Adobe Illustrator CC (updated from CS6)

Illustrator Logo


In 1987 Adobe introduced a new software program aimed at the professional illustrator, but for the most part it was ignored due to its confusing interface and difficult visualising tools. However that was many years ago and it has over this time developed into a must have for anyone intending to create vector based graphic imagery. For some time it has been integrated further with its sibling programs enabling easy transition from one to the other where appropriate. This in turn has lead to some tools migrating from Illustrator into the other applications to aid practical use of Illustror files in these applications - such as the Path tool in Photoshop.

Illustrator is used primarily because its a tool for creating and editing vector artwork. This is as opposed to bitmap artwork (which is what Photoshop mostly uses - it (mostly) uses pixels its bitmap). The difference is that in the case of a bitmap (or rasterised) artwork all of the elements of the image are made up of pixels, and these are restricted by the resolution - the less there are the lower the quality, and for printing this is not great. You will probably be aware with bitmap that the higher the resolution the greater the file size, and this can also be an issue with printing. Many printers can also understand the language (Postscript) that Illustrator uses to define the shapes so you can often end up much crisper prints due to this.

Bitmap verses vector zoom

As an example here, the lower right part of this image is the curve of a number 8, in bitmap, when zoomed to 6400% and the upper part is another part of the same character, but in vector. The vector is described by the vertices (or anchors in Illustrator), the location of these and the curves between, rather than pixels.

Getting Started

I will start of by telling you about the tools which in turn will start to introduce notions of how Illustrator works. You will learn how to create and edit simple shapes and text, which will hopefully then lead you into more complex aspects of the program. Like most of the other Adobe packages, Illustrator feature Palettes, Menus and Sub-menus, which help the user to easily access a vast array of tools and information, many of which will have the same name, but often slightly different functionality, to those in the sister programs. Palettes can be stacked at the discretion of the user, which occasionally makes it hard to find specific items, but all are listed in the Window menu should you need to find them.

Adobe Illustrators’ File menu contains other options many of which we will not cover, although they may well be touched upon. Likewise the edit and other menus will be mentioned when necessary, however as I hope you will appreciate, you may need to take notes of your own to supplement this text, as I will cover many elements in more detail during my tutorials. It is important to make your own notes clear and easy for YOU to understand, bearing in mind that if a menu item is mentioned it is also important to write down where it is found, especially if it is a sub-menu (any menu which branches of a drop-down menu). I may refer to an item but not fully explain verbally where it is.

You can Skip to the Excersise 1 if you wish (click here) which runs tries to run through the very basics of using the software.

Tools Palette

Click to find out about a tool; you will be navigated to the relevant text.

Please note, this uses Active X and may be blocked on University computers but is safe to enable for this site or use at home.


Selection Tool magic wand and lasso tools pen tool text tool Line and rectangle tools Paintbrush tool Pencil Tool Rectangle Brush erasor tool The Rotate tool The scale tool Hand Tool Zoom Tool Fill and colour chooser The width tool freeform tool Shape Builder Tool Perspective Grid Tool Mesh Tool Gradient Tool eye dropper tool Blend tool Symbol Sprayer Tool Column Grpah tool #Artboard Tool Slice Tool Curvature Tool Draw Mode Current Fill or Stroke Mode Set illustraotrs display mode

This palette is arranged in a vertical aspect (sometimes other palettes are horizontal) with tools represented by icons, and divided into several sections. The bar at the top allows you to move the palette around the screen to a more convenient position, by clicking on the small double arrow in this bar you can alter the tool bar to be long and thin, instead of this 'short and fat' aspect. This is largely a screen size driven choice.

Selection Tools

Selection Tools The first three tools are the Selection tool and Direct selection tool (and new Group Selection Tool Hidden beneath) respectively. These tools are used to help you to control elements on your page such as text, pictures and illustrations. The Selection tool is used for selected whole elements, such as a shape you have drawn or a block of text, while the Direct selection tool enables you to get to sub elements of shapes, so the corners of a box for instance. The Group Selection tool is a really useful addition. This allows you to select an element from within a group of items - this is very useful as it means you do not need to ungroup and then regroup in order to do this : many functions within Illustrator create groups for you.

magic and lasso tools The magic wand tool enables you to select parts of a bitmap, just as it would in Photoshop, and the Lasso Tool enables you draw a free form selection area around something you want to select in vector art form.

Creation Tools

The Pen tool is one of the main Illustration tools. The tool in its basic mode enables you to create open shapes, by either clicking to locate vertices (corner nodes - or as Adobe call these Anchors) or click and drag to interactively create curves between each anchor. If you have ever used splines in another package, this is what we are creating here. The shape you create may be filled with the current colour if one has been selected, or it will be empty. Likewise the line will be whatever was last used, both in colour and thickness. As this is vector art, everything you do can be changed without consequence, so its not important if this is wrong as you create your artwork. To close a shape move over the last open vertex and you will see the cursor change, which indicates its in the close mode.. click again and the shape will be closed.

