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Follow this step by step guide to creating a detailed gauge icon in Photoshop. We’ll be using various Photoshop layer styles to build up gradients and shadows to produce a detailed and realistic large scale icon, then modify and rebuild the icon into a range of typical icon sizes.
The icon we’ll be creating features a sleek and colourful gauge set in a chrome beveled frame with subtle textures and gradients. The largest and most detailed version comes in at 256x256px, then it is incrementally scaled to 128px, 64px, 48px and 32px, each becoming less detailed but modified slightly to work at the smaller sizes.
We’ll start with the largest of the icons. Draw a 256px circle with the Marquee tool on a new layer and fill it with any colour. Double click the layer to open up the layer styles options. Add a Gradient Overlay alternating between dark and light greys to give a shiny metal effect.
Add a thin 1px stroke using a mid-grey between the two tones used on the gradient. Using Photoshop layer styles throughout the creation of the icon makes it much easier to rebuild the icon at the smaller sizes as each effect can be reloaded and quickly edited via the layer styles options palette.
CMD+Click the layer’s thumbnail to load the circular selection. Right click and choose Transform Selection, then scale down the selection while holding Shift and Alt. Fill this new selection with black on a new layer.
Open up the layer styles window for this layer and add a black to dark grey vertical Gradient Overlay to form the base of the fascia.
On the same layer, add an Inner Glow and Stroke effect using light grey tones to give the impression of a chrome surround.
Load the selection by CMD+Clicking the layer thumbnail, then fill a new layer with a repeating pattern. I’m using one of the patterns from the recent pixel patterns freebie here on Line25. Change the blending mode to Multiply to render the white areas transparent then reduce the opacity to around 25%.
Load another circular selection, scale it down slightly and fill with white. Load the selection again, scale down further and delete this selection to form a white ring. Create a square selection, right click and choose Transform Selection, rotate it by 45 degrees (hold Shift) then move it downwards so the top corner is aligned with the centre of the gauge. Delete this selection from the white ring.
Load the layer styles for this shape and add a Gradient Overlay using the default rainbow color spectrum. Change the style to Angle then alter the orientation until the gradient begins with blue and ends with red. Add a subtle Inner Shadow to the top edge.
Draw a small circle in the centre of the gauge and add a metal style Gradient Overlay using grey tones. Also add a subtle Drop Shadow to add depth and a touch of realism.
Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to draw a needle shape on a layer underneath the centre pin and add a Gradient Overlay using dark and light red tones. Alter the gradient angle so it flows exactly down the centre of the needle. Give the needle a subtle Drop Shadow to give the impression that is lifted from the gauge face slightly.
The largest of the icons is now complete. All the subtle gradients help to replicate light and shade to create a more realistic icon design. Now let’s rebuild the icon into the smaller versions.
Select all layers and press CMD+T to Transform. Using the top toolbar to enter the specific dimensions of the smaller icons.
When the icon is scaled some of the effects are lost, or their size remains too large to work properly on the smaller icon. Go through the styles and remove effects that are no longer visible.
Other effects such as gradients and shadows will need adjusting to accommodate the smaller icon size. Go through and reduce the size of each of these effects.
The great thing about layer styles is the contents of the layer can be recreated entirely while keeping the same effects. The centre pin in particular becomes way too small on the tiny icons, so fill a larger circular selection on the same layer – The layer style will automatically add the same gradient and shadows.
The largest of the icons features all the textures and details, but as the icon is scaled down some of these details are lost. As the icon moves into the 48px-32px range the proportions are adjusted so the design is still recognisable, this includes a larger centre pin and needle as well as replacing the gradients of the chrome surround with a plain grey stroke.