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December 2019
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In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a flat and modern, Gmail-inspired, iOS7 email app in Photoshop. We will begin by showing you how to sketch out your ideas, then we will show how to create your design in Photoshop, and finally, how to incorporate your design into an iPhone mockup. Let’s get started!


Additional Screens

In this tutorial, we will also be creating the following mobile app screens for our mobile email app.

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Tutorial Assets

You will need the following assets in order to complete this tutorial. Please download them before you begin. If they are not available, you will need to find alternatives.


Before You Begin

Step 1

Before jumping in to Photoshop, it’s best to start sketching with pencil and paper. Start making outlines and rough images. No need to worry about small details. And don’t forget to search for references, lots of them. This initial idea – we’ll call it v1 – comes from a friend of mine, Bagus Fikri from Fikri Studio. Here’s the sketch. Click here to view its full version.

first sketch

First sketch –v1, made with paper and pen.

Step 2

In this case, after seeing the sketch, the client asked for some changes. After a few emails, here are some new sketches. Let’s just call them v2, v3, and v4.

second sketch

Second sketch –v2. Fixing header and tag, add profile picture and search.
third sketch

Third sketch –v3. Add tapped email condition, remove profile picture, fixing header, and adding email option and checkbox.
fourth sketch

Fourth sketch –v4. Perfecting v3.

1. Making Label Icon

Now that we have finalized our sketch. We can now start working in Photoshop. Before we get started, however, it is important to note that interface designs often require quite a few icons. You can create them yourself or you can download them from the web. If you want to practice making them yourself, I will show you how to draw one of the icons used in this tutorial, the label icon. Basically, the other icons use the same techniques. You can download this icon, as well as all the other icons from the Free Icon Pack mentioned in the Tutorial Assets section above.

Step 1

Create new file (File > New…). In next dialog box, set Width and Height to 43 pixels. Click OK.

New file

New File dialog box.

Step 2

Activate Rounded Rectangle Tool with Radius: 4 px. Set its Fill to blue #1a72a5 and Stroke to None. Draw a rounded rectangle shape with size 19×19 pixels.

Draw a blue shape.

Draw a blue shape for label icon.

Step 3

Add rounded rectangle path onto previous shape. This time with size 13×13. To help you see better, I temporarily hide the previous shape.

Rounded rectangle shape

Step 4

Hit Command/Ctrl-T to transform the path. Rotate it 45°.

Rotate shape 45°

To rotate, click and drag outside the transformation bounding box.

Step 5

In CS6, it will inform you that the shape is going to be converted into regular path. It means that you can no longer edit its parameters on the fly from the option bar. Just click OK.

Turn live shape into regular path

In Photoshop CC, the shape will be changed into regular path.

Now, we have basic label shape.

Label shape

Step 6

Take a look at the path’s point position closely. We want to make sure that our icon is crisp.

crisp icon

Step 7

Use Direct Selection Tool (A) to manually alter position of the path point.

fixing icon detail
fixing icon detail
fixing icon detail

Here is what we have after the adjustment. Left is the icon before adjustment and right is after adjustment. In this situation, it turns out that the result is not so significant. But, in other cases, these extra steps might be important and greatly improve the appearance of your icon.

icon in 100% magnification

The result before and after adjusting each point.

Step 8

On top of the icon, add a circle path. Set its mode to Subtract from Option Bar.

Subtract with circle shape.

Step 9

Hit Command/Ctrl-T and then rotate the icon 45°. Hold Shift to help you rotate shape at 15° increment.

Rotate shape 45°

Hold Shift to help you rotate at 15° increment.

Step 10

Again, we need to adjust all the point position using Direct Selection Tool.

Fixing icon detail

Notice the path points. They are snap onto pixel grid.
Fixing icon detail

Step 11

Below you can difference before and after the adjustment.

Before adjustments

Before adjustment. Notice top part of the icon. Some pixels are leaking.
After adjustments

After adjustment. Much better.

Step 12

Duplicate the big rounded rectangle shape by selecting it using Path Selection Tool. Hit Command/Ctrl-J. Rotate it –15°.

duplicate label shape, rotate it 15°

Step 13

Duplicate the original big rounded rectangle path. Paste it above last path. Set its mode to Subtract.

Set path mode to subtract

Step 14

Hit Command/Ctrl-T and then resize it. Don’t forget to reposition each point to get a crisp appearance.

resize shape

Here’s the result in magnification 100%.

icon in 100% view

Hit Command/Ctrl-1 to set Magnification in Photoshop to 100%.