The Curvature tool allows you to either select a straight line (however created) and turn it into a curve and control the curve in a more natural way than using the anchor and pens tools. You can also use the tool to create new curves from single points. In short this is a much easier way to create and control curves.

Path Join and erase tools

There are several new (to CC) tools found under the Pencil tool, which are grouped together as they tend to be used in combination. The Path eraser tool allows you to 'rub out' a bit of a path, leaving you with an open path: The opposite of this, to join two open ends of a path can be doen with the Join Tool. Personally I've found this tool a bit hit and miss at the moment and would prefer to use the right click, join option instead. Finally the Smooth tool allows you to smooth and to a certain extent simply a section of a path, although it doesn't appear to remove excess anchors on a path.

About Hidden tools: Many tools in the palette have a very small arrows in their bottom right hand corner which indicates there are hidden tools under this item. To access these click and hold the mouse and you will see the other tools. These can also be 'ripped off' by clicking on the vertical arrow that appears at the right hand edge. Please note that once they are 'ripped off' they effectively become palettes and can be combined together should you wish. Click here to jump to hidden tools section to find out more about these tools.

hideen tools

Text ToolThe Text tool in its default setting enables you to click on the screen anywhere and start typing. In order for Illustrator to be able to print it however the text will need to be within an artboard area. You can also click and drag this tool on the screen to creating a text box which text fits into. The type tool can be used in conjunction with the character, alignment, paragraph, layer, and colour palettes. There is a new hidden tool that I do not cover lower down, that is called the Touch type tool. I don't like this tool very much, but it allows you to easily grab a letter from a text block and manipulate it - such as scale or rotate while leaving it as a piece of text.

The Line tool enables you to draw straight vector lines.

Rectangle Tool enables you to create either freeform rectangles or squares by constraining the tool as you drag (holding the left button) and holding the shift key at the same time. This is a vector shape.

The Paintbrush tool can be hard for a new user to control. In this new version the tool can be used to create realistic brush marks, that are refinable as they are vector shapes with an effect applied. This means that you can make quite realistic brush marks, but resolution free, and totally editable.

The Pencil tool allows freehand lines to be made on the screen, which can subsequently be edited as it is a vector shape. Both tools have a tolerance setting, so that if you just use them, your shape will be auto smoothed out, which can be handy to remove unwanted jitters, but can also be frustrating. To access these settings double click on the tool in the tool palette. You get the following dialogue box, which I suggest you just play with the settings to see what they do.

Tollerance Setting Dialogue box

erasor tool The eraser tool is kinda the opposite of the Blob Brush Tool, and enables you to erase bits of shapes, no matter how you create them, and it even closes the shape off for you. Very fast and helpful tool.

Manipulation Tools

The Rotate tool enables rotation of whatever is selected including pictures and text, groups of objects etc. Can also be specified through a dialogue box. However the location of the rotation axis is needed first, so you first set this, then click and drag to rotate the object/s (whatever was selected). You can also do this at exact amounts through a dialogue box (click on the screen without moving anything and it should pop up). OR you can use the shift key to constrain the rotation to 15 degree limits (although this can be changed in the preferences should you wish.

The Scale tool works pretty much the same as the rotate tool but scales the selected item instead. If it is a picture (bitmap art) this can be slow and of course you loose quality as soon as you do it, so I personally only use this tool with vector art work.

Width Tool The Width Tool. This is a great recent addition to illustrator. Basically it enables you to click on any line, even if its part of an object and affect that lines width... it does all the work... you get to click and drag how wide you want the line. Once you leave this tool the line goes back to acting like an normal line, or if you want to adjust the setting turn this tool back on.

Width Tool in action

Freeform tool The Free transform tool enable the user to distort freely the selected item, through rotate, scale etc. in one go. But it is harder to use than the individual tools in my view.

Shape Builder Tool Shape Builder Tool: This is quite new (CS5 I think), and in not that easy to explain or use, unless you have used boolean operations in other programs or the old pathfinder tools in illustrator. However, in simple terms it enables you to combine multiple shapes into one, does the cutting and welding for you. Only way to get to grips with it is make several objects on one layer that overlap (it doesn't add in fillets or anything useful) and then see what you get.

Perspective Grid Tool Perspective Grid Tool. This could be really useful tool if you want to work in perspective... this tool enables you create a perspective grid and control it. However its subtool is even more useful (see hidden tools section).

Mesh Tool Mesh Tool. Another hard to explain tool. It works on shapes, and is a bit like a really powerful gradient tool: You set up a grid of intersecting nodes (anchors) inside of an object by clicking where you want them with this tool. Each of these nodes can then have a different fill applied to it: so you can create very competent, continuous toned fills, but still remain in vector, and therefore totally resolution independent, and editable.

Basic Black box with one anchor Basic box with multiple nodes

Box with different colours applied Finsihed box

You should notice from the images above that you can also change the colour of all of the edge anchors as well. So here I clicked twice to make two sets of intersecting anchor/lines, I picked the top right of these and moved it to distort the form (which in turn distorts the fill), and then selected (using the direct selection tool) each of these to change its colour. The two bottom images are the same except I left the tool active and the shape selected to show you what's what on the left image.

