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Design an Easy Emoticon Set in 10 Steps

Everyone loves emoticons! In this tutorial, learn how to create a simple emoticon base that you can easily interchange with any emotion. Perfect for beginners, enjoy these quick tricks using the Shape Tool and Blending Options in Photoshop.

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC

Difficulty: Beginner

Completion Time: 1 hour

Make the Emoticon Base

Step 1

Let’s begin! Create a 200×200 pixel document in Photoshop making sure that the background is Transparent. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a white circle.

Step 2

With the circle layer selected, right-click to go to Blending Options. Set a check mark next to Gradient Overlay. Create a warm gradient using bright yellow colors with the following settings.

  1. Blend Mode: Normal

  2. Opacity: 100%

  3. Style: Radial (Reverse check marked)

  4. Angle: -90 Degrees

  5. Scale: 104%

When you’re finished, your circle should look like this.

Step 3

With Blending Options still open, now select the option for Bevel & Emboss, and Contour. First go to contour and select the option for a Linear Contour. Then select Bevel & Emboss and apply the following settings.

  1. Style: Inner Bevel

  2. Technique: Smooth

  3. Size: 84 px

  4. Soften: 16 px

  5. Highlight Mode: Screen at 100% Opacity

  6. Shadow Mode: Soft Light at 70% Opacity

Now you should have a nice voluminous shape.

Step 4

Let’s add more dimension to this base. Go back to the Blending Options for the circle layer and place a check mark next to Inner Shadow. Create a soft red inner shadow with the following settings:

  1. Blend Mode: Multiply

  2. Opacity: 30%

  3. Distance: 30px

  4. Choke: 28 px

  5. Size: 27px

Then outline the circle with Stroke.

  1. Size: 8px

  2. Position: Center

  3. Blend Mode: Normal

  4. Opacity: 82%

Step 5

Finish off the emoticon base by adding highlights. Control-J to duplicate the circle, then right-click to Clear Layer Styles. Free Transform (Control-T) to resize the duplicate so that it’s smaller than the original circle, then fill it with a Yellow to Transparent Linear Gradient.

Step 6

Now let’s work on the different emoticon faces! First add a new layer and use a Soft Round Brush to paint red blush for the “cheeks” of the emoticon at a low opacity.

Creating the Faces

Step 7

To create the first expression, use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create two red circles. Select both shapes and Merge the shapes together. Then select the new shape layer and right-click to go to Blending Options. Add a simple brown Drop Shadow, and place a check mark next to Bevel & Emboss with the following settings:

Bevel & Emboss

  1. Style: Inner Bevel

  2. Technique: Smooth

  3. Depth: 83%

  4. Size: 13px

  5. Soften: 13 px

  6. Highlight Mode: Screen at 100% Opacity

  7. Shadow Mode: Soft Light at 76% Opacity

Then add a simple Inner Shadow of white.

  1. Blend Mode: Normal

  2. Opacity: 40%

  3. Distance: 5px

  4. Choke: 0%

  5. Size: 1px

Here’s what the final eyes should look like in the end.

Step 8

Use the Pen Tool (P) to create a slight curve for the smile. Right-click and select Stroke. Stroke the curve with a Brush stroke of 5 pixels with the same red color. Add an Inner Shadow and Drop Shadow to match the settings of the eyes. Here is the first expression.

Finish the Set

Step 9

Use these shapes to help you create the other expressions by creating duplicates of the eyes and smile. Copy and paste the layer styles to the new shapes. Flip the smile for the sad face, and add lines for the brows in surprise and anger. Add a quick circle for the mouth to evoke a surprised expression but switch the white color used in the Inner Shadow for a black color.

Step 10

Continue experimenting with different expressions until you have the complete emoticon set that you desire! Add hearts or other cool shapes for extra expressions like falling in love. If you’d like to keep the transparent background, save each emoticon as an individual PNG file.

I hope you’ve enjoyed making your own emoticon set fast and easy! Use these tips to make your own expressions, and share your results!

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