Adobe Illustrator Tutorial for Beginners
By Rafiq Elmansy for Udemy
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Many design applications are available on the market that confuse designers early in their career when deciding which application to begin learning. Adobe Illustrator is considered one of the essential tools for a designer that encompasses a wide range of projects in graphic design, web design, fashion design, and more. Illustrator provides a tool for designers to visualize their ideas and designs in a similar manner to sketching in a notebook. However, many designers, especially in their early career, feel that Illustrator is confusing and hard to learn. This course provides a clear beginners guide for Adobe Illustrator that can help designers understand its basics by using a hands-on approach.
This guide requires that Adobe Illustrator CC be installed. If you have not installed it yet, you can click on the Creative Cloud icon on your computer toolbar to install the most recent version of Adobe Illustrator. If you still have not purchased the Creative Cloud, you can get your copy from this link.
In the world of digital design, visual elements are produced on your screen as either one of two types: bitmaps graphics or vector graphics. While Adobe Illustrator is known as a vector-based application, bitmap graphics can be added to designs in Illustrator.
Bitmap graphics (also known as raster graphics) create an array of pixels that are arranged next to each other in a grid to build the whole image. Pixels are tiny dots that appear on your computer screen and, when combined together, represent the colors in your image. The more pixel density in the image, the higher the quality becomes. Therefore, the quality of bitmap graphics is calculated based on the density of the pixels in one inch, which is known as the term “resolution.” Bitmaps are resolution dependent and the number of pixels in the image is calculated by multiplying the number of pixels in both the width and height of the image. It is usually stated as dots per inch (dpi) or points per inch (ppi).
The graphics that you print are usually required to have higher resolution than the graphics that will only be viewed on a computer screen, as the printed graphics require more pixels to represent the image and display it in a high quality when compared with a computer screen. Therefore, most of the graphics and visual elements that are used in digital projects like web design, mobile user interface (UI) design, and animation are required to be 72 dpi. The files that are used in the printing process are required to be a higher resolution, from 150-300 dpi depending on the printing size and quality requirements. Brochures, flyers, and books should be designed on 300 dpi, while large size prints such as billboards and larger posters can be printed in 150 dpi. This is because the product is usually hung and viewers are not examining it for fine quality; therefore, some print houses use lower resolution to save on printing ink and time.
While bitmap graphics are commonly used on a variety of platforms because they can display a wide range of details like a real photo taken by digital cameras, it is not flexible when it comes to resizing. The graphics’ pixel grid is usually fixed to include colors and details; therefore, resizing graphics may affect the quality. This process is called resampling because the computer tends to compromise the change in size by either deleting pixels to reduce the size of the image (down-sampling) or filling in the gaps to increase the size (up-sampling). The image distortion associated with the resampling process is usually most noticeable when increasing the image size because the filling pixels used to create the extra size are usually distorted and lower in quality when compared with the original pixilation.
Bitmap graphics are supported by a wide range of formats, such as JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, PSD, and PDF. Image format options will be discussed further below. Currently, most graphic design applications can deal with both bitmap and vector graphics. However, there are applications that focus most of their tools and features on working with bitmap graphics, like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, etc.
Figure 01. The pixels in bitmap graphics and how it arranges in a grid (GIF)
Vector graphics are usually associated with illustrations and unreal graphics such as cartoons. These graphics are created using lines that are called paths rather than pixels. Paths are line-generated by the computer using mathematical equations. These lines create curves and shapes that can form complex artwork. Paths are drawn through a number of points that are called anchor points. Unless the vector image has been converted into a bitmap image, a vector graphic is resolution-independent, which means that each time the artwork is resized, the computer application redraws the mathematical equations to ensure sharp and high-quality lines. Therefore, vector graphics are used to create projects such as logos and fonts because the graphic can be resized to any medium, including desktop screens, mobile phones, and printed materials without losing the quality.
Unlike bitmap graphics that can be created using a digital camera or scanned graphics, vector graphics are generated using computer graphics where content can either be saved in a vector format or converted into bitmap in a process called “rasterizing”. In this process the vector paths are converted into pixels and a resolution value and size are assigned to the exported graphics. Although the rasterizing process loses the advantages of a vector graphic, it is necessary to overcome the limitations of the uses of vector graphics. For example, bitmap graphics are required for projects such as web design and mobile application design as well as saving the image in a wider range of formats. While some formats support vector graphics, such as Shockwave Flash (SWF), it requires a special plug in to run it.
Vector images can be saved in a number of formats, including Adobe Illustrator (AI), CorelDraw (CDR), Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), AutoCAD (DXF), EPS, PICT, and PDF. A number of applications can be used to create vector graphics, such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW.
