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Aug 13

Creating pins in Illustrator

2007 at 08.47 am posted by Veerle Pieters

Pins are popular these days, so I thought why not write a tutorial on how to create these in Adobe Illustrator. If you’ve ever wondered how to simulate this realistic looking pin or button effect, here’s your chance to learn.

Draw the pin shape

Creating pins in Illustrator - Draw the pin shape

Draw a circle by choosing the Ellipse tool and holding down the shift key while dragging the mouse.

Fill with a gradient

Creating pins in Illustrator - Fill with a gradient

To the left of the circle is my Geeky Dog that I want to use for the pin, but just for demonstration purpose we'll create an actual pin first and then at the end we'll wrap it with this illustration. Add a radial gradient fill to the circle. I've used orange yellow in my example here. Now change the position of the radial gradient by selecting the Gradient tool in the Toolbox and click-drag while holding down the shift key from the center bottom of the circle towards somewhere above the center point of the circle.

Draw the shiny highlight shape

Creating pins in Illustrator - Draw the shiny highlight shape

Create a new layer by clicking the Add New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Double click the new layer and give it the name 'shiny highlight'. Press 'd' on the keyboard to set white as fill color and black as stroke color. Set the stroke to no fill by clicking on the Stroke icon in the Toolbox or Color palette and selecting the 'None' fill option at the bottom of the Toolbox or Color palette (the white square with the red diagonal line). Select the Ellipse tool again and draw a circle (holding down the shift key) that is slightly smaller then the pin's circle. The circle should have a white fill now and no border. Deselect the circle and draw a wider ellipse (with a white fill) on top of this white circle a bit as shown in the image above. Select both the pin's circle and the white ellipse and circle. Click the vertical center alignment in the Option bar (or Align palette) to align everything nicely.

Creating pins in Illustrator - Draw the shiny highlight shape

Deselect the pin's circle. Use the (black arrow) selection tool and click the gradient/pin's circle holding down the shift key. Now only the white ellipse and circle are selected. Click the Subtract from Shape area in the Pathfinder palette and click the Expand button.

Add the shiny highlight effect

Creating pins in Illustrator - Add the shiny highlight effect

Select the Rectangle shape tool in the Toolbox and draw a rectangle on top of the highlight shape. Make sure the rectangle covers the entire highlight shape. Fill the rectangle with the default white to black linear gradient enter -90° as angle value or use the Gradient tool again like you did for the radial gradient for the pin's background. Only now you need to move downwards with the mouse holding down the shift key. Now select both the gradient rectangle and the white highlight shape. Now selecting the highlight shape might be a bit tricky. You can make it yourself very easy by using the Layers palette's "Click to target's" option. I'm referring to the small circle buttons you see on the right of each layer. Click on the arrow to the left of the layer thumbnail of the 'shiny highlight' Layer to reveal all sub-layers. Now click the sub-layer that holds the white highlight shape, hold down the shift key and click the sub-layer that holds the gradient rectangle.

Creating pins in Illustrator - Add the shiny highlight effect

This gradient rectangle will be used as masking effect for our highlight. Now that we have both shapes selected, all we need to do is go to the Transparency palette and choose 'Make Opacity Mask' in the palette's dropdown menu.

Add the image on the pin

Creating pins in Illustrator - Add the image on the pin

Select the gradient circle and copy the shape. Now select the image you want to put on the pin. Make sure the image is one group (command/control + g). To make it easy on yourself, make sure this image is in a separate layer on top of the gradient circle. Drag the image on top of the pin now. Make sure the pin is nicely covered and things are nicely centered etc. Now hit command/control + f (to paste the gradient circle on right on top). Give this circle no fill. Now click the target circle icon again in its layer to select the entire layer. Hit command/control + 7. This way the circle is used as a mask for the image. Hey, it looks like you have almost a pin now :) Almost yes, exactly, because we're not there yet. We need to make it perfect.

Add more depth to make it perfect

Creating pins in Illustrator - Add more depth to make it perfect

I think it could use a bit more depth. Create a new layer on top of the image but below the shiny highlight layer. Double click it and call it 'depth effect'. Paste the circle in front again by pressing command/control + f. Change the colors of the gradient fill to white and black as shown in the image and drag the gradient slider all the way to the right.

Creating pins in Illustrator - Add more depth to make it perfect

Change the Layer mode to Multiply to make the white transparent. Change the transparency to 20% or higher if you believe higher is better. This depends a bit on the color of the image. 'Et voilà', you have your pin :)

Gravatastic desktop illustration

detail of the Gravatestic desktop illustration

Here are my Illustrator pins placed as Smart Objects in Photoshop. You can download this as a desktop if you like. For those who wonder how to create this pin in Photoshop, sit tight I'll tell you this in my next tutorial. Meanwhile I hope you all enjoyed this tutorial and have learned something fun and useful.

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


33served

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permalink this comment Oli Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 09.19 am

Nice technique! Like it! THNX!!!


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permalink this comment Kate Bolin Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 10.04 am

Just when I needed it!  Thank you!


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permalink this comment Pawel Komarnicki Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 10.17 am

Very interesting and nice final effect :) (huh, my first comment made after months of reading :D)


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permalink this comment Johann Grimm Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 10.25 am

Boo ! Illustrator ! Boo !

(Can I have the same with Inkscape ? k thx bye) :)

Anyway, it is a VERY nice technique.


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permalink this comment David G. Paul Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12.42 pm

very cool tutorial


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permalink this comment Erlend Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 12.46 pm

How about releasing the source file, i’d love to make a t-shirt with those badges.


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permalink this comment Shir Adivi Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 01.29 pm

One more great backgound!

As usual, simple and elegant. Just the way I like it!


