This detailed icon design tutorial is meant to show you how to use Photoshop to create cute, cartoony creatures. In this case, we are creating a robotic-like yellow alien. We will use layer styles, drawing techniques, and more to arrive at our final product. There will be a strong emphasis on detailing our icon to give it its unique, shiny look.

Preview

Preview

Step 1: Setting Up the Photoshop Document

Open up Photoshop. Create a new document (Ctrl/Cmd + N or File > New) with Width and Height of 400 px. Keep the Color Mode as RGB Color, 8 bit.

Setting Up the Photoshop Document

Step 2: Creating the Body

Create a new layer (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N or Layer > New Layer) – you may want to name this layer as "Body".

Create an ellipse shape using the Ellipse Tool (U). You may also use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) or the Pen Tool (P) depending on what you are more comfortable with.

Creating the Body

Next, double-click on this layer in the Layers Panel to bring up the Layer Style dialog window. We will apply a Gradient Overlay and an Inner Shadow layer style to give the body its color and beveled shape.

Gradient Overlay

Set the left color stop to a brown color (#a95903) and the right color stop to a yellow color (#fca600).

Gradient Overlay

Gradient Overlay

Inner Shadow

The color of the inner shadow should be black (#000000).

Inner Shadow

The above two layer styles add the desired effect to the flat shape.

Inner Shadow

Step 3: Shading the Body

Create a new layer (Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N) – you may name this layer as "Body-shade."

Create an elliptical selection using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M).

Set your Foreground color to white (#ffffff). Apply a white to transparent gradient to it using the Gradient Tool (G), starting from top to bottom of the elliptical marquee selection.

Shading the Body

Shading the Body

Shading the Body

Now apply Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur to the "Body-shade" layer with Radius set at around 3 px to 4 px.

Double-click on the layer in the Layers Panel to open up the Layer Styles dialog window (right-clicking on it and choosing Blending Options from the menu that appears works too).

In the Blending Options section, under General Blending, set Blend Mode to Overlay.

Shading the Body

Shading the Body

Now apply a Gaussian Blur filter on the layer with Radius between 1.5 to 2 px.

Afterwards, duplicate the layer by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J while it is the active layer in the Layers Panel — doing that will duplicate the layer on top of it. Name the duplicated layer as "Shade-adv" and set the Blend Mode to Overlay.

Shading the Body

Make a smaller elliptical selection towards the bottom center of the body and then create a new layer (name it "bottom-shade").

Set your Foreground color to black (#000000). On the newly created layer, use the Gradient Tool (G) with the Gradient set to the Foreground to Transparent gradient preset to apply a color gradient from the bottom to the top of the selection.

Shading the Body

Create a new layer called "bulge." Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) to create an elliptical selection towards the center of the body.

Set your Foreground color to white (#ffffff). Then use the Gradient Tool (G) with the Gradient set to the Foreground to Transparent preset and with the Gradient Type option set to Reflected Gradient to apply a color gradient from the left to the right of your elliptical selection.

Shading the Body

Shading the Body

Next, apply a Gaussian Blur filter on this layer with Radius set at about 5 px and then switch the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay.

Shading the Body

Duplicate the "bulge" layer and then use the Free Transform command Edit > Free Transform (Ctrl/Cmd + T) to reduce its size.

Shading the Body

Step 4: Creating the Mouth

Create a new layer called "teeth-bevel" and make an elliptical selection that will represent the mouth of our yellow alien.

Fill (Shift + F5 or Edit > Fill) this elliptical selection with white (#ffffff).

Creating the Mouth

Apply a vertical Gradient Overlay layer style on the "teeth-bevel" layer with a brown color (#964e02) for the left color stop and a yellow color (#fffe85) for the right color stop. Check the Reverse option to flip the color gradient as needed.

Creating the Mouth

Creating the Mouth

Creating the Mouth

Now, use the Magic Wand Tool (W) in the Tools Panel to select the above ellipse automatically — just click inside the shape with the Magic Wand Tool.

With the Magic Wand Tool selection around the mouth of our alien still selected, go to Select > Modify > Contract and contact the selection by 2 px.

Creating the Mouth

Keeping the selection active, create a new layer (name it "teeth") and fill the contracted selection with white using Edit > Fill (Shift + F5).

Creating the Mouth

Next, apply a Gradient Overlay and a Stroke layer style.