Figure 2. Vector graphics are resolution independent and consist of paths (GIF)
Adobe Illustrator has a similar interface to other Adobe Creative Cloud applications, which makes it easy for designers and artists to learn different applications since they are all sharing the same user interface anatomy. Adobe Illustrator’s interface consists of the menus located in the top of the application, working area, and panels located on the right and left of the working area. As there are many panels in Illustrator, these panels can be hidden or collapsed from the workspace to allow for a larger working area. You can display or hide specific panels by clicking on the panel name from the Windows menu. You can collapse panels by clicking the small arrow on the top right side of the panels.
Figure 03. Display panels from the windows menu and collapsing panel (GIF)
Also, you can move panels from their default location to either make it float in the workspace, hide, or place it in another panel’s grouping. The locations where your panel can be placed get highlighted by a blue line, as follows:
- Click on a panel title and drag it to the working area
- Click on the close icon on the top left of the panel
- Click on a panel and drag it
- While dragging, a highlighted blue lines appears showing the places where the panel can go
Figure 04. Relocate and hide panels (GIF)
Organizing the workspace and displaying the panels allows you to choose which is most frequently used based on different projects. This gives more space within the working area. In the top right side of Illustrator application, the workspace drop-down list allows you to choose from different default workspace options. You can also create your own customized workspace based on your favorite panels:
- Rearrange the panels to meet with your project needs
- Click on the Workspace down-down list
- Select New Workspace
- Give your Workspace a name – for example, “My New Workspace”
- Press Ok
- The new Workspace is created and you can access it from the Workspace drop-down list
Figure 05. Create new workspace (GIF)
Customized workspaces can be deleted if you don’t need them. You can delete workspaces from the Manage Workspace dialogue box by doing this:
- Choose Manage Workspace from the Workspaces drop-down list
- Select the custom workspace name, for example “My New Workspace”
- Click on the Delete icon on the right of the workspace name
- Press Ok
Figure 06. Delete Workspace (GIF)
Note that if you changed the panel arrangement for any of the default workspaces, you can always click on the Reset command in the workspace drop-down list to return to the default appearance. For example, to return to the default appearance for the Essential panel, make sure you are selecting the workspace “Essentials,” and then select “Reset Essentials” from the drop-down list.
As mentioned above, Adobe Illustrator is used in different design-related industries. Therefore, proper document setting is required in order to maintain professional delivery of files and reduce the reworking required to meet the standards in a later stage of your project. In this section, we will explore general document settings.
You can open documents in Illustrator by simply clicking File > Open from the top menu or press Cmd+O (Ctrl+O in Windows). You can also open documents by double-clicking on the working area in the Illustrator document or dragging the files from your computer to the Illustrator icon.
In order to create a new document, you need to click File > New from the top menus or simply press Cmd+N (Ctrl+N in Windows). The New Document dialogue box appears, showing the following options:
Figure 07. New Document dialog box
- Type the document name in the “Name” field. You can add the name now or later when saving the document.
- Choose the document setting profile; this drop-down list allows you to choose the setting you need to apply to the document. For example, select the “Print” option to display the document setting suitable for printing process.
- Select the number of desired Artboards, which act like pages or working stages. For example, set the number of Artboards to 5. The icons on the right side of the Artboards field allow you to set the arrangement of the Artboards in the document. You can keep them at default.
- The Spacing field allows you to set a space between artboards. The Columns field sets the number of artboard columns in the document.
- Choose the size of the printed document from the Size drop-down list. If you need to set a custom size, you can write the size width and height in the later fields. You can also set the units of your document. Millimeters, centimeters, and inches are for printing and pixels are for digital design projects, like those for web and mobile devices.
- The bleeds are an extended guide area around the printed document. It is added to allow designers to extend the document background colors or images so that no white areas appear after cutting the design paper. Set the bleed to 3 millimeters.
- In the advanced section you can see the color mode for the document (Color mode), the resolution when converting vectors to bitmap (Raster Effects), and the preview mode for the document (keep it as default).
- Keep the Align New Object to Pixel Grid unchecked.
TIP: You can open a new document based on existing template by clicking the Templates button on the bottom left of the New Document dialogue box, or simply choose File > New from Template.
As mentioned, Artboards provide an excellent method to add more design layouts in one document. For example, corporate identity designs such as logos, business cards, letterhead, and envelopes can be added in one document to save the time and effort required to reach different documents and working with it. Artboards can be modified after creating the document. In the following steps we will learn how to edit artboards in the document.