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permalink this comment Deron Sizemore Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02.35 pm

Nice tutorial! I’ve always wondered how to create the sun burst effect behind the pins in the image above. Do you have a tutorial on that?


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permalink this comment jayhan Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02.42 pm

simple but useful tricks as always :)

Badges are cute, and the graphics inside the badges is great too.

i would like to know how u make those relief like effect on the text of the wallpaper and how to make it warp like that? :) Thanks.


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permalink this comment guy gerber Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 02.43 pm

great technique, can’t wait to try it with a picture in the background.

I must say the ‘V’ in the final image looks more like a ‘Y’ to me. must be the warping or something?


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permalink this comment Hanabi Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 03.06 pm

Hey Veerle… another amazing tutorial. For some reason I got a bit stuck in the section about Subtracting from the shape. I must have selected the circles in the wrong order or something.

Turned out nice in the end. I made a badge out of the logo for the NHS (who I work for). I want to print it now and buy one of those actual badge making kits that we used to get to play with in school. :)


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permalink this comment Johanna Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 03.13 pm

I’m not very proficient in Illustrator yet and really enjoyed following your tutorial. I rebuilt a button I just recently made in “real life” for our film festival durchgedreht 24, here’s my result: image

Thank you!


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permalink this comment Thomassl Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 03.45 pm

Nice! You have been great inspiration for me, thanks! (Now i have DeLurked)


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permalink this comment Stephanie Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 05.30 pm

Can’t wait for the Photoshop version!

@Deron: Veerle covers the sun burst technique in this article on transform again in Photoshop, there’s a companion article for Illustrator too if you search the archives.


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permalink this comment Deron Sizemore Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 06.52 pm

@Stephanie: Thanks a lot! :-)


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permalink this comment zeb Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 08.07 pm

I can do it in photoshop but didn’t try it in Illustrator. Thanks for taking time to write this tutorial.


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permalink this comment Georg Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 09.10 pm

Nice tutorial Veerle. I will run Illustrator and do some pins asap.


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permalink this comment Jeff Sargent Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 11.58 pm

Very cool, Veerle - thanks for posting this.  I’m just trying to think of something cool to put on the button to try this out :)


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permalink this comment Emilie Bee Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 01.24 am

New RSS suscriber here, came in through the “page curl” tutorial, though I remember happening across one or two other tutorials from here in the past. I love the blog, smart and fun tips and howto’s. Great work, and thanks.


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permalink this comment Brent Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 04.02 am

Your tutorials are the best, thanks.

mimo pin

mima pin


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permalink this comment Veerle Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 09.42 am

Thanks for the comments and for showing me the pins you’ve made. This is so cool :)

Erlend said:

How about releasing the source file, i’d love to make a t-shirt with those badges.

I’m sorry my friend but I can’t, because what you are referring to is what I have in mind as well (but a bit different) :-/

Deron Sizemore said:

I’ve always wondered how to create the sun burst effect behind the pins in the image above. Do you have a tutorial on that?

It’s indeed the Transform Again in Photoshop article where I explain this. Thanks Stephanie :)

jayhan said:

I would like to know how u make those relief like effect on the text of the wallpaper and how to make it warp like that?

I created the text in Illustrator: typed the text, converted the text into outlines: Type > Create Outlines (or hit command/control + shift + o) and added a mesh to it: Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Mesh. I used 1 row and 2 columns. After that you need to drag the points to achieve the effect. I expanded the text (Object > Expand) so it becomes a path again and then I pasted it in Photoshop as a shape layer.

The relief is done pretty fast and easy. I duplicated the layer, moved the layer below the original one, I filled it with a lighter color and moved it 2 pixels downwards and 2 pixels to the right (using the arrow keys).

guy gerber said:

I must say the ‘V’ in the final image looks more like a ‘Y’ to me. must be the warping or something?

I’ve noticed this myself, it’s a’ V’ though not an ‘Y’. It’s a rather heavy typeface and I was looking for a more elegant one in the same style. If I had more time I would have tweaked this ‘V’ a little bit and I would have tried to make it look a bit lighter as well.


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permalink this comment Lola Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 09.55 pm

Amazing tutorial. Thank you for sharing it!


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permalink this comment Ben Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 02.04 pm

Nice :) could you tell me what typeface that is? Thanks :)


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permalink this comment Jim Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 06.50 pm

That is awesome.  Thanks


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permalink this comment Tapety Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 10.26 pm

This is very useful. Very inspirational in fact - gonna use it in my next work. Thanks again! :)


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permalink this comment Kim Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 01.54 am

You know… you have a great blog here. These tutorials are quite interesting. Where do you find the time? You are obviously a mentor to many a young designer! Keep up the good work. Being at an interactive agency, I hear your name come up often. I admire you!


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permalink this comment Luyza Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 11.13 am

I want that black kitty pin….


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permalink this comment Veerle Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 04.40 pm

Ben said:

could you tell me what typeface that is?

The typeface is called Mohair, but unfortunately I didn’t find any link for you to buy this font :-\


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permalink this comment Dave Sat Aug 18, 2007 at 07.46 pm

Cool tutorial, I may open up Illustrator just to give this a try.

Thanks Veerle!


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permalink this comment Tomasz Gorski Sun Aug 19, 2007 at 11.40 pm

I really like Your work, Your Illustrator tutorial is great the “Gravatastic desktop illustration” looks fantastic! I will try to do it. Regards


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permalink this comment Jon Buda Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 06.43 am

Cool! Great tips here. How do you go about making the background for the Gravastatic image?


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permalink this comment Youri Thu Aug 23, 2007 at 07.53 pm

Love the result, thnx!


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permalink this comment Sierra Fri Aug 24, 2007 at 09.06 pm

That is really awesome. Thanks for the great work I study graphic for more then a year but You really inspire me.



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