Gradient Tool Gradient Tool (and palette).

So this is a tool to affect basic gradients, not for creating or applying gradients. First you probably should create a gradient in the gradient palette and apply it to an object.

Gradient palette linear and radial gradient choices first colour second colour mid point

In this basic white to black gradient, you will see in the palette that at the top there is the options to choose between this form (linear gradient) and radial gradient. You can set the angle of the gradient, and then in the example area you see two boxes with 'roofs', each coloured - white for the left, black for the right. These so two things. Click on one and you can alter its colour (using the colour palette) and you can also move it left to right, so effecting its relative position. You can also click anywhere along this edge to add in more colour nodes. At the top you see a small diamond shape. This is the 'mid point' and sets the point that you want to be the midpoint between the colours (so in this case it would be 50 % black).

Gradient palette in use

In this example you can see I have added in a third colour (red) and you can see that this leaves us with two centre diamonds.

Gradient Radial

So here I am using the gradient tool and you can see that in radial mode there is a dotted circle around the edge. You can grab one of the three segment nodes on here to alter the ellipticity of the gradient. By hovering over the bar (shown here horizontally) you can...

Graditent ool bar

.. see that there are the three colour indicators, and the location and clicking on them will enable you change their colour (and opacity) and you can slide them etc. So the gradient palettes real function is creating new gradients and saving these for later (the menu icon is at the top right of all palettes).

Eyedropper Tool Eyedropper tool. This is one of those tools that is very useful, but also has to be used in combination with its settings (again, double click on the tool in the tool palette to use). You get this:

Eye dropper options

So in other programs the eyedropper simply picks up a colour. In Illustrator it can pick up anything that is applied to an object. So in the above image everything is selected so all values (including those from text) would be picked up.

To use it though you need to have selected the object you want the settings to be applied to, then use the eyedropper to pick up those values, which will be applied upon your selection. There may be variations upon this but its how I use it and it makes sense once you have done so.

Blend Tool Blend Tool

So this is kinda useful for animators.

Blend tool dialog box

It enables you two have multiple objects, with dissimilar numbers of vertices, and make a blend shape, or shapes between them:

Blend Example

In this case I drew a bad outline of a character walking and a very quick 'egg' and then chose to blend between them with a specified number of steps (double click on the tool to bring up options dialogue).

Symbol Sprayer Tool Symbol Sprayer Tool:

Symbols are bits of artwork, previously described as symbols - this is simple to do. Simply draw something, go to the symbols library and click on the new symbol button (along the bottom) and this will enable you to define it. This tool enables you to spray them onto the artboard, though you need to have a symbol selected from the library first (find the symbol palette, either choose from the few in there already, or open the library by clicking on the bottom left hand icon. Along with the hidden tools 'under it' you can also rotate, move, skew and scale all of parts of the symbols once sprayed on. I can be a useful tool, but beware that if the symbols have bitmaps applied to them, this will be slow to use and update, even on a fast computer.

Symbols sprayed and scrunched

Column Graph Tool Column Graph Tool: Well its kind of what it says, and has a bunch of other graph types hidden underneith To start with you are asked to enter a size for you graph.

Graph size dialog

Then you will see a mini spreadsheet appear where you can either enter values for each column, or import the data. You have to click the Tick button to accept the data.

Example Column graph and data entry dialog

Artboard Tool Artboard Tool: So you can have one, or multiple work areas, described as artboards (found in the artboard palette). This tool enables you to alter them, and create new ones should you wish.

Slice Tool Slice Tool. This is for use with bitmap images, and for creating 'slices' of images for website use. I will talk about this when we deal with website creation.

Hand Tool Hand Tool: This tool allows to you t o pan around the screen. I never use this as the same function can be accessed by pressing the spacebar (of course if you happen to be entering text this won't work).

Zoom Tool The Zoom tool enables the user to zoom into an area of the screen up to 6400% and importantly, zoom out again (by holding the Alt key and then clicking on screen, or by double-clicking on the zoom tool icon (which returns you to 100%)). Using the Navigator Palette, which allows you easy movement around the document, further enhances this. However I use neither as I use a keyboard combination to quickly get into zoom mode, and out again without changing tools: press Control + Spacebar to zoom in, and Control + Spacebar +Alt to zoom out.

fill/stroke; multiple objects, with different fills and stokes selected This part of the tool palette is part of how you control what colour (if any) the fill and stroke on any object (except bitmaps) have. In this case there are multiple objects selected with different fills and different strokes. For sanity I have abbreviated this to FS, for the following.

FS1 In this case the FS state shows that we have a blue fill, a gold stroke, and that the stroke colour is forward, meaning this is what was changed last/would be changed if you altered the colour settings with the colour palette (active colour).

FS-Nofill-black-stroke-forward In this case the FS state shows that there is no fill of any kind on this object, while there is a solid black stroke, and this is the active colour.