- While the document is open, click on the Artboard tool. This will let you access the artboard editing mode
- Click on one of the artboards and drag to change its place in the document
- Use the rectangle around the selected artboard to resize
Figure 08. Editing the artboard in the document (GIF)
Also, the options in the top Properties bar allow more options to modify the selected artboard as follows:
- Use the Presets to change the artboard size based on standard file sizes, and the orientation of the document from portrait to landscape from the two icons to the right
- Click on the New icon to create a new artboard and the Delete icon to remove an existing one
- Use Name to change the artboard name
- Click the icon on the right of the artboard name to allow moving or copying the artwork while modifying the artboard position, scale, or duplication
- Use the next three icon to display and hide guide points such as displaying the center marks, cross hair, and video safe areas
- Click on the Artboard options icon to display the artboard setting dialog box
- Use the Reference Point icon in the center point of each artboard and the values option on the right to set the position of the selected artboard and its width and height
TIP: Press the Option key (Alt in Windows) while dragging the artboard to duplicate.
Working with Adobe Illustrator requires a good understanding of the tools that help you to create accurate work and arrange the elements in the document. This accuracy can be achieved through using rulers, guides, and grids.
Rulers allow you to identify width and the height of the document, where the elements are added, and the distance between each other. The rulers can be activated through View > Ruler > Show Ruler or by simply pressing Cmd + R (Ctrl + R in Windows). Once appeared, the rulers use the same measurement unit that was chosen while creating a new document. Changing the ruler units can be achieved through clicking on the Document Setup icon on the Properties bar. It opens the dialogue box, where you can choose the document units.
The Grids display a grid in the document background to organize the elements. The grids can be displayed or hidden from View > Show Grid. Objects can be set to snap to grid for easier arrangement for elements and organizing them next to each other. The grid snapping can be activated by clicking View > Snap to Grid.
Figure 10. The rulers and grids in Adobe Illustrator
TIP: You can change the colors of the grids and guide from the Illustrator Preferences dialogue box. Click the Illustrator menu in Mac (Edit menu in Windows), then select Preferences > Guide & Grid.
Guides are the tools that allow you to organize elements and alignment based on custom created guides. Guides can be created by simply placing the mouse over either the horizontal or the vertical ruler and then dragging to create a guide; you can create multiple guides based on the design’s needs. The guides can be modified or deleted by selecting the guide and dragging it to move or by pressing the “Delete” button in the keyboard to delete it.
Figure 11. Create and modify the guides in Illustrator (GIF)
In order to avoid changing the guide location by mistake, guides can be locked, which prevents it from being moved or deleted. To lock a guide, go to View > Guides > Lock Guides. The guides can also be hidden to display the design project by clicking View > Guides > Hide Guides.
Another type of guide is the Smart Guide. This guide appears while dragging objects on the document to display its relation to other objects while dragging. It can give a visual guide during dragging, scaling, or rotating objects. The Smart Guides can be activated by clicking View > Smart Guides.
Figure 12. Smart Guides appear while dragging objects (GIF)
TIP: Lines and shapes can be converted to custom guides. Simply select the line or shape, right-click and select Make Guide.
As Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based application, artwork is created out of one or more paths that are either grouped or added separately to the document. Two main tools are used to select objects inside Adobe Illustrator and can be reached from the top of the Tools panel: the Selection tool (the black pointer) and the Direct Selection tool (the white pointer). The Selection tool selects the whole artwork and can be used to move, rotate, and scale the artwork. The Direct Selection tool is used to select the paths that create the vector shapes.
The Selection tool can be used to select more than one object by simply pressing the “Shift” key while clicking to select more than one element. Dragging over a number of objects allows you to select them all. Selecting multiple shapes that are not next to each other can be done using the Lasso tool by dragging it over the object that needs to be selected.
Another method to select objects is the Magic Wand tool. It allows selection of multiple objects based on a shared property such as similar colors, opacity, store color, and blending mode. The Magic Wand tool can be applied as follows:
- Open a document with multiple objects on it
- Double-click on the Magic Wand tool to open the panel
- Make sure that the color is selected. This will select objects with the same color
- Click on an object with the color that is repeated in other objects to select all objects with similar colors. This can be applied to objects with similar transparency, blending modes, etc.
Figure 13. Selecting objects using the Magic Wand tool (GIF)
TIP: You can duplicate an existing shape by simply clicking and dragging the shape while pressing the Option key (Alt key in Windows). This creates a duplicated version of the selected shape or number of shapes.
Paths are the basis of all vector graphics; objects consist of either one path or more. The simplest path is made up of two anchor points and the segment between them. The segment is a virtual line that gathers with other segments to create the total path. Many tools in Adobe Illustrator can be used to create vector paths, but the Pen tool can be used to draw shapes as well as modifying existing paths. In order to understand how the path is drawn using the Pen tool, the following figure shows how to use the Pen tool to create a path of one segment and two anchor points.
