Easy Tutorial – Make Icons in Adobe Illustrator (Pathfinder Tool)

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How to Make Icons in Illustrator Holiday

Today I’m going to be showing you how easy it is to create your own custom icons in Adobe Illustrator. This is also a great way to learn the Pathfinder Tool if you never have before!

But first, tell me. Which one of these 2 graphics do you prefer?

Graphic Design Icons vs No Icons Comparison-  How to Make Custom Icons in Illustrator Tutorial

If you chose Option 2, then you and I agree: icons have the power to make design better.

Why Use Icons?

Here are three reasons I like to use icons in my designs.

1. Icons Illustrate Your Point

Icons are just tiny little pictures that provide a visual representation of the text. Think of your favorite storybook as a child – I bet you remember the illustrations from it– maybe you remember the images more than you remember the words.

I love what Donald Miller teaches about branding in his book, Building A Story Brand.

Essentially – When people land on your website, they don’t want to waste brain power trying to figure out what you do. A good graphic consisting of good icons can tell people exactly what they need to know without having to read a thing.

2. Icons can be Customized to Your Brand/Style Sheet

There are a lot of standard-issue icons out there, but if you learn how to create your own in Adobe Illustrator — you can make icons that are unique to your brand. You can use your colors, your style, and your own illustration techniques.


After you learn how to make icons, find out How to Create Animated GIFS in Photoshop


3. Icons Make Big Chunks of Text Easy to Scan

Adding visuals like images or icons allows you to break up all the text, which increases the ability of readers to scan your content.. and well-structured, scannable content makes internet readers happy!


You can keep scrolling to read the step-by-step for creating icons, or you can watch me create a perfect snowflake in this video tutorial..

Watch Illustrator Snowflake Tutorial on Youtube

How to Make Icons in Adobe Illustrator

Now that we know some reasons you might want to use them, let’s get on with how to create your own icons in Adobe Illustrator. Here’s the icon we’ll be creating:

You can either make this snowflake icon a stand-alone snowflake, or you can give it a circle (or any other shape) background.

Create an Icon in Illustrator Step 1:
Open Illustrator & Create a New Document

My Illustrator Document Settings are:

  • 500px Width x 500px Height
  • Color Mode: RGB
  • PPI: 72 (Screen Resolution)

Create an Icon in Illustrator Step 2:
Create Your Snowflake

  • First, make sure your Smart Guides are on.
    View > Smart Guides. You’ll see a checkmark here if they’re on.
  • Now choose the Line Segment Tool from the toolbar and draw out a line in the center of the document, about halfway down.

    snowflake icon illustrator step 2
  • Draw another, smaller line at an angle to your first line, like so:

    step 3 make an icon in illustrator
  • With the smaller line selected, Right Click > Transform > Reflect
  • In the Reflect Pop Up, select Horizontal Axis and click Copy
  • Holding Shift, drag the reflected line to the opposite side of your first big line until it intersects and makes a little “V” shape.
  • Select both the little lines, then go to Object > Group to group them together. You can also press Command/Ctrl + G on the keyboard.
  • With the little “V” lines selected, hold down Shift + Option/Alt and drag down a second “V”.

    Step 4 icon in illustrator
  • Press Command/Ctrl + D on the keyboard to repeat this step until you have as many little V’s as you want, then drag to select all the lines and group them together (Command/Ctr + G)
  • Now we’re going to finish the snowflake by copying & rotating this little stalk around our canvas. Choose the Rotate Tool from your toolbar. If you don’t see it, it may be hiding under the Reflect tool.
  • With the stalk selected, Click the bottom of the snowflake to place your anchor point.
  • Now click on the top point of the stalk and drag it to the right as you hold down Option/Alt + Shift at the same time. This will make a copy of the stalk and also rotate it a perfect 45 degrees.

    snowflake icon in illustrator step 5
  • Press Command/Ctrl + D six more times to repeat the rotation around our anchor point, resulting in a complete snowflake.

    Step 6 create an icon in illustrator
  • Now group the whole snowflake. Object > Group or use the keyboard shortcut, Command/Ctrl + G.
  • With the snowflake still selected, play with your stroke effects until you have an appearance you are happy with.
  • To open Stroke Options, go to Window > Stroke. I set my stroke thickness to 11px and selected Round Cap to give the lines a rounded appearance, like so:

    step 7 snowflake icon in illustrator

Create an Icon in Illustrator Step 3:
Join Your Strokes with the Pathfinder Tool

  • When you’re happy with the appearance of your snowflake, convert it to a shape. Converting to a shape means the snowflake will always keep the same proportions when you scale it.
  • Object > Path > Outline Stroke
  • Outlining the stroke makes each little line a shape, but we’re going to combine all the shapes into one using the Pathfinder Tool
  • To access the Pathfinder Tool, go to Window > Pathfinder
  • Under Shape Modes, Select Option 1: Unite. Now our little lines are all one big shape.

    Pink Snowflake Illustrator Icon Tutorial
  • You can change the color or scale the snowflake to your desired size.

    Icon Tutorial Illustrator Step 8
  • You can save your icon on it’s own like this, or you can go to the next step to add a background..

Learn How to Make A Perfect Heart in Illustrator


Create an Icon in Illustrator Step 4:
Subtract from Shape Area – Pathfinder Tool

  • A lot of icons are in the shape of a little circle or square. Let’s add a circular background to this snowflake icon.
  • Choose the Ellipse Tool from the tool bar. If you don’t see it, look under the Rectangle Tool.
  • Click once on your canvas and put in the dimensions of your ellipse. I chose 500px width x 500px height to make a perfect circle the size of my canvas.
  • Center the circle vertically and horizontally on the canvas with your Align Tool. If you don’t see it, go to Window > Align.
  • Right click the circle and choose Arrange > Send to Back. This will put the circle behind your snowflake.

    Make sure to also center your snowflake vertically and horizontally.

    I make the circle and the snowflake different colors so it’s easier to see.

    make an icon in illustrator step 9
  • Now drag to select both the circle and the snowflake.
  • From the Pathfinder Menu, under Shape Modes, choose Option 2: Minus Front

    make an icon in illustrator step 10
  • Now the area where the snowflake is has been cut out of the circle, so it’s technically transparent. In the image above, the snowflake appears white because it’s on a white background. If my blog had a blue background, the snowflake would show through as blue.

Enjoying this tutorial? Check out these 8 icons I created just for you.

As part of this post, here are 8 FREE Winter Holiday .PNG Icons for you. You can download them from my Free Resource Library. If you don’t have access, fill out the form below. I’ll email you the password, but be sure to check your Spam folder if you don’t see an email from Maker Lex within a couple of minutes.


Create an Icon in Illustrator Step 5:
Save your Icon as a .PNG

  • Now go to File > Export > Save for Web and save your icon as a .PNG or .GIF if you want to maintain the transparency. Otherwise you can save it as a JPG
  • You can open and edit .PNG or .GIF files in Illustrator, so you’ll be able to change the color of the icon in the future.

How to Make Chevron Zig Zag Lines in Illustrator


That’s it!

Now you know how to create an icon in Illustrator, and you also learned about a lot of cool Illustrator tools along the way..

  • line segment tool
  • rotate tool
  • stroke options
  • pathfinder tool
  • keyboard shortcuts

Now I challenge you to make a pizza icon and share it with me by tagging @makerlex on Instagram!


By the way, have you read my Holiday Gift Guide for Bloggers?


If you enjoyed this tutorial, be sure to Pin this image so you can come back to it – or to share it with your friends!

How to Make Icons in Illustrator 8 Free Holiday Icons

Thanks for following along,

Maker Lex Signature

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