In this Photoshop tutorial, I will show you how to make a cardboard box that can be used for a number of purposes, such as for icons or for other design purposes. The procedure used to create the cardboard box is simple and easy to understand, using tools such as the Gradient Tool and the Polygonal Lasso Tool.

Preview

Preview

Tutorial Resources

Step 1: Setting Up the Canvas

Create a new Photoshop document by going to File > New (Ctrl/Cmd + N). We will use a 275×275-pixel canvas that has a white background.

Setting Up the Canvas

Setting Up the Canvas

Step 2: Create the Front of the Box

Create a new shape above the Background layer for the front of the box.

Create the Front of the Box

Double-click on the layer in the Layers Panel to access the Layer Style dialog window. We want to give the layer an Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Stroke, and Gradient Overlay.

Inner Shadow

The color of the Inner Shadow is white (#FFFFFF).

Inner Glow

The color of the Inner Glow is also white (#FFFFFF).

Create the Front of the Box

Stroke

The color of the stroke is a brown color (#734E24).

Create the Front of the Box

Gradient Overlay

The gradient is a dark cardboard box color on the left (#A17128) and a lighter one (#CC923D) on the right.

Create the Front of the Box

The above styles will make the front of our cardboard box appear like this:

Create the Front of the Box

Step 3: Create the Back of the Box

The process for drawing the back part of the box will be similar to the one above. Create a new layer above the default Background layer, but below the "front" layer. Create the black shape shown below; it represents the back face of our box.

Create the Back of the Box

Give this shape a Gradient Overlay layer effect, with the color gradient set to #A56225 on the left and #C08938 on the right.

Create the Back of the Box

Create the Back of the Box

Step 4: Create the Left and Right Sides of the Box

Draw the left side of the box on a new layer.

Create the Left and Right Sides of the Box

Give the layer a Gradient Overlay with #744B21 as the color on the left and #AD6D2A as the color on the right. This should produce a darker color gradient, which is what we want so that our design is as accurate as possible.

Create the Left and Right Sides of the Box

Create the Left and Right Sides of the Box

Use the same procedure to draw the right side of the box.

Create the Left and Right Sides of the Box

Step 5: Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Let us now draw the flaps of the cardboard box, starting with the front flap.

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

We will give this layer an Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Gradient Overlay, and Stroke.

Inner Shadow

The color of the Inner Shadow is white (#FFFFFF).

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Inner Glow

The color of the Inner Glow is also white (#FFFFFF).

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Gradient Overlay

The color gradient is #CB913C on the left and #DDAC55 on the right.

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Stroke

The stroke’s Fill Type should be set to Gradient. The stroke’s color gradient should be #93632A on the left and #D08937 on the right.

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Creating the Front Flap of the Box

Step 6: Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Draw the right flap on a new layer.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Give this layer an Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Gradient Overlay, and Stroke.

Inner Shadow

The Inner Shadow’s color is white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Inner Glow

The Inner Glow’s color is also white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Gradient Overlay

The color gradient is #CCC923C on the left and #E7BC6F on the right.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Stroke

The Fill Type of the stroke should be set to Gradient. The color gradient should be #94632A on the left and #D08937 on the right.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

In the same way as the right flap, create the shape for the left flap. You might be able to get away with duplicating the right flap and flipping it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

We need to give the left flap’s layer a similar layer style, with a few tweaks to keep the lighting of our piece accurate.

Inner Shadow

The color of the Inner Shadow color should be white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Inner Glow

The Inner Glow color should also be white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Gradient Overlay

The color gradient is #CC923C on the left and #E7BC6F on the right.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Stroke

The Fill Type should be set to Gradient. The color gradient is #94632A on the left and #D08937 on the right.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Step 7: Create the Back Flap

Time to create the last flap — it will follow similar procedures as the other flaps, just tweaks in its layer style. On a new layer, draw the back flap as shown below.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

For its layer style, we will need an Inner Shadow, Inner Glow, Gradient Overlay, and Stroke.

Inner Shadow

The Inner Shadow color should be white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Inner Glow

The Inner Glow color should also be white (#FFFFFF).

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Gradient Overlay

The color gradient should be #CB9546 on the left and #F0C16C on the right.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Stroke

The Fill Type should be set to Gradient. The color on the left of the gradient is #AA7639, while the color on the right is #E1A45D.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Now you will have it looking like this:

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Step 8: Give the Flaps Some Highlights

We will use a simple technique for giving our flap surface some added visual interest with the use of highlights. On a new layer, draw a white elliptical shape using the Ellipse Tool on top of the front flap.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Now go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur.

If you apply the filter on the shape layer, you will get a warning that looks like this:

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Just click OK to rasterize the layer.

Set the Radius of the Gaussian Blur filter to 13.9 pixels.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Choose the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) and make a selection at the top of the white glow, then hit Delete to remove the selected area.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Set the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay as well as reduce its Opacity to 38%.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Following the same procedure as above, give the back flap a highlight as well.