Gradient Overlay

Use the default Black to White gradient.

Gradient Overlay

Stroke

Set the color of the stroke to a gray color (#9c9c9c).

Stroke

This should give our alien’s mouth a nice shape.

Stroke

Step 5: Drawing the Teeth

Before proceeding to the next task, make sure you have set your Brush options for the Brush Tool (B) set as shown in the following images.

Drawing the Teeth

Drawing the Teeth

Once you are done setting the above settings, create a vertical, curved path on the left of the mouth using the Pen Tool.

Drawing the Teeth

Create a new layer called "tooth-border," right-click on the path in your canvas, and in the contextual menu that appears, pick Stroke Path to apply a stroke on your path. The stroke will embody the options you set up with the Brush Tool just previously.

Note: Unless you create a new layer after drawing a path, the Stroke Path option won’t appear.

Create more stroked paths to shape the teeth of our yellow alien.

Drawing the Teeth

Tip: You can remove/hide a path you just made by pressing the Esc key with the Pen Tool still active.

You can merge these black strokes if you created them in separate layers by selecting the layers in the Layers Panel, right-clicking on them and thereafter merging the layers by selecting Merge Layers in the contextual menu that appears; Alternatively, you can also press Ctrl/Cmd + E with them selected to merge them into one layer. Name this layer as "tooth-separator."

Next, we will apply a Color Overlay and Drop Shadow layer style on the "tooth-separator" layer.

Color Overlay

Use a gray color (#7d7b7b) for the color overlay.

Color Overlay

Drop Shadow

Set the color for the drop shadow to white (#ffffff).

Color Overlay

These layer styles give the separators a nice inset/depressed effect.

Color Overlay

Now create a layer just below the "tooth-separator" layer and name it "yellow-tooth."

On the "yellow-tooth" layer, create a shape using the Pen Tool (P) or Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) that covers the top middle tooth.

Color Overlay

Fill the selection/shape with any color and apply a Gradient Overlay layer style to it.

Color Overlay

The gradient color is a peach color (#ed9349) for the left color stop and a bright yellow (#fddc01) for the right color stop.

Color Overlay

Now create a new layer called "tooth-glow" and make a white circle on the center of the yellow tooth using the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and filling the selection with white (#ffffff).

Then apply a Gaussian Blur filter on it with Radius at about 5 px and also set the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay.

Create a Glow on the Center of the Middle Tooth

Step 6: Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Create a new layer called "teeth-shine." Make a white moon shape using the Pen Tool (P) or the appropriate lasso tool (L). Fill this moon shape with white.

After filling the shape, set the Opacity of the layer to 33%.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Now create a new layer named "teeth-xtrashine." Create an extra layer of shine using the same method as above, giving us an effect of depth.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Similar procedures can be applied to the upper teeth.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Create a new layer named "masterglow" and make a white ellipse on the center of the mouth of our alien.

Use a Gaussian Blur filter with Radius at 7.5 px on the white ellipse shape. Afterwards, set the Opacity of the layer to around 65%.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Step 7: Creating Switches

Since our yellow alien is sort of like a robot, we’ll create switches and controls on its body. Create a new layer named "switches" and make a set of round shapes towards the bottom of the body. The colors of the round shapes don’t matter because we will set the color with layer styles.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

To color and style our switches, apply a Color Overlay and Drop Shadow layer style to their layer.

Color Overlay

Use a brown color for the color overlay (#954d02).

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Drop Shadow

Use a yellow-colored (#eeb201) drop shadow.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Applying those two styles will result in switches that look like they are recessed.

On a new layer called "buttongloss," create small, elliptical selections like we’ve done for the body at the top of each switch and then apply a white to transparent vertical gradient on each elliptical selection.

Give the Teeth Some Shiny Details

Step 8: Creating Antennas

First, create the sockets of the antennas by drawing an ellipse on the left and right top side of the body.

Apply the same Color Overlay and Drop Shadow layer styles to these sockets – the only difference is that the drop shadow’s color is white (#ffffff) and not yellow. Name this layer as "antenna-apertures."

Creating Antennas

Create an antenna-like tube using the Pen Tool (P) on a new layer named "antenna."

Give the antenna-like tube a Color Overlay layer style, with the Color set at a dark yellow/brownish color (#ce7902).

