In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a fun, vector icon of a people symbol, frozen in an ice cube, from scratch. We’ll explore the usefulness of Adobe Illustrator’s 3D tools. The whole creation can be divided into two different parts. Part I: The ice cube, and Part II: The people icon. We’ll start with the ice cube in Part I. Then we’ll create the people icon and integrate them together in Part II. Let’s get started!
Final Image Preview
Below is the final image we will be working towards in this two part tutorial. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.
- Program: Illustrator CS3
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Estimated Completion Time: 4-5 hours
Part I: The Ice Cube
Below is the image we’ll be working toward in Part I of this tutorial. We’ll be making an ice cube.
There are lots of reference images of ice cubes. You can follow any reference for the basic shape. A cube has six sides: four sides, top and bottom. We will create those sides. I’ve drawn a shape, and will follow the drawing shown below.
Now draw a rectangle for each side. So we need to make six rectangles to complete the cube shape. Draw the rectangles by following the image. Keep in mind that the layers should be arranged in proper order, which means the top shape remains on top, the bottom shape at the bottom and frontal sides appear in front of the back sides. Make the fill color None, for now we need only outlines.
Hide the frontal faces (shapes) and show only the back side faces and bottom face.
Now the primitive cube is ready. But the edges of the cube are hard and straight. To make it look like an ice cube, we have to break the edges. So, first select a shape, add anchor points to it and then make the shape curvy using the Convert Anchor Point Tool. Do not forget to blunt up all sharp corners of the shape. Finally, the sharp rectangle should look like an unevenly curved rounded edge rectangle.
Do the same thing for the two remaining layers. Do not worry if the shapes overlap each other a little.
Select one shape and fill it with a gradient. By default, it will appear as a black to white gradient.
Change gradient colors and make the gradient range from cyan to a lighter tint of that same color.
Select the other layers and give them the same gradient. To do this, select a layer and then pick the gradient with the Eyedropper Tool from the previously colored layer.
We need to align the gradients in such way that the center part appears darker than the outer part (towards the edges). For this, select a face of a cube (rectangle), take the Gradient Tool and drag it diagonally towards the center.
Now we need to make the faces a bit transparent. Set the Opacity of the back sides to 60%. And for the bottom make it 80%.
Switch on the top shape. And start repeating the Steps we did for the back and bottom faces to make that look uneven. While shaping up the top face just keep in mind that the edges of the top face should match the edges of back sides as much as possible.
Pick and apply the same gradient as others. Drag the Eyedropper Tool to adjust the gradient to your choice. You may name the layers so that you don’t get confused, if you wish. Reduce the transparency of the layer to 50%.
Now we don’t need the outline any more. Toggle outline colors to None.
Select the back sides and the bottom layer together and make them a group (by pressing Command G). Name it as “back part.” You may lock that group as well; we do not need to modify it anymore.
Since the basic properties of water or ice is transparency, we’ll have to keep the ice cube transparent so that anything we put inside it will be clearly visible. We cannot make the frontal sides the same as we did for back parts. Instead, we’ll make shines and reflections to indicate the existence of front faces. Switch on the visibility of the front side shapes. But they will be used as guides only. For your convenience in selection, you can group them and name them as well.
Draw a Y shape, along the edges of the front faces. Make that uneven. Fill it with a white color and set it to no stroke. Reduce the transparency of this layer to 75%. This will look like a bright shine on the edges of the cube and serve the much needed purpose of bringing volume to the cube.
Let’s make some more shines (technically it’s called specular highlights). These highlights can be of any shape. For realistic looks, refer to as many reference images as you like from the internet or elsewhere, and then you will get a clear visual idea of how ice reflects light and shines. Anyways, let’s continue. I’ve drawn more shapes on the top face of the cube. Remember not to keep any outline on the shapes.
These highlights should look subtle, and should not attract added attention. So let’s put a gradient of white to very light blue on those shapes. Adjust gradient positions as you like.
Make the layers a bit transparent. Set the Blending Mode from to Screen. Remember that do not reduce transparency to all shapes equally. Keep them varied, so that they look more natural.
Now the top part is ready. And two frontal faces are still left.
To make reflections look better, create reflections for those faces as well. There are no rules for the shapes of reflections, just create shapes that look good based on your visual research.
Delete the guide shapes. Drag-select everything (do not forget to lock the “back part” before you drag) and make that a group. Name this group as “top part.”
Now we’ll draw a drop of water on the ice cube. For this, make a small oval shape.
Put a gradient (white to faded blue) on the shape. Make the layer transparent to 60%.
Now make another oval shape, this time make it smaller than the previous one. Give it a gradient of white to cyan as shown.
Now change the blending mode to Multiply and reduce Transparency to 30%. The layer is almost merged with the layer behind, giving us a complex gradient look.
We need to blend it a bit more. Select the layer, then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. The dialog box opens. Enter a value of 5, and apply. Still the drop is looking flat and not shiny. We have to brighten up the edges of it to show some volume.
Draw two thin shapes at the edges of the drop. Make the shapes cover the top and bottom parts of the drop. See the image below for how it should look. Change the blending modes to Screen. Keep the layers semi-transparent (Opacity between 45-60%).
Still the drop is looking flat. It’s missing a bright shine. Make a small round shape.
Now apply Gaussian Blur on the shape with an amount of 3. Set the Opacity of the layer to 75%, and set the blend mode to Screen. That makes the drop complete.
Group it and name the group as “drop1.” We’ll now make another drop, but this time we’ll make it look a bit crispier, just by adding some refraction to it.
So, let’s make the base layer, like we did earlier. Make a round shape, put gradient to it, and make it 50% transparent.
Again draw two thin shapes at the edges of the drop shape, just like we did earlier.
But this time, we won’t keep them white. These two shapes will need a hint of refraction in the drop (generally the edges of a water drop refracts and shows up in a darker color, and defines the roundness of the drop more). So put a cyan color on the lower shape. Change the blending mode to Multiply, and also set the Opacity to 55%.
For the upper shape, pick the gradient from the base round shape, adjust the position of the gradient to make go from darker at top to brighter at bottom. Change the blending mode to Multiply.
Again draw two more shapes, one at the top and another at the bottom, but keep the shapes inside so they don’t cross or overlap the dark shapes, and also make the shapes thicker. We will use these shapes as the bright reflections as we did for the previous drop.
Reduce the Opacity of the upper shape to 75%. Apply a gradient on the lower shape and just take care that the gradient should not get dark. Make the lower part of the gradient full white.
Change the blending mode of the lower shape to Screen. And reduce Opacity to 75%.
Add a specular highlight on top of the drop similarly as we did for the previous drop. Or you can simply copy that shape you made before, paste it on top the new drop, and scale it down a little. That’s it for the drop. You can group the layers together and name it as “drop2.”
We are done with the ice cube. One thing I would like to say at this stage, from my experience, that all I did so far was just by observing the real life references closely, then deconstructing it into small parts, and then I recreated those as close as possible. So study real life images and then try to replicate them as is, and your creations will automatically be stunning!
End of Part I
And this way we have reached the end of Tutorial Part I. In Tutorial Part II you will learn how to create the people symbols we’ll embed in this cube. Check back soon! You can view the final image of this two part series below.
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