Pathfinder is an excellent tool in Illustrator to build objects in a simple and fast way. In this tutorial, learn how to create a box cutter knife by using geometric forms, the Pathfinder tools, and adding volume and highlights with the use of gradients.
Final Image Preview
Let’s have a look at the image we’ll be creating.
Let’s start with creating the knife body. Open a rectangle with the rounded rectangle tool using just an
outline. Use Free Transform and press in the upper right corner, while holding Command + Shift + Alt. Then drag the cursor down to make a symmetrical distortion.
Select the created form and distort it by going to Effect > Warp > Bulge, but do not change any settings. The shape should look like the image below.
Using Direct Selection tool, move the warp handles and shape it similar to the image below.
Now we’re going to create the cuts to shape up the knife body. Open a rectangle and place it on the upper part of the body. Open Pathfinder, select both forms, and apply Subtract From Shape Area.
On the bottom left create an ellipse shape, open Pathfinder, select both forms, and apply Add From Shape Area . Now create the black lid by tracing a vertical line on the right, then select both forms and apply Divide.
This will result into two separate forms.
Start creating a triangle, this could be done by using a star form and altering the number of points. Alternatively this can be done by applying the star form while holding the mouse button down and then pressing the up and down keys on the keyboard.
Now, copy and reflect the triangle vertically creating a gap. Next, create a rectangle and center in between
them. Using Pathfinder, apply Add To Shape Area to unite the three forms into one.
Duplicate this new shape by pressing Shift + Command, and then drag it to the left about 2 inches. Now
blend them together creating a sequence. Use around twelve steps.
Create a rectangle with rounded edges, then place it under (Send to Back) the blended shape. Select both forms and using Pathfinder apply Add To Shape Area to join them together. Place the created track over the body knife and use Subtract From Shape Area to create a hollow space. Fill both the body of the knife and the lid with the colors orange (#C94D26) and black.
Place an ellipse over the knife, then create a rectangle and place it above as well. Select the rectangle and the ellipse, then open Pathfinder and apply Intersect Shape Area, which creates a curve shaped form; This is where we’ll place the grip.
Create a rounded rectangle using the same color as the knife, then open the Brush Menu, and drag this shape
inside to create a new scatter brush.
Duplicate the form created in Step 11, then use the Eraser tool (Shift + E) to erase the bottom and right lines, which leaves only the arc. Then apply the new Scatter Brush to it by adjusting the space and size to make something similar to the image below.
Fill the new grip shape and the arc shape created on Step 11 with the same color orange (#C94D260).
Place them in the space they belong. Be sure those two shapes are on a new layer and below the knife body.
Duplicate all the shapes created so far. Place them in a new document, Select All (Command + A), and set the Fill to None. We need only the outline (tip: to use only the outline in the blended objects you need to expand the appearance).
Separate each piece and trace the lines with the Pen tool or Pencil tool, then Divide the parts, as the picture below shows. We’re going to use those shapes to created the highlights.
Select All and apply Divide, then select and delete the parts we don’t need to use. Keep only those parts we are going to apply to the highlights.
Go back to the original file, then copy and paste these shapes. Apply a gradient to each part (use orange to white). Try to simulate the direction of light used in the composition (each part is different), then place them over the original area to create the highlights.
To make the lid highlight, copy and paste the object, then reduce it. Apply a black to white gradient and place it over the lid.
Let’s add some grip to the handle. First, create a rounded rectangle shape and fill it with a darker shade of orange, then place it just above the blade. For the lid create two rounded rectangles and use a gradient to simulate the volume.
Select all parts of the image except for the blade and the gradient forms (highlights). Go to Effects > Stylize > Outer Glow, then set the Mode to Multiple and leave the rest at default values. Be careful to adjust each part individually so that they look realistic.
Create two rounded rectangles (one is half the size of the other), fill them with black, and group them.
Open a small square and fill it with black at 30%. Select it and press Command + C to create a copy, then Command + B to paste exactly under the original square.
Many transform the lower square, as shown below, set the fill and outline to none – to make it transparent.
Select both squares and drag them inside the Swatches panel to create a new pattern.
Now copy and paste the group of black buttons, then set the pattern just created.
Double-click the Scale tool in the toolbar, which opens the tools settings. Choose Uniform and use 40% for the Scale, also for the Options choose Pattern.
Now double-click the Rotate tool, choose a 45 Degree Angle, and set the Options to Pattern, so that we can move the pattern and not the rectangle.
Create a copy of this new patterned rectangle. Select and press Command + C to create a copy and Command + B to paste exactly under the original. Now we have to make this new copy darker than the original. Select the object and in the Swatches panel double-click the grayscale folder.
Activate the Live Color option and drag the slider up and down until you see its a nice contrast. Move this
darker portion a little bit to the left to create more volume.
Now place it over the original button.
To create more volume place three different gradients over the buttons. You can use half the size of the original. Place them over the original, but don’t forget to open the transparency panel and set the Blend Mode to Multiply.
Create a rectangle using the Shear tool and give it a Shear Angle of 20 degrees.
Place two lines over the blade shape to create the cutting edges. Select both the lines and the rectangle, then open Pathfinder and apply Divide.
Fill each part with a different gradient. You can use three shades of gray. In this example use 30% black and -100 degrees angle on the main part. To create more volume change the settings for this gradient and apply it on the various cutting edges.
To make the lines (slits) on the blade, create a rectangle and fill it with 50% black. Place a line on the left side and Divide it. Then select the smaller section and apply 10% black.
Apply the Shear tool again using a 20 degrees angle. Duplicate this new shape by holding Shift + Command and dragging to the left about 2 inches. Now blend them together creating a sequence. Apply 9 specified steps, then place them over the blade.
Apply the blade in a new layer bellow all others and the knife is finished!
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