Final Product What You'll Be Creating
When creating icons, many designers struggle to decide how much detail to include. Should the icon be simple or complex? In this tutorial, we’ll create a detailed 3D monkey icon using a photo of a toy monkey as a reference. In the process, we’ll add texture and lighting.
The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.
Create a new document with 1024×1024 pixel resolution at 72dpi in RGB color space. Place the Toy photo inside the document from File > Insert.
With the Pen Tool (P) trace the toy but use different layers for each body part. I traced and separated the parts so you can see what I’ve done.
Add an Inner Shadow Layer Style to each part but exclude the ears. You have to refine the Size Propriety to better match each part. See the image below.
Select an ear Layer and add a new Gradient Fill Adjustments Layer above. Then apply the gradient layer as a clipping mask by clicking on the thin separation line between the two layers while holding the Alt key. Repeat this step for right ear, but change the gradient angle.
As you can see I did not trace each form perfectly. It’s not required.
Now, based upon the toy photo, we’ll create the lights and shadows. I’ll show you a nice and non-destructive method to do this. Basically there are three steps. 1- Create a shape; 2- Convert the shape into a Smart Object; 3- Add to the shape a Gaussian Blur Filter. White color for lights, black color for shadows. And obviously Layer Blending Mode (Soft Light or Overlay).
Let’s begin with the head. In the image below you can see how and where I added lights and shadows. You can always use the Free Transform (Command/Ctrl + T) to alter the shapes. Remember to use a blending mode (Soft Light or Overlay are the best option) and play with Opacity settings. The blur radius used is always different; it depends on the type of effect you want. For example, the shadow under the head is very hard so it has a low radius value and an opacity of 90%. I also used a white to transparent radial gradient layer adjustment in Overlay mode and 30% Opacity to boost a little the top light spot.
It’s time to do the lighting for the body. Just use the same method that I explained in Step 6. Tip: when drawing a shape with the Pen Tool (P) try to follow the lines of the body and after edit the Smart Object with Command/Ctrl + T, and if needed use a layer mask.
So, as usual style the other parts. Below you can see the monkey feet lighting scheme.
Here are the arms.
And finally the ears. You can notice that i added some black in a separate layer, inside arms and ears junction.
Now a quick preview.
Let’s start with the face. Follow the usual method and draw a shape like this below.
Add a white shape above with this Layer Style.
With the Ellipse Tool (U) draw a circle inside the last shape and add this Layer Style.
In separate layers add some reflections to the eye, and decrease the opacity if needed. Try to draw some white squares with a soft brush. I also add a little color spot in Color Dodge Blending mode on the pupil. Group all the eye layers.
Duplicate the first eye, and reflect it. I paint some gray color in a separate layer to boost the contrast and add a nice 3D looks.
For the nose add a new shape layer and apply the Step 6 method.
Draw a little black shape for the nostril, use the same method, when finished duplicate the layer and reflect it horizontally.
Create a new shape with the Pen Tool (P) and add this Layer Style.
Add a dark red shape inside the black one. Then add a strong Inner Shadow Layer Style.
A basic tooth is composed by two parts. You can see the associated Layers Style in the next step.
Here it is the upper part Layer Style…
And the bottom part.
Merge the two parts inside a Smart Object and try to compose the teeth as below. When finished group the teeth and convert the group into a Smart Object again.
Apply the Smart Object as a Clipping Mask to the mouth shape. You’ll get this. Tip: you can move the teeth by double clicking on the icon thumbnails in the Smart Object Layer to open the .psd associated file.
Add this Layer Style to the teeth. In a separate layer paint some black to refine the shadows. Use the image below as a reference.
It’s time to create the fur, but first we need a special custom brush. Open the brush panel and select the Dune Grass brush. Apply this style.
Let’s see how the brush should be used. Select a high brush size and quickly paint some fur on a new layer. Use a light brown color and set the layer blending mode to soft light and 60% opacity.
Create a new layer above the last one, select a small brush size and a dark brown color. You have to fill the body of the monkey with fur. Try to invert the brush angle in the brush panel. The fur should follow the body shape of the monkey.
With the Pen Tool draw some white shape and set the blending mode to Soft Light. You can notice that I refined the lights on the face by simply adding some blurred white shape in soft light mode like before.
Add a new blank layer on top and paint some fur near the eyes and the mouth with a small brush.
Finally I added a red background and a cast shadow to the monkey. We’re almost done!
Last thing to do is the tail. The process is very simple: draw a shape with the Pen Tool (P) and add the fur in a separate blank layer and finally use a soft Drop Shadow Layer Style.