FS-Nofill-black-stroke-back In this case the FS state shows that the same fills/strokes are enabled, but the fill slot is active - as it is brought forward.

FS-neither In this case the FS state shows that neither the stroke nor the fill have any value; if applied to an object is would only show up if selected: Would be hard to refind if it got unselected.

FS-BlueFill-NoStroke-back In this case the FS state shows that there is a solid blue fill and no stroke value, and that the fill is the active slot.

The small two way arrow to the top right of this section, enables you to swap the values of the fill and strokes. The bottom right icon enables you to reset the fill and stroke to solid white fill, solid black stroke.

Gradeitn Fill

In this case the FS state shows that a gradient has been applied to the fill, with no stroke value: You will see that below the FS there is three more icons. The left indicates a solid colour, the middle is gradient, and the last is no value: so this is how you set these options in either the fill or the stroke.

For all of the above you can either have an object selected while you make the changes, which are applied on the go, or you can have no object selected, and then apply by dragging the value across (literally click and drag from the tool palette to your object. This is important to note, as if you miss this, make changes to a value, and then simply click on an object everything you just set up will be over-ridden by the object selected. Very annoying if you just spent ages setting up a complicated gradient.

See gradients section above for more info. Click Here


Draw Modes Draw Normal/Behind/Inside :This most does what it sound like. If you have it set to normal, anything you create will be put on top of the underlying artwork. The draw in behind does the opposite and 'send it to back'. The finally option is a little harder to get. Basically in Illustrator you can create groups of objects, and these then act as a single entity, through selections and moving/distorting. In Draw Inside mode anything you create will become part of whatever is selected (its not available if you don't have something selected). It is automatically added to that object into a new group.

screen modeChange Screen Mode

Scren Modes

So this is like most other Adobe packages, where you can minimise the interface, which can be useful for smaller monitors, or when you are creating something especially complex, although having said this I have never used this option in Illustrator, and I've been using the software for a long time, and created some pretty complex artwork. If you do choose Full screen mode and can't get back out, press the tab key, and you can normally manage it (the exception is if you are creating text - then you may have a problem!)


Hidden Tools

Some of the hidden tools can be "ripped off" making them into palettes and therefore easier to use. While this makes using the tool palette easy to navigate, it does have the problem of hiding some really useful tools/subtools. To use this section of the page, move your mouse over the tool you want to find out about and click if you want to read more. Note if its a tool I have already explained it will jump back up to that section If not you will be navigated to the text relating to the tool. Please note There are a few minor changes in CC that I have not reflected here, but each indiviaul tool is described within the page.

Pen Tool Type Tool

Group Selection tool: This seems to be to enable you to select groups, and sub elements of groups, however, I have never needed to use it as I use the direct selection tool to do this.. so not exactly sure what's its use is.

Add anchor point tool: Does what it sounds like, to enable you to add a point into a shape or a segment. Exception is text that has not been made into outlines. Back to hidden tools

Delete anchor point tool: Self explanatory Back to hidden tools

Convert Anchor point tool. Enables you change an anchor (vertex) from being either a 'corner' or a curve anchor, and you can also use it to then split the handles and control them separately as I call a 'broken' corner in the diagram below. Is a useful tool and I tend to leave this panel 'ripped' off all the time.

3 Anchor types

Back to hidden tools

Blob Brush tool, can be really useful for blocking out an area in a colour.. think of it a large solid marker pen. The shape it creates is only defined by the outline. So its good at making blobs.

Area Type tool. If you have an object already and you want to use it as the boundary for some text then use this tool to convert it. However note that the shape you choose will be changed from that point onwards and you will not see it. There are limitations though. You can only use 'basic shapes' and if you try anything too smart you will get error messages that you won't understand at this stage. Back to hidden tools

Type on a path tool: First create a line/path or shape and click on its edge to turn it into a path that the text will follow. Then with this tool selected move the pointer close to the edge you want to use for your type and click. Note however that this will turn your path invisible, so if its part of an illustration, you may want to duplicate it first (to do this I use the Transform/move option and put in 0 translation but click copy button. This makes a copy in the exact same place, but on top of the original, but I would also move it to a new layer as well. Back to hidden tools

type on a path

Vertical type tool: Creates vertical type. Back to hidden tools

Vertical Area type tool: like the area type tool, but vertical text. Back to hidden tools

Vertical type on a path: Self Explanatory. Back to hidden tools

Arc Tool. If you want to make a really quick arc then this is the tool for you. First click sets the start point of your arc, second click ends the arc.

Spiral Tool. This tool is a little odd, in so far as it works slightly differently. If you select it and then click on the your artboard, you will get a dialogue box giving you options. If however you double click on the tool in tool palette it won't come up. I think this is an omission, but worth noting. So the options allow you to set the size and the decay. The decay being the useful one as this is how much in percentage the spiral decreases in size: 100% will get you a circle. 80 % will get you a really nice spiral - golden section style. 50% will be quite a loose spiral.