Creating Antennas

Create a new layer called "antenna-shade" and then make a white shape at the left of the antenna to represent a shading effect.

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter on the "antenna-shade" layer with a Radius of 1 px and then set the Blend Mode of this layer to Overlay.

Creating Antennas

Now select both the "antenna" and "antenna-shade" layers in the Layers Panel and duplicate them by right-clicking on them and choosing Duplicate Layers in the menu that appears.

With the duplicated layers still selected in the Layers Panel, apply Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

Use the Move Tool (V) to move the duplicated antenna layers to the right socket.

Creating Antennas

Now, add a little glow to the antennae tubes to give them added detail. This can be achieved by making white circles in a new layer (name the layer "antenna-shine"), applying a Gaussian Blur filter with Radius of 1 px and setting the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay. Do this for both antennas.

Creating Antennas

Create a new layer group in the Layers Panel by clicking on the Create a new group icon at the bottom of the Panel. Double-click this new group to rename it as "Body." Drag all the layers created until now except the Background layer into this group. Then hide the contents of this group (for now).

Creating Antennas

Step 9: Creating Eyes

Create a new layer on top of the "Body" layer group by hitting Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N or going to Layer > New Layer. Name this new layer as "eye-base."

Create a circle at the top of the left antenna to represent the alien’s eyes. The color doesn’t matter since we will use layer styles to change its look next.

Creating Eyes

Apply an Inner Shadow and Gradient Overlay to the "eye-base" layer.

Inner Shadow

Use a brown color (#933d04) for the color of the inner shadow.

Inner Shadow

Gradient Overlay

Use a tan/brown color (#a35303) for the left color stop and a yellow color (#f6c601) for the right one.

Gradient Overlay

Gradient Overlay

These two styles give our "eye-base" layer a nice, rounded metallic effect.

Gradient Overlay

Just like in previous procedures, apply a gloss to the top right of the "eye-base" layer by making a new layer named "eye-gloss," creating an ellipse with a white to transparent gradient from top to bottom, applying a Gaussian Blur filter with Radius at 1 px, and setting the Blend Mode to Overlay.

Gradient Overlay

Create a new layer for another gloss at the bottom of the eye-base and use the same process.

Gradient Overlay

Step 10: Create the Eyeball

Create a new layer called "eyeball" and draw a white circle in the center of the eye-base.

Create the Eyeball

Give the eyeball two layer styles: a Gradient Overlay and a Stroke.

Gradient Overlay

Give the "eyeball" layer a black (#000000)/gray (#d7d4d4) gradient overlay layer style.

Create the Eyeball

Create the Eyeball

Stroke

Give the eyeball a stroke that has a Gradient Fill Type. The gradient should be a dark yellow/brown color (#c86d01) on the left color stop and a yellow (#f7ef78) on the right color stop.

Create the Eyeball

Create the Eyeball

Our eyeball should now look styled as if it was on a lower plane than the "eye-base" layer.

Create the Eyeball

We’ll now apply a "gloss" on the eyeball. Create a new layer called "gloss-top" and make an elliptical selection on it towards the top of the eyeball. Apply a white to transparent gradient on it from top to bottom.

Create the Eyeball

Create a new layer called "gloss-bot" for the bottom eyeball gloss. Make a tiny white moonlike shape at the bottom of the eyeball.

Create the Eyeball

Set the layer’s Opacity to around 40-50%.

Create the Eyeball

Step 11: Create the Pupil

Create a new layer called "black" and make a black circle inside the eyeball to represent the pupil of the eye.

Create the Pupil

Use a white to transparent gradient in a new layer called "black-gloss" in a similar fashion as with the gloss of the eyeball, as described before.

Create the Pupil

Step 12: Duplicate the Left Eye

Create a new group and drag all the eye-related layers into this group. Name this group as "eyes."

Duplicate the Left Eye

Duplicate this group by right-clicking on it in the Layers Panel and choosing Duplicate Group in the menu that appears.

Flip the duplicated eye group horizontally by going to Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal.

Hit V on your keyboard or pick the Move Tool (V) from the Tools Panel to move the right eye on top of the right antenna.

Duplicate the Left Eye

Step 13: Creating the Base

Create a new layer on top of the Background layer.

Creating the Base

Name the layer as "limb-base" and create a shape that serves as the base of the alien.

