Through this Photoshop icon design tutorial, I will show you how to make an appealing drawing of a recycling bin with crumpled and creased white paper inside and around it — all from scratch. We will take advantage of tools such as the Gradient Tool, Custom Shape Tool, Rounded Rectangle Tool, and simple Photoshop functions such as Skew Transform and Free Transform to design our icon.

Preview

In this tutorial, we will be making a blue-colored recycling bin icon, however, you can experiment with different colors (shown on the right is a green version).

3D Recycling Bin Icon

Step 1: Set Up the New Photoshop Document

The most basic thing we need is a good canvas to work with. Create a new Photoshop document by choosing File > New or pressing Ctrl/Cmd + N whilst in Photoshop.

Set Up the New Photoshop Document

Set Up the New Photoshop Document

Step 2: Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

Create a new layer above the default Background layer by choosing Layer > New > Layer or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + N. Use the name, "top" for this layer.

Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) and set its Radius to 10px.

Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

Go to Edit > Transform > Skew. Drag the top left and top right transform controls inward.

Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

Double-click on the "top" layer in the Layers Panel to bring up the Layer Style dialog window. Give the layer a Drop Shadow layer style with an off-white drop shadow color (#fdfcfc).

Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

Also, give the "top" layer a Gradient Overlay going from a light blue (#89bef9) to a slightly lighter blue (#99d9fa), but you should also notice that the Reverse option is selected.

Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

This is how our shape should look like:

Create the Top Shape of the Recycling Bin

Step 3: Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

Make a new layer (we will name it "top-shine"). Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) from the Tools Panel to make a selection within the "top" shape.

Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

Choose the Gradient Tool (G) from the Tools Panel, having the gradient to go from white to transparent, and set the gradient style to Reflected Gradient.

Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

Apply the gradient starting from the center towards the right or left edge of your rectangular marquee selection.

Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

Switch the Blend Mode of the "top-shine" layer to Overlay and Opacity to 23% so that it doesn’t appear too prominent in our icon design.

Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

The shine, as you can see from below, is very subtle but gives our icon a unique surface.

Give the Top of the Bin a Light Reflection

Step 4: Create the Illusion of Depth

We will now make it look like our recycling bin’s opening is hollow. Create new shape layer at the center of our "top" shape using the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) and Edit > Transform > Skew as we’ve done before; rename this shape layer "top-depth" so that we are maintaining our Photoshop file’s organization.

Tip: Alternatively, you can duplicate the "top" layer and resize the duplicated layer down using Edit > Transform > Scale.

Create the Illusion of Depth

Give the new shape a Drop Shadow and a Gradient Overlay layer style.

Drop Shadow

The drop shadow color should be white (#ffffff).

Drop Shadow

Gradient Overlay

Have the gradient go from a light blue (#61a0dc) to a slightly darker blue (#4b84be), but you should also notice that the Reverse option is selected.

Gradient Overlay

As you can see from below, the layer styles give the top of our recycling bin an illusion that it is lower than the bigger rounded rectangle surrounding it.

Gradient Overlay

Step 5: Organize Your Layers

Housekeeping time: Click on the Create new layer group icon ( it looks like a folder) at the bottom of the Layers Panel.

Organize our Layers

Drag every layer created until now — except the Background layer — into this group. Collapse this group by clicking on the small triangle icon just on the left of the folder thumbnail so that its more compact in our Layers Panel.

Organize our Layers

Name the layer group as "top".

Organize our Layers

Step 6: Draw the Front Shape of the Recycling Bin

Now, in the Layers Panel, click on the Background layer to position your work correctly in the layer stacking order. Make a shape for the front of the recycling bin (let us name this shape layer as "front").

You can use the same Rounded Rectangle Tool and Skew Transform process that we used for the top of the recycling bin, but this time, when you are skewing it, you will pull in the bottom transform controls towards the middle.

Draw the Front Shape of the Recycling Bin

Step 7: Give the Front of the Recycling Bin Some Color

To give the front of our recycling bin its color, we will use a Gradient Overlay layer style.

Give the Front of the Recycling Bin Some Color

The front of our bin should now have consistent coloring with its top.

Give the Front of the Recycling Bin Some Color

Step 8: Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Make a new shape (you can name this shape layer as "side-shade") towards the right of the icon.

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Color the shade appropriately using a Color Overlay layer style, using a darker blue color (#1f456f).

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

With the "side-shade" layer selected in the Layers Panel, give the layer a layer mask by clicking on the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the panel.

If done correctly, you’ll see that the "side-shade" layer will look like the following image.

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Now take the Gradient Tool (G) and set its options so that the gradient goes from white to black and the gradient style is set to Linear Gradient. Apply the gradient as shown below (indicated by the red arrow).

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

This should result in giving the right side of the recycling bin an effect of being curved.

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Reduce the prominence of the shading by lowering the layer’s Opacity to 29%.