- Click on the Pen tool from the Tools panel
- Click once on the document to create the first anchor point
- Move to another location in the document and click again to create a second anchor point
- Click on any other tool to end the path drawing mode
Figure 14. Create simple path using the Pen tool (GIF)
As you can see, the above method creates a straight line path. In order to create a curve, in the third step, drag the mouse while clicking on the second anchor point. This displays the anchor point’s direction lines. These lines end with direction points that can be dragged to control the path curve. Paths with start and end points that are separated are called open paths, while a path with one start and end point are called closed paths. The following steps show how to create a simple heart shape to experience different anchor point cases:
- Using the Pen tool, click to create the first anchor point, which is the top and center of the shape
- Move to the left and click and drag to create the left curve in the heart shape
- Click on the last anchor point while pressing the Option key (Alt in Windows). This will ensure that the current point is not affecting the following segment of the path
- Move the cursor to the middle bottom below the first anchor point and click to create a third anchor point, then drag to create curve, as the figure below shows
- Click the third anchor point while pressing the Option key (Alt in Windows)
- Move to the right side and click to create the fourth anchor point and drag to create curve, as the figure below shows
- Click the fourth anchor point while pressing the Option key (Alt in Windows)
- Click the start anchor point and drag to create the right curve in the top of the heart shape
Figure 15. Creating a heart shape using the Pen tool (GIF)
In order to modify the path, the Direct Selection tool should be selected from the top right of the Tools panel. This tool allows you to select a specific anchor point and modify its place, or the line segments around it, through modifying the direction points. The selected anchor points can be converted into either a curved anchor point or corner anchor point from the top Properties bar through the following steps:
- Select the anchor point with the Direct Selection tool
- On the top of the Properties bar, click any of the two icons next to “Convert” to switch between the curved and corner anchor points
Clicking on the Pen tool from the Tools panel reveals more functions, such as adding an anchor point by clicking on the Pen tool for the “plus” sign above it, or removing an anchor point by clicking on the Pen tool with the “minus” sign above it.
Figure 16. Modifying paths using the Direct Selection tool (GIF)
TIP: You can practice drawing with paths by using a vector-based artwork such as a cartoon character and starting to trace it. Make sure to use the least number of anchor points while building your shape to easily modify the shape in the future.
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of paths: open paths and closed paths. Based on these types of paths, there are two types of shapes inside Illustrator which are controlled by two groups of tools. The first group consists of the Open Path tools and are located in the Tools panel under the Pen tool. These tools draw shapes such as a Line Segment, Arc, Rectangle Grid, and Polar Grid.
For more accurate drawing and setting of the shape, you can double-click the tool icon on the Tools panel to open its options or simply click once on the stage. These options can be used to create new shapes with specific settings.
Figure 17. The Open path shapes
To the right side of the Open Path Tools, there are the Closed Path Tools that allow you to draw simple shapes such as a Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Star, or Flare. Similar to the above tools, double-clicking the tool icon opens the setting dialogue box, or you can simply click once on the stage to allow you to create accurate shapes.
In Adobe Illustrator, complex artwork can be simplified into simple closed shapes. Therefore, it is important to understand the importance of using both open and closed shapes. In the following topics, we will learn how to use shapes to create complex artwork.
Figure 18. The closed path shapes
TIP: Pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard allows for modification of the shapes while drawing them. For example, clicking the “up” and “down” arrows while drawing the spiral shape increases or decreases the number of rounds. It can also affect the number of sides while drawing a polygon. For example, a triangle can be drawn by simply double-clicking on the Polygon tool and setting the number of sides to three.
In the latest version of Adobe Illustrator, a new feature was added to allow easier control for corner anchor points. The Dynamic Rounded Corners feature appears as a small circle with a dot inside it when selecting a corner anchor point. This feature allows for converting of the anchor’s sharp corners into rounded corners by simply dragging the Dynamic Rounded Corner points as shown in the figure below.
Figure 19. Working with the Dynamic Rounded Corners (GIF)
Transforming and aligning objects help you to organize elements in the document body. Transforming objects can be applied either using the Selection tool or through numerical values from the Object > Transform menu, found along the top menu. The following steps show how to transform objects using the Select tool from the top left of the Tools panel:
- Click on the Selection tool and select the object on the stage
- Click on any of the four squares on the edges to scale the object. Make sure to press the “Shift” key while scaling to maintain the same proportions
- Next, roll over any of the corner squares and notice the small curved cursor that appears, as it allows you to rotate the object. Pressing the “Shift” key results in a rotation of 45 degrees.
Figure 20. Transforming shapes using the Selection tool (GIF)
More accurate transformation can be applied using the dialogue boxes from the Object > Transform menu. This allows you to move, rotate, reflect, scale, and shear the object using numerical values and more settings.
TIP: Make sure to check the Preview checkbox in the dialogue boxes to see a live update of what the shape will look like before applying the changes.
