Creating Monkey Icon with Photoshop

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.

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Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

Create a new document with 1024×1024 pixel resolution at 72dpi in RGB space. Place the Toy photo inside the document from File > Insert.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

Add an Inner 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.

Step 4

Select an ear Layer and add a new Gradient Fill Adjustments Layer above. Then apply the gradient layer as a clipping 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.

Step 5

As you can see I did not trace each form perfectly. It’s not required.

Step 6

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).

Step 7

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 of 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.

Step 8

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 .

Step 9

So, as usual style the other parts. Below you can see the monkey feet lighting scheme.

Step 10

Here are the arms.

Step 11

And finally the ears. You can notice that i added some black in a separate layer, inside arms and ears junction.

Step 12

Now a quick preview.

Step 13

Let’s start with the face. Follow the usual method and draw a shape like this below.

Step 14

Add a white shape above with this Layer Style.

Step 15

With the Ellipse Tool (U) draw a circle inside the last shape and add this Layer Style.

Step 16

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.

Step 17

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.

Step 18

For the nose add a new shape layer and apply the Step 6 method.

Step 19

Draw a little black shape for the nostril, use the same method, when finished duplicate the layer and reflect it horizontally.

Step 20

Create a new shape with the Pen Tool (P) and add this Layer Style.

Step 21

Add a dark red shape inside the black one. Then add a strong Inner Shadow Layer Style.

Step 22

A basic tooth is composed by two parts. You can see the associated Layers Style in the next step.

Step 23

Here it is the upper part Layer Style…

Step 24

And the bottom part.

Step 25

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.

Step 26

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.

Step 27

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.

Step 28

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.

Step 29

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.

Step 30

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.

Step 31

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.

Step 32

Add a new blank layer on top and paint some fur near the eyes and the mouth with a small brush.

Step 33

Finally I added a red background and a cast shadow to the monkey. We’re almost done!

Step 34

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.

Final Image

  • Logo Design Contest

    Brilliant tutorial and really a useful stuff to learn designing an icon with this impressive techniques. Thanks

  • 99designs reviews

    I love your tutorial, good steps are defined to create a awful Icons in this realistic way.

  • Website Template

    Wow amazing!You have done such a great job here very inspiring ..I appreciate your creative effort for making these  monkey icon designs..Great work keep it up….

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