Spiral Dialog

Back to hidden tools

Rectangular Grid tool: I'm note sure the point of this tool, but it enables you to make graph paper really easy. However through the dialogue you can also skew the grid as you create it, both vertically and horizontally. This in practice moves the divisions close to an edge, so you get unequal spacing.

Rectangular Grid dialog

Back to hidden tools

Polar Grid Tool. This is sort of similar, except that it makes a circle that has the divisions around the centre. In this example I mucked about with the skew to make it quite obvious what it can do.

Polar Grid DialogPolar Grid example

Rounded rectangle tool. I've used this quite a bit as its an easy way of making rounded corners on boxes... The dialogue is quite self explanatory, and is also accessed by clicking on the screen, once the tool is selected rather than clicking and dragging, which uses the last settings to make the shape - or rather uses the last settings for the corner radius, as the height and width are taken from your dragging.

Rounded Rectangle and Example

Ellipse Tool. This works in the same way as the rectangle tool, but creates either ellipses or circles if you constrain. Back to hidden tools

Polygon Tool. This is far more useful in my view as it enables you to create polygons of any number of sides you want. Simply choose the tool and then click on the screen where you want the shape to be drawn. A dialogue box appears so you can enter number of sides and size. If you click and drag instead it will use the number of sides you last entered. Back to hidden tools

Flare tool. Simulates sun flares. Not quite sure why, but its there. Back to hidden tools

Flare ExampleFlare tool in action

To be fare, though it can do better, if its what you want, just right click on the tool for the options to appear.

Star tool: this is can be useful, if you need stars in your design (like a certificate). It allows you to set the number of points and the inner radius and outer radius. Back to hidden tools

Smooth Tool - Seems to be to allow you to smooth lines out.

Path Eraser tool - You can remove bits of line with this tool. I'm not sure its use though as the same thing can be done with the eraser tool. Back to hidden tools

Scissor tool: This tools been around for some time and I think to a certain extent is probably of little use; basically if you have a line, you can use the scissors to cut it into two bits. Sometimes this is very useful, but I guess you could just use the eraser tool now. The difference is that with this tool you don't move, or remove anything, you jest end up with lots of bits.

The knife tool is similar to the scissor tool except you can use this on shapes (filled splines) so for instance on a sphere you can effectively cut it in two and the inner lines are created for you. Can be useful tool. Back to hidden tools

Reflect tool, is like a mirror tool in other applications. However like the rotate tool you do need to set the centre point, or axis point, first. if not it can become a little hard to control, and a common mistake is to click the first click (nothing appears to happen) and the second click almost in the same place. This leads to the tool being almost impossible to control as the axis and control points are on top of each other. Alternatively you can double click the tool to get a dialogue box. Back to hidden tools

Shear tool: is what I would call a skew tool. Again set an axis point first then the offset between this and the second click/drag point sets up how much the shear effect is: imagine a box with its base fixed to the ground and you can push the top around.. its a bit like that.. basically a way of distorting your shape/lines. Back to hidden tools

Reshape tool: I've not used this for any project. Seems to be a bit like smudge tool in photoshop that works on anchor points of shapes, or lines.

Liquify Tools: So this set of tools are all about distorting your mesh, often in slightly unexpected ways. Again they are not something I've ever used in a project, but I can see how you may. Back to hidden tools

Warp tool: Its a bit like the reshape tool except it works on everything, including bitmaps (so long as they are embedded) though its quite slow on large bitmap images. Its great fun on artwork and if you convert text to outlines (from the type menu) you can even distort text. Back to hidden tools

Warp Tool example

Here I have used it on the centre of a flare to try to show what you can do.

Twirl Tool: well this is the best way to get this lot:

Twirl Example

The left image is a grid, on the right after a second of twirling! The last is several applications of twirling applied to the same thing...

Pucker tool. Careful now.. Well again see the effect on the same grid:

Pucker example

Bloat Tool: the opposite of pucker.

Bloat tool example

Scallop tool:

Scallop tool



Wrinkle tool

Wrinkle tool in use


Live paintbucket/Live paint selection tools. Back to hidden tools

To understand these you need to understand Live paint groups. I don't so here is a link to adobe's help file: LINK

Perspective Grid Selection tool: used in combination with the perspective grid tool... once you have set up your grid how you want it, you can then use this tool to place artwork onto the grid.. just slide it around until you get what you want. You get a little plane selection icon appear, normally at the top left of the screen (but it can be moved), which enables you to select which plane you are working on... however do this before placing any artwork, as it doesn't seem to let you change this afterwards. Back to hidden tools

Measure tool: its probably a rare thing but occasionally you may want to know how long something is, or what angle its at. You can use this tool to do that... click and drag: first click is the origin, mouse release is the end point. Information appears in Info palette which will appear on screen when you use this tool. Back to hidden tools

Symbol shifter tool: So as mentioned in the symbol sprayer tool section you can use this tool and the other hidden tools to alter what you have sprayed onto the artboard already... Nothing will happen if you just randomly try this tool out.

