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By Lauren Harmon | Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Deke's Techniques: How to create the universal male symbol

In this week’s installment of Deke’s Techniques, Deke McClelland shows you how to create a pictogram of the universal male symbol, originally created as part of Otto and Marie Neurath’s ISOTYPE, or International System of TYpographic Picture Education, collection. Learn how to create this pictogram with stroke effects applied to a single vertical path outline in Adobe Illustrator. Follow along with Deke in this week’s free video and use the companion text below to help with each step.

  1. Create a new file for your artwork and use the Line tool to draw a vertical line segment.
  2. Choose Window > Appearance to bring up the Appearance panel, which allows you to stack multiple fill and stroke effects on a single path.
  3. Create the right leg first.

p>

p>    a. Click the Stroke option in the Appearance panel and change the Weight to 28 pt and the Cap to the middle Round Cap option. Be sure to click on Stroke inside the Appearance panel or Options bar to get to the Cap option.

Adjusting the settings for the weight and cap style

    b. Choose Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. This command allows you to create and alter the stroke independently of the path outline.

    c. In the Transform Effect dialog box that opens, turn on the Preview check box to reveal your changes and change the Vertical Scale value to 70%. Select the bottom point in the reference point matrix. Make sure Scale Strokes & Effects are deselected. Be sure to change the Horizontal Move to 19 pt. This ensures you scale the virtual path that Illustrator is stroking here, but you do not scale the line weight itself. Click OK.

Adjust the settings for the Transform effect

  1. Duplicate the right leg to build the left.

    a. Select the stroke in the Appearance panel and click the page icon at the bottom of the panel to duplicate the stroke.

    b. Twist open the properties of the new stroke and click the Transform property to open the Transform Effect dialog box. Change the Horizontal Move value from +19 pt to –19 pt, turn on Preview, and click OK.

Drawing the legs for our universal male symbol

  1. Now it’s time to create the body.

    a. Select the first stroke in the Appearance panel, click the page icon to duplicate it, and change its stroke to 66 pt.

    b. Click the word Stroke to bring up the Stroke panel and change the Cap to Butt Cap to remove the rounded edges from the path.

    c. Click Transform to bring up the Transform Effect dialog box and change the Vertical Scale to 40%, the Horizontal Move to 0, and the Vertical Move to 54. Select the top middle point in the reference point matrix and click OK.

  1. Create a rounded negative space between the legs with a white stroke.

    a. Select one of the leg strokes in the Appearance panel. Option+drag (Mac) or Alt+drag (Windows) it to the top of the stack to duplicate the stroke.

    b. Click on the swatch of your new stroke to bring up the Swatches panel and select white.

    c. Reduce the stroke to 10 pt.

    d. Click Transform to open the Transform Effects dialog box. Click the center point in the reference point matrix to scale the stroke from its center. Change Vertical Scale to 20%, Horizontal Move to 0, and Vertical Move to 54. Click OK.

Connecting the legs of our universal male symbol.

  1. Now to add the arms.

    a. Select one of the 28 pt strokes. Option+drag (Mac) or Alt+drag (Windows) it to the top of the stack to duplicate the stroke.

    b. Change the weight of the new stroke to 24 pt.

    c. Open the Transform Effects dialog box and reset the reference point to the center. Change Vertical Scale to 26%, Horizontal Move to 55 pt, and Vertical Move to –18. Click OK.

    d. Duplicate the new arm by clicking its stroke in the Appearance panel and clicking the page icon.

    e. Click the Transform property of the newest stroke and change the Horizontal Move value in the Transform Effect dialog box from +55 to –55. Click OK.

  1. Create the shoulders.

    a. Duplicate one of the arm strokes by selecting it and clicking the page icon in the Appearance panel again.

    b. Click the new stroke’s Transform property. This time, change the Rotate Angle to 90 degrees. That rotates the stroke so it’s perpendicular to the path outline.

    c. In the Transform Effect dialog box box still, set the Vertical Scale to 28%, the Horizontal Move to 0, and Vertical Move to –56. Click OK to commit your changes.

Creating the shoulders

  1. Create negative white space underneath the arms to simulate rounded joints.

    a. Select the 24 pt stroke that represents the right arm. Option+drag (Mac) or Alt+drag (Windows) it to the top of the stack to duplicate the stroke.

    b. Click on the stroke’s color swatch and change it to white.

    c. Change the line weight of the stroke to 10 pt.

    d. Click the stroke’s Transform property and change the Vertical Scale to 24%, the Horizontal Move to 38 pt, and the Vertical Move to –16 pt. Click OK.

    e. Copy the right underarm stroke to the left by clicking the stroke in the Appearance panel and clicking the page icon to duplicate it.

    f. Click the left underarm’s Transform property to open the Transform Effect dialog box. Change the Horizontal Move value from 38 pt to –38 pt and click OK.

  1. Now draw the missing head.

    a. Move the fill from the bottom of the Appearance panel to the top of the stack.

    b. Change the fill color to black by clicking on the swatch and selecting black from the Swatches panel. Note you are not actually going to see anything change immediately because you’re trying to fill an open straight path outline.

    c. Click on the fill to make it active and choose Effect > Convert to Shape.

    d. Choose Ellipse as the shape in the Shape Options dialog box. Select Absolute from the Options and dial in Width and Height values of 52 pt each. Click OK.

Adding the arms to the universal male symbol

    e. The fill needs to be moved upward on the canvas. Choose the fill from the Appearance panel and choose Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform. When the Transform Effect dialog box opens, type in a Vertical Move value of –122 pt. Click OK.

Side note: Positive horizontal values move things to the right; negative values move them to the left. Positive vertical values move things down; negative vertical values move them up. It is a little counterintuitive, but that’s the way it works inside Illustrator.

  1. Now you need to convert the strokes to path outlines.

    a. Return to the Layers panel.

    b. Option+drag (Mac) or Alt+drag (Windows) your man layer to the top of the stack to duplicate it.

    c. Double-click the new layer to open the Layer Options dialog box. Change the Name to paths and select a new color for your outlines. Click OK.

    d. Choose Object > Expand Appearance.

    e. Choose Path > Outline Stroke to convert all the strokes to filled path outlines.

    f. Then merge all these path outlines according to their colors. Choose Window > Pathfinder to open the Pathfinder panel and click the Merge icon.

    g. Choose Object > Ungroup to ungroup the white paths that are nested inside the black ones.

    h. Press V to switch to the Selection or black arrow tool, click off the path outlines to deselect them all, and then click one of the white outlines that represents a void space. Go to the Options bar and click the arrow next to the far right Select Similar Objects icon. Choose Fill Color from the popup menu to select all the paths with white fills. Press Backspace (Windows) or Delete (Mac) to remove them.

    i. Now you can rotate, size, or manipulate the figure however you want, as he’s now a single merged path outline.

Final image of the universal male symbol

For members of lynda.com, Deke has another exclusive movie this week called Building a universal woman with strokes, in which he shows you how to create the female companion for your figure. Plus, stay tuned for next week’s tutorial, when Deke shares a special Valentine’s themed project in Illustrator.

Suggested courses to watch next:

• The entire Deke’s Techniques collection • Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate • Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Intermediate

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