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Andrei Marius On April - 6 - 2010

Hi there. This is a really fast tutorial. In only seven steps you’ll learn to make a paperclip icon. You will only need the Rounded Rectangle Tool, the Direct Selection Tool and the Gradient Tool. Also you might learn some basic stuff about working with grids and strokes.

Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate
Estimated Completion Time: 20 minutes
Number of Steps: 7

This is what you’ll be creating:


Step 01

Create a 256 by 256px document. First turn on the grids: View > Show Grid (Ctrl + “). Now, you need a grid every 10px. Go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid enter “10″ in the “Gridline every :” box and “1″ in the “Subdivisions” box. Next, turn on the snap to grid option: View > Snap to Grid (Shift + Ctrl + “). All these options will ease your work.

Step 02

Now, let’s create the paper clip. Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 60 by 240 shape. To increase/decrese the roundness of your shape hit the up/down button (while you click and drag). Fill this shape with none and add a 8pt stroke (for the moment use any color you want). Select this shape, go to the Appearance pallete, click on Stroke (the text) then click on the Align Stroke Center and on the Round Cap buttons. Pick the Direct Selection Tool(A) select the bottom anchor point (the one highlighted in image #1) and hit the delete key.

Step 03

Reselect the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 50 by 180 shape (place it as shown in image #1). Use the same properties shown in step #1. Pick the Direct Selection Tool(A), select the top anchor point then hit the delete key.

Step 04

Once again select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and create a 30 by 160 shape (place it as shown in image #1). Use the same properties shown in the previous steps. Pick the Direct Selection Tool(A) select the bottom anchor point (the one highlighted in image #1) and hit the delete key.

Step 05

Select the hightlighted anchor points (with the Direct Selection Tool) and move them a few pixels up (as shown in image #2).

Step 06

Select all these shape and go to Object > Expand. Select the resulting shapes and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder pallete. Rotate this new shape 45° then make it bigger (pick the Selection Tool, select the shape, hold Shift + Alt then resize it as shown in image #4).

Step 07

Next, let’s add some colour. First, select the shape and fill it with R=224 G=224 B=225. Add a new fill (from the drop down menu of the Appearance pallete) and use the gradient shown in image #2. Reselect the shape and add the Inner Glow shown in image #3. Finally add the Drop Shadow effect shown in image #4.


Now your paperclip icon is done. Here is how it should look like:

Categories: Icons

26 Responses

  1. Sneh Roy says:

    Very Nice! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. FAQPAL says:

    Excellent result, thanks for the share.

  3. Arshad Cini says:

    Easy to understand.
    Thanks Marius

  4. Espreson says:

    Simple but useful tutorial…

  5. woody says:

    Very useful tutorial! Thank you Marius!

  6. nars says:

    nice, simple and elegant. Thanks

  7. Ubi says:

    Simple and still good tutorial.

  8. Very simple and useful!
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Jesse says:

    Nice and useful tutorial,I shared it on delicious. Thanks.

  10. oyunlar says:

    Very simple and useful!
    Thanks for sharing!

  11. lektire says:

    only one word : AWESOME!!

  12. fajarfaqih says:

    wow! very smart technique ^0^ !

  13. Blue says:

    Really great and easily understandable tutorial. But I have a question…
    When I’ve created the icon it looks good and all, but when I try and scale it, the gradients and other things don’t scale, so it ends up just being a flatly shaded gray paperclip shape. I must be doing something wrong, but I can’t find what… Any ideas? I’d much appreciate the help.

  14. DAVID says:

    Easy to follow, nice one.

  15. mark allen says:

    really useful, thanks loads!

  16. Cgbaran says:

    Great tutorial thanks

  17. Furyon says:

    That is great thx

  18. Josie Bond says:

    Thanks for this, it helped out a bunch!

  19. Lil johnny says:

    hehehehehehehehehehehhehehehehehehhehe SIMPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. laok4399 says:

    very nice tutorial,thanks.

  21. Gary says:

    This is great, unfortunately I tried scaling it down to 32 by 32 and it doesn’t look very good. Any ideas on how to improve it? The 32 by 32 version doesn’t have enough mass and doesn’t look much like a paper clip. I understand iconography is an art, but any tips help.

    • Hi, sorry for the late response.
      I do not have the time to try it myself, but I believe that it would look better if you add some extra space between the metal bars. Also, try to simplify the number of colors. Try it without the Inner Glow (maybe replace it with a simple stroke, try it and see if it works) and edit that Drop Shadow effect (try it with the blur set at 0).

  22. hirokakaoshi says:

    Great tutorial, thanks for sharing :-)

  23. veeru says:

    great tutorial thks for that…….

  24. sanath says:

    Great Tutorial….thanks……

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