Soccer ball 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 provide a director’s commentary for my soccer ball 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 soccer ball 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 will be 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 hexagon with the polygon tool. Then, select rotate tool and option click the center of the work area to open the rotate window. This lets a specific angle be entered. Type in 72º and click Copy (72 degrees is 360 ÷ 5). You can also type in “360 ÷ 5” or “360 / 5”, if you’d like.

The first step of a soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

This rotates the hexagon around the origin we chose by 72º as a copy. To make the remaining copy, press ⌘D to transform again. This repeats the previous transformation. The rotate window can be seen below.

The rotation tool options window in Adobe Illustrator

Step 2 #

With the direct selection tool (white arrow), drag a marquee to select the pairs of points on the hexagons that are almost touching and use Object › Path › Average to make them sit on top of each other at the midpoint between where they were. Do this for all four pairs of nearby points, as shown below.

I don’t use Illustrator’s point averaging feature very often, but I am very thankful it exists. The alternative methods for moving these points would be far more accident prone and slower.

The second step of a soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 3 #

Select and delete the top and bottom hexagons. They were only there to assist with the construction of the center hexagon. Select the remaining hexagon, change to the rotate tool and option click the center of the work area to open the rotate window. Type in 72º and click Copy. If you’d like a quicker way to click copy, you can use option-enter or option-return. Press ⌘D three times to transform again, making enough copies to complete all the hexagon shapes.

The third step of a soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 4 #

Switch to the ellipse tool, and draw a circle from the center of the work area by holding option and shift. Switch to the selection tool, and select all the paths. In the pathfinder panel, click divide. This will break everything into the component pieces. With everything still selected, ungroup the objects by pressing ⇧⌘G or choosing ungroup from the object menu.

The forth step of a soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 5 #

The soccer ball is almost finished. With the selection tool, click on the five parts that overhang the circle, then press delete.

The fifth step of a soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Alternate method #

After seeing my soccer ball icon speedrun, Kit Grose suggested a faster method — draw the inner pentagon and flip it, instead creating the hexagons. I haven’t timed my fastest attemps at both methods, but I suspect Kit is right, and his method is quicker. I think the resulting paths are better, too. I wanted to demonstrate the use of the point averaging, so I used the slower method for the steps above.

A GIF of the quicker method can be seen below. Many of the steps are similar, and it uses a mixture of drawing shapes, pathfinder actions, and rotating around the center of the work area.

There is one step that is almost certainly not clear. After creating the circle, I duplicate it using Mike Swanson’s duplicate plugin, then use Object › Hide › Selection via ⌘3. This lets me use the circle to cut the top pentagon, and later restore the copy that was hidden with ⌥⌘3.

A soccer ball icon being drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Published 1 April 2021.