Whether you are a beginner with a few ideas on how to create simple vectors or an expert graphic designer, Adobe Illustrator is a great tool that provides you with different methods on how to create your digital work. Each designer, whether amateur or professional, has a unique style and technique all their own in their creative process. Each one has a workflow they follow, and Adobe Illustrator is a powerful tool that can provide the flexibility to approach each design project in their unique way. Some designers prefer to draft their designs on paper firsthand before converting into vectors then applied to their work. Other designers make vector designs from any image or photo available on the web. No matter your style as a designer, Adobe Illustrator is a capable partner to express your creativity and turn those designs into works of art. There is a wealth of possibilities, and your imagination is the only limit.
Before we go further, we need to know what a vector is and some of its benefits. A vector, in mathematical terms, is a line segment with magnitude and direction. In digital design, vectors are two-dimensional line segments, whether straight or curved, connected from each endpoint to form shapes and polygons. A vector benefits designers in terms of scalability in printing or providing an endproduct for a client. You can scale an image as small as a logo on a letterhead into something as enormous as a billboard ad without loss of detail. A rasterized image file is scalable only up to a certain point before it becomes pixelated, so its quality is dependent on the number of pixels set by the creator. The vector’s non-dependence on image resolution sets it far apart from the use if rasterized images. The flexibility vectors give for creators makes it a popular choice in design.
We find vectors in a broad spectrum of use, but whatever design niche or industry you serve, the following are some fundamental steps you can build upon to start creating vectors in Adobe Illustrator.
Step 1: Create a new document
If you are a beginner in using Adobe Illustrator, you will need a basic knowledge of design fundamentals and a basic understanding of Adobe Illustrator’s user interface, especially how to use the pen tool. Once you have opened Adobe Illustrator, click File > New and provide details for your new documents such as file name, project size, and color mode. You can choose from different document profiles, such as print, mobile devices, or video, which would provide an appropriate selection of sizes for each medium.
Step 2: Create Basic Shapes
To create basic shapes, you can select the Rectangle Tool (M). Double-clicking and holding it will provide a tooltip for the selection of other forms available. Make different specific shapes and perform shape manipulation by using the Pen Tool (P) or the Direct Selection Tool (A). Detailed in the following step is the basic instruction on how to use the Pen Tool.
Step 3: Use the Pen Tool
The Pen Tool is essential in making vectors in Adobe Illustrator. Whether you may be using a tablet or a mouse to produce your vector, the pen tool will be a significant benefit to you. As previously mentioned, some creators draw their designs by hand while other creators gather pictures and trace existing images using the Pen Tool.
Either way, open your drawing or illustration file and select the layer that contains your base image. Double click on that layer and choose “Use as a template,” or “Template,” and this will lock the image and layer and lower the opacity. Select the Pen Tool (P) and begin to trace your drawing or illustration by establishing your first point. As you click your second point of the line segment, hold and move the handles to manipulate the curve of the line. Do this for the following points. Should you need to reconnect and continue a path, press Alt + the anchor point in which you want to connect and double-click on the next point and drag the handles to establish the curve. Zoom in by pressing Ctrl + and zoom out with Ctrl – so you can set points properly.
Step 4: Create Layers
Layers provide a way to organize the different design elements that you are combining in your work. The importance of layering elements is most evident when the design is complicated. Layering keeps you and your elements organized for ease of design and manipulation. It also makes it convenient for you to find and manage future edits of your work. Access Layers by going to Windows > Layers. Make sure that Layers has a checkmark beside it. Within the layers window, each entry has the “eye” symbol to make your design visible or not. If the tickbox beside the eye has a lock, this protects that specific layer (and the groups under it) from being changed or edited. Each segment also will contain any effects you may have applied to every part of your design. You have the option to change the name of any particular layer to make it easier for you to remember every element or group of your project.
Step 5: Group your Lines and Shapes
Similar to layers, grouping lines and shapes will make it easier to create specific and detailed edits to your work. When you put design elements into a group, you can then isolate that group for editing and protecting the rest of the items from accidental edits. To group your details, choose each by clicking each part while holding the Shift button.
Step 6: Add a Stroke
You can access Stroke by clicking Window > Stroke and make sure that there is a checkmark beside it. Adding a stroke to any line will make a clear definition of specific points of your vectors. Manipulating the stroke can make a line segment thin or thick to suit your design requirements. The addition of a stroke is also essential to fill in gaps between colors or elements. The space between colors or elements become evident when you zoom for a close-up. We can see the especially if the design is for a big project like a billboard or in printing T-shirt designs, which involves color separation.
Step 7: Add Color
Color defines your vector. You can access Color through the color profiles available. You have the option of using gradients and manipulate the shades and tone to suit your design requirement. Access the Gradient Tool (G) and edit the different colors that you would be mixing to achieve a gradient effect. By using the Eye Dropper Tool (I), you can select any color within the project, document, or color profiles and apply the exact tint or shade of that color. It is essential when you are designing a logo (or any design element) for an institution that would require only a specific set of tones that maintains its brand identity. Color can be selected by clicking a particular shape, line, or polygon and choosing a color from the selection in the interface. Apply the color as a fill or a stroke on your shape, line or polygon.
Step 8: Change the transparency
The several uses for changing the transparency or opacity include making texts pop and stand out from a particular background to providing shadow or shine to a surface to give the image vector a 3-dimensional feel to it.
Step 9: Save the project
Save the project by clicking Save or Save As. You then have the option to save your project as an Illustrator template (AIT), an encapsulated postscript file (EPS), a portable document format (PDF), or as a scalable vector graphic file (SVG).
Step 10: Export your design
You have the option to export your design into different image formats. Under File > Export, different file formats include Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG), Bitmap (BMP), portable network graphic (PNG), and a tagged image file format (TIFF) that you choose for your end product.
As the use of vectors has become increasingly popular, the demand for quality vectors has increased tremendously as well (see the average monthly number of designs). The skill to produce quality vectors using Adobe Illustrator is a very in-demand commodity. As businesses and companies continue to gain influence and popularity, the different mediums of communication will need vectors for creating elements and specific icons for their online and mobile user interface and experience. Learn the skill and make an impact in the digital world.