Shade the Right Edge of the Recycling Bin

Step 9: Shade the Left Edge of the Recycling Bin

Duplicate the "side-shade" layer by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + J while the layer is the active layer in the Layers Panel or by choosing Layer > Duplicate Layer in the main menu.

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

Shade the Left Edge of the Recycling Bin

Move the duplicated shading to the leftmost edge using the Move Tool (V).

Shade the Left Edge of the Recycling Bin

Step 10: Create Light Reflections

Let us give our icon a radial light reflection to make its surface even more interesting. Create a new layer (you can name it "front-light"), and in this newly-created layer, you can use the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) and Fill command (Ctrl/Cmd + F5) to make a white half-circle shape located at the center of our bin.

Create Light Reflections

Soften the edges of the half-circle by giving its layer a Gaussian Blur; do this by choosing Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and setting the Radius option of the blur filter to about 18.6px.

Create Light Reflections

As you can see below, we will need to correct the light reflection so that it doesn’t go on the brim.

Create Light Reflections

Remove the excess light reflections at the top by selecting them with the Rectangular Marquee Tool and pressing Delete to remove the selected area.

Create Light Reflections

Let the light reflection blend better by switching the layer’s Blend Mode to Overlay and lowering the Opacity to about 67%.

Create Light Reflections

Step 11: Add the Recycling Symbol

Pick the Custom Shape Tool (U) from the Tools Panel. For its Shape option, find "Recycle 2" which comes with Photoshop CS versions by default (it is in the "Symbol" set of custom shapes).

Draw the custom shape at the center of our recycling bin.

Add the Recycling Symbol

Step 12: Style the Recycling Symbol

Style the recycling shape layer by giving it a drop shadow, inner shadow, and gradient overlay layer styles.

Drop Shadow

Set the drop shadow color to a blue (#3c6a99).

Style the Recycling Symbol

Inner Shadow

The inner shadow color should be white (#ffffff).

Style the Recycling Symbol

Gradient Overlay

Finally, the gradient overlay colors should be from baby blue (#bee4f9) to white (#ffffff).

Style the Recycling Symbol

Style the Recycling Symbol

The three layer styles gives the symbol some harmony with the rest of our icon’s design.

Style the Recycling Symbol

Before moving on, let us organize our work by grouping all the "front" layers into a layer group called "front". The "front" layer group should be between the Background layer and the "top" layer group.

Step 13: Draw a Crumpled Piece of Paper Shape

We will now draw a crumpled piece of paper that has been tossed into our recycling bin. Above the "top" layer group, create a new layer (let us name this layer as "paper").

On this new layer, you can utilize the Polygonal Lasso Tool, the Pen Tool, or any of your favorite freehand drawing tools to create a random white-colored shape, as shown below.

Draw a Crumpled Piece of Paper Shape

Step 14: Style the Crumpled Paper Shape

Give the piece of paper a Drop Shadow layer style and Stroke layer style.

Drop Shadow

The drop shadow color should be black (#000000) and its Opacity lowered to around 10%.

Style the Crumpled Paper Shape

Stroke

Respectively, the stroke color should also be black (#000000).

Style the Crumpled Paper Shape

The layer styles give our piece of paper some base definitions.

Style the Crumpled Paper Shape

Step 15: Draw Details on the Crumpled Paper Shape

To add creases to the paper, create a new layer (name it "paper-shade1") and draw black shapes along some of its edges.

Draw Details on the Crumpled Paper Shape

Lower the opacity of the "paper-shade1" layer to around 14%. This should result in giving the piece of paper some subtle depth and definitions.

Draw Details on the Crumpled Paper Shape

To add more creases, just create a new layer (let us name this one "paper-shade2") and draw more black shapes.

Draw Details on the Crumpled Paper Shape

Reduce the Opacity to around 4%. Adding the crease shades on different layers and lowering the opacity to a another value gives our details random nuances that make the piece of paper look more realistic.

Draw Details on the Crumpled Paper Shape

Step 16: Make More Pieces of Paper

First, let us organize our PSD by making a new layer group for our crumpled pieces of paper. We can call this group something intuitive like "paper". Drag all layers associated to the piece of paper we just made into this new layer group.

Next, duplicate this layer group (Layer > Duplicate Group) to make another piece of paper.

Move the new piece of paper away from the first one using the Move Tool (V).

Make More Pieces of Paper

Make another piece of paper using the same technique.

Make More Pieces of Paper

Add variance to the pieces of paper so that they don’t look identical using the Free Transform command (Edit > Free Transform). You can rotate them, change their sizes, and so forth.

We will change the angle of the middle piece of paper to 45o. Select its layer group in the Layers Panel, choose Edit > Transform > Rotate, and in the Options Bar, set the Rotate option to 45o.

Make More Pieces of Paper

Create as many pieces of paper as you want, experiment with angles, sizes, and layer stacking order. The goal is to make the pieces of crumpled paper varied so that our icon mimics a real recycling bin.

Make More Pieces of Paper

You can also add pieces of paper outside of the recycling bin to make it look full.

