Tutorial: Creating an RSS icon in Adobe Illustrator - 2

RSS Icon image
RSS Icon created in
Adobe Illustrator

This is second part of the “Creating an RSS icon” tutorial. In Part 1, we used the basic Shape Tools along with the Pathfinder – Divide option to create an “outline” of an RSS icon. This tutorial will focus on using strokes and fills to bring some color to our RSS icon.

(Note: “Cmd” should be substituted for any instance of “Ctrl” for Mac users.)

Tools used:

  • Selection Tool
  • Swatch Palette
  • Gradient Palette
  • Appearance Palette
  • Stroke Palette

We’ll start with the RSS icon that we created in Part 1. Open your file from Part 1 or download the RSS icon file (.AI). Once you have the file open, you should have an illustration that looks similar to the image below. Your active “Fill” at this point should be “Empty” (or transparent) and your active “Stroke” should be black. Fills are colors or gradients that we “fill” our shapes with, while Strokes are the colors applied to the paths (or “outlines”) that bound our shapes. The active Fill is indicated in the main toolbar as the solid rectangle at the bottom of the toolbar, while the active Stroke is indicated by the hollow rectangle next to the active Fill icon. Whichever icon appears “on top” is activated and can be changed by selecting a new color either in the Swatch Palette or by using the Eyedropper Tool (not covered in this tutorial). So if the Fill icon (solid rectangle) is on top of the Stroke icon (hollow rectangle) selecting a new color will modify the Fill color and vice-versa. The small rounded line segment with arrow heads at each end next to the Fill and Stroke icon will change the Fill color to the current Stroke color and vice-versa.

Fill and Stroke image
RSS icon outline with black stroke and no fill

Our first step is going to be to set up some Color Swatches for our icon. To make things easier, we’re going to clear our Swatch Palette of any unused color swatches. If your Swatch Palette is not visible, activate it through Window>Swatches. Click the menu button at the upper-right of the Swatch Palette (see image below) to bring up its menu options. Click on “Select Unused Swatches” to select all the swatches in your current palette that are not in use.

Unused Swatches image
Select unused swatches.

With your unused swatches selected, click on the “Delete” icon (the small trashcan at the bottom-right) on the Swatch Palette. You should now have a “cleaned-up” Swatch Palette to work with (black and white swatch, along withe Registration swatch, should be the only swatches remaining in your Swatch Palette. Next, we are going to add the color swatches which will use on our RSS icon. Start by clicking on the “New Swatch” icon on the Swatch Palette (see below).

New Swatch image
Add a new swatch

Clicking the New Swatch icon will bring up the New Swatch dialog box. All of our swatches will use Color Type: Process Color and Color Mode: RGB. You can leave the Global checkbox unchecked, as well. We will name our first swatch “RSS_Dark_Fill” and it will have values of R: 212; G: 60; B: 39.

New Swatch Dialog image
New Swatch Dialog Box - RSS_Dark_Fill

When you have the values entered, click “OK” and your new swatch will appear in the Swatch Palette. Repeat this process for the following swatches:

  • RSS_Light_Fill (R: 245; G: 130; B: 4)
  • RSS_Outer_Stroke (R: 193; G: 63; B: 39)
  • RSS_Inner_Stroke (R:243; G: 133; B: 54)

Once you have added these swatches, your Swatch Palette should look similar to the image below.

Swatch Palette image
Swatch Palette with RSS color swatches

Next, we want to create a Gradient Swatch using some of the color swatches that we just created. Click on the Gradient Palette (Window>Gradient or Ctrl-F9). To make the gradient active click on the Gradient Swatch in the upper-right (see image below).

Gradient Palette image
Click the gradient swatch to make the gradient active

This should bring up the Color Stops on the current gradient beneath the Color Ramp of the Gradient Slider in the middle of the palette. The gradient Type should be Linear for this gradient.

Color Stops image
Gradient Palette with 2 color stop gradient

Move your cursor underneath the color ramp of the Gradient Slider, and you should notice that a small “+” symbol will appear next to the cursor arrow when you are not directly over a color stop. Click your mouse button when the “+” icon is visible next to your cursor/mouse pointer to add a new color stop. You sould now have three color stops (from left to right: white, grey, black). Click on the the middle color stop (grey). Values should appear for Opacity and Location. We are going to keep the Opacity values at 100% for all three of our color stops. However, we want to set the Location value for our middle color stop to 50%. This will place the color stop perfectly centered between the two end color stops.

Set Color Stop image
Set the Location of the middle color stop to 50%

Now, we are going to apply two of the color swatches we created earlier to our gradient. To do this we simply double-click on the color-stop that we want to apply a color to. Double-clicking a color stop will bring up a Color Stop Swatch Palette, which we can select our color stop color from.

Select Color Stops
Double-click color stop and select a color swatch from the palette

For both end color swatches (the white and black color stops), we are going select RSS_Dark_Fill. For the middle swatch, we are going to use RSS_Light_Fill. After you have assigned these colors to your color stops, your gradient palette should look like the image below.

Gradient Pallet RSS image
Gradient Palette - RSS Icon Gradient

Our gradient is now defined, and should appear as the Active Fill in our main toolbar.

Gradient Active Fill
Active Fill = our new gradient

We can now add this gradient as a swatch to our Swatch Palette. Click the “New Swatch” icon in the main Swatch Palette to bring up the New Swatch dialog box and name the new swatch, “RSS Gradient.”

New Gradient Swatch image
New Swatch - RSS Gradient

We now have all of the swatches we need to start adding color to our RSS icon!

