advanced photoshop

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

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Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Create illustrated icons using Photoshop’s shapes, gradients and brushwork

Mirko Santangelo -

Step 1

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

Open your template at 1024 x 1024 pixels, applying an area of 512 x 512 through View>Rulers>Guides, which is one of the highest resolutions supported by operating systems. Set a grey colour background, drawing a shape with the Rounded Rectangle tool (U), setting the most suitable Radius properties to get curved edges. Using the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl+T) alter the previous shape using Perspective Mode, right-click on the canvas while the Transform Controls are activated. Add two ellipses shapes at the top and bottom using the Ellipse shape tool (U).

Step 2

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

Add a rim to the top part of the pot, by drawing two ellipse shapes, using the second to erase the shape centre with the Subtract option set (Option bar). Cmd/Ctrl+Shift and click the main pot shape layer thumbnail. Create a new group and add a layer mask from the active selection. In separate group layers paint light (white) and shadow (black) using a 20% Opacity Soft Brush, instantly isolating application to your masked area. Try different blending modes too like Soft Light and Overlay.

Step 3

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

Use the same method to add lights and shadows to the rim shape and add a sleek border effect by creating a new blank layer and making a rim shape selection. Fill this with white, pressing the up arrow key twice, pressing backspace to delete part of the layer while maintaining the border. Refine with a mask, setting blending mode to Overlay. Add a shiny plastic look to the pot surface by drawing Solid White Pen shapes to its front and apply a layer mask to each.

Step 4

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

Integrate white shapes using a black Foreground set to Transparent Linear mode with the Gradient tool, applying this to the shape layer mask. Set layer blending modes to Overlay. Our Stationary brush is composed in three parts. The bottom is created using the methods in Step 2. Draw a shape for the metal part, adding a new layer set as a clipping mask and paint it to a Foreground set to Transparent Reflected mode with the Gradient tool, 40% Opacity, alternating white and black foreground colours. Add two thin white Overlay stripe shapes to the top and bottom of the metal shape with a Thin Hard brush.

Step 5

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

The tip of our brush is made from a hard-edged shape with an attached layer mask from which you need to erase with a Small Hard Round Brush to simulate bristled edges. On a new Overlay blending mode layer, activate the Dispersion option in the Brush Panel and paint bristle texture with small white and black brushes, building up the desired effect. Repeat the lighting method as in Step 2, again in separate layers. Next, begin to build your crayon shape from the effects we’ve shown you, repeating lighting the processes to separate parts.

Step 6

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

The label is created with a simple black shape, masking away the top parts to create a strip effect. The pencil is constructed in the same way as the crayon, through individually drawn flat colour shape layers, adding the lights and shadows with the brush through your group’s active Selection Layer mask. Next Import a wood texture, we’ve used a sample from, applying it as a clipping mask to the top part of the pencil shape. Set an 80% Opacity Overlay blending mode. Using a mask, blend the graphite with the wood parts to achieve smooth transition.

Step 7

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

The Felt brush is basically a cylinder repeated three times. Between each cylinder is a rim shape, set with a white Inner Shadow Layer Style set to Overlay, Distance at 0px, Size at 5px and Choke at 20%. Apply highlights and create sharp reflections with drawn Rectangular Marquee tool (M) strips, filled with solid white and set to Overlay blending mode. The creation of your ruler starts with a Rectangular yellow shape, adding lighting with the Rectangle Marquee tool in separate layers. Also fill with a white Foreground to Transparent style gradient.

Step 8

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

Draw a thin line with the Pencil tool (B) in a new layer, applying an Inner Bevel and Emboss Layer Style at 1% Depth, 0px Size and 0% Shadow Opacity. Duplicate and place this layer along the ruler, and finally add the numbers. Place all objects inside a Group layer and add a layer mask to this, using this mask to hide the sides of the stationary that disappears into the pot. In a new blank layer select a Soft Brush at 20% Opacity. Start to paint the shadows of the objects inside the pot.

Step 9

Photoshop Tutorial: Painting photoreal icons

In a new layer add a gradient shadow, from the bottom part of the pot’s hole. The metal parts of the brushes should reflect the objects close to them. Replicate this effect by creating a new Color blending mode layer, using a Soft Brush at a low Opacity to paint corresponding colours where the objects should be reflected. Finally, using a Hue/Saturation layer Adjustment, add a light purple colour to the Background. Add a shadow below the pot for more authenticity and depth of field.


  • Victor Blanchard

    It’s nice but the perspective of the pot looks wrong : the ellipse at the bottom should be more opened than the ellipse at the top.

  • daniel