For this tutorial, we will be making a highly abstracted icon of a pointing hand using some very simple shapes. Beyond being an exercise in using the pathfinder tool, the tutorial presents a way of thinking about creating icons.
It’s important to remember when creating an icon in Illustrator that the components of the finished design can be highly distilled and not to the exact scale. Icons act as representations of their real-life counterparts and should stay recognizable even after abstracting them into simpler shapes. Another advantage of breaking them down is that it makes them easily manipulated through the design process.
Note: The tutorial uses the default grid of 1-inch intervals divided into 8 subdivisions. 1 inch equals 72 pts (points are the default unit of measurement in Illustrator), therefore each subdivision equals 9 pts. Later in the tutorial, the stroke width is changed to 9pts to correspond to the sub-divisions.
1. Go to the VIEW menu > SHOW GRID and then VIEW menu > SNAP TO GRID.
2. Type D on the keyboard to get to your default colors of a white fill and a black stroke. With the Rectangle Tool, click on the screen and make a square that is 117 pts wide by 117 pts high. This will form the base of the icon.
3. With the Rectangle Tool, click on the screen again and make a rectangle that is 63pts wide by 36pts high.
4. With the Ellipse Tool, click on the screen and make a circle that is 36pts wide by 36pts high.
5. Move the circle so that half of the shape overlaps the left-hand side of the rectangle. Open the Pathfinder Panel from the WINDOW menu, select the circle and rectangle and click on Unite in the Pathfinder Panel.
6. Move the combined shape to the bottom right corner of the large square.
7. Select the new shape with the Black Arrow and hold down the Alt or Opt key and drag a copy above the original, it should overlap the shape by 1 grid square.
Make a third copy and drag it above the second, overlapping by 1 grid square again.
8. Make another copy of the shape and drag it outside the large square. With it still selected double click the Rotate Tool and rotate the shape 90 degrees.
Move the shape so that the right-hand side aligns with the right edge of the box and the top extends above the top by 2 grid squares.
10. Select the last shape and ALT/OPT drag to copy the shape, drag it over to the right-hand side. With it still selected double click the Rotate Tool and rotate the shape 90 degrees.
Move the shape so that it aligns with the top of the large rectangle and overlaps the right-hand side by one grid square.
11. Open the Stroke Panel, if the options aren’t showing, click on the menu to Show Options. Then, select all the shapes, change the stroke weight to 9pts and change the alignment to the inside of the shape.
12. With all of the shapes still selected, go to the OBJECT menu > PATH submenu > OUTLINE STROKE. This will make a shape from the 9pts stroke weight as well as a shape from the fill. This will allow us in subsequent steps to divide up all of the shapes and either retain the outline OR use the interior of the shapes as the final icon.
13. With the shapes still selected, click on the Divide icon in the Pathfinder Panel.
Go to the OBJECT menu > UNGROUP to separate all of the elements.
14. With the Black Arrow, select the part of the “thumb” that sticks out at the top of the square and delete the black outline and white fill.
15. Two of the separated pieces also need to be recolored. The top piece below where we just deleted the shapes needs to change from white to black. Select it with the Black Arrow and then click on the Eyedropper Tool and click on the black line next to it (this will ensure it is the same exact black as everywhere else.) The vertical piece of the thumb on the left need to become white. Refer to the diagram below.
16. Select one of the black shapes with the Black Arrow and go to the SELECT menu > SAME submenu > FILL COLOR. This will select anything on the screen with the same fill color as the original selected shape.
17. Click on the Unite Icon on the Pathfinder Panel to unite all of the black shapes.
18. Select one of the white shapes (these will be shapes inside the outlines) with the Black Arrow and go to the SELECT menu > SAME submenu > FILL COLOR. This will select anything on the screen with the same fill color as the original selected shape.
Click on the Unite Icon on the Pathfinder Panel to unite all of the white shapes.
19. With the united white shape selected move it to the right of the outlined shape and change the fill color to black (or some other color of your choosing)