In this Illustrator tutorial, we will be creating a traffic cone. The creation process is quite simple: We just need to combine a few shapes, use the Pathfinder Panel and Illustrator’s shape tools smartly, and then apply nice gradients. What we will end up with is flexible and changeable artwork that can be used in a variety of ways, such as in web icons, business cards, or even big billboards and service signage.

Preview

Step 1: Create the Illustrator Document

Open up Adobe Illustrator. Press Ctrl/Cmd + N to create a new document; let’s make the artboard 500x500px in size (though as you know, with vector illustration, we can resize our artwork to any size we want later on).

Create the Illustrator Document

Step 2: Create the Basic Shape of the Cone

Now we have to figure out how to create the shape of the cone. Let’s start with the upper part (the cone) and then we’ll create a stand for it later.

Grab the Star Tool from the Tools Panel and click anywhere on the artboard to bring up the Star Tool dialog window. Set the Points to 3 — that way, we will create a triangle.

We have to modify the shape of the triangle a little bit to make it taller. Switch to the Selection Tool (V), select the triangle, and then drag the upper middle transform control of the selection box upwards a bit.

Create the Illustrator Document

Next, we have to cut out the bottom and top ends of the triangle to make the triangle shaped more like a cone. Grab the Ellipse Tool (L) and create two ellipses as shown below. Make sure to center them by selecting all three objects (the triangle and two ellipses), then, in the Align Panel (Window > Align), clicking on the Horizontal Align Center button.

Create the Illustrator Document

Select the triangle and the upper ellipse and, using the Minus Front button in the Pathfinder Panel (Window > Pathfinder), remove the top end of the triangle.

Create the Illustrator Document

Select the resultant shape we just made above and the ellipse at its bottom, then, in the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Intersect button.

Create the Illustrator Document

We now have the basic shape of the cone, but there is lots of work ahead to make it look like a real traffic cone.

Step 3: Create the Cone Stripes

Now we need to make the stripes. Hold down Shift + Alt/Option, then click-and-drag the cone shape upwards; holding down Shift keeps the movement straight, and holding down Alt/Option creates a copy of the object you are moving. Create a few more copies.

Create the Cone Stripes

Copy the first original shape (Ctrl/Cmd + C), and paste it in front (Ctrl/Cmd + F). Select the copy and the shape above it. Use the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel to create a new shape.

Create the Cone Stripes

Make a copy of the new shape (Ctrl/Cmd + C and then Ctrl/Cmd + F) and use it to create a similar shape for the other objects.

Create the Cone Stripes

Apply gradients to the stripes in alternating fashion.

Create the Cone Stripes

Step 4: Create the Top End of the Cone

With the Ellipse Tool (L), create a small ellipse and place it at the top end of the traffic cone. Use the Zoom Tool (Z) to zoom in so that you can adjust the size of the ellipse in such a way that the anchor points align precisely.

Create the Top End

Select the ellipse and then go to Object > Path > Offset Path; set the Offset to -1. This will create another ellipse so that we now have two ellipses.

Create the Top End

Apply a linear gradient to the inner ellipse.

Create the Top End

Before moving onto the next step, select all the objects we’ve created so far and group them (Ctrl/Cmd + G).

Step 5: Creating the Stand for the Cone

Let’s create the stand for the traffic cone. To do so, we have to (again) create and combine a few different shapes and use a few tricks with gradients.

Grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool and, holding Shift to maintain proportions, create a square with rounded corners.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Now we have to rotate it. Select the square and then go to Object > Transform > Rotate; set the Angle to 45o.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

With the square still selected, in the Transform Panel (Window > Transform), lower the value for height. I set the value to 50px, but you must figure out this value for your particular case.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Place the stand underneath the cone (right-click/Control-click on the stand, then choose Arrange > Send to Back in the contextual menu). Align the stand with the cone using the Horizontal Align Center button in the Align panel.

Give it a linear gradient as shown below.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Our stand is not ready yet; we have to give it a thickness. Copy the shape (Ctrl/Cmd + C) and paste it at the back (Ctrl/Cmd + B). Use your Arrow keys to nudge the copy 2-3px downwards.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

The endpoints don’t match at all and we need to correct that. Grab the Rounded Rectangle Tool and draw the shape at the left side of the stand, as shown below. It might help to zoom in to make sure they align perfectly.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Select both shapes and hit the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Repeat the process on the right side of the stand. Then, apply a nice linear gradient to the stand.

Creating the Stand for the Cone

Step 6: Give the Cone a Shadow

Select the cone (which we grouped in a previous step) and then go to Object > Transform > Reflect. For the Axis of the reflection, choose Horizontal. Hit the Copy button instead of the OK button to make a reflected copy of the cone group.

Give the Cone a Shadow

Select the reflected cone and ungroup it (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + G). Combine all the ungrouped parts into one object by hitting the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel.

Give the Cone a Shadow

Select the upper part of our stand and duplicate it (Ctrl/Cmd + C and then Ctrl/Cmd + F). Select the copy and the reflected cone shape we created previously. Under the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Intersect button.

Give the Cone a Shadow

Right-click/Control-click on the resultant shape and choose Arrange > Send Backward.

Give the Cone a Shadow

Step 7: Creating a Light Reflection

Let’s create a surface light reflection on the traffic cone to give the surface a realistic-looking, plastic look.

Grab the Pen Tool (P) from the Tools Panel and draw the shape shown below.

Creating a Light Reflection

Select the cone and duplicate it in front. Ungroup the duplicate (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + G). Unite the parts of the ungrouped duplicate by hitting the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel. Select the cone and the new shape and then click on the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel.

Creating a Light Reflection

Change the Fill color of the object to white and then lower its Opacity to 19%. Ungroup the cone so that you can select both the ellipses on the top end. Send the two ellipses to the front (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front).

Creating a Light Reflection

Now we need another reflection that matches the one we’ve just created. Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw the shape shown below.

Creating a Light Reflection

Select the upper part of the stand and duplicate it in front. Use the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel to create a reflection for the stand. Change its Fill color to white and lower the Opacity to 19%.

Creating a Light Reflection

Step 8: Adding Edge Highlights

Select the upper part of the stand and duplicate it in front twice. Nudge the topmost duplicate up by 1px. Select both duplicates and hit Minus Front in the Pathfinder Panel.

Adding Edge Highlights

Do the same thing for the top end of the traffic cone.

Adding Edge Highlights

Step 9: Create a Drop shadow

In the final step, we just need to draw a shadow underneath the traffic cone. Select the lower part of the stand and duplicate it in front twice. Move the topmost duplicate down 1px, then set its Fill color to gray. Move the other duplicate 2px down, set its Fill color to white, and send it back (Object > Arrange > Send to Back). Select both copies then go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt/Option + Ctrl/Cmd + C).

Adding Edge Highlights

Adjust the size of the shadow until it matches with the traffic cone.

Tutorial Summary

In this drawing tutorial, we illustrated an orange traffic cone, much like the ones you see around road construction projects and parking lots. We used basic shape tools (such as the Star Tool, for example) to draw a rather surprisingly elaborate illustration. We used a variety of techniques, relying heavily on gradients and the Pathfinder Panel to get the exact look we wanted. I hope you achieved very nice results. Thank you for following along!

Download Source Files

Author:

Jasmina is a freelance graphic designer from Serbia. Her passion is in vector illustration and motion graphic design. One of her favorite things to do is creating icons in Adobe Illustrator. In her spare time, she likes to read comic books and listen to 60s music. Check out her portfolio website, muschmule. Also follow her on Twitter @muschmule.