improvements on the hair

Create a new layer and Ctrl/Cmd-click on "hair" shape layer to load its selection.

Move the selection 7px upward and fill it with white (#ffffff).

With the selection still loaded, move it 5px up and press Delete to clear the area below the selection.

Now apply these filters on the layer:

Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur  

Set the Radius option to 1px.

Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen

Apply this filter twice.

Next, set fill opacity of the layer to 0% and give it a Gradient Overlay layer style.

More improvements on the hair

Conclusion

We’re done! Thank you for following along this tutorial and I hope that you were able to learn a new trick or two in Photoshop.

If I have inspired any of your works at all with this tutorial, I encourage you to add it to the Design Instruct Flickr group pool; please help us build this collection up!

Here is the final version of the icon design.

Conclusion

Download Source Files

  • AMAZING! but something like this is better to create in illustrator i think.

  • BorisG

    Another great tut! Keep it up.

  • I find making shapes in Illustrator easy-er too, so tnx for showing how-to. Nice tut, keep em coming

  • Great tut very nice icon. Thanks

  • Wow! This is a really great tutorial! Thanks! Like the others said above, keep ’em coming!

  • Love it, thanks

  • Indeed, it’s better to create something like this in Illustrator but it’s a lot easier and flexible with Photoshop.

  • Yes, making vector shapes is easier in Illustrator because Illustrator is designed specifically for vector illustration. However, at least for icon design, Photoshop is a good tool to use too because it has nicer filters and layer styles that scale down nicely. At least for designing icons, in my opinion, you don’t need to use Illustrator because you won’t be scaling it up to larger than 512px (max standard icon size).

    My two cents.

    Though if you did want to use Illustrator, the process is very similar (at least the drawing part with the Pen Tool), so the general process could be adapted using another graphics software.

  • I’ve never really got the hang of Photoshop’s pen tool, but after reading this I’m inspired to try it out again. Hopefully with a bit of experience I’ll be able to use these techniques for some icons of my own!

    Thanks for the creative spark =]

  • Looks great, this tutorial really makes it look easy. Makes me feel like starting into icon design. Good Job

  • I’m very glad that Asher’s tutorial has inspired you to explore this field of design Zak! We’d love to see your work! (Share it on our Flickr Group pool)

  • Bharat

    Nice Work Asher! Hope you maintain this high quality of tutorials 🙂

  • I would make the general shapes in Illustrator since I find it easier than using Photoshop’s pen tool. Once my shapes are done in Illustrator, I paste them in to Photoshop as Smart Objects. This feature is great because you can still apply all of the layer filters to the shape in Photoshop, but you can always open the Smart Object back in Illustator to edit the vector shape.

    Also, since the Smart Object is a vector, you could scale the Photoshop document later and the Smart Objects would scale smoothly.

  • Great tutorial.

    I have to agree as a vector person. Icons sometimes are better to do them in Photoshop because their is more flexibility on filters and and textures that it is in Illustrator or Corel. also as stated you don’t need to worry about scalability in screen or web icons.

  • Offtopic from the post, but I wish that you would give us a full RSS article instead of a preview.

  • This is a point we’ve debated for a while.

    Here’s my point of view: I think that RSS feeds should just be notices that there is new content on the site. If the post seems interesting, you could head over to the site to read more. If it doesn’t, then you can quickly skip past it.

    Full feeds take up a lot of server resources, especially for content heavy sites like Design Instruct. We want to promote the use of the site and visiting it to engage the community.

    I realize that — right now — there aren’t many options for engagement (comments are really the only interactive components right now), but our plan is to make the site a lot more interactive so that we can create discussions around the content. You can read about some of our future plans in the Upcoming Features page.

    We want this to be a two-way site. We don’t want to put the content out there simply for public consumption, we want you to engage with it. We want to hear from you, we want you to vote up good posts, we want you to tell us to publish more tutorials of a certain kind, and less of another kind, we want you to talk amongst yourselves, we want you to provide critiques to the content, respond to other people’s questions to help out, share your own techniques and alternative ways to do the techniques discussed in a tutorial (like @William Murray‘s comment above), and more.

    When there are full feeds, there’s a big temptation to just read the content in your RSS feed without engaging with it. You’ll also miss out on the site features that we hope to implement in the coming months. I think simply reading content in an RSS feed reader is a disservice not to the site, but to the community and to the readers that we hope to build around Design Instruct.

