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CUNY Queens ︎(ARTS241) Design 1

Knitting Circle:
Drawing Icons in Illustrator

With this knitting circle we’ll be looking at creating icons that look like the images below. These will be the icons that we use for our animation. Besides familiarizing you with certain workflow in Illustrator and After Effects, this is also meant to show you a workflow for working on logos. This is not a branding class and, to my mind, it is better to focus on branding in a concentrated way for at least a semester. That being said the actual technical skills needed to create logos are mostly covered by this knitting circle. 


This covers the following (mostly technical) concepts in Illustrator
  • How to “strategize” when creating a vector image in a given style. 
  • “Rounding” shapes with the Direct Selection Tool (“white arrow” or A key)
  • A “trick” for creating dotted lines with strokes.
  • Using Clipping Masks
  • Merging simple shapes into more complex ones via the Pathfinder Tool
  • Evenly aligning and distributing points via the Align Tool.  
  • Repeating transformations (CTRL or CMD + D)
  • Exporting from Illustrator into After Effects


First, we’ll do some “research” and look at an actual photo of what we’re trying to “iconize.” At this point, you may want to create a simple sketch, or something on paper to help you think through the process or what you’d like to do. 
I simplified the real object by drawing it like the image below. As you use Illustrator more, you’ll know what tools you can use to get the desired effect, but I still take a step to actively think about this kind of thing. 

Creating the bun(s)

First create a new document (select the 1920px by 1080px web template, or make sure that you have RGB selected as the color mode).

Use the Rectangle Tool (M Key) to create what will be the top bun. Then, with it selected press Alt (or Option on a Mac) and drag to create a copy of this shape. Pressing Shift will keep it aligned horizontally. (I’ve set the Stroke to 6 point, though do you).
Next I use the “white arrow” (Direct Selection Tool, or the A key) to select the top two points of the bottom bun, and drag them down. I’m eyeballing here.

Next, I select the top two points with the White Arrow, and then drag either of the small concentric circles toward the middle of the shape, this creates rounded corners.

I do the same for the bottom bun, except with all four points, and not as pronounced of a rounding effect.

After this, I make a lil adjustment. Because of the bottom bun being “fully rounded” it appears to be slightly wider, so I make it just a little narrower and then align both buns. If you can’t see the alignment  options, go to Window︎Align

Time for an executive/creative decision. I want the ends of line segments and sharp corners to be rounded. To do that, I select all shapes and then in the Stroke Panel, I make the corners rounded (middle box) and then I make the strokes align to the middle (this is the box in the lower left corner). You’ll get the result on the right (you might want to zoom in). 

The pickles/tomato

For the pickles, I just use the Line Segment Tool (L Key). After I make the first one, I select it (with the “Black Arrow” orV Key) and then I press, ALT or OPTION and drag to make a copy. 

Next, I put the two lil pickles into a Group, this means that they are treated as one as long as they are grouped. You select multiple objects and then press CTRL or CMD + G in order Group, and then SHIFT+(CTRL or CMD)+G to Un-group.
I Group the two pickles together so that I can align them both to the middle of the burger. 

Lettuce Time

Next is the lettuce! First, I use the Pen Tool (or P key, it looks like an old timey pen), and I roughly sketch a zig-zaggy shape like this

Next, I evenly distribute the points. Note that you’ll have to select all the points except 1. This is just a weird thing of how distribution works in Illustrator.

After evenly distributing, I select the top points and align them, and then the bottom points and align those. This zig should be looking pretty tight now.

After this, we use the same corner rounding tool, and use it to make the zigging and zagging look wavy. I also scale the lettuce so that it doesn’t flop off the edge. A note that you’ll need to use the Transform Panel (Window ︎Transform), in order to deselect “Scale Strokes & Effects.” If this is deselected, your stroke will remain the same thickness.

Now I made some creative decisions, I increased the line weight (to 10pt), and then moved everything closer together, and made the top bun a lil thinner. Note that you can’t evenly distribute the hamburger pieces. You’ll have to mostly do this by eye.

