In the Dribbble design era, lots of designs – particularly the ones in the style coined by ‘MBE or Madebyelvis‘ – are using a flat graphic style that features accent shapes to add some impact to the main content of the composition. If you’ve never tackled these before, they can be a little tricky. Have no fear though! Read through this tutorial and you’ll be adding accent stars and bursts to your Illustrator designs in no time.
These are the types of accent shapes we’ll be making:I’ll explain the full process to build all of these accent shapes, but an understanding of Illustrator’s shape tool and a basic understanding of the Pathfinder will be useful to follow this tutorial as easily as possible.
Accent shapes: Layered Cross
We’ll start off simple. Making a layered cross is super simple; all it requires is the rounded rectangle tool. Drag out a rounded rectangle with a generous corner radius. If the radius isn’t large enough either delete and start again, or pull the corners in using the direct selection tool grab lines.
The next step is to duplicate our rounded rectangle and rotate it by 90 degrees. So select your shape, press (CMD + C and CMD + F or CTRL + C and CTRL + F) to paste a copy of your shape in the same place as the layer you copied it from. Use your favourite method to rotate it by 90 degrees. A right click, transform > rotate, might be the easiest option; if you’re stuck.
You’re essentially done! That was easy, right? For clarity, it’s worth selecting both of your paths (both rectangles) and using the ‘unite’ option in Pathfinder. This will make the two layers become one, and let you style them easily as opposed to individually.
Accent shapes: Repeated Circle Burst
Getting a bit trickier now… The repeated circle burst is a great addition to your illustrator skill set because it is so flexible. You can do a lot using the technique described below. In essence, we’ll be duplicating a rounded rectangle around a circle path. So let’s start with a rounded rectangle of suitable size.
Next we’ll set our point around where we’d like our shapes to centralise. In other words, the centre of our circle. This is done by selecting the rotate tool in your Illustrator panel, whilst you have your rounded rectangle selected. Once done, press alt and click in the central position that you want to rotate around.
Doing so will bring up the dialogue panel shown below. Here you’ll want to enter a value for how many segments you’d like. For instance, if you wanted 8 segments, you would enter 45. You can also do maths directly into this field, just divide 360 by how many segments you’d like.
Now click copy. This will perform the action once, so you’ll end up with 2 burst segments. Now performing this over and over is obviously a time consuming, so this little trick will speed you up. Simply pressing (CMD+D or CTRL+D) after the above step will repeat the process that was just performed. Keep pressing this until you have a full circle like below.
Accent Shapes: Curved Diamond
The diamond is a fairly simple shape to pull off. Though it could be tricky if you don’t know the method. Start off by selecting the Illustrator star tool. Note, if you can’t see the star tool, click and hold on the rectangle or ellipse tool. Once selected, click anywhere on your artboard. This will let you specify the amount of points you want on your star. Enter 4.
You’ll now have your star, so scale it to an appropriate scale. Now select this shape with the direct selection tool – which will bring up your rounded corner grab handles. Drag these in until you reach a desired curvature on your sides.
Accent Shapes: Segmented Circle
Since a simple ellipse with a stroke is so easy – I won’t be covering it in this article. However I will show you how to achieve the segmented circle look. Start by drawing our an ellipse with the ellipse tool, and applying a stroke of your desired colour; no fill.
Once you’ve set this circle out, we’ll be using the scissors tool to segment the path up. This will let us delete sections to give us the segmented look we’re after. Set a couple of points along the same path.
Now delete these points on the path. This should give you a pretty harsh version of what we’re after.
This isn’t quite what we’re after though. So let’s make sure the corners of our circle are rounded to match the style of the other accents. This is done by opening your stroke options. If they aren’t in view, make sure you’ve got them selected in window > stroke. Now all that is required is to set the endpoint cap of your stroke to rounded.
Ace! That’s the lot. Obviously in standalone these don’t look like much – but used together they can be used to create some really fab artwork with a lot of zing! Get creating!