Captain America’s Shield from One Shape: Illustrator

Partly because I’m really looking forward to the release of the Avengers movie (probably the less said about it the better though) and (mostly) because I’m always trying to get people to realise just how powerful the appearance panel is inside of Illustrator, I thought I’d come up with a nice Captain America shield graphic from just one object. Here’s how that comes together.

Start out with a 5-pointed star using the Star Tool, with a white fill and no stroke. If you want to use the same numbers as I’m doing here, then make your star by clicking with the Star Tool and using the following dimensions: Radius 1 = 64px, radius 2 = 24px, Points = 5 (otherwise you’ll just need to experiment).

Go to the appearance panel and add a new fill. Choose a blue fill colour, and then drag this fill beneath the original one. Making sure that the new fill is selected in the Appearance panel, go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse… The settings I used were as follows: Relative; Extra Width -10px, Extra height -10px. You may notice that the star doesn’t sit directly in the centre of the circle, so select your original white fill (in the Appearance Panel) and go to Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform… and shift the star up a bit. I moved it vertically by a value of -6px.

Now click on your modified blue fill and click the Duplicate Selected Item button at the bottom of the Appearance Panel, giving you two fills – you’ll be repeating this step a couple more times in just a minute. Select the bottom-most of those two fills and change its colour to Red, and if it isn’t visible already, click the small triangle to the left of the word fill to expand its properties. Click on the Ellipse hyperlink to edit it., and modify the Relative values to 10px and 10px.

Repeat this step twice more by selecting the bottom fill, duplicating it and editing the properties (colour and Ellipse effect properties). Make the next fill white with the following Ellipse values: 30px, 30px, then the final red fill has the values 50px, 50px.

Make the stroke colour black and about 5 – 7px in weight. This will be applied to the star shape to begin with but you can alt-drag the ellipse effect from the bottom fill onto the stroke to copy it there. You should have something that looks like the picture below.


Next I added a couple of shading gradients – these are essentially black to black and white to white gradients that have different opacities such as 100% at one end and 0% at the other. I duplicated the largest fill and moved it up to the top of the stack and added a black-black gradient, with the blending mode set to Multiply. This is achieved by clicking on the Opacity hyperlink related to the fill. I duplicated that effect to strengthen it a bit and then duplicated that once more, moving the new fill to the very top of the stack just beneath the stroke and then applied a white-white gradient with the blend mode set to Screen. Here’s a shot of the final, fully expanded Appearance Panel.

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