Swatch Palette image
Swatch Palette with RSS Gradient Swatch added

Using the Selection Tool (black arrow in the upper-left corner of the main toolbar or keyboard shortcut V) we are going to select our rounded rectangle, by clicking on the path/edge of the shape.

Select Rounded Rectangle image
Use the Selection Tool to select the rounded rectangle

Making sure that the Fill icon is active (in front of the Stroke icon), click on the RSS Gradient swatch in the Swatch Palette to fill the rounded rectangle with the gradient.

Gradient Filled image
Gradient-filled rounded rectangle

Our gradient should now fill the rounded rectangle, but we want the gradient to be at a -45° angle. Currently, it is positioned at 90 °. We can modify this value of the angle in the Gradient Palette.

Set Gradient Angle image
Set the angle of the gradient in the Gradient Palette

Your rounded rectangle should now look like the image below. (Note: The Gradient Tool is also another way to apply gradient fills and adjust gradient angles, but it is outside the scope of this tutorial, so I will save it for another day.)

Angled Gradient image
Rounded rectangle with gradient at -45° angle

Next we will fill the remaining three objects with white. First select the top-most object using the Selection Tool, by clicking on the edge/path of the object.

Select Object image
Select the upper-most curved object using the Selection Tool

With the upper-most curved object selected, hold Shift in, and select the remaining two unfilled objects by clicking on their edges/paths. Hold Shift down until you have all three objects selected. We do not want to use the marquee selection method that we used in Part 1 for multiple selection. Since the rounded rectangle is now filled, using the marquee selection method will select the rounded rectangle, as well, if the marquee selects any part of the stroke OR fill of the shape. This is why we use the method of holding down Shift and select each object by clicking on its path. (If you accidentally, select the rounded rectangle also, you can deselect it by clicking it, as long as you hold Shift down while doing so.)

Select Multiple Objects image
Multiple objects selected using the Selection Tool while holding Shift

When you have all three objects simultaneously selected, click on the white swatch in the Swatch Palette to fill these objects with white.

White Fill image
Shapes with white fill color

You’ll notice that all of our shapes still have a black outline or Stroke. For our white-filled shapes, we don’t want a stroke of any kind, so with all three shapes still selected (if you accidentally deselected them, just follow the same method for multiple selections we just used) now click on the Stroke icon on the main toolbar to bring it in front of the Fill icon and make the Stroke active. You can set the stroke to “None” by clicking the small white square with the red line through it in the row of small squares underneath the Fill and Stroke icons on the main toolbar (see image below).

Stroke None image
Activate Stroke and set it to None

Once you have set the stroke of our three white shapes to None, you should have the following illustration.

White Fill No Stroke image
Objects filled with white and Stroke set to None

We’re almost there, but we still have a few steps to go, and another palette to introduce. Our rounded rectangle is not quite finished. We currently have a black stroke with a weight of 1pt. We need to add some color to the border of our rounded rectangle. Use the Selection Tool to select our rounded rectangle (remember that you can click on either the stroke/edge or the fill to select it, now). Stroke should still be activated (the Stroke icon should still be above Fill icon on the toolbar), so we can select a new color for the stroke of the rounded rectangle by clicking on one of our swatches in the Swatch Palette. We’re going to select RSS_Outer_Stroke for our stroke color.

Select Outer Stroke image
Select RSS_Outer_Stroke as our rounded rectangle stroke color

We’re getting close, but our final illustration needs something more. For our final illustration, we actually want to have two different colored strokes surrounding our rounded rectangle. We’re going to achieve this through the use of the Appearance Palette (Window>Appearance or keyboard shortcut Shift-F6). Our first step is going to be to increase the weight of our current stroke from 1pt to 20pt. Making sure that our rounded rectangle is still selected, click on the row in the Appearance Palette labeled Stroke, where it currently reads 1pt, and change the value to 20pt.

Appearance Palette image
Set the stroke weight to 20pt in the Appearance Palette

Next, we want to set our stroke to be aligned to the outside of our shape (the default for Illustrator is to align the stroke to the center of path). To do this we will click on the word “Stroke” in the Appearance Palette to bring up the Stroke options menu, and click on the Align Stroke to Outside icon. (See image below.)

Align Outside image
Align stroke to outside

Now, we want to duplicate our existing stroke. Making sure that the Stroke row is still selected in the Appearance Palette, click on the Duplicate Selected Item icon. (See image below.)

Duplicate Appearance
Click the Duplicate Selected Item icon to create a copy of the stroke

You should now see two rows listed as Stroke in the Appearance Palette. Using the methods we used on the first stroke, we want to set a new stroke color for our duplicate stroke (the one at the top of the list in the Appearance Palette). Click on the stroke color to bring up the Stroke Color Palette and select RSS_Inner_Stroke. Also, change the stroke weight from 20pt to 10pt (See image below.)

Set Second Stroke image
Set second stroke color to RSS_Inner_Stroke

By setting our stroke to be aligned to the outside and setting weight of the stroke on top to 10pt, we now can see the remaining uncovered 10pt “width” (20pt of the bottom stroke minus the 10pt stroke on top of it) of the bottom stroke. Your appearance palette should now look like this.

Final Appearnce Palette image
Appearance Palette Final for Rounded Rectangle

And more importantly, you should now have a final illustration that looks like this.

RSS Icon Final image
Final RSS Icon illustration

Congratulations! You just created a fully-scalable, vector-based RSS icon.

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