Pushpin icon speedrun

When viewing my vector icon speedruns, it can be difficult to see precisely what’s going on. Everything happens quickly, with many actions triggered via keyboard shortcuts, and Illustrator’s interface is cropped out of view. That’s just the nature of what they are, which means they provide more entertainment than education.

This article aims to be a director’s commentary for my pushpin icon speedrun, noting the techniques used, and why they were chosen. I use Adobe Illustrator for all the icon speedruns, but many of the tips are relevant for other design tools.

A pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Workspace #

One important aspect to working quickly is setting up your workspace. When designing icons, I like having a working area well defined, with the center point marked. Both are locked, so I can’t accidentally move or alter them. The “working area” is typically the target icon size. In this example, I’m using a 16×16px area.

Working to a coarse grid is faster and more accurate. If points need to be placed off-grid, Illustrator’s move window can be used, allowing for precise numeric offsets. Illustrator’s snap to pixel has some behaviour I don’t like, so I use snap to grid instead.

Mac shortcuts are noted below, so please substitute control for command, and alt for option if you’re using Windows.

Step 1 #

Start by drawing a rectangle that’s 12×2px. With the direct selection tool, select the top two points, and drag the live corner handle (the little circle that appears near corners) to create rounded corners.

Step 1 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

It’s up to you how rounded the corners should be. In the example above, my corner radius is about 1.5px (stopping before the maximum of 2px). If you’d like to type in a specific value, you can do that in the control bar, or by double clicking a live corner. It’s also possible to option-click live corners to change the corner type.

Adobe Illustrator’s control bar

Step 2 #

Select the entire shape by clicking on it with the selection tool. Then, switch to the rotate tool. Click once on the canvas to set the rotation origin, then click and drag while holding option and shift to rotate a copy that’s also angle constrained. This is a bit of a tricky move, but one that’s worthwhile getting good at, because it works with all the transform tools.

Step 2 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 3 #

Switch to the rectangle tool and create an 8×6px rectangle that connects the two other shapes. Switch to the direct selection tool and drag a marquee that selects the top of the pushpin and the top two points of the newly created rectangle.

We’ll now attempt to taper the pushpin and scale the top in one move. Switch to the scale tool and click in the center of the rectangle to set the scale origin. Then, click and drag from the top right point towards the center. In my icon, i’m moving the top right corner 2px left and 1px down. Please note that Illustrator’s bounding box must be turned off when points are being transformed like this. If you’re seeing a bounding box around the selection, choose ViewHide Bounding Box.

Step 3 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 4 #

Switch to the rectangle tool and draw a 2×6px rectangle for the pushpin’s tip. Then, choose ObjectPathAdd Anchor Points to subdivide the path.

Step 4 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 5 #

Switch to the direct selection tool and select the bottom left and bottom right corner points, then choose ObjectPathRemove Anchor Points.

Select the points on the left and right side, and drag the live corner handles until the segments become thicker. This indicates that the corners are the largest radius possible. The resulting shape is two perfect arcs forming a sharp tip at the bottom.

Step 5 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 6 #

All that’s left now is to rotate the shape by 45º. Switch to the selection tool, and drag a marquee to select the entire shape. Then, switch to the rotate tool, click once in the center of the icon area to set the rotation origin, then drag while holding shift to rotate while constraining to 45º increments (or whatever angle increment is set under IllustratorPreferencesSmart Guides).

Step 6 of a pushpin icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Published 16 November 2022.