Designing a logo from scratch part 2: drawing and illustrating

In Designing a Logo from scratch part 1: Creative Brainstorming I went over techniques to brainstorm ideas for designing a logo. I discussed formulating a business name by using a thought web to help get your creative juices flowing. Well, I’m going to use the two keywords “Phoenix” and “Communication”, which happens to work well because there are many companies based around communications. First off, I have to give credit to Chris Decatur for his excellent tutorial on professional logo design, as many of the design steps are the same and it’s also a great read.


Step 1: Draw it on paper

In graphic arts, we must not neglect the power of the hand. If you don’t feel comfortable with using the hand, it’s at least worth a shot to get familiar with. It’s a quick, easy way to sketch ideas down and formulate the ideas into something worth tracing. Don’t spend too much time on one until you feel like tackling it in Illustrator.

For me, I drew a few images of phoenix’s. If it’s difficult for you to integrate multiple keywords into the logo, simply start with one keyword and modify it to have both. My illustrations don’t have anything to do with communications yet.

Step 2: Scan it

After you have drawn a few, you can combine ideas from the other ones to get the result you want. I ended up liking number 4 and the one on the right, so I scanned it and brought it into Illustrator.

Step 3: Use Illustrator

Why? Since Photoshop creates pixel-based graphics, Illustrator is ideal for creating logos because it’s a vector-based program, which creates images in points which allow it to be scaled to any size, which is crucial for branding purposes.

Step 4: Set up layers

-Open a new 8.5×11 document (or whatever size of paper you used) and click file -> Place.

-Locate to your image and hit the place button.

-Over in the layers panel (F7), double click the layer and give it a name. It’s good habit.


-Lock the layer by clicking the blank space beside the eye icon in the layers panel.

-Now click the new layer icon and you’re ready to roll.


Step 5: Set up the pen tool


Click the pen tool, and at the bottom of the tools panel, set the fill color to none (the tiny box with the red line under it) and the stroke color to black. This way you’ll exclusively be able to see the lines you draw and the illustration under it.

Step 6: Trace the outlines with the pen tool

The pen tool is annoying to many, but it just takes patience. Have patience and you can come up with something beautiful. Start drawing points around your figure. Don’t worry about accuracy just yet, you can use the convert anchor point tool later to adjust curves and the direct selection tool to position them. If you spread out your points as much as possible, it will be easy for you to make smooth curves when you tune them with the convert anchor point tool. If you’re a beginner with the pen tool, you should take a look at Veerle’s Pen Tool Exercises tutorial.


Step 7: Fine Tune the points with the convert anchor point tool

-Click the convert anchor point tool, followed by clicking on the point you wish to change the curve angle from. Two curve handles will show up, and click and drag them to make your angle the way yout want it. This may take a little time to do for all of the points, but the key is not to give up!


Step 8: Add Color

Now that your logo has the outline done, let’s start filling in the inside. Use the fill box to select what color to fill it in with. For solid colors, simply make sure the fill box is in front of the stroke box and click the color from the color selector. You can do the same with the stroke box to add a stroke. I have also created a background layer since I won’t be using the sketch anymore. If you’re adding a gradient:

1. Select fill box

2. Select color

3. Drag the current color swatch to inside the gradient box to add a color, and simply click the gradient box to activate it

4. Use the gradient tool to control the spread and direction of the gradient




Step 8: Add Detail

Although logos are best kept simple so they’re more memorable, adding a detail significantly adds to the presentation. For my project, I did the following:

1. Drew an outline

2. Changed the stroke & fill colors

3. Duplicated and dragged over the illustration outline



Step 9: Done

And we’re all done with the graphic. Next part we will go over basic typography and slogans for your brand design. Thanks for reading, here’s my final product:


Related posts:

  1. Designing a logo from scratch part 1: Creative Brainstorming
  2. Create Abstract Eye-Catching Typography
  3. Creating stunning, detailed typography with Illustrator
  4. What do you do when you’re not designing?
  5. Making a perfect grid-aligned website using Gridfox and Firebug

Robin Bastien
Howdy! I'd the head of Ocular Harmony. I spend most of my time designing, reading beatnick literature, and pounding sound waves of experimental pulsation into my brain's frontal lobes. Contact me if you have any questions!

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  1. alquiler madrid says:

    May 4, 2009

    I love this illustration! the effect is so simple and cute. thanks for the post

  2. Canvas Paintings says:

    May 11, 2009

    Wow, you are highly skilled. That is much harder than it looks.

  3. Da-san says:

    May 15, 2009

    The step by step method is good. Nice illustration, but way too much detail for a usefull logo.

  4. Jake says:

    May 17, 2009

    Wow, really impressive tutorial! Going from drawn on paper to an amazing digital masterpiece is outstanding, nice work!

    Jake’s last blog post..33 Amazing Tech and IT-Related Website Designs

  5. twitter backgrounds says:

    May 19, 2009

    Really good process you have here. I’ve never tried to draw stuff on paper then do it on the computer but I think I’ll give it a try. Maybe for some of the backgrounds for my site. Thanks!

    twitter backgrounds’s last blog post..Shining Cupcake Twitter Background

  6. percas says:

    May 27, 2009

    very good work…

  7. Music Production says:

    May 27, 2009

    This is a good tutorial. Although I would prefer the bird to have eyes. Bird with no eyes I find it scary.

    I wish I had access to Illustrator but still use Inkscape for all my graphic design work.

  8. Pasadena Events Calendar says:

    May 28, 2009

    This is so helpful! Thank you for this post…

    Pasadena Events Calendar’s last blog post..Get Away Without Going Away

  9. Design_Pervert says:

    August 4, 2009

    Hi there, great illustration and post, the only thing I would comment on is that the way I’ve been taught to design logos is to make the graphic as less complicated as possible so that if you squint you can still make out the logo and name/ tagline.

    But I suppose this is just to show how to take an idea froim paper and give it life through vector illustration, which I found really useful by the way, so cheers for that!

  10. Lin and Jirsa says:

    August 8, 2009

    Unbelievable. I love how you can transform a simple sketch into a work of art. I wish I had the patience to use the pen tool. I’m always too quick to jump behind the lens and go into photoshop!

  11. CSSReX says:

    April 7, 2010

    Thanks for such a nice tut. I am going to experience my hands on this right now :)

  12. Travis Ulrich says:

    April 7, 2010

    This is pretty close to what I do as well! Nice article, Robin!

  13. Paul says:

    April 8, 2010

    Love your work! Cool idea and the final effect looks brilliant. It reminds me of firefox logo. I always thought that it’s hard to recreate but with your tutorial it seems to be pretty easy :)

    Anyways, the tutorial is also well written and useful for me. You’re doing great job Robin! Keep it up!

  14. mowdesign says:

    April 9, 2010

    thanks,great tutorial !