Creating the Base

Give this shape two layer styles: a Gradient Overlay and an Inner Shadow.

Gradient Overlay

Use a dark brown color (#4d2e02) for the left color stop and move the color stop to Location 18% and a yellow color (#fdad02) for the right one (keeping it at Location 100%).

Creating the Base

Creating the Base

Inner Shadow

Use black (#000000) as the color of the inner shadow.

Creating the Base

Your base should now match the body of the yellow alien.

Creating the Base

Step 14: Give the Base Some Details

Create a new layer called "body-shadow" and make a black shape that represents the shadow that the body is casting onto the base.

Give the Base Some Details

Change the color by giving the layer a Color Overlay layer style of brown (#501c02).

Give the Base Some Details

The shadow should now look less harsh/prominent with the color change.

Give the Base Some Details

Next, we’ll give the base a gloss. Create a white shape on a new layer called "limb-glow," apply a Gaussian Blur filter with Radius of 1 px, change the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay, and duplicate the layer (Ctrl/Cmd + J).

Give the Base Some Details

To further add some details on the base, create a new layer called "nail" and make a black-colored strip on the left of the base.

Give the Base Some Details

Give the strip a drop shadow, with the color of the shadow as white (#ffffff).

Give the Base Some Details

The drop shadow layer style should look like a solid white border on its right.

Give the Base Some Details

Convert the strip into a smart object by first making sure that it is still the active layer in the Layers Panel and then choosing Layer > Convert to Smart Object.

Next, set the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay and lower the Opacity to 29%.

Give the Base Some Details

To create the strip for the right side, duplicate this layer and flip it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal), and then move it with the Move Tool (V) such that a symmetrical look is obtained.

Give the Base Some Details

Create a new white moonlike shape in a new layer called "limb-glow2" at the bottom of the two strips, give it a Gaussian Blur filter with Radius of 1.5 px, and set the "limb-glow2" layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay.

Give the Base Some Details

Create a new layer group named "limb" and drag every related layer into it.

Step 15: Give the Floor a Shadow

Above the Background layer and below the "limb" layer group, create a new layer named "supershadow" that will contain the shadow that the alien is casting on the floor.

On the "supershadow" layer, make a black ellipse shape at the bottom at of the alien’s base.

Give the Base Some Details

Now apply Filter > Blur > Motion Blur with Distance at 30 px and Angle at 0o.

Give the Base Some Details

Set the layer’s Opacity to around 50-65%.

Give the Base Some Details

Step 16: Final Details and Shading

Don’t you think our alien still lacks a punch? Yes, we need to add some more minor shadings to have it looking the way we want it.

Note: The preceding layers should be on top of the "eyes" layer group.

Create a new layer called "limb-ultrashine" and make a white ellipse on top of the base. Apply the Gaussian Blur filter with Radius between 2 to 3 px on it and switch the Blend Mode to Overlay.

Final Details and Shading

The teeth occupy a major part of its body. So they need it to be distinguished.

Duplicate the "tooth-separator" layer and remove the Drop Shadow layer style on the duplicated layer.

Final Details and Shading

Create a new layer called "full-glow" and make a white ellipse at the bottom center of our alien’s teeth, overlapping onto the body. Apply a Gaussian Blur filter with 3 px Radius.

Afterwards, create an elliptical selection that excludes the bottom part of the "full-glow" shape and then hit Delete (or go to Edit > Clear) to remove the top part of the glow.

Final Details and Shading

Create a new layer called "add-glow" and make a white circle at the bottom of the antenna, by the antenna socket.

Final Details and Shading

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter with a Radius between 1 to 1.5 px.

Final Details and Shading

Next, create a new layer called "teeth-shadow2", make an elliptical marquee selection of the same size as the teeth and then apply a black to transparent color gradient from the bottom of the ellipse to its center using the Gradient Tool (G).

Finally, double-click this layer to bring about the Layer Style dialog window. Give it a Color Overlay layer style using a brown color (#aaa9a9).

Final Details and Shading

Tutorial Summary

In this Adobe Photoshop icon design tutorial, I walked you through the process of creating a highly detailed yellow alien icon that embodies metallic and robotic properties. We spent a lot of time with the details by adding glows, shading, and lighting effects on different components of the icon. I hope you learned a few tricks from this tutorial!

Tutorial Summary

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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.