Making the patty

First, we do something we’ve already done, just make a rectangle, and then round it. This time we go all the way until we lose any sense of “corner-ness”
Next is a lil thing that’s just, good to know. We’re going to be doing something slightly more complex specifically with the patty. To make this easier and not run into other objects, we’ll double click the patty and enter what’s called Isolation Mode. You’ll know you’re there because of the message in the upper left hand corner, and that the rest of the screen is grayed out.

Now, we simply create a line (this is for the “grill marks”), and then do the same ALT/OPTION drag trick to create a new line. Here’s a new trick. If we press CTRL/CMD+D a bunch of times, we’ll repeat the same transformation that we just did, and create a bunch of copies of the line, the same distance apart.
What we want to do now is “restrict” the grill marks to the patty, to do this we have to create what’s called a Clipping Mask. A Clipping Mask is like, a window. The top object will allow the bottom object to show through. To do this we have to Group the grill marks together so they are one object, then we move the patty on top of the grill marks. Press CTRL/CMD + ] with the patty selected to move it “up the chain”

You’ll probably notice that the outline for the patty went away. You’ll have to reselect it and apply it. 
You should end up with something like this (sorry I forget to get a screenshot of this, so this screenshot is after the dots were added)

Makin’ dots

Here’s a fun trick for making dots. Start with a line.

Now, all you do is open the Stroke panel, and then select Dashed Line. Set the first box to 0 (this creates a “circle”) and then the number in the second box adjusts the space between the dots. 

After that, we’ll do the same for the “sesame seeds.” We just create three circles, the adjust them “over the bun” for positioning. A note here is that you can use the Eyedropper tool, to “pick up” the dots from our bottom bun. 
After that we just use the top bun as a clipping mask to reveal only the sesame seeds. After a couple of small adjustments here is our final result!

Making Ice Cream

We’re going to make a single scoop of ice cream, not a soft serve. But again, do you. To start we draw a circle, and then make a rectangle where we want to “cut” off the scoop. 

In the Pathfinder Tool, and then select the box highlighted below to remove the shape. This creates the scoop shape below. 

Now, we just make a bunch of circles, and then evenly distribute them.
A note here, that were’ going to be doing a big “destructive” edit. Usually around here, I’ll try to save a copy of the thing I am going to significantly change.

Now we use the “opposite” tool in the Pathfinder panel to unite the scoop into one shape.
Follwing this, I just made a small adjustment. I made the strokes align to the inside of the shape in order to make the “lumps” of the scoop more round. 

We’ll start working on the cone now! We start with a rounded rectangle and place it “under” the scoop. 

The bottom of the cone is slightly more complicated and introduces a new tool. We make a rectangle, roughly under the top of the cone. 

Then we use the “White Arrow” to select the right side and remove it with the Delete Key. 

Then, we move the rightmost points over roughly half as wide as we want the final shape to be. Then we select the bottom of the cone to create the “tilt” of the cone. 
New tool alert! We use the Reflect Tool(O Key, it looks like two triangles about to fight), in order to reflect the shape. Drag the blue target to set the origin point and then drag the shape to reflect it. Pressing ALT or OPTION while dragging will create a copy, and shift will resetrict the transformation.

We now simply select the end points and join them (CTRL/CMD + J).

After some adjustments, this is what it looks like!

Exporting to AE

I think it is totally fine to work fast in Adobe Illustrator. In some cases, like this icon, we can do it without even looking at the Layers Panel. However, you’ll probably end up with something “gross” like this. Gross as in, nothing is labeled. 

After Effects can’t “see” individual paths or groups. Additionally, as we’ll see later, Shape Layers can be a little cumbersome to manage in After Effects. I recommend separating things as much as you can in Illustrator beforehand. 

To make each of the individual paths and groups within a layer, we select the options in the upper right corner of the Layers Panel, and the select “Release to Layers (Sequence)” You’ll get multiple layers. Where it once said “<path>” it should now say “Layer 1” etc.

You should then rename the layers so it is clear what is going on. I do underscores, but this is by no means a requirement.
When you subsequently bring in this file into After Effects, you’ll see each layer separate. This is good!

Video of the demo

(Note that this demo was made last semester I might reference things that happened “in class” that don’t reflect reality. Also it was initially meant for a print-based assignment so the end of video shows different ways to import and arrange the icons in a print document. )

︎Here’s the .AI files I ended up with!︎

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