    I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts about this.

  • BorisG

    Excerpt for rss in my opinion. Why have a website if nobody’s gonna visit?

  • @BorisG Thanks for the feedback. Exactly. And we’ll be implementing a lot of stuff throughout the next months that you wouldn’t be able to see or interact with by reading the content in the RSS feed. We need your help in letting us know what content to publish, and the only way that’ll happen is if people come to the site.

    Looking forward to what others have to say.

  • Ramin

    I’d suggest maybe including an image of what the finished product is in the excerpt. That would definitely grab more attention IMHO.

  • @Ramin: Great idea actually! I’ll work that into our Upcoming Features page.

  • Impressive tutorial, great outcome 😉
    I will include this in our “Best of Week”.

    By the way, this new blog looks very professional, good luck.

  • Excellent tutorial! I love the details.

  • Awesome tut. I’ve been thinking of designing a set of icons and this is a nice resource for me to follow for different icon ideas.

    And as for the RSS, yes, I agree – excerpts do seem better for getting people to come to the site and engage. Some won’t like it, but you can’t please everyone 🙂

  • Hey kyo-tux, thankyou so much for this tutorial, you truly are an amazing graphic designer. I’m hoping to get to your level someday, and I found your tutorial an immense help. I’m now going to use the techniques in the tutorial (drop shadow, inner shadow and gradient overlay) for my own personal icons.

  • Thanks for appreciating 🙂 I am glad to know you find this tutorial useful :).

  • great looking icon, thanks for the tutorial!

  • This was really amazing.. Well done bro.. 🙂

    Thanks for offering the source file.

  • @Asher: I think you did an excellent job with this tutorial; I learned a few tips and tricks myself (I usually draw in Illustrator, but now I just mostly use Photoshop so this was a real treat to read and publish here on Design Instruct)!

  • @Jacob: Really glad to know that 😀

  • Wow,excellent tutorial! You’re a very gifted designer. Thanks,

  • this is what i looking for, thanks

  • Really nice tutorial! The whole site is awesome. Maybe i will write some tutorials for you, but i need the time first.

    Keep the good work guys ;-).

  • Great article, thanks for sharing

  • Quite right. I agree with Jacob. Just start with a huge document size, preferably a 512 x 512px and you can scale it down to the usual icon sizes…

  • shubhojit

    thanks for this tutorial was very useful

  • Wow! Excellent Work

  • Its simply the great work.

  • Really! I searched month for such lesson for magazine. And here has casually found!

  • amazing work
    Thanks for this great tutorial.
    wow

  • Sty*Lisch

    NICE WORK!!!

    It looks great… thx

  • Amazing design man! Easy to follow tutorial, great instructions and a really cool result!

  • Kinda

    It look fantastic!! Well done!!

  • Codiceascii

    Cooooooool. Great.

  • What a fantastic tutorial, brilliant, gonna get started on my own icons right away. Keep up the good work absolutely fantastic blog.

  • Awesome! A lot of Work! but the result is fantastic! Thank you for this great tuturial!

  • lee ji yong

    wow. it is very great.
    awesome.
    i didn’t know about stroke path.

    i know how to make dock icon throgh your lecture.
    thank you 🙂

  • Great tutorial thanks

  • Nice Tutorial. Thanks for sharing

  • Naren chhitri

    Good image i like it

  • Sky Walker

    Can you share a version with a transparent background?

  • Kara Rowe

    Fantastic Tut!! I made quite a few variations and even made a few female versions.

    One thing I recall off the top of my mind is that to make the arms I had to delete the work path from the paths panel before I could duplicate and flip it. If I didn’t the path would be visible.

    I think drawing w/the pen tool in Ps is as easy as Illustrator. It surprises me that so many think Illy is easier.

    Thank you so much for sharing your skills, talent and knowledge with us! There is no greater gift that one can give to an other!! Designinstruct.com and Asher … YOU ROCK!!

  • Kara Rowe

    Sky … just don’t draw on the background layer. actually this is good practice with any image you work on.

    if your background layer is empty you can either drag the layer to the trash can to delete it. or, you can simply turn the layer off by clicking the eye icon next to the layer.

    if you have drawn on your bg layer you could make a new document and make sure you make a new layer above the bg layer and then create a selection around each shape > copy merged and then paste them into your new document. should you want better instruction just leave me a note here & i’ll email you.

    best of luck!