Adobe Illustrator is a highly versatile graphics program that gives users a range of excellent tools to create all kinds of graphics and images. It can be used to design logos, charts, business cards, stationery, icons, drawings, and even T-shirts. It’s a complex piece of software with many outstanding functions.
This guide cannot cover them all but will focus on the basics to get you started on what is sure to be an exciting learning curve. If you put in the effort to learn the program, you’ll be able to create superb artworks and graphics.
Please note that Illustrator is a vector drawing program. In other words, it uses lines and mathematical equations when you draw a shape, instead of storing its Raster image information in dots like Photoshop.
The main advantage of vector graphics is that you can scale them up to very large sizes without losing resolution. Raster images, on the other hand, will pixelate when you make them bigger.
Create and save a new document
To start working in Illustrator, you will have to create a new document. To do so, open the program. The Work tab should open automatically. Select it if it doesn’t. Then click the Create new button. A new window will appear and ask what it is you want to create. Select the one you want (for instance, Web or Print), then choose a preset, and click Create.
Once you have created your document, you should save it. In the upper left-hand corner, go to the File menu and in it choose Save as. Name your file and decide where you want to save it (e.g. Desktop or Documents). Then go to Format and select the format you want to save it in. Save, and your document is ready for you to work on.
The Workspace and Tools
To use Adobe Illustrator to its best advantage, you need to know your way around.
Firstly, become familiar with the workspace to locate what you need to create your graphics. It would help if you also got to know the essential tools and what they’re used for.
The Illustrator workspace is similar to those of other graphics programs like Photoshop. It’s a rectangular area containing all the tools you need and the space in which to create your graphics.
You’ll use the Tools panel on the left the most because it contains all the tools you’ll need for whatever task you’re undertaking. There are a lot of tools, but you don’t have to learn them all at once.
To configure the tool you’re using, go to the Control Panel at the top of the rectangle. The Panel Docking Area on the right holds color swatches, layers and other palettes, gradient settings and stroke options. Experimenting with all of these will help you become familiar with them. You’ll develop your own preferences as you become comfortable with the tools.
Creating Basic shapes
Most designs you’ll want to create in Adobe Illustrator will require that you start with basic shapes. The most useful tool for doing this is the Pen tool, which will allow you to draw a variety of lines, triangles, curves and squares.
These shapes can then be combined in different ways and built up to create a drawing that can be the basis of an icon or a logo, for instance.
The shapes can then be filled with color, from Illustrator’s extensive colour range using the Eyedropper, another valuable and popular tool. It allows you to pick up a color of your choice and drop it into a shape.
Illustrator also has a Swatch library. It offers an amazing range of patterns and textiles and stunning gradients and palettes of different skin colours. To find them, go to the Swatches panel and into its drop-down menu. Choose Open Swatch Library and be amazed at the selection.
The Shape builder tool and the Pathfinder option can help you manipulate your shapes to draw your desired design. You can unite, exclude, divide and intersect your shapes to create your graphics or drawings The Appearance panel will allow you to add different effects to make your graphics really exciting. You’ll find it in the Window menu at the top of your screen.
Experimenting with the different tools in the Tools panel will help you learn many interesting ways to use them.
Practice Makes Perfect
There is a lot of information on using Illustrator on Adobe sites and others on the Internet. There are manuals that go into precise detail on all the program’s numerous features to guide you as your skills grow after you have mastered the basics.
You can also find videos that go into detail on different aspects of the program. There are forums where you can connect with experts and ask questions. Experienced users have written blogs and shared their history of learning the program, which is complex and can seem difficult to master at first.
There are add-ons for Adobe Illustrator that can enhance your work. Have a look at Envato Market, which provides many styles, textures, patterns, and brushes you can use.
Saving Your Vector Art
You can create the best graphics in the world, but if you don’t save them properly, you’ll limit access to them. If you’re saving your work as a gif, jpg or png, you should also learn how to Save for Web. It’s a fundamental thing to remember to do with your vector graphics or artworks. It’s easy. Go to File > Save for Web, select your file type and save.
Why use Adobe Illustrator?
Vector art is becoming more and more sought-after, and being able to produce it is now a highly appreciated skill. It’s valued in illustration and design and it’s worth becoming good at it and adding it to your skillset. Adobe Illustrator is the perfect vehicle for your creativity.