Step 15

The final step is export this as an icon. Hide Background by clicking on its eye icon. The icon background is now transparent.

hide background

Step 16

Save the icon for web (File > Save for Web and Devices…). Use below setting:

save for web

If your icon contains more color or transparency, you may need to select PNG-24.

2. Preparing Canvas

Step 1

Make new file (File > New…). Set its size to 640×1136 pixels.

new file

Hit Command/Ctrl-N to quickly open New File dialog box.

Step 2

Make new guides to help us put the element in precise position. Click View > New Guide. We want horizontal guide at 15, 30, 45, 60, 580, 595. 610, and 625 px. For vertical guide, we want them at 40 and 128 px.

new guide

Horizontal Guide at 40 px.
new guide

Horizontal Guide at 128 px.
new guide

Vertical Guide at 15 px.
new guide

Vertical Guide at 580 px.

Here’s the guides we have on left and right corner.

canvas corner
canvas corner

Step 2

Select top area using Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Make new layer and then fill it with black (Edit > Fill…).

select header area

You can use shortcut D then Alt-Delete to quickly fill selection with black.

Step 3

Grab iOS7 PSD mockup from Teehan+Lax. Shift-drag Status bar group layer into our design.

add status bar

Step 4

Place it on top of the design.

add status bar

Shift-drag object and put it in the center of the canvas.

Here is the white one.

add status bar

3. Design Inbox

Step 1

We’ll start working on the header. Use Line Tool to draw a 4 px line on bottom of the header. Activate type tool and then add Inbox on its center.

header for inbox

Step 2

To make sure the text is in placed centered on the canvas, draw a rectangle with same width as the canvas. Select both text layer and the last rectangle. From Option Bar, click icon Align Horizontal Center.

centering header

We can see that the text is now sits perfectly on center of the header. You won’t this rectangle anymore and can delete it.

centering header

Step 3

Drwa three rounded rectangle shapes. Place it on left side of the header, on center of the guides. We will use it as inbox options menu icon.

option menu icon

Option menu icon, made from simple rounded rectangle shapes.

Step 4

On right side, add new email icon and draw three squares. The squares is going to be used for individual mail option icon.

new email and mail option menu

Step 5

Place each layer logically on a group layer. Select the layer and then hit Command/Ctrl-G to put it inside a group layer. Make sure to give easily recognizable name.

organize layer

Make sure to always organize you layers, especially when you’re working in a team.

Step 6

Let’s working on the search bar. Draw a large gray rectangle shape under the header. Reduce its Opacity.

search

Step 7

Add search icon and text next to it. Reduce its Opacity, we want it to be a bit more subtle.

search icon and text

Step 8

We start working on one email. Add 1 px gray line. On left side, draw a yellow rectangle shape, sized 50×50 px.

star icon background

Step 9

Activate Pen Tool (P). Click lower left corner of the rectangle to remove it.

star icon background

Now, we have a triangle shape.

star icon background

Step 10

Double the layer shape. Add Drop Shadow onto the layer.

Layer Style
shadow on star background

Subtle shadow underneath the star background.

Step 11

Use Polygon Tool to draw a star. From Option Bar, select Star and set its Sides to 5. Click and drag to draw a star with size 26×26 px.

white star icon

Add white star above the yellow triangle.

Step 12

Double click layer and apply Inner Shadow.

Use following settings:

Layer Style

Here’s the result we have.

star icon

Subtle embossed effect on the star.

Step 13

Activate Type Tool and then drag to draw a new Text Box. Add some text containing every important information of an email, such as sender, title, content. Add time information on right side of the email.

email content

See pictures below for more details on font used in the email.

text color

This color is for new, unopened email.

Step 14

Add layer to the email content. Draw a gradient form white to black. Make sure the lower part is fading.

add layer mask to text

Fading indicates that there are more to see inside the email.

Step 15

Draw a new rounded rectangle shape with size 17×3 px.

draw rounded rectangle shape

Step 16

Hit Command/Ctrl-T to apply transformation. Rotate the shape 45°.

rotate 45°

A warning dialog box will be shown. Just hit Yes to confirm it.

turn to regular path

Step 17

Duplicate the shape by hitting Command/Ctrl-C and Command/Ctrl-V. Hit Command/Ctrl-T, rotate it 90°.

