For those that are new to the graphic design gig, welcome. ┬áLet this tutorial be your tour guide to one of the most gruesome (yet rewarding) professions ever and you will find your stay slightly more pleasant. For the newbies out there, Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based drawing program that is often used for graphic design. Utilizing the program will help you create complicated patterns and designs faster and more efficiently than one normally could on pencil and paper or other traditional methods.
Let start with the program basics.?
Feel free to let my know if I’ve left anything out of my brief introduction of Adobe Illustrator. If you wish to learn more about the program it maybe best to pick up a book or find the many reliable resources online.
Adobe actually has a really comprehensive library of ‘keyboard shortcuts‘ for all their programs. However I’ve made a small list of the more useful keyboard shortcuts that you will find useful on your journey as a designer.
- SHIFT – holding shift while moving and object will ensure that it moves in a straight line
- Command G – Also know as Ctrl G for PC users, this command is for grouping objects.
- O – to flip and object
- R – to rotate an object
- Alt Shift ] or [ – to move an object to the front or back
- Command 2 – to lock an object
It’s also possible to set your own keyboard shortcuts or import a custom set that others have set up and optimized for your designing experience.
Making Basic Shapes in Adobe Illustrator
Up in the depth of your tool palette is the shape tool.
If you hold down the mouse key on the shape tool button then a menu will appear with a list of shapes (or shape menu) for you to choose from like so.
Clicking on the arrow to the side of the shape menu allows the shape menu to pop out in a separate window.
Now you’re ready to make your first shape!
You’ll notice that when you select a shape and click on your new document that the shape is stamped onto your page. However if you hold down the click and drag the mouse you can adjust the size of the shape. You may have also noticed that you can rotate the shape if you you drag it in circles.
Holding down the shift button as you drag your shape will ensure your shape stays proportional as you change the size of the shape. When you hold down Alt, it centers your shape in its position while you decide on the size and rotational angle of your shape. Holding down control will give the shape a similar effect as hold down alt except it lets you position and angle the shape from the left side of the shape rather than from the center. Don’t worry about getting your shape perfect. You can always change the aspects of your shape later by clicking on it with the Selection tool (located at the top left corner of your tool palette) and dragging the corners of the selection box.
It is also possible for you to change the number of points your shape normally has by clicking on it with the Shape tool and adjusting the points section in the menu that pops up. This is how you create freak-of-nature-shapes such as the 110-point star.
So now we have a shape. It’s not quite as beautiful as we would like is it? Luckily, Illustrator has plenty of tools that will assist you in pimping out your custom shape.
Let’s start with the Fill and Stroke tools located here.
The fill color will always default to white however if you double click on the tool then a color menu opens up for you to choose your own custom color. After you choose a new color and click OK, your shape will automatically be filled with the color of your choosing like so.
The stroke of the shape can be treated the same way however if you decide not to have a stroke then just simply click the tiny red striped square below the Stroke tool to cancel out the stroke.
The Pathfinder palette is a key tool to creating shapes and most designers find themselves hugging the palette when they go to sleep at night. The palette lets you create new shapes from overlapping objects. Just select the objects you would like to combine with the Selection tool and click on the effect that you want in the Pathfinder palette.
The palette provides four different effects for shapes. You can either combine two or multiple shapes into a one unique shape like so.
You can also minus the object(s) that are in front.
You can also intersect two of the objects or exclude the space in-between them.
Most objects and graphics in Illustrator can be created by combining and transforming shapes creating enough possibilities to make Picasso jealous.
Drawing with the Pencil tool in Adobe Illustrator
Drawing in Illustrator doesn’t have to feel like it’s constrained to the five shapes that the program gives you. You can easily design your own custom shapes with the pencil tool by click on the pencil tool in your tool palette.
Click and drag the tool to create your own custom drawing like a real pencil.
If you accidentally leave an important component out of your custom drawing, you can easily add a new path or line to the one you’ve already made. First, select the path that you’ve already made and position the end of the pencil icon on the endpoint of the path to add an additional path like so.
