Logo Design Tutorial - Using Adobe Illustrator

Tutorial by Chris Arlidge - Steel Dolphin Creative

Free Vector Icons

In this tutorial I hope to illustrate some of the process of logo design using Adobe Illustrator. However, I must stress, this is not so much a tutorial on the use of Adobe Illustrator as it is a way to show you one method of the "process" of refining an image to a corporate identity (logo) or stylized vector illustration.The basic process here could be applied to any vector drawing application.

It should be noted that the example provided here was done mostly for this tutorial and I have bypassed a few of the earlier stages of logo design and concepting such as thumbnail sketching, etc.

The logo is for a company called stone gecko (fictitious company as far as I know), so I thought an illustration of a chameleon/gecko type animal would be good. Part of the concept originally was to make the gecko's lines apear blocky or stone like, but the process began to go out of the scope of this tutorial so I opted for a more simplified approach, and is most often the case with logo design, simple is better.

This tutorial assumes you have at least a basic working knowledge of Illustrator, for example you should know how to select objects and change their outlines and fills. Being comfortable with the pen tool is also a big plus.

All you need to begin is an image to use for reference like the one I have below of the gecko.

Step 1 Image

1. Place the original photo as a template.

Starting with a new document(ctrl/cmd+N or File -> New | 8.5" x 11" artboard should suffice), you will want to place the image that you will redraw as a template.

File->Place -> image name -> check template box

This will place the image on its own locked layer with its opacity at 50%. A new layer will also be created above this one automatically.

Template Sample

The template image

Once you have successfully placed the template image it should appear faded out as the one to the left is.This will make it easier to draw over top of it. Now let's move on to step 2.

2. Rename 'Layer 1'

Double click on layer one and in the dialogue box rename it Line art, this is where you will begin drawing the main outline of the gecko.

Step 3 Image

3. Select the Pen Tool

Select the pen tool in the tool bar, or press "p" on your keyboard. Using the pen tool in Illustrator takes some getting used to, as you are now drawing by adding points or "anchors" and shaping the lines with the handles that appear after a two anchors have been connected. The pen tool is probably one of the most important and often used tools in this program so learning how to use it is very helpful indeed!

Anchor point image

Illustration of anchor points

A sample anatomy of a line and the anchor points.

Step 4 ImageStep 4 Image

4. Drawing with the Pen Tool

Using the pen tool and drawing continuous lines/curves we trace the outline of the body, the two screen shots illustrate the progression. In this step we are only drawing the body without the legs as the legs will be drawn on a seperate layer. I often like to keep my illustrations organized like this until things need to be merged or transformed.

Step 5 Image

5. Add a new layer for the legs

Click on the new layer icon indicated in the screen sample and add a new layer, name it 'legs'. I like to simplify things and using seperate layers can sometimes aid in this.

Step 6 Image

6. Draw the legs

Just as we did with the body in a previous step we are going to want to draw on our new layer 'legs' and with the pen tool (p) trace the outline of the legs.

Tip: Lock your other layers when doing this to avoid accidentally moving things around or selecting other objects you don't want.

Step 7 Image

7. Fill in the objects to view

I like to fill the objects occasionally as I progress with the drawing to really see how it is shaping up. Go to the tool bar and with the objects selected change the outline to fill.

Step 8 Image

8. Make adjustments and clean up lines and curves

After adding a few more toes to the front foot and using the Direct Select tool (press "a") to clean up and change some of the lines, I now have the version below (it may be hard to tell the difference at this size, but believe me there is). The direct select tool is used by hovering it over an anchor point, clicking on it then adjusting the curves with the handles.You can select mulitple anchors with this tool by drag selecting or by clicking on points with the 'shift' key pressed.

Step 9 Image

9. Add the 'cut-out' layer

Okay this is where the magic begins. We are going to use a method I call the 'cut-out'. We are going to draw white shapes over top of the black base of the gecko and thus begin shaping our true outlines. Add a new layer by clicking the new layer icon in the layers palette, and name it cutout.

Note:You will notice all my underlying layers are locked indicated by the little lock icon.

Step 10 Image

10. Start drawing the cut-out shapes

Using the same method to draw the lineart we now want to do the same on the cut-out layer, but with white "ink". Select the outline and make it white by making sure the outline icon on the tool bar is active and then select white in the swatches palette. After you have drawn in some shapes, switch the outline of white to a fill.

Varied Line Weights

Keep on going with the cut-out shapes

Still have some more shapes to add and some tweeking, but the illustration is really starting to take shape. After adding some more white shapes, an eye, a line to help define the spine, and a few more minor touch ups we have the final illustration!

You can really see how the cut-out method allows you to control the appearance of the outlines, almost as though we were using an ink brush for varied line weights.

Step 10 Image

11. Transform via trim for final artwork

All that is needed now is to unlock the layers and select all the objects together (press "v" which brings up the select tool and then grab all the objects), now we can trim the white from the black.

Important: Make sure all your layers are fills,and not just strokes as stroke colors are deleted during the trim process and in some cases may cause undesireable effects.

To trim, lets bring up the pathfinder tool box (assuming its not already shown): Hit shift +F9 or go window -> show pathfinder. You should see something like palette to the left, Click on the trim icon shown.

After the trim has been performed, you will need to "ungroup" all the objects to remove the white objects, so press SHIFT+CTRL(CMD on a Mac)+G and then remove the white shapes by selecting them and then deleting them.


Add the type and final touches

Finally I added some text and rotated the lizard for the final logo below. Normally you would carefully select your font for the logo's typeface, or create the typeface by hand depending on what is called for but for this tutorial I just selected a common font that has that stony appearance. In true logo design the typeface should be given as much consideration as the symbol.