At the bottom of the Transform menu, there is the Transform Each command that can apply to more than one change at the same time, as follows:
- Select the shape using the Selection tool
- From the Object menu, press Transform > Transform Each
- When the dialogue box appears, make sure the Preview checkbox in the bottom is selected
- In the Scale section, set both Horizontal and Vertical scaling to 150%
- In the Rotate section, set the rotation angle to 45 degrees
- In the Options section, check Reflect Y
- Press Ok to scale, rotate, and reflect the shape
Figure 21. The Transform Each dialog box
TIP: Pressing the Copy button and any of the transformation buttons applies the changes on all copied versions of the shape.
Transforming objects can be also applied using the Transform panel; if the panel is hidden, it can be shown from the Window menu.
In order to achieve accurate and easy arrangement of the objects in the design, Adobe Illustrator provides a number of alignment options that can be used to align objects either with each other, with the artboard, or based around a key object. The alignment options appear on the top Properties bar when selecting a number of objects, or it is accessible through the Align panel. If the panel is hidden, it can be displayed from the Window menu.
- Select a number of shapes on the stage
- The align icons appears on the top Properties bar
- From the “Align To” option, set the alignment to selection, artboard, or key object
- Click on any of the align options to align objects or distribute them on the stage
Figure 22. The align object icons on the Properties bar
TIP: In order to set the alignment based on a key object, simply select the shapes and click once on the object that you need to set as the key object for the alignment.
Much of the artwork created in Illustrator, like logos, illustrations, and calligraphy, is made out of simple shapes. Breaking the artwork down into basic shapes helps you to create a piece easily and quickly. When looking at the figure below, simple lines, circles, and rectangles can be used to create interesting and successful artwork. In this section, we are going to explore how to create complex shapes using a number of features such as grouping, pathfinder, and shape builder.
Figure 23. Famous artwork created from basic shapes
When a path is drawn in Adobe Illustrator, it is placed on the stage, which is the first level in the document. By double-clicking the path, you enter the isolation mode. In this mode, you can edit only the selected path rather than any other paths in the document. In order to return to the stage, you need to double-click on the space outside of the object.
In more complex shapes, there may be multiple levels that can be considered isolation modes for different paths and groups. It is important to be aware of the current level in order to organize the artwork accordingly. Isolation Mode should be noted at the top left of the document, where a small bar displays where are you located inside the document structure.
Figure 24. The Isolation Mode vs. the document first level
TIP: Objects can be arranged in front of each other using the arrange commands. This can be reached by simply selecting the shape, right-clicking it, and choosing Arrange. It can also be reached from Object > Arrange.
Artwork can contain multiple paths, which can be moved or deleted by mistake. In order to organize the artwork and ensure that the paths are placed accurately during the work in the document, paths that draw specific artwork or a group of artworks can be gathered in a group. Groups can be created by following these steps:
- Select the artwork paths
- Select Object > Group
- Notice moving the artwork applies to all the paths included in it
- Double-click the group to enter its isolation mode and edit its content
In order to break up a linked group, select the group and press Object > Ungroup.
TIP: You can simply group shapes by pressing Cmd + G (Ctrl + G in Windows), and ungroup existing group by pressing Cmd + Shift + G (Ctrl + Shift + G in Windows).
As mentioned above, Pathfinder panels can be used to modify simple shapes to create more complex artwork. You can display the Pathfinder panel from the Windows menu and see that it includes two categories of icons: the first one is the Shape Mode that generally connects two shapes into one path, and the Pathfinder icons that convert the shapes into a group of paths that can be accessed by double-clicking the created shape. The Shape Mode icons include the following options:
- Unite the selected shapes into one shape
- Minus keeps one shape to the back of the selected objects
- Intersect leaves the intersected part of the shapes and removes other parts
- Exclude removes the intersected portions and keeps the other parts of the selected objects
While the Pathfinder icons include the following options:
- Divide breaks up the selected shapes based on the intersections between them
- Trim makes the top shape cut off the intersected part of the bottom shape
- Merge converts the two shapes into one grouped shape
- Crop removes the non-intersected area from the bottom shape and keeps the top shape and the intersected area in a group
- Outline converts all the shapes into an outline and places them inside a group
- Minus Back removes the back shape and the intersected area and keep the front, non-intersected part
In the following example, we will use the Pathfinder panel to draw the Nike logo from three simple shapes:
- Select the Ellipse tool from the Tools panel
- Create an oval shape, as in the figure below
- Press Option (Alt in Windows) and drag to duplicate the oval shape
- Place it on top of the first one
- Select both ovals, then the Pathfinder panel, and click the Unit icon
- Select the Pen tool and draw a triangle, as shown in the figure below
- Select both shapes, and click Unit from the Pathfinder panel
- Select the Direct Selection tool from the Tools panel
- Select the middle anchor points and modify their location to more accurately look like the logo
- Remove the unwanted anchor points using the Delete Anchor Point tool
Figure 25. Creating Nike Logo using the Pathfinder panel (GIF)
The default colors for any Illustrator shape are a white fill and a black stroke. However, Adobe Illustrator can provide a number of comprehensive color tools that help you to manage the colors in design projects, whether they are for printing or the web. In Illustrator, paths can be filled with either solid colors, gradients, or artwork patterns.