So spray some symbols and then use this tool. It will enable you to move bits about.. you can shift them.. Size of brush is controlled by double clicking on tool. Back to hidden tools

Symbol Scruncher, Sizer, Spinner Tools: These are self explanatory, but it may help to know that to use the size to reduce the size you need to hold the ALT key down while doing so.

Symbol stainer Tool, effectively enables you to recolour the symbols, by 'staining' them another colour. You just need to select a colour from the colour palette to do this.

Symbol screener Tool : This enables you to make your symbols transparent, as you spray, or if you already did this, with the ALT key more opaque. Back to hidden tools

Symbol stlyer Tool. For this tool you need to select an option from the Graphic Style palette. You should then be able to spray this style onto your symbols. However this can need a powerful computer, and in my experience doesn't always work.

Stacked column graph Tool

All of the following examples have the same data set, with the exception of the single pie graph, where only one row of data was used to generate this.

Stacked Column Graph

Bar Graph Tool Back to hidden tools

Bar Graph

Stacked Bar Graph Tool

Stacked Bar Graph

Line Graph Tool Back to hidden tools

Line Graph Tool example

Area Graph Tool

Area Graph Tool example

Scatter Graph Tool Back to hidden tools

Scatter Graph example

Pie Graph (multiple rows of data)

Pie Charts

Pie Graph, Single row of data: Back to hidden tools

Pie Chart example

Radar Graph Tool

Radar Graph Exmaple


Slice Selection Tool: Enables you to select slices.

Print Area tool: This is a useful tool if you have created artwork that is larger than you are printing, as you can then select the area to print. I rarely use this tool. Back to hidden tools

Exercise 1

The box (very basics)

Open Adobe Illustrator (if using a Univerity Windows 7 pc it should be listed as in the image below)

Please note. Most of the things I write about - like left button/right button and any keys to hold are all based on Windows PC's. Similar options are normally used on a mac such as Option key instead of ALT, the Command key instead of Control and some macs have mice that have two buttons (or leaning on the side will choose this - its not always a button like on a pc). These variations of availablity on the Mac platform make it hard to write for, so you may need to experiment a little to get the right effect.

Once you have launched Illustrator you will normally see the tools and other default palettes but you will need to create a new docuemtn before you can do anything else. You should take care to note under the advnced sub options, what the colour space you are using is set to - for design work that will be primarily on screen you would normally set this to RGB, but if its to be printed you might want to choose CMYK- depending upon which you choose Illustrator will handle colour differently and often in a very subtle way that could lead to unexpect results later (nore this is true of all design for print packages).

You can then choose Create a new Document, from the File menu.

New Document

As its part of the Adobe suite you will see that its very similar to others, such as photoshop. You get the preset sizes, based upon the profiles (Print/Web/Video and things like that), and this makes sense for most pieces of work you will create. If you end up doing something odd though, you can normally still use one of the profiles, but then put in custom sizes for your project.

The templates button should be noted for later use.

Once opened for the first time, the selection tool will (normally) be selected, represented by the darker grey background of its icon.

However we want to find and choose the Rectangle tool.

Rectangle Tool To draw a box click on the Rectangle tool, which will then have its background darkened.

Be careful at this stage, not to hold the mouse button down on this for to long, as doing so will probably prompt Illustrator to open a size entry dialogue box.

  • Move the mouse pointer over to the page area (artboard), click and hold down the mouse button (left button on a pc), drag the pointer to the right or left and up or down at the same time, the first click setting the corner point. Once you have a rectangle shape let go of the mouse button to set the shape.
  • Note: The look of the box will vary a little depending on what fill and stroke colours where on at the time. If this is the first time you have used the software, you will normally get a box with black outline (stroke) and white fill colour.

    If you wish you can do the same again with the Ellipse tool to see the similarity:

    The Ellipse tool is one of the 'hidden tool's. This can be accessed by clicking and holding on the rectangle tool, in the tool palette. You will see a strip of tools appear, but they will only be there while you are holding the mouse button down. So, to choose the Ellipse tool, click and hold the mouse over the rectangle tool, and then still holding the button down, slide the mouse to the right and let go once over the Ellipse tool. There is one difference however, in that an Ellipse doesn’t have a corner to draw from, and therefore drawing is from a segment. It can be harder to understand and therefore is worth doing several times to get used to it. Likewise the star tool can also be hard to understand. All of these shapes can be drawn from their centre by holding the Control Key down, and then click and drag on the artboard.

    If you draw something, which you want to remove from the ‘paper’, it is easy to do in Illustrator, if it still has a coloured outer edge (indicating it is still selected). Press the delete (on the keyboard) and it will be removed. If the shape you wish to delete is not currently selected then choose the Selection tool from the toolbox, and then click on the shape you wish to delete. You can then press the delete on the keyboard. Of course its the last thing you did you can also use the undo, or if its longer ago you have the option of using the History palette (if this is new to you then please ask me to explain in the class).

    Drawing out in this way is known as Click and Dragging and is a common method of creating geometry in computer programs. The Ellipse tool works in the same way. To make a square/circle however, you need to hold a key on the keyboard at the same time. If you’re confident with click and dragging then proceed.