Draw the Right and Left Flaps of the Box

Step 9: Adding Details to the Box

Find a logo or icon that you’d like to place on the front flap. I used an infinity symbol for mine. Try looking at the Custom Shapes that are included in Photoshop to see if you find something of interest.

Adding Details to the Box

For the layer style of the logo/icon, we need a Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, and Gradient Overlay.

Drop Shadow

The Drop Shadow’s color is white (#FFFFFF).

Adding Details to the Box

Inner Shadow

The Inner Shadow’s color is a dark brown (#432C11).

Adding Details to the Box

Gradient Overlay

The color gradient is #925814 on the left and #7E4C02 on the right.

Adding Details to the Box

The above layer effects will make our logo/icon look like this:

Adding Details to the Box

You can add some horizontal lines on the right of the logo/icon to simulate text that’s usually found on packages that are shipped by mail. Use the same layer style as the logo/icon.

Adding Details to the Box

Set the Opacity of the layer to 50%.

Adding Details to the Box

Step 10: Adding a Texture to the Box

Now that we are done creating the basic box, we need to add some texture to its surface to make it look like cardboard.

Create some thin black lines on the front flap (as shown below).

Adding Details to the Box

Switch the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay and set the Opacity at about 12%.

Adding Details to the Box

Using the same process, create lines on the right flap, set the Blend Mode of its layer to Overlay, and reduce the Opacity to 12%.

Adding Details to the Box

Use the exact same process for adding lines on the remaining flaps and the sides of the box.

Adding Details to the Box

Step 11: Adding Shadows on the Floor

Let us make our design cast a shadow on the floor. Create a new layer right above the Background layer. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to make a rectangular selection at the base of our box.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Set up the Gradient Tool so that it goes from black (#000000) to transparent; also set the method to Reflected Gradient. Then draw the gradient from left to right.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Soften the shadow by using a Gaussian Blur filter; use a Radius of 0.6 pixels.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Tweak the perspective of the shadow to match our box. Do so by choosing Edit > Transform > Skew. A rectangular boundary will appear around the shadow. Drag the top-right and top-left transform controls inwards. Press Enter to accept the transformation. Set the Opacity of the shadow layer to 50%.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) from the Tools Panel to make a selection in front of the box.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Again, use the Gradient Tool (G) set at Linear Gradient to make a black-to-transparent gradient within the selection, starting from the top of the selection to the bottom.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the layer with Radius at 0.6 pixels.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Set the Opacity of the layer to 15%.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Step 12: Add Minor Shading

Create a layer between the front flap and the front of the box. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a selection (shown below). Use the Gradient Tool to make a black-to-transparent gradient from the top to the bottom of the selection. Set the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 24%.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Duplicate this layer twice (Ctrl/Cmd + J) to intensify and layer the shading.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

On a new layer above all the other layers, create a white circular shape in the middle of the icon.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter on the layer with Radius at 26 pixels.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a selection of the front face of the box.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Choose Select > Inverse (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + I) to invert your selection. After inverting the selection, just hit Delete to remove the excess white glow.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Set the Blend Mode to Overlay and Opacity to 23%.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to create a selection as shown below. On a new layer, use the Gradient Tool (G) to create a linear black-to-transparent gradient starting from the bottom and going to the top. Reduce the Opacity of the layer to 25%.

Adding Shadows on the Floor

Step 13: Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

This step is optional. What we will do is place some objects inside the box. I will use the  Qure Dock Icons by my friend and fellow "iconist", Prax08.

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

Open up the object you would like to place inside the box in Photoshop. Press Ctrl/Cmd + A to select the entire canvas of the image. Switch back to our main document and just press Ctrl/Cmd + V to paste the object.

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

Add more objects as desired.

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

Arrange the images to your heart’s content; use the Move Tool to move the objects around.

Place these objects into a layer group by selecting all of them in the Layers Panel and then pressing Ctrl/Cmd + G.

Create a layer mask on the layer group by pressing the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) to make a selection that covers parts of the objects that are spilling out of the box.

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

Go to Edit > Fill ( Shift + F5) and fill the selection with Black to mask out the selected area.

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

We’re done!

Tutorial Summary

I hope that you learned a few techniques in this tutorial that you will find useful in your own icon design and drawing projects. We used various techniques to compose a box icon using fundamental tools in Photoshop. I would like to leave you now by showing you some possible variations of our final product (for inspiration).

Filling Up the Box with Some Goodies

Download Source Files

Author:

Supratim is an Electronics and Communication Engineering student in India. He has a strong passion for Icon Design, GUI and User Interface Design, with a lot of experience in all fields, but is also very versatile in other design fields. See his work on deviantART where he goes by the name HYDRATTZ. Follow Supratim on Twitter as @nsupratim and contact him via email.