If you want to start working in Adobe Illustrator the best way to fall in love with the program is through the pen tool. Before I go through my five tips for Illustrator, I wanted to stress that the Pen Tool should become your best friend. Vector artwork is the best because it’s able to be shifted to any size you want, that’s why it’s called Vector. With Illustrator you can make images as sharp as possible without having to worry about pixelization. This article is meant to be a starters guide for anyone who wants to learn more about illustrator and how many tools it has.
Before we jump into the tips, I figured I should mention Keyboard shortcuts, This one might seem obvious, but back when I started, I looked like a deer in the headlights trying to comprehend Illustrator and all its hidden wonder. These come in handy so keep them in mind. I use a PC If you use a Mac just switch Control and Command.
Cntrl + C = Copy
Cntrl + V = Paste
Cntrl + B = Paste Behind
Cntrl + F = Paste In Front
Hold Alt when moving an object to duplicate it
To repeat that action press Cntrl + D
Shift + Cntrl + P = Place
Cntrl + A = Select all
I = Eyedropper
V = Selection Tool
A = Direct Selection Tool
L = Elipse shape
M = Rectangle Shape
P = Pen Tool
Now, these are the bare bones of all the shortcuts you can use, but these are the ones I use all the time.
Building layers on top of layers can look ugly and increase the size of your project to ungodly proportions. And for a long time that’s what I did, just filled areas with colors overlapping one another well the Pathfinder tool became my new best friend when working with color fills. Instead of having 40 different shapes as the same color all laying on one another you can have one big one. Or you can cut lines into already existing shapes instead of relying on your shakey pen tool skills to draw a curved line. The way I use the Pen tool for my Illustrations is that I draw out character outlines using a black fill and once I have one hundred or so shapes I use the Pathfinder Tool to make it one big one. Or say I need to cut off a color before it hits the edge of the outline you can create a line using your Pen Tool and cut the shape along that line. Each Icon in the Pathfinder window gives a good description of what the Tool does. And as always mess around with it. It’s not like your going to break it.
Just like in Photoshop you can change the blending mode of images. But In illustrator, you can change the blending mode of one single shape too. A lot of my more recent artwork uses these tricks. For example, my Batgirl in a Blizzard piece uses a lot of blending modes. These can be used for adding shades or lighting to specific backgrounds and shapes. Giving someone the right amount of light shining across their face can make a piece go from flat too detailed. WhenI first started using Illustrator all my images were flat one color designs. As I grew more comfortable with the program, I began to use Opacity, and that doesn’t always work because translating that into other programs or printing can look odd. The Transparency tool has a bunch more options than a simple Opacity change anyway. Say you’re creating a nighttime piece well then you might want to try a ‘Darken’ or ‘Multiply.’
3.) Offset Path
To get to this tool you need to go to Object>Path>Offset Path, this one is a bit harder to find than the other ones on the list, but it’s so useful I had to include it. My early work has a lot of outlines, and those were all created using the stroke. –Again a lot of this is stuff I wish I knew when I was begining.– The Stroke can work sometimes, but for some curved edges or just oddly placed angles it can become wild and pointy looking. So the best way to get around that is by using Offset Path, you can create a smooth outline either rounded or straight and not have to worry about the jagged looking corners of your piece. It also helps sometimes to add depth to an angle or feature. Just select the image you want to have an outline and go through the steps above, a new window will pop up, and you can set your parameters like the size of the framework and the severeness of its edge.
Creating 200 hundred images one slightly smaller than the other and only a few points apart is tedious and pointless don’t do that. Well, you might say, “why on earth would I do that anyway?” Then I’d tell you to shut up this is my article. Making depth in illustrator can seem harsh when all you know is how to Bevel and Emboss in Photoshop, well the cleanest and quickest way to do it in illustrator is to blend two objects. When you have your image/outline, whatever you want to give depth too, copy the image and press Cntrl + B to paste your shape behind your original art. Then move the furthest image away in whatever direction you want the depth to come from and shrink it in size a bit. Finally, change it’s color to something darker than what your original artwork is and Once you’ve done that select both objects and go to Object>Blend>Blend Options. A new window will pop up asking for your parameters. I always choose Specified steps, but as I said earlier try things out, it’s not going to break. If you decide specified steps set the number of steps to something crazy like 90 and hit ok. Then go back to Object>Blend>Make and boom you have some depth to your outline.
Now the Effect tab has so many cool tools that picking only one seems criminal, but this is the one I use most for logos. Much like Netflix logo, you can give your logo a cool looking arch without it having to look like text typed around a circle. Or maybe you want to create a Classic Superman-style logo. The Warp tool can do all that. This one is relatively self-explanatory compared to the last one. Once you find the Warp tab under Effects mess around and see what looks nice. to give your text said superman style depth choose Arc and set the bend to 10% and the Horizontal to -20%. Or if you want the Netflix style bend instead of Arc choose Arc Lower, add negative bend percentage and leave the distortion alone.