  • With the Rectangle tool selected start the same way clicking and holding the left mouse button down, with this still held down, also hold the Shift key down, and then proceed with dragging the mouse pointer. Holding the shift key, the shape is Constrained so that in this case you can only draw a square. It is important to remember that you must let go of the mouse button first and then the key on the keyboard. The order of keys that you press alters the way that the action you do with the mouse is modified so you must get used to the order of things, on order to not get frustrated. I strongly suggest you play quite a bit with just these simply tools and modifier keys to get used to it before going on.

  • Exercise 2



    One of the tasks, which we need to achieve, is the creation of text and the subsequent output. You can easily import both text written in other programs, and bitmap images into illustrator which means that you can legitimately produce full page layout featuring, images, text and graphics.


  • To start with a blank page, choose the file menu and select NEW.

    Select the type tool from the toolbox.

    Click anywhere on screen and start typing.

  • This will make unrestrained text, which will not have an end, in other words it is a great way of putting text quickly on screen. However if you have a several paragraphs that you import into illustrator these will be hard to control as it will also be in a single long line. Therefore with the type tool selected click and drag an area for the type to fit into and this will enable you some control.

    Text and text in a block example image

    Further to this you can also make text fit into non-regular bounding boxes or even an Ellipse. Many disk graphics are created using this software as well as the ability to easily make text follow a line. You can even place letters on their side along a path now: refer to the hidden tools section for more info

    To alter the characteristics of the type choose the Type menu. Most of the time I find it easier to do this as a retrospective change, by selecting the type and then either using the menus, or using the character and paragraph palettes.

    Type Menu

    More Advanced Features of Type

    The Character palette (found in the Window menu (now in a submenu called type) if its not on screen) gives you more advanced features of typography such as Kerning, Tracking and Leading. All three of these alter the spacing of the letters. Leading is the easiest to understand as this controls the space between the lines (vertical spacing). Kerning alters the space between letters, and Tracking alters the space between words. However most of the time this is unimportant and is set to auto. (See palettes below for more information.)

    Depending on the sort of design work, I often create lots of little bits of disconnected text, and then move them about with the selection tool, as this is often easier, and certainly for doing something like a business card would be my choice.



    More Palettes

    The Layers palette.

    The Layer palette enables you to place different parts of the Illustration on different layers. You can then alter the order that these lie in, and therefore you can control large groups of objects, which could contain combinations of text, pictures and geometry. In addition you can also turn off individual layers, enabling you to hide objects or groups of objects, which otherwise may make more complicated illustrations harder to see the wood for the trees (possibly literally). You can also set up sub layers in the newer versions, which can help tidy things up but I've not yet had to use for my work.

    So this palette is similar to those in other programs but has one unique ability that makes it very powerful. That is that you can use it to move bit of your design between layers. In this image you can see I have marked three areas.

    Layers Palette 57 Layers example

    The layer which is active is shaded in. You select this literally by clicking on it in the palette. The new layer button is a little too similar to the others in my view so to help I've labelled it here. Finally and most import is the little blue square that I have labelled 'Selected Objects Layer'. In a complicated illustration you may have many objects selected, in which case you get multiple little colour squares (as in the right hand image where there are 57 layers, five have selected elements, the gamejam layer being the active one). They indicate that objects on that layer are currently selected. To move objects from a layer you would simply drag this little square from one layer to the layer you want them to be on. So in the event on multiple objects, on multiple layers you can effectively move blocks of selected objects into a another layer, but from different layers. .. OK you probably just need to try this.

    The Colour Palette

    palette menu Colour Palette with options

    The Colour palette, despite being spelt wrong, gives you all the access you are ever likely to need for finding colours. However it can appear in two different ways. By default it looks like the image on the left, but via the drop down menu (top right of the palette) you can show the options. If you do this you get a much more useful and function colour picking device.

    You have the choice of mixing your own CMYK values to create almost any colour possible or pick one from the colour bar below, which contains colours arranged in hue, saturation and luminosity.

    The Stroke Palette

    This enables you to control the weight or rather how thick a line is. You can either type this in or click on the downward pointing arrow to reveal a menu of sizes. This is an example of the full palette, as it has more options than the collapsed version... you can do this for monitor real estate reasons should you wish by double clicking on the name of the palette.

    Full Stroke Palette

    You should see though that in this mode there are some useful features. If you are using lines, that are not going to become shapes (be closed/have fills) then the cap options are useful... especially with very thick lines. The corner values are more important when creating shapes - closed lines with or without fills. Dashed line options are very useful should you need them: I have used this for several projects over the years.. its pretty much as obvious as it looks: for more complex versions though refer to the brushes palette section.

    The arrowheads can also be really useful so long as its not a closed shape. I use this a lot!

