In this tutorial, we want to create a very simple, clean handbag icon. I worked in a fancy accessories store back in College so I’ve always loved purses! We’ll show you some simple tricks for creating graphic simplification of an object, as well as some tips on how to create punch contrast as you’re shading your shapes.
As to our purse style, printed microfibres in tans and beiges have always been popular, especially when paired with dark leather trim. It’s simple, clean and classic, so that’s what we’re going to aim for!
Drawing the Main Compartment
Let’s begin with the main compartment of the purse. Draw a rounded rectangle shape using the ‘Rounded Rectangle’ Shape Tool:
Shape Tool Tip: When you click on the shape tool and hold to bring up your Shape Tool options, you’ll notice a little extra tab on the right. If you move your mouse onto this tab and release the mouse button, it’ll open a separate mini-toolbar of your shape tools. This is called a ‘tearoff’ toolbar and gives you one-click access to all of your shape tools. Tearoffs work on several tools including the Pen and Pencil tools.
We’ll need to modify this shape to give it a narrower bottom and wider top, since that’s the ‘classic’ shape we’re aiming for here. To do this, select the rectangle and bring up your ‘Warp’ palette (Object > Envelope Distort > Warp):
The Warp tool is a very handy way to modify your shapes. Under the ‘Style’ drop down menu you’ll see all sorts of fun and crazy effects you can apply to your object:
We’re going to stick with ‘Arc’. Wait a minute, you may ask: how will an arc warp possibly work on a purse? Watch and see!
We’re going to make sure our ‘preview’ box is checked on, so that we can see how our warp is going to affect our shape. Next, click on the ‘vertical’ radio button, so that we’re only warping the shape up-and-down (rather than side-to-side). Change the ‘bend’ to ‘0’ and this will ensure that we’re not actually arcing our shape, we’ll just be widening it at the top or bottom. Here are some examples of different warp values, added using the ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ Distortion sliders:
After playing around with all of our options in AI, we chose a -12 vertical warp, which gave us the cleanly tapered look we wanted:
Expanding an Envelope Distort
Note above that there are some funky blue lines crossing our shape: This is because we haven’t ‘expanded’ our warp. Go to ‘Object > Envelope Distort > Expand’ to change your shape back into an easily editable object:
Now we’ll add a leather strap as a detail. On a new layer, draw a simple skinny rectangle across the base of the purse. Select both the rectangle and our purse’s base shape and hit ‘Align Centre’ in your Pathfinder Palette:
Bring up your ‘Direct Select’ arrow (the white arrow), and click-drag across the bottom left hand point of the rectangle. Hit your sideways direction arrow a few times until the angle of the side roughly matches the purse shape. Repeat with the other side:
Copy and paste your rectangle on top of itself so we can start making a buckle. Since we’ll be selecting a lot of points here, it’ll be easiest to copy this shape onto a new layer: That way we won’t be accidentally editing our base strap shape!
When your strap’s on its own layer, click and drag with your Direct Select arrow over the right hand edge of the shape. Then hit delete on your keyboard:
(Note: In the example above, we’ve turned off all our other layers so you can clearly see what we’re doing!)
With our Direct Select (white) arrow, we’ll click and drag over the two right hand ends. You’ll notice they will show as a point with a blue fill, while the points you didn’t select (on the left) stay filled with white:
Click on the ‘Horizontal Align Right’ button in your Pathfinder palette. This will square up our two points:
While they’re still selected, hit ‘Command-J’ (Mac) or ‘Control-J’ (PC). This will close our shape:
Now bring up your Pen tool (P on your keyboard). Hover it over the centre of the right hand line and place a point roughly in the middle (you’ll notice a little ‘+’ icon will appear on your Pen cursor as you hover over the line, meaning it’s ready to add a point):
Once again, with your Direct Select arrow, click and drag over all 3 points on the right to select them. Click on the ‘Vertical Distribute Center’ button in your Align palette to make sure the points are equidistant (you’ll see why in just a second):
Select the center point with your Direct Select arrow and move it a few points to the right using your keyboard’s direction arrows. This creates a nice point that will make up the tip of the strap that goes under a buckle:
Click-drag over the 3 right hand points once again and using your left keyboard direction arrow, move them over a ways. This is because the buckle will be appearing on the right hand side of the purse. Here are our shapes with all the layers turned back on:
To finish off our strap, we’ll draw dashed horizontal lines towards the top and bottom of the strap to look like stitching. Play around with the dash and spaces in your Strokes palette until you’re happy with the results. We’ve used a rounded cap dash, because the normal squared edging on a stroke doesn’t look much like real stitches:
Adding a Buckle and some Eyelets
For the eyelets, we’ll simply draw some circles and use our Pathfinder’s ‘Exclude’ button so that when we fill them with color, the middle will be hollow like a donut. We’ll also do the same for our buckle, using a rounded cornered rectangle shape. We’ll copy these donut shapes and offset them underneath to simulate a drop shadow. Here are our shapes with fill colors applied:
In order to apply a gradient to our dashed ‘stitching’ line, we’ve had to expand the strokes. But beware: Newer versions of Adobe Illustrator, such as CS4, will automatically preserve the appearance of your strokes (such as rounded caps, dashed lines, etc). However older versions of AI might have trouble.
