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Create icons in a flash
An expert reveals his secrets.
Graphics & Design
Longtime developer Marc Edwards, maker of iStat Menus, has an odd but helpful pastime: he figures out the most efficient way possible to create vector icons – and posts the resulting “speed run” videos on Twitter.
Here, Edwards shares a few icon-making secrets using Affinity Designer. To follow along, set up a 160-by-160-pixel work area in the app with gridlines every 10 pixels. “I work with a coarse grid that makes drawing operations snap into place,” he says.
To save you a few clicks as you work, Edwards suggests creating styles with your favourite colours and stroke widths.
I started this icon by combining three concentric circles using Designer’s nifty Boolean action, which lets you combine multiple shapes into one. Here, I used the “xor” Boolean function, which fills in everything except the overlapping parts. I then selected the bottom-most point of the shape and converted it to a sharp corner using the Node tool. The finishing touches required just a few Bézier control-handle tweaks.
The centre of a camera iris forms a hexagon, which makes the shape an excellent starting point. Drawing the polygon, converting it to curves and editing its points is a convenient way to create the necessary triangles.
Once I perfected the first triangle, I added the next one by choosing Edit > Duplicate, then rotating the duplicate into position. Here’s the fun part: duplicating the duplicate makes another copy and repeats the last transformation. Rinse, repeat, until you have all six.
The trickiest part of this icon is making the soft corners. I used the Corner tool to round the triangle point, the Node tool’s Sharp button to lop off that rounded section, then the Corner tool again to soften the angles.
During the final steps, I created a circle whose centre served as the rotation origin. This technique is a handy way to set a transformation origin anywhere you like.
Affinity Designer includes a dedicated Heart tool, but I opted to create my own with the Pen tool for more control. Believe it or not, the easiest way to make a heart icon is the Pen tool. I started by setting it to Polygon Mode and drawing a three-point V using a wide stroke with rounded end caps.
To tweak the curvature of the sides, I used the Node tool to edit the Bézier control points. Once I was happy with the shape, I converted the stroke to a filled path by choosing Layer > Expand Stroke.
To find the perfect position for the “reflection” at the top of the heart, I used a similar process to shrink the heart shape and position it. Letting the tool calculate where points and paths should be gives you a more accurate placement than if you manually drew the reflection.