Adobe Illustrator, the industry-standard vector graphics application, is the tool you use when you need flexible, scalable vector graphics such as logos and artwork that will be printed in various formats, mediums and sizes.
Illustrator’s huge array of digital drawing features makes it a favorite amongst illustrators and print designers, but for those just starting out, the application can be intimidating. To help set you on your path to Illustrator mastery, here are some great beginner-level Illustrator tutorials that cover the fundamental tools and techniques.
If you have tips for aspiring Illustrator pros, share them in the comments below.
First thing’s first: You need to familiarize yourself with Illustrator’s graphical user interface. This quick and easy-to-read tutorial talks about Illustrator’s workspace, pointing to areas such as the Tools panel, the Status bar, the Artboard where you craft your vectors, and so on. It also touches upon how to create your first Illustrator document, as well as the different items you can find within the Tools panel.
The primary drawing feature of Illustrator is the Pen tool. If you have aspirations of becoming an Illustrator ninja, you’ll need to have a strong command of this tool. This Illustrator tutorial from Vectortuts+ (a leading vector graphics tutorial site) covers all the things you need to know about this powerful, but oftentimes daunting, tool.
The tutorial covers the concept of Bezier curves, which are used to draw shapes with smooth curves, the need-to-know keyboard shortcuts, and even provides a practice sheet that you can download and import into Illustrator to help you practice your vector-drawing skills.
The Blend command is deceptively simple in function. It takes two or more shapes or colors, and then blends them together smoothly. But as this Illustrator tutorial will show you, the Blend command is a very effective feature for crafting stunning graphics effects quickly and easily.
Live Trace, which appeared in Adobe Illustrator CS2, is a game-changer. Before Live Trace, an artist sketching an art piece using pen/pencil and paper would have to scan their work into Illustrator, then spend hours manually tracing it with the Pen tool and other Illustrator functions.
When Live Trace was introduced, this process was made simpler through automation, saving you precious hours. From sketch drawings to photographs that need to be converted to vector graphics — Live Trace is an excellent option to try. This tutorial goes over the process of using Live Trace by using a stock headshot photo, discussing how to execute Live Trace, the various options, as well as showing off a handful of examples of where Live Trace has been used in existing artworks.
Illustrator is also a popular graphics application for print designers. From logos, business cards, and brochures, all the way up to posters and large billboards, Illustrator can help you make flexible and scalable designs.
A big part of print design is quite obviously text. This Illustrator tutorial will help you begin to explore the Type tool. It covers ways you can set text on vector paths for unconventional text flows, talks about the associated panels such as the Character and Paragraph panel, and provides useful keyboard shortcuts.
Using patterns allows you to make repeating graphics. Experimenting with patterns can lead to excellent artwork that looks like it took days to complete.
Creating custom pattern brushes and applying them to vector shapes is covered in this Illustrator tutorial.
Effects in Illustrator allow you to add all sorts of wonderful graphic treatments to your artwork. From applying 3D effects to creating faux colored pencil looks, this set of Illustrator features will let you rapidly enhance your work with a few clicks of the mouse.
If you’d like to discover the abilities of Illustrator effects, check out the above tutorial, which discusses various processes — such as Roughen and Scribble — as well as the Appearance panel, which allows you to modify applied effects, among other helpful tips.
The Gradient panel in Illustrator is a wonderful feature for applying color and pattern gradients to your work. Gradients allow you to stylize your graphics such that they have smoothly blended fills or strokes.
Learn everything you need to know to get started with gradients from this tutorial, which discusses topics like applying gradients, modifying the angle and direction of the gradients, saving gradient swatches, and more.
In Photoshop, a sibling of Illustrator, strokes (creating an outline around the edge of an object) seem like an afterthought. But in Illustrator, where your vector paths take center stage, the stroke feature is very important to master.
This Adobe Illustrator tutorial covers the use of the Stroke panel in creating vector objects.
The Pathfinder panel is a popular time saving feature for working with shapes and paths. This panel is a collection of commands that allow you to unite, divide, and subtract two or more shapes, among other functions. Utilizing these commands gives you the ability to draw complex vector graphics using basic shape tools.
Learn how to use the Pathfinder panel with this excellent Illustrator tutorial.
Don’t have a steady hand? Having trouble drawing shapes that align with one another? Smart guides give you snapping features that will enable you to draw objects more accurately.
Explore the fundamentals of Illustrator’s smart guides through this beginner-friendly tutorial.
Brushes in Illustrator are a quick way to save objects that you will reuse later in your projects. Art brushes, for example, take a vector object that you’ve drawn and allow you to then apply those objects later as strokes or fills of other vectors.
In this step-by-step guide, you will discover the awesomeness of custom brushes in Illustrator.
These 12 tutorials will set you on your path to Illustrator mastery. If you’ve had success with other tutorials not on this list, let us know about them in the comments below.
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