Olivia M Design

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Intro to Illustrator

Happy Saturday friends! Today we’re diving headfirst into Illustrator and it’s going to be fun! Learning to use Illustrator (and Photoshop) is a learning curve for sure, but with practice it’ll become second nature. Illustrator is my favorite program to use and I know you’ll love it too! Let’s get started…

There is SO MUCH to learn when it comes to Illustrator that it was hard to decide where to even start. This blog will be an introduction and there will be many more blogs to come with more detailed tutorials for Illustrator. You may want to bookmark this page to come back to in the future!

Starting a new document

When you open Illustrator, there’s nothing there. It doesn’t automatically open a new doc for you, you have to hit File > New… and then a dialogue box will pop up. Here you set the size of your artboard, which will be the size of your “paper” essentially. You also set the units, such as inches, pixels, centimeters, etc. I only use pixels and inches. You can also add a bleed if you need one, which is extra space around your “paper” where you’ll extend the background photo/color. You’ll do this if you’re sending it to a magazine printer, for example, and want to make sure that if the printing is a little off, there’s extra background just in case. That last thing you’ll do is set the color mode. Remember, RGB for digital/screens and CMYK for print. Then click create!

Illustrator 1.jpg

Set Up

Next, we want to make Illustrator as easy to use as possible. Up on the top right corner is a section that may say Automation, Essentials, Layout or something like that. Click that so it drops down and choose Essentials Classic. The more you use Ai (Illustrator), you’ll figure out what works best for you, I just prefer Essentials Classic because it shows almost everything I use frequently.

Illustrator 2.jpg

If there are other things that you want on display, the way to find them is by going to Window. Whatever you click on will then pop up and you can either leave it floating or pin it on the side. In my example, I open the Character popup.

Hot Keys

You can also use what’s called hot keys to open things. Hot keys are just keyboard shortcuts so that you don’t have to click on anything with the mouse. For example, the hot key to open the Character pop up is Command + T. If you’re not sure what the hot key is for a certain thing, click Window and it will show you next to it (if there is one).

Here is a list of really helpful shortcuts to learn, they really do make life much easier!

  • Undo - Command + Z
  • Redo - Shift + Command + Z
  • Cut - Command + X
  • Copy - Command + C
  • Paste - Command + V
  • Paste in Front - Command + F
  • Paste in Back - Command + B
  • Save - Command + S
  • Print - Command + P
  • Group Selected Objects - Command + G
  • Show Rulers - Command + R
  • Zoom In - Command + +
  • Zoom Out - Command + -
  • Selection Tool (Black Arrow) - V
  • Direct Selection Tool (White Arrow) - A
  • Hand Tool - H
  • Pen Tool - P
  • Type Tool - T
  • Eyedropper Tool - I
  • Hide/Show Guides - Command + ;
  • Resize to Scale - Shift + Scale up/down
  • Duplicate Something - Alt + Click on Object and Drag

There are a LOT more, so if you’re looking for something that I didn’t list above, you can check out Adobe’s list here.

The Basics

This video talks about some of this stuff and adds a lot more important tips! I know it's a bit long, but open Illustrator and try to follow along with him! Below I've listed all the main topics he hits so you can skip around to what you're interested in.

  • 1:53 Creating a new document
  • 4:45 Working with multiple art boards
  • 6:43 How to work with shapes - Easier trick at 9:40: right click > Arrange > Bring to Front
  • 10:21 Working with paths, lines, and brushes
  • 17:20 Strokes and fills
  • 20:15 Gradient
  • 22:27 How to transform objects
  • 28:38 Placing graphics and tracing them
  • 31:40 Cropping - CORRECTION - Illustrator does have a Crop Tool now! When you select a photo, a Crop button will show up on the top panel. But making Clipping Masks is important to know how to do. An easier way to do that is to select the two objects and right click > Clipping Mask. Just make sure that the shape is on top of the image you want to clip. To do that you can right click on the shape and click Arrange > Bring to Front, or right click on the image and click Arrange > Send to Back. You can release that mask at any time by right clicking the object and clicking Release Clipping Mask.
  • 33:02 Working with text - Easier Trick at 33:40 - An easier way to do this is with the Pathfinder tool. You can find that under Window, and I suggest pinning that to the sidebar because it’s a pretty useful tool. You’ll select both objects and click the Minus Front button in the pathfinder box. I’d suggest messing around with all the different buttons in the pathfinder box, they do a lot of cool things!
Illustrator 5.jpg
  • 39:55 Output - Packaging is important when sending finals to clients, but I’ll talk about that more in a later blog. So no need to package your files unless you’re sending finals!

I'm going to stop there before I overwhelm you! I really encourage you to hop on Illustrator and start messing around with some stuff. If you get stuck, Google it! There will be a lot more parts to this Illustrator tutorial, so be on the look out for those. And of course, if you have any specific questions, shoot me an email or write it in the comments below!