Filling the shape with a color, gradient, or pattern can be applied either inside the shape, which is known as fill, or on the outline of the shape, which is known as stroke. By default, when creating any shape, a white fill and black stroke is applied. The weight of the stroke can be changed from the top Properties bar by selecting the size from the Stroke Weight drop-down list.
There are different methods to change the color for both the fill and the stroke. The easiest method is from the Fill and Stroke area at the bottom of the Tools panel. The figure below shows the anatomy of the Fill and Stroke area.
Figure 26. The Fill and Stroke area in the Tools panel
In the following example, we will explore how to change the weight of a shape stroke and change both the fill and stroke color.
- Create a shape using any of closed path shapes available in the Tools panel
- Select the shape. From the Stroke Weight, change the stroke width to 2 pt
- Double-click on the Fill square so the Color Picker dialogue box appears, then select a color and press Ok
- Double-click the Stroke square, select the stroke color and press Ok
Figure 27. Choosing the fill and stroke color from the Tools panel (GIF)
TIP: If the fill color square is at the top of the stroke square, it means it is the active shape and any change in the color will be applied to it.
Solid colors can be managed from different locations inside Adobe Illustrator, including the Color panel and the Tools panel. The easiest method to apply a solid color is through the Tools panel by double-clicking the Fill or Stroke square. This opens the Color Picker dialogue box. The figure below shows the main parts of the dialogue box.
Figure 28. The Color Picker dialog box
You can also choose from existing colors located in the Swatches panel. We will cover the swatches panel in greater detail later.
Gradient is a combination of two or more colors that flow in a linear or radial order. Gradients can be created from the Gradient panel, and this can be applied to the object by simply dragging it from the object or by saving it to the Swatches panel. The figure below shows the anatomy of the Gradient panel.
Figure 29. The Gradient panel
The following steps show how to create a gradient and apply it to a star shape.
- Select the Star tool from the Tools panel
- Draw a star in the stage
- In the Gradient panel, set the gradient type to Radial
- Create three color points on the Gradient Slider
- Set the first and end colors to light orange, and the middle color to dark orange
- Select the Gradient tool from the Tools panel
- Drag over the selected star shape to draw the gradient
Figure 30. Creating a gradient star (GIF)
While selecting the star shape, any modifications to the gradient in the Gradient panel will be applied to the shape directly.
TIP: You can display the Gradient Annotator from the View menu to modify the gradient directly without the need to modify it from the Gradient panel.
Unlike with solid colors and gradients, patterns are repeated artwork that is used as a fill or stroke for the shape. Patterns can be created from one or more shapes that are converted into repetition. Recent versions of Adobe Illustrator make creating patterns much easier than before. Once the patterns are created, they are added to the Swatches panel and can be applied to any further shapes by dragging the pattern swatch to the object. The following steps show how to create a pattern:
- Use the Ellipse tool to create a number of circles with different colors and sizes
- Select the created circles
- From the Object menu, choose Pattern > Make
- The Pattern Option panel appears to modify the pattern
- Click Done from the top menu, so the pattern will be added to the Swatches panel
- Create a new shape on the stage
- Drag the pattern swatch to fill it
Figure 31. Create a pattern and apply it to an object (GIF)
Adobe Illustrator is a very precise application when dealing with colors. Therefore, it is a good practice to save all the colors used in the document as swatches for easier application of them in different formats. All the color swatches (solid, gradient, and patterns) are managed from the Patterns panel. Generally, there are three types of the swatches:
- Process colors – these colors are the normal colors used inside the document, and are printed the same as they are seen in the document.
- Spot colors – these colors reflect special colors that may be changed during the printing process with special inks like a gold or silver coloring.
- Global (Process or Spot) colors – this setting makes the color dynamic, so changing it in the swatch will be reflected in the whole document even if the shapes that have the color applied to it are not selected.
Colors can be converted into a swatch by following these steps:
- Select the color by using the Color Picker, or by using the Gradient panel if you need to add a gradient swatch
- Click on the New Swatch icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel
- Set the Type to Process Color and press Ok
- The new color is added to the Swatches panel
Figure 32. The New Swatch dialog box
TIP: The process colors appear with a square swatch in the panel, the global process color swatches appear in the panel with a small triangle on the bottom right, and the spot colors appear as a triangle with a dot inside.
Adobe Illustrator and InDesign are recommended applications when it comes to working with printed text because they handle the text quality more efficiently when compared with other applications. Also, they provide sophisticated text features and effects for either lines of text or for paragraphs.