Duplicate shape and rotate it 90°

You can also right click and choose Rotate 90° CW

Step 18

Move its position downward. You can see closely that the vector points need some adjustments.

move its position

Step 19

Activate Direct Selection Tool and then reposition the point until it snap onto the pixel.

fix icon details
fix icon details

Here’s the arrow icon in 100% Magnification.

icon in 100% magnification

Step 20

Activate Rounded Rectangle Tool, set its radius to 3 px. Draw a rounded rectangle shape on left side of the email with size 18×18 px and fill color #eaeaea.

rounded rectangle shape

Step 21

Double click the layer shape and apply Stroke. Use following settings:

Layer Style

Step 22

Activate Inner Shadow and use following settings:

Layer Style

Step 23

Activate Inner Glow. Use following settings:

Layer Style

Step 24

Here is the check box appearance.

check box

Step 25

Inside the box, draw a black check mark icon using Pen Tool.

check mark icon

Step 26

Double click the layer and apply Inner Shadow using following settings:

Layer Style

Step 27

Add Inner Glow. Use following settings:

Layer Style

Step 28

Here’s the result. You can temporarily hide the guides for better view by clicking Command/Ctrl-H. Hit Command/Ctrl-H again to bring the guides back.

check mark icon

Below is the result in 100% Magnification.

check mark in 100% magnification

Step 29

Draw a simple colored rounded rectangle and add tag on top of it. This will label or tag of the email.

add email tag

Step 30

Of course, we will need more email sample. Duplicate the previous email. Change title to subtler color, lighter gray. This indicates the email is already read. For unstarred or unbookmarked email, change star background to gray.

duplicate email and change its color

For already opened email, use subtler color such as light gray.

Step 30

We also want to add condition when email is in tapped. Move email 130 px to the right. You can do this easily by selecting the layers and then hit Shift-Right Arrow 13 times. Hide label and check mark icon.

email in tapped condition

Step 31

Add Open and Reply icon on left side of the email. Add icons next to the text. Make sure to keep it aligned with previous icon, the left menu icon we add at Step 3 above.

open and reply icon

Step 32

Add a blue rectangle shape and then add white delete icon above it. This rectangle behind the icon marking it to be selected.

delete icon

Step 33

Add another email in normal position.

add more email

Step 34

Here’s the result for inbox view.

inbox view

3. Design Read Mail

Step 1

We have finished with the inbox view. Next is designing the read mail view. But first, we need to organize all the layers. Make sure you have put all layers in group layers. For this design, we want to add new group layer specific for this design only. Name it read email.

organize layer

Remember to always organize your layers .

Step 1

The process is very similar to what we did earlier when designing inbox view. Add header with text Read Mail on center and inbox icon on left side.

header

Step 2

Draw a text under app header. Add email title that is currently active. For its font, use Open Sans Bold with size 30 pt.

email title

Step 3

Add left and right arrow icon on both sides. We have already design this icon on Section 2.18. You just need to rotate it 180° to get same icon which facing left. Using these icons, app user can scroll to next or earlier email.

navigation icon

Use same arrow icon we created earlier for design consistency.

Step 4

Add star icon on top right corner of the email.

star icon

Step 5

Add email tag above the email title.

email tag

Step 6

Add sender profile picture.

add sender picture

You can use circle shape if you want to.

Step 7

Next to its face, add name, time, and email content.

add email content

Step 8

Add layer mask and then apply gradient from white to black. The lower part of the email should be fading.

add layer mask

Step 9

We will add reply to this email. You just simply need to duplicate the email and change its detail. On top right corner, add reply icon. User clicks this icon to reply this email.

add reply icon

Reply icon used here was made from arrow in custom shape.

Step 10

Here’s the result.

read mail view

5. Design Right Menu

Step 1

Now, we will design right menu, which control option for selected email. Make new group layer, we will put the right menu here. Draw a white rectangle shape and place it above the header.

add white rectangle

Step 2

Double click the layer and then apply Stroke. For its color, use same color as the header bottom border, #1872a6.

Layer Style

Here’s the result.

rectangle with stroke

Step 3

Double click the layer. In Layer Style dialog box, activate Layer Mask Hides Effects.

layer mask hides effects

Step 4

Add layer mask onto the layer shape. Select upper rectangle, right above the header border, and then fill it with black.

hide top part of the rectangle

Step 5

Use Type Tool to add menu inside the rectangle.

add menu

Step 6

Here’s the result we have.

right menu view

6. Design Left Menu

Step 1

We are now designing the left menu, which shows the app options. Make new layer, and then fill area below header with #1972a5 and then reduce its Opacity to 80%.

cover area below header

Step 2

Draw a white rectangle shape covering with width about 60% of the main canvas width. Double click the shape and apply Stroke with settings same as the right menu in Section 5.2.

