A first look at Illustrator can seem a bit intimidating. Like Photoshop, Illustrator allows you to do a million different things in a variety of different ways. I am going to introduce you to some basic tools, tips, and tricks that will assist in your Illustrator journey.
However, before we get into those tools, tips, and tricks, I think it is important to point out why someone would use this program in the first place. Illustrator is a vector-based program, unlike its popular counterpart Photoshop, which is pixel based. That means, anything created in Illustrator will never lose its quality, which makes it ideal for printing. For projects like creating a logo, illustrations, posters, infographics, t-shirt designs, typography, and fliers, Illustrator should be your go to program.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are some tools that have made my work easier in Illustrator:
If you plan on doing any drawing or creating your own shapes the pen tool is necessary. The pen tool allows you to create very clean and straight lines. You can easily go from curved to straight lines with a simple double click. I use this tool to make clean organic or geometric shapes. This is also a great tool for artists interested in creating their own fonts.
This tool is a hidden gem in Illustrator, if you have ever wondered how artists create those stylized organic shapes and designs you see a lot in elaborate typography or logos. All you do is select a point on the line and Illustrator will allow you to change the width on that specific point. Although this may seem simple, adding various widths to a single line can easily add a bit a flare to your next logo or font design.
This tool is great for illustrators. A common issue for people who want to turn their artwork into a vector is that Illustrator does not always vectorize your piece exactly as it appears in the original file. The tool called image trace is used to vectorize the outline of artwork, which can create extremely jagged edges. This can be frustrating as you may find yourself adjusting and readjusting the advanced settings in the image trace box. The calligraphic tool essentially allows you to draw a vector freehand, so consider this while inking in Illustrator.
One of my favorite features about Illustrator is that it allows you to work on multiple artboards at once; they can even be different sizes and orientations. This feature is perfect for maintaining consistency throughout multiple pieces of a project without closing and opening windows during your work process.
Use this tool to line up rows of text and shapes in Illustrator. With this tool, you can also choose how you want the selected objects to be aligned within the artboard. You can also align objects by using a key object. I find it helpful when I have one object that’s already in the perfect spot and I want to everything be lined up with that object. Otherwise if you use just the alignment tool everything seems to get thrown off.
Snap To Point
This is similar to the alignment tool; in that it assists you in keeping everything in line. However, the nice thing about this tool is that it can be used while you work. I tend to use this a lot when I am creating a series of shapes or a pattern, the Snap To Point will automatically suggest starting at the same point as the previous shape. I will also suggest ending at the same point, which is so helpful when you are trying to make a uniform design.
This is a tool I find myself using a lot, especially when I am building from scratch (which is the majority of what I do in Illustrator). The group tool allows you to tell Illustrator to treat the selected layers as one object. Which means you can scale, distort and warp all the selected layers as if it were a single object.
The nice thing is you can easily ungroup the layers as fast as you can group them. By grouping them together, you create one object. It is not permanent, which means you can always ungroup and group as needed.
As an artist, I have always found it useful when I am introduced to a tool that can help me create art, especially in an easy and efficient way. All these tools are easily accessible, however as a beginner they may not feel that intuitive. There are plenty more tools to be discovered, but hopefully the tools listed above will help you create quality artwork while saving you precious time and energy.