    'Swatches' palette

    This may become more important as you go on, as there are a series of pre-developed swatches for various uses including Internet development. You can also build your own swatches by dragging colours, gradients and patterns that you create into a swatch for future use, even between documents. This is another powerful, but under used tool - rather I rarely use it, but this is a mistake. One potentially useful aspect of this is that you can define a set of colours and use these across mulitple documents and applications. You can even save these to the cloud and share them for others to use/or use other peoples swatches for your self (via color themes)

    'Transparency' Palette

    So you can apply a fill to some artwork, but you can also affect its tranparency using this palette (on this example you may notice that I have used this to show an underlying shape (the thick black line), but applying different transparencies to different parts of the box with the Mesh Tool allowing the line to show through in places.

    Transparency Palette

    In addition you can alter the blending mode of shapes when they overlap (although this doesn't seem to work with objects that you have used the Mesh Tool on.

    Transparency 2

    Pattern Palette

    This is new to me. It us used for tiling artwork. First you need to describe the pattern. This can also be done in this palette. Select the artwork to become a pattern (using the selection tool) and then choose Make Pattern from the drop down menu (top left of palette).

    Pattern Palette

    Once you have done this, the pattern can be found in the Swatches Palette, but will also become the active one in this palette. In the image above you can see I have used some of the options to make a big ugly mess. I'm sure you can use it for something useful though.

    Exercise 3

    The Line

  • Open Adobe Illustrator by finding its icon, and double clicking it, if it is not already open.

    From the File menu choose NEW, to ensure that we have a fresh document, without anything on the paper.

    Ensure that you have the tools showing and on this occasion we will have the grid turned on, which can be a useful drawing tool. To do this

    Choose the View menu and select SHOW GRID and it may also be a good idea to SHOW RULERS at the same time if they are not displayed.

    Select the Pen tool from the tool palette.

    To draw a simple straight line you need two points, one at the start and one at the end. Illustrator utilises this.

  • Move the mouse pointer over to the page area, click down the mouse button once, move the pointer to the right or left, the first click setting the start point of the line and the second the end.

    x Note. At this stage it is important to not click and drag the mouse. Also the line that you get may have a fill colour assigned to it, which will make the line look slightly ‘fat’.

    Change the fill colour of the line to none by clicking on the Fill colour selector (bottom of tools) and then open the Colour Palette, which if hidden currently is found under the Window menu. From this click on the box that has a diagonal red line through it. At the same time you could change the colour of the line if you wish by clicking on the stroke colour selector (also at the bottom of the tools and also mirrored on the colour palette, and then clicking somewhere in the range of colours on the colour palette.

    Exercise 4

    The three point line


    At this point is very easy to get carried away showing off lots of tricks that illustrator can do. The two point line is easy to do, for most, and will not present a problem unless the user also drags the mouse at the same time. You would then see that the presumption is that you want to make a curved line.

    Three points are the minimum that you need to create a curved line. This exercise will try to show you how to do this, though it can be ignored and returned to later.

  • Choose the Pen tool again. This time try to click three points to form a shallow triangle (precision is not necessary). Providing you did not drag any of these points while drawing you will get a straight edged triangle. The above illustrations show the line with one point selected (left) and with the line fully selected (right).

  • Selected the Convert Direction Point Tool..

    With this tool click and hold the button down, on the middle point of your three. Slowly drag the mouse away from this point and you should find that the tool has converted the point into a curve point, from a corner point. If you have a line (also referred to as paths) with a further point on it and convert the two middle points you could create a sine wave by dragging in different directions on each point.

  • Try this again, but this time draw a box (any size), ideally without a fill, and use this tool on a corner:
  • Convert Anchor point tool

    Then click on one of the 'handles' and drag it in another direction. This will break the connection between the two handles - is like a bezier curve in other programs. Therefore with the combination of the pen and the other related tools you can make almost any shape.

    Finally select one of both of the objects you have made. Find the brushes palette (Window menu if its not shown) and then go to its bottom left corner. This icon shows the brushes libraries' and from here you can choose different options...

    Brushes Palette

    Here are a few examples:

    Simple line with various brushes applied

    I hope you can see how powerful this can be. Effectively you can have brush like marks that are totally editable (shape wise) and all that this brings with vector art. Below is another example: the left is with a brush applied, the right is without.

    Another example using brushes

    Exercise 5

    Wavy text

    Make another wavy line or any shape you like.

  • Choose the type tool again and move the pointer over to the edge of the line/shape, where you should be able to see that it changes to an I bar, which looks a bit like this:
  • I bar example

  • Click near the start of your line. This will give you a flashing cursor on the line. Type your name or something. You will see the type now follows the line.
  • When the line is deselected you will only see the text. If this is placed over anything it will still only show the text. The school image was created in the same way. I did however also create another line underneath. If you are confident to carry on then please do.

    Type on a star shape



    In summary

    I hope you have found this a useful introduction to Illustrator and will enjoy using the software for years to come. I never get bored of this package, and the advances that keep on coming make it a fresh product.

    Big Fish annotated


    Jump back to tools

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    Text and design


    Clifford Phillips

    Revised 2012/ Revised Oct 2013/Revised Aug 2016