Icon designing can be a tough design field because you need to be able to create designs that are flexible when scaled up or down. In order to assure scalability, designers typically use a vector graphics program like Illustrator. However, in this intermediate-level tutorial, I’ll show you how to make an awesome icon from scratch using Photoshop. You will need basic knowledge of Photoshop and familiarity with the Pen Tool (P).

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

Author:

Asher is a freelance designer based in Pakistan. He has a strong passion for learning, which led him into the amazing world of graphic design. While he was designing, he discovered his interest in drawing. Asher is finishing his degree in Engineering. You can find his beautiful work on deviantART, where he goes by the handle of ~kyo-tux.