You can leave the strokes unexpanded and just give them a flat colored fill, or, use this little trick: With a dashed line or rounded cap stroke selected, go to Object > Flatten Transparency. Set the ‘Raster Vector Balance’ slider to 100% vectors and hit ‘OK’. This will preserve the appearance you’ve applied to your strokes, but please note that it will cause open shapes! If you are planning on uploading to microstock sites be sure to check that your shapes are closed after using ‘Flatten Transparency’. For more info on open shapes, please check out this article.
We’re using very subtle gradients here to give everything a nice subtle sense of depth without being overwhelming. We’ve chosen a slightly green-tinted tan for the body of the purse, and a light chocolate brown for the leather strap. For the buckles, we’ve used an orangey-yellow and created a metallic gold look by using a linear gradient with several different tints of the yellow:
Creating a Simple Pattern
Before we finish off by adding a strap, we feel like the purse still looks a little bland. Let’s add a pattern!
Start off by drawing a random geometric shape. It doesn’t have to be fancy, this is going to be a subtle effect. We’ve drawn a rectangle with a little offshoot, just to make things interesting. We’ve used Pathfinder’s ‘Merge’ function to connect our shapes:
We’ll start copying and pasting this shape (Command-C Command-F on Mac, or Control-C Control-F on a PC), and moving the shapes around until we’re happy with how dense the pattern is. We’ll use the Align and Distribute buttons in the Align Palette to make sure our shapes are properly spaced:
We will group all of these pattern shapes, then go to back to the layer where we first drew the main shape of the purse. Copy this shape, then paste it onto the layer you’ve drawn the pattern. Select all the shapes and right-click with your mouse. Select ‘Make Clipping Mask’ from the drop-down menu that appears. This will take your pattern and quickly and easily trim it to the outline of your purse shape. You can also use the Pathfinder to delete the extra bits of pattern hidden by the mask!
Here is our pattern now, colored a slightly darker beige than the body of the purse. We’ve also added a subtle shape under the buckle that’s acting like a drop shadow over the purse:
We’ll draw some round cornered squares at the top of our purse; this is where the strap will anchor to. We’ll color these with the same gold gradients that we used on the eyelet and buckle of the strap, and have also added a shape underneath the buckles to look like a drop shadow:
Finishing the Strap
The last step is the easiest: The strap. Draw a squished circle that roughly aligns with the centre of the purse:
With your Direct Select arrow, click and drag over the bottom point. Hit ‘delete’ on your keyboard to create a clean arched unclosed stroke:
Make the stroke very thick and give it rounded caps so it looks more natural, like a leather strap:
And last but not least, copy-paste the stroke in front of itself, and give it the same dashed line that we used to create the stitches on the purse strap earlier. In this example we’ve colored our dashed line white so that you can see the contrast against the thicker black-stroked strap:
Expand your strokes, and apply a subtle gradient fill and voila! Here is our finished purse:
Versatility in Simple Objects
Using these base shapes, it’s very easy to make minor cosmetic changes to our purse to create different styles. Just by playing with different patterns, wide or taller shapes, different styled buckles, you can easily create a matching set!
© 2009 Jennifer Borton