add rectangle shape on left side
Layer Style

Step 3

Add layer mask, select its upper area, right above header bottom border. Fill selection with black. Make sure you have activated Layer Mask Hides Effect in Layer Style dialog box. If haven’t, double click the shape to open it.

add layer mask, hide upper rectangle

Step 4

Add menu inside the rectangle.

add menu

Step 5

Below is the setting I used in Character and Paragraph.

character and paragraph settings

Step 6

Add an icon next to each menu item.

add icon

Step 7

This right menu can be opened when inbox is active or when you reading an individual email. Below left menu is opened while app user is reading mail. In Photoshop, we simply reveal read email group layer and hide inbox group layer.

left menu while reading email

And this is the result when inbox is active. In Photoshop, we just need to hide read email group layer and reveal inbox group layer.

left menu while reading inbox

This is the full result from right menu.

right menu view

7. Design Compose Tab

Step 1

We are now entering the final design, the compose tab, where users will write new emails. Make new layer above all layers and then fill it with blue, #1872a5.

cover all area below status bar

Step 2

Reduce layer’s Opacity to 80%.

reduce opacity

Step 3

Draw a white rectangle shape on center.

draw white rectangle

Step 4

Add close icon on its left corner. Add circle path into the rectangle shape, place it behind the icon. This will make the icon can be seen easily.

close icon

This is the result with guides hidden.

hide icon

Step 5

Add text inside the compose box. See following images for the settings used.

character settings
paragraph settings

Step 6

Add profile pic next to To.

add profile pic

If you choose circular profile pic in read mail, you should use the same here.

Step 7

Behind it, add a blue rectangle with same height as the profile picture. On top of it, add its name or email address.

contact background

Step 8

Add another picture if you want to.

add another contact

Step 9

Under attachment, add small photo representing the image file attached to the email. If you attach other type of file, you may change this to file type thumbnail.

add photo attachment

Step 10

Draw a plus icon made from two overlapped rectangle shape.

draw a plus icon

Step 11

Add text Send and an icon next to it.

send text and icon

Step 12

This compose window can be opened when inbox or individual email is active. The key is just revealing and hiding appropriate layer.

compose window

Step 13

This is the result when white status bar is used.

white status bar

This is the result for compose tab.

compose window

8. Organizing Layers with Layer Comps

Step 1

Currently, we put all our design in one file. This makes it effective because we can share one layer across all designs. To make things easier, we can use Layer Comps. This allows us to quickly hide and reveal layer for each design.

Make sure you have layer sets up for inbox. Open up Layer Comps panel. Click new comps layer. Name it inbox, activate Visibility, and then click OK.

make new layer comps

Make sure you have organized your layers neatly before using Layer Comps.
prepare layer for inbox

Layer set up for inbox design.

Step 2

Set up layer for Read Mail.

layer for read mail

Step 3

Make new Layer Comp again. This time name it read mail. Make sure you have activated Visibility.

new layer comp

Step 4

Set layers for right menu.

layer for right menu

Step 5

As in previous steps, save this into Layer Comps.

new layer comp

Step 6

Keep working this, until we have Layer Comp for inbox with left menu, inbox with right menu, inbox with compose tab, read mail with right menu, and read mail with compose tab. Click triangle icon to scroll to next previous layer comp.

scroll layer comps

Right arrow icon for next layer comp and left arrow for previous one.

9. Presenting App Design in a Mockup

Step 1

Grab free flat iPhone mockup from PixEden. To edit screen, choose the phone color you want and double click smart layer YOUR SCREEN HERE inside the color’s phone group layer. The smart layer will be opened as a separate file.

edit black iphone screen content

Edit black iPhone screen content.

Step 3

Return to our app design. Activate inbox design, select all (Command/Ctrl-A), and then copy all (Command/Ctrl-Shift-C).

copy app design

Copy app design.

Step 4

Paste the design (Command/Ctrl-V). Make sure it is placed above all layers..

Paste design

Paste design.

Step 5

Save and close the smart layer file. In the mockup file, the black iPhone screen content is now automatically updated. You can now repeat this process for all your other screens.

Update iphone screen content

Update iPhone screen content.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, I showed you how to design a Gmail-style, iOS email app from beginning to end. In this process, I showed you how to sketch out your ideas, draw some icons, design your screens, as well as how to incorporate your designs into a realistic mockup. I hope this tutorial has helped you better understand the workflow involved in creating an app like this, and I look forward to see the designs you create, as a result.

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