Butterflies express a freedom and creativity in logos that really make an impression. They are easy to incorporate into a complete branding identity project, focusing on the butterfly for all the little elements that can make something simple become simply elegant.
In this tutorial, I will walk you through the process of creating a very simple, extremely elegant butterfly logo using Adobe Illustrator. Even if you have never used Illustrator before, you should be able to follow this tutorial without a lot of trouble.
Why Adobe Illustrator?
First of all, I really want to say this because it’s important for anyone looking to create or purchase a logo.
Having your logo in a vector format (.eps and/or .ai) is hugely important.
Why is it so important? When you have the vector format of your logo, you will be able to use that logo on everything from rubber stamps to 6-foot vinyl banners and t-shirts without losing a single bit of quality.
If you are purchasing a logo: DO NOT accept a logo that is in anything but vector format unless it’s a free addition. Anything else will wind up disappointing you when you attempt to use it for a print project only to find that the finished product is pixellated.
Butterfly Logo Tutorial – The Steps
The steps to creating the actual logo are very easy, and will seem over-simplified to an experienced Illustrator user. They have been written fully so that you can use this guide even if you’ve never used the program, so bear with me and we’ll end up with something fabulous.
1. First, open Adobe Illustrator and create a document (File, New) that is sized 612 x 612 pt. Leave all other settings at their default.
2. Now, we need a butterfly to work with. I’ll be using a stock butterfly image available here at sxc.hu. What you want to look for is a picture of a butterfly that has very defined contrast. The one I’ve chosen has clear black lines on the monarch, and the background doesn’t make it difficult to see those lines. It is also spread in a position that I like – fully open and inviting.
3. Copy-paste the image you’ve chosen in the document you created in step 1. Then, change your background color to black (we can change the color later) by clicking the color box furthest to you in the side toolbar and choosing black from the color palette. Do the same to your foreground color, but choose the icon below that is white with a red line through it – this is transparent, and won’t fill your lines in with any color. At this point, I usually zoom in 300-500% so I can easily see the lines I will be following. Now, pick up your pen tool by clicking it – it’s the 4th tool from the top in your side toolbar.
4. We’re going to start out with the center lines that define the design of the butterfly. Using your pen tool, choose a center line to follow. Click once at the top of that line, move your cursor, and you’ll see a line follow behind. Continue clicking on the center line you’ve chosen, using the fewest clicks you need to follow the line. As you can see in the second illustration attached to this article, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
5. Now to perfect the imperfect with very little work: let’s use the simplify tool. To do this, first choose your Selection tool (the first, solid black, arrow in the sidebar menu). Then, click on the line you’ve just made. Now, click “Object”, hover on “Path”, and choose “Simplify”. In the window that opens, you can adjust how closely the Simplify tool will follow your drawn lines. I usually set it to about 80%, but you may need to play with this a couple of times to get it right. What you’re looking for is a line that is smooth, curved in approximately the same places that your photo’s lines are, without any sharp angles.
6. Continue steps 4 and 5 until you have the center lines complete. Reference the third illustration attached to this article.
7. With your center lines drawn, it’s time to create the thick outlines. Simplify these lines – don’t go into too much detail with small dots because you don’t want to overwhelm your logo. Besides, if your logo is printed on something as small as a business card, these details will be lost anyway. Instead, focus on creating single, thick areas that are closed off by going entirely around the outline and clicking on the first “box”, or anchor, you made by clicking. Finally, to make the outline “filled in”, click the rounded, double-ended arrow just above your foreground/background color boxes. Do not forget to use the Simplify Tool to make things nice and smooth. Draw the butterfly’s body last. Reference the fourth illustration attached to this article.
8. Now that our butterfly is drawn, we can get rid of the background. To do that, choose your Selection tool and click the background. Then, hit the backspace key on your keyboard – voila! And since we want to make things easy as we go on, let’s group all of the lines we’ve drawn into one shape (it can be dissected again by un-grouping it). To do that, use your Section tool and drag a box around your lines to select all of them. Then, right-click your selection and choose “Group”. Now, if you want to adjust the size, color, or alignment of your butterfly you can do so without having to worry about every single line in your butterfly.
9. It’s time for the final step: typing your business or personal name and a tagline. Try using colors that highlight, compliment, or contrast with those of your butterfly and play around with fonts until you have one that is clean and open – it will help carry that spirit of freedom and clean natural beauty that was started with the butterfly. Reference the first illustration attached to this article for my final piece.
Once you’re happy with the colors and fonts, remember to save your work both as an .ai file and a .eps file – different printers will require different vector formats – as well as a .png or .jpg that you can easily use for your digital display needs.