Make More Pieces of Paper

Step 17: Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Let’s make our bin look as if we can see inside it slightly. If you don’t want to do this, that is fine — consider this as an optional step. Start by selecting all the "paper" layer groups — except the pieces of paper that are laying on the floor — in the Layers Panel. Duplicate them by right-clicking in the Layers Panel and choosing Duplicate Layers from the contextual menu that appears.

Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Merge the duplicated layers by right-clicking in the Layers Panel again and choosing Merge Layers.

Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Duplicate, transform, and so forth so that you end up with something like the image below. We want to make it look like our bin is filled to the brim.

Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Merge these layers (select them in the Layers Panel and press Ctrl/Cmd + E) and name the merged layer as "translucent-property".

Add a layer mask on the "translucent-property" layer, then use the Gradient Tool to create a black to white gradient on the layer mask.

Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Doing so will fade the layer towards the bottom of our recycling bin.

Make our Recycling Bin Look Semitransparent

Step 18: Add Shadows to the Pieces of Paper

We need to add some additional shadows to the pieces of paper. Create a new layer called "extra-shadow", and on this new layer, draw black shapes on the papers’ edges.

Add Shadows to the Pieces of Paper

Set the Opacity of the layer to 10% to soften the drop shadow.

Add Shadows to the Pieces of Paper

Perform some organizational tasks by making a new layer group called "papers" and dragging the respective layers and layer groups inside of it.

Step 19: Give the Recycling Bin a Shadow at the Bottom

Let us create a shadow being casted on the floor by the recycling bin. Create a new layer (name it "main-shadow") just above the Background layer.

Use the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) to draw a rounded corner square behind the bin.

Give the Recycling Bin a Shadow at the Bottom

Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to soften the edges of the rounded corner square, using a Radius between 18-19px.

Give the Recycling Bin a Shadow at the Bottom

Using the Free Transform command (Ctrl/Cmd + T) like before, squeeze this shape so that it looks like the following image.

Use Skew Transform so that its angle is consistent with the Recycling Bin’s shape.

Step 20: Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

We should add some shadows on the pieces of paper that are on the floor so that our icon’s lighting is accurate and consistent. First, create a new layer (name it "paper-shadow") above the recycling bin’s shadow layer (which we had named "main-shadow").

Use the Brush Tool (B) with a soft black brush tip and Master Diameter that is around 65px.

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Click once on your canvas to produce a circular brush stroke.

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Use Free Transform to squeeze it down and make it look like the shadow of the pieces of paper on the floor. Position it at the bottom of the pieces of paper using the Move Tool (V).

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Duplicate the "paper-shadow" layer and scale it down using Free Transform. Position it below the other piece of paper using the Move Tool (V). Having two layers for the shadow makes the depth of our piece as accurate as possible.

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Paint Shadows for the Pieces of Paper on the Floor

Step 21: Add a Window Light Reflection

Let’s give our work some subtle details. We are coming to the final steps of our icon design.

First, we’ll make a light reflection on the top left corner. Create a new layer named "reflection". Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to draw an uneven polygonal selection. Note that you want this new layer to be at the very top of the layer stacking order.

Add a Window Light Reflection

Next, apply a white to transparent gradient using the Gradient Tool (G).

Add a Window Light Reflection

Let’s say that the light source is coming through a window pane. Make a selection that looks like a cross (using Polygonal Lasso Tool), representing the window’s frame.

Add a Window Light Reflection

Then, just hit Delete to remove parts of the light reflection underneath the cross selection.

Add a Window Light Reflection

Change the Blend Mode of the "reflection" layer to Overlay and also lower the Opacity to around 35%.

Add a Window Light Reflection

Step 22: Add More Creases to the Pieces of Paper

We should give our pieces of paper some more details by adding creases to them. Create a new layer (let us name this layer "crumples"). On the new layer, draw black shapes around the edges as shown below.

Add More Creases to the Pieces of Paper

Reduce the opacity of this layer to around 10%. Doing this gives our pieces of paper some subtle definitions.

Add More Creases to the Pieces of Paper

Step 23: Add a Light Reflection at the Recycling Bin’s Edge

To finish our work, we will be adding a light reflection at the edge of the bin’s opening. This process will give our surface an even more interesting design element, as well as draw the viewer’s eyes towards middle of the icon. Create a new layer (we can call this layer "add-shine"). Use the Brush Tool (B) with a white, soft brush tip sized at about 45px. Click once in the center (towards the top) to paint in the light reflection.

Add a Light Reflection at the Recycling Bin's Edge

Set the Opacity of this layer to 60%.

Add a Light Reflection at the Recycling Bin's Edge

Tutorial Summary

You’re done! In this tutorial, we used fundamental Photoshop tools such as the Rounded Rectangle Tool, the Custom Shape Tool and the Gradient Tool, as well as basic commands such as Free Transform and Skew Transform to draw a recycling bin icon from scratch.

You can modify your layer styles to make the color of your recycling bin different. Below, you can see that I modified the color to green.

Tutorial Summary

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.