In Illustrator, there are two types of text, the first of which is the point text, which is applied by clicking once on the stage using the Text tool. The point text is more suitable for titles and headers where there is no need for multiple lines. The other type is the area text, which is applied by clicking and dragging using the Text tool to create a paragraph area. The area text is suitable for a large amount of text, such as paragraphs, magazine columns, or brochure content text, because it allows wrapping the text in new lines when the text reaches the end of the designated area. It also allows for more paragraph options.
In order to create a point area, follow these steps:
- Select the Text tool from the Tools panel
- Click once on the artboard to start typing
- Select another tool to exit the text editing mode
In order to create an area text, follow these steps:
- Select the Text tool from the Tools panel
- Click and drag to create the paragraph area on the artboard
- Select another tool to exit the text editing mode
Figure 33. Creating point and area text using the Text tool (GIF)
In order to modify an existing text, double-click on the text area to enter into the text-editing mode. Also, you can click once in the text using the Text tool.
TIP: Double-click on the text to select a word; click three times to select the whole line.
Selecting the text area allows you modify text properties such as font type, size, color, and other. Modifying the text can be achieved from the Properties bar or the Character panel. In this panel, you can set the different text properties, as seen in the figure below.
The Paragraph panel is responsible for formatting and editing the paragraph content, such as modifying the alignment, adjustment, and other settings. The figure below shows the features available in the Character and Paragraph panels.
Figure 34. The properties in the Character panel
For long paragraph content, sometimes the text does not fit into the paragraph space. Therefore, you will find a red square at the bottom right of the text area. In order to reveal this text, you can increase the height of the text area or build a linkage text area by following these steps:
- Create a paragraph text area and add text. If that exceeds the limit of the area height, you’ll see a red square that appears on the bottom right.
- Using the Selection tool, click on the red square; note that the cursor seems to have a very small text next to it
- Click and drag to create another text area, and note that there is a line between the two text areas and the text flows from one area to another
- If the text is much larger, more linkage text areas can be created
Figure 35. Creating linking text areas in Illustrator (GIF)
TIP: You can divide the text areas into rows and columns using the Text Area Options dialogue box from the Type menu; you can choose the number of columns and rows as well as the spacing between them.
While Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based application, it allows importing bitmap images and applying a limited amount of effects and features to the imported images compared with other bitmap-based applications such as Adobe Photoshop. Also, it allows for the converting of bitmap images into vector through a comprehensive auto trace feature.
7.1 Placing Images
Images that are placed inside the Illustrator document are, by default, linked with its external source, which means that removing the original image or changing its location in the hard drive removes the image from inside the Illustrator document. This problem appears as a message when opening a document with missing images. Therefore, it is good practice to embed the placed image into the document as shown in the following steps:
- Open a new Illustrator document
- Choose Place from the File menu, navigate for a bitmap image, and click Place
- Click once on the stage to place the image with its original size
- From the top Properties bar, click the Embed button to save the image inside the Illustrator document and disconnect it from the original source.
Figure 36. Placing an image inside the Illustrator document
One of the more sophisticated features in Adobe Illustrator is the ability to convert any image to vector artwork. Many tracing options are available with a variety of effects. This feature is called Image Trace. When selecting an imported image, the Image Trace button appears on the top Properties bar. By clicking this button, it traces the image with the default setting, and clicking the arrow next to it reveals more tracing options, as seen in the figure below. More advanced tracing options can be applied from the Image Trace panel. In order to trace an image, follow the steps below:
- Select the placed image on the document
- Click the arrow next to the Image Trace button and set the tracing to High Fidelity Photo; this option creates high-quality traced images
- You can change the tracing options to reach the best results
- Click Expand to convert the traced image into editable paths
Figure 37. Examples of the Image Trace options
In Adobe Illustrator, there isn’t a method to cut or crop part of an image. In order to remove parts of the image, a mask should be applied. The easiest method to apply a mask in Adobe Illustrator is the quick mask that can be applied from the Transparency panel by following the steps below:
- Place an image to the document and Embed it as mentioned above
- Create a circle shape above the image, set its fill color to white and stroke to none. Choosing a color other than white may cause the mask to not work properly
- Select both the image and the circle
- From the Transparency panel, click on Make Mask
Figure 38. Applying a mask on an image (GIF)
TIP: Clicking the Release button from the Transparency panel removes the mask applied to the image
Adobe Illustrator includes a number of both vector and raster effects. These effects can be reached either from the Effect menu or the Appearance panel. The effects that are created inside Adobe Illustrator are called smart effects because they can be edited even after applying them. All you need to do is to navigate the effect from the Appearance panel and double-click the effect to apply it. Each effect has its dialogue box that allows for the modifying of its properties, so practicing different effects can contribute to creating various artistic results. The following steps show how to apply an effect over a text:
- Create a new document
- Create a point text on the artboard
- Click the FX icon from the bottom of the Appearance panel
- From the Illustrator Effects, choose Stylize > Scribble. The Scribble Options dialogue box appears
- Make sure the Preview checkbox is selected, and from the Setting, choose Swash
- Press Ok
Figure 39. Applying the Scribble effect (GIF)
After finalizing the design, it can either be saved or exported. The saving option inside Adobe Illustrator can be applied using the Save or Save As commands from the File menu, and it allows you to save the file in vector-based formats such as AI, EPS, AI, and SVG. On the other hand, exporting the document can be applied using both vector and bitmap formats.