Of course if you made a mistake in drawing a line, the pencil tool also lets you redraw parts of a path by selecting the path and just redrawing the part you wish to change. The program will automatically change the closest part of the path to match your new drawing.
The possibilities of the Pencil tool makes your shape repertoire even more endless however if you’re unhappy with the quality or texture of the paths that the Pencil tool creates then simply double click on the pencil tool in your tool palette to open up the Pencil tool options. From there you can change the fidelity or smoothness of the path.
The fidelity of the tool determines the frequency and distance of the anchor points on your path. The less anchor points there are then the smoother the path. The smoothness option lets you determines the amount of detail applied to your path. The lower the value the more you’ll see the irregularities in the line as well as the number of anchor points.
You can also smooth out parts of your line by holding down the Pencil tool button and selecting the Smooth tool in the new pop-up menu. Use the smooth tool to smooth out the part of the line that needs smoothing.
If switching to the smooth tool is way too inconvenient then a quick way to smooth out your lines is to hold ALT while using the Pencil tool to temporarily switch to the Smooth tool.
Drawing with the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator
Speaking of anchor points, the pen tool lets you draw more precise lines by plotting anchor points and adjusting the path between anchor points. However the pen tool is one of the trickiest tools to use in all of the Creative Suite but if mastered, can prove to be one of the most useful.
The easiest shapes you can draw with the pen tool are the ones that consist only of straight lines. Click on the Pen tool in your tool palette and just simply drop anchor points where two straight lines should intersect in your shape like so.
You can adjust the position and size of your new shape with the selection tool as well as the placement of the lines with the Direct Selection tool (located to the right of the Selection tool in your tool palette).
Now that you’ve mastered the art of making polygons with the pen tool you can now tackle making curves with the pen tool.
The most essential snippet of information you need to know about using the pen tool is that the determining factor in getting the shape you want is placing the anchor points in the correct position. When you create a curve you want to place the actor points where the curve changes direction.
To create a curved line simply place an actor point and then a second one to create a line. While still clicking on the second anchor point, draw it to create a curved line. You can adjust the curve of the line by holding Command (or CTRL if you’re a PC) and pulling the handles or the path to the position you want.
You can also delete anchor points that you are having second thoughts about by hovering over those points until the – symbol shows up next to your Pen and click on the anchor point to remove it. You can also go back and change curved anchor points into straight ones by holding ALT and clicking the point you want to change.
The Pen tool is a tool that spans across the whole Adobe universe and can be really useful once one learns the fine art of mastering it. A good way to practice with the tool is to trace objects with it or cut out an object in a photo with the tool.
Brushes can add a certain style to your shapes and can imitate crayon, calligraphy brushes, or other hand drawn mediums and patterns. There are four types of brushes in Illustrator: Calligraphic, Scatter, Art, and Pattern.
Your selection of brushes can be found in the Brushes Palette on the right hand side of the screen. If you can’t find it then simply open it by going to Window>Brushes or hit F5. Your brushes palette should come with a few selected brushes on display however you can find more options by clicking the menu button in the bottom left corner of the palette.
Once you select the type of brush you would like, a second palette will open up with more brush options for you.
To apply the brush, just simply select the path or shape you wish to apply it to and click on the brush you would like to use. The path or shape will instantly change to the style you desire.
Working with Typography in Adobe Illustrator
Many designers find that the Character Palette is their best (and sometimes only) friend. The palette does everything you need when it comes to typography and will adjust every little crevice of a word. However first it is important to learn how to place a word. Click on the Text tool in your tool palette located here.
Click and drag on your page to create a text box and click within the text box to start typing. You can always adjust the size of the text box by holding down Command (or CTRL in PC) and adjusting the corners.
You can also make a vertical text box by holding shift when you begin creating a new text box.
On your character palette you can adjust nearly anything when it comes to type. You can adjust the width and height of the letters or the width and height of the spacing between the letters.
You can adjust the font and font size as well as bold, italics, and such. You can even rotate the letters to your desired degree for those who love reading sideways.
The Align Palette is useful when using typography as well as creating shapes because the palette will automatically align your text or shape to a selection of your choice. Whether you want to align the object to the side or on top is up to your keen designer eye.