The tools I actually use in Adobe Illustrator
Do you struggle when designing for your own brand? Overwhelmed by the many tools in Adobe Illustrator? It’s tough to admit where we fall short within our own brand, especially when recognizing these shortcomings don’t reflect the quality of our products, content and services. I’ve talked to so many people who are eager to take leaps with their brand, yet don’t know where to start in terms of design. Learning the professional software alone seems overwhelming! Short of hiring a designer, or spending countless hours googling, where can you start?
My absolute favorite application: Adobe Illustrator
If you’re looking to design promotions, logos, templates or graphics for your brand, Adobe Illustrator is your go to. Let’s knock one myth out of the way from the get go (feel free to say it with me!): Adobe Illustrator is not just for professional designers. Whew! Hopefully that brought some relief to you, and confidence that you too can make use of my absolutely favorite software.
I love Adobe Illustrator, as it’s truly the most complete and versatile application for design. Yet, I remember the #struggles when learning it for the first time. My design school never taught the software, and instead we learned by doing (which I highly recommend). So when I had a poster due the first week of college, I spent all night designing that puppy. I’ll spare you the horrible design, but just know that I’ve been there overwhelmed when navigating this software.
Here are a few tips I wish I knew when I started out. These are the best tools I actually use in Adobe Illustrator. I probably don’t use even half of this robust application’s capabilities, so I’ll let you in on where to start when it comes to designing your e-course, blog or personal brand graphics. Hopefully, these tips will help you make the most of your time in Adobe Illustrator.
When creating a logo mark, icon or illustrations, the shapes tool is the best place to start in Adobe Illustrator. I often use the shapes tool when designing icons, since it provides perfect arcs in circles and 90 degree angles. Whether you’re designing a more complex illustration, or a simple mark in your logo, start with the shapes tool and combine from there.
Alternatively, if you need a shape or line that is less geometric, the pen tool is your best bet. This tool definitely takes some practice to perfect, and is not very intuitive at all. However, once you understand how the anchor points and paths work together you’ll be unstoppable with this tool. I over-emphasized the pen tool when first learning Adobe Illustrator, and have since recognized the ease behind starting with shapes and modifying from there. Just a note if you are first getting started, to allow yourself time to practice with this tool.
I mentioned earlier combining shapes for icons + logos, this is where the pathfinder tool is especially handy. You can do anything from subtract shapes, combine into one object, among many other functions. If you design logos, or any stylized icons, pathfinder is absolutely necessary when finalizing your artwork.
The align tool allows you to vertically + horizontally align objects to each other, as well as an option to align to the artboard (if you want your artwork aligned to the top, center, etc of the page). I use this tool like crazy, constantly aligning objects to pixel perfection. No more guesswork if the object is centered on the document, you can easily and perfectly align using this tool.
Select same color + stroke
Once you’ve created a more involved design or illustration, you may want to adjust the color of multiple objects at once. If you didn’t create a global color, the alternative is navigating to select one object, then go to Select>Same>Fill & Stroke. I’ll admit it, I did not know about this function until years of using Adobe Illustrator, and can now vouch for what a time saver it has been!
Once you are at a place with the design where you can see yourself using this layout multiple times (ie: blog post graphic, promotions, newsletter headers, branding templates, or even your Illustrator settings), you can easily create an Adobe Illustrator template. This is different than saving a copy of the file each time. Instead, you can create a template in Illustrator, which creates a new file each time you use it. No more will you need to ruffle through old files to locate the design, and risk saving over it. You can now create templates ready to customize for your latest design.
I hope that these quick tips help improve your efficiency in this program!