As discussed earlier, there are a wide range of formats available for both vector and bitmap graphics. In practice, choosing the proper format to save work depends on the characteristics of each format and how it can be used to achieve the target layout. Choosing the proper file format is an essential part of the design process, because designers regularly struggle between quality and size. Designers usually select the highest quality possible in the saved images while maintaining the lowest file size in order to save computer resources and easily load images for use on the web and devices. Most of the common formats are bitmap-based due to its wide support by programs, browsers, and viewers. Below is a list of the common formats and their strengths and weak points:
- JPG: This is the most commonly used format because it can be produced by digital cameras, scanners, and graphic applications. JPG contains high compression while maintaining the image’s quality. Files saved in JPG format have a low file size and high quality compared with other formats. Therefore, it is a common format used to create web graphics and user interface designs. However, JPG images do not support transparency, and the compression may affect the color profile for saved images.
- PNG: This format supports transparency; therefore, it is often used to save transparent graphics for web projects. The quality of PNG files is very good when compared with other formats, but the file size is large. This is due to the compression level applied to PNG files. There are two types of PNG formats: PNG-8 and PNG-24. The only difference is the number of colors capable of viewing via each format. The PNG-8 is limited to only 256 colors, which reduces the quality of the exported images. PNG-24 can include millions of colors; therefore, it is the more commonly known and used type of the two.
- GIF: This is one of the oldest formats used in computer graphics. It is limited to 256 colors and it supports transparency. The primary advantage of the GIF format is the support for animation. It can include a sequence of images that can automatically play when viewing the image. GIF transparency is low in quality and may appear distorted, so a technique called matting may need to be applied in order to overcome this problem. Currently GIF is used to display animated graphics on web content because it does not require a special plugin to play.
- PDF: This format is commonly known among both designers and non-designers because it can display text documents and graphics in high quality and can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader or web browsers. This format supports both vector and bitmap graphics in high quality and various compression options. This format is used by many designers to output their projects, such as logo designs, brochures, websites, and others.
- SVG: Scalable vector graphics is a vector-based format where the graphics are created using programming language; it can be displayed as lines of code if viewed on a web browser. An SVG can be implemented in projects that associate graphic elements with other programming languages, such as creating maps.
In addition to the above formats, there are additional application formats used to create graphic elements. This can include information about the fonts, layers, filters, and other elements that can be edited and modified. These formats are only accessible by the application that created it or by similar applications. These applications include:
- AI: This is the source format for Adobe Illustrator, and it includes all the layers and paths used to create the visual layout, including vector and bitmap graphics.
- EPS: Similar to a PDF, this format supports both vector and bitmap graphics with high quality and size. The only difference is that this format requires a vector-based graphic application to open it, such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. It includes the sources used to create vector graphics similar to the AI format.
- PSD: This is the source format for Adobe Photoshop, a native image editing application, and it can include both vector and bitmap graphics. This format is only accessible by Adobe Photoshop.
- TIFF: This is another source formation that can include layers from the Photoshop source project. This format used to be adopted in printing because it preserved the color profiles for graphic files and does not change as the file is compressed.
Table 1. Comparison between formats, assuming the default setting is used.
In order to maintain both quality and low size for web graphics, Saving for Web is one of the efficient features that can be used to create low-size graphics with extended ability to control the quality of the exported images. The Save for Web allows saving the artwork in JPG, GIF, PNG-8, and PNG-24. Selecting any of these formats allows you to modify its quality, which subsequently affects the final file size. The preview on the left side allows you to check the output quality, the size and the download time in which the image is going to be uploaded on a website. The Save for Web allows you to resize the output image from the Image size section to fit with the web purpose.
Figure 40. The Save for Web dialog box
As mentioned earlier, this guide introduces you to Adobe Illustrator and its basic features. At this point, you should have a good understanding of the Adobe Illustrator interface, and how to use it to create and work with different graphic elements. Also, you should be able to use Adobe Illustrator to work with paths and create simple artwork using the existing features. This guide provides an introduction for more advanced guides and courses. By finishing this guide, you should now understand more advanced tutorials and examples. You will also be able to use Adobe Illustrator in design projects like logo design, branding, and building basic design layout for printing.
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