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Tips and Tricks to Use With Illustrator

Tips and Tricks to Use With Illustrator main article image
Posted on November 21, 2022 by Lyndsey Drooby

Adobe Illustrator is a graphic design app and program that has become popular with graphic designers to use to make vector designs. You can use Illustrator for many design needs such as icons, typography, icons and so much more. It is a chosen program to develop a custom branding solution for businesses. 

There are many tools and features designers use in Illustrator to allow the ability to draw freehand with a choice of brushes, pencils and pens while having control over colors. Color options are advanced with the capabilities to create specific color palettes. 

Just like any program, there are many tips and tricks to pick up along the way to make the design process go smoother. Let’s take a look at what vector images are. 

What Are Vector Images?

Vector images are scalable graphics that use vectors mathematically with defined lines and curves. Raster-based images like .gif, .jpg and .tiff files, vectors are not made up of a grid of pixels. Vectors are made by creating paths that have starting and ending points. These points include a combination of shapes, angles and lines between them.

No matter how complex the design, vector images can be broken down into geometric lines and shapes that are purposely placed in relation to one another. These sets of different paths relate to each other based on mathematical formulas, which allow the image to be scaled and rescaled for whichever purpose the image is used for. Say, if you’re making a logo, that logo can be sized for signs and banners and scaled down for marketing materials such as business cards and website identification. 

These images are able to keep their vibrancy and crispness without losing detail and quality. 

Now, that we have covered what a vector image is, let’s get into some of the tips and tricks to navigate Illustrator whether you’re just starting out or if you’re a seasoned graph designer. 

Working With Brushes

The various brushes in Illustrator let you change and stylize the look of the paths you make. Using the Paintbrush Tool, you can apply a brush to an existing path and apply the selected brushstroke to it. 

There are many styles of brushes found in Illustrator that include different sizes and effects, such as:

  • Calligraphic Brush
  • Scatter Brush
  • Art Brush
  • Bristle Brush
  • Pattern Brush

These brushes can be used to add an artistic effect to an image or to completely customize a special handwritten font. 

Using the Eyedropper Tool

The Eyedropper Tool serves the same function it does in Photoshop, which is to copy color-fill. This tool also can copy and move certain attributes like strokes. Select the Eyedropper Tool from the toolbar and double-click along the options to choose what you want the tool to pick up and copy. 

Adding a Stylized Effect With Feathering

The Feather Tool creates a soft blur around the edges of an object by placing less of an emphasis on the harshness of the borders. The object or image as a whole looks like in blends in better in the background after it is softened. 

To try out feathering, select the object you want to soften. Then go over to Effect > Stylize > Feather. Check the Preview option to see the changes before you go ahead with it. Under Preview, you can also adjust the radius value. 

Creating a Gradient

When creating or modifying a gradient, click over on the Gradient Tool to apply it over the image or design. 

Once the gradient is selected, navigate over to the object that you want to add the gradient onto and click on it. There is a gradient annotator that appears over the working object which is a slider that allows you to set the starting, ending points and where the color stops. 

Joining Two Path Ends With the Join Tool

This is exactly what this tool does: connects two ends of a path to create a closed path. This is done when you need to clean up an illustration. 

Go to the Tools menu or panel, click and hold onto the Pencil Tool to reveal the option to select Join Tool. After selecting, go to the area you would like to clean up, then click and drag along in a cleaning or wiping motion over the two points. When releasing the button on the mouse, you will see that the two paths will be joined together in a single and complete path. Any excess will be trimmed away. 

Manipulating Text Along a Path

By clicking the Type Tool, you can wrap text around a circle. Select Type on a Path Tool and click at the edge of your shape, so the cursor appears to start typing. Easy!

Uniting Objects Together

When working with the Unite Tool, you can combine selected shapes and objects to take all the attributes of the overlapping object. This tool is found in the Pathfinder panel. After choosing this option, select the objects you want to unite, then click Unite to combine. 

Altering the Shape of Graphics by Warping

Warp can be found on the left toolbar by clicking and holding down on the Width Tool. From there, choose the Warp Tool. With this tool you can manipulate an object to go in any direction you wish to completely change its shape and appearance. 

Save and Reuse with Graphic Styles

Under the Graphic Styles tab, you can choose this to save and reuse an alteration in appearance that you’ll want to go back to for something else. This tool recalls any fill, stroke, opacity or any effect used so you can go back without remembering your special formula used on a particular edit or tool application. For a shortcut, press CTRL+F5 to open the Graphic Styles tab.

A Note on Improving

Hopefully this set of tools and ideas will help you add more skill to your Illustrator experience. From here, you can apply new tools and ideas to add extra flair to your graphic design creations. 

Of course, getting to know Illustrator more just takes practice and navigating the program yourself. Experiment with brushes, pens, creating shapes and adding layers. Give Illustrator a try and expand on a whole new facet of designing graphics. 

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