Learning at Work Week #3 – Five cool things to try with Adobe Illustrator

19 May 2016 | About a 4 minute read
Tags: Academy, adobe illustrator, design, Learning at Work Week, mobile design

If you’ve used Adobe Illustrator before, you’ll know it can be a bit tricky to get your head around. It’s a very complex, powerful program with a ton of features. Luckily, this also means there are a bunch of cool things you can do too. Here are just five simple things you can try out to start getting to grips with Illustrator.

1. Making Custom Brushes



This is one of my most-used tricks, it’s incredibly useful in particular when it comes to drawing hair, and the shape in the image above is great for that.

To create your own brush:

  • First create your shape.
  • Select it with the direct selection tool (shortcut: A).
  • Click on the brush menu
  • Click “New Brush” and then “Art Brush” from the dialog
  • Click OK on the following menu

Now you have your first custom brush! Go to the brush tool (shortcut: B) and start playing around with it to see how it looks.

 2. Making Easy Triangles (and other shapes)


Surprisingly, while there are tools to make ellipses, rectangles, stars and even faux lens flares, there is no tool to make a triangle. Luckily, you can do this in the Star tool:

  • Select star tool
  • Click on the point you want your triangle to appear
  • Adjust “points” to 3 in the dialog box

You can play around with the points and radii to see what other shapes you can make. The shapes in the above image were all made with 3 points and adjusted radii. Radius 1 indicates the outer points of the triangle, while Radius 2 is the pink points you can see mid-line in the image above.

Try adjusting these and see what you can come up with!

3. Writing text on a curve



Writing text on a curve can be a little tricky, but simple enough once you get the hang of it. To do it:

  • Create your shape, this is the curve or shape the text will follow
  • Select “Type on a path tool” from the text menu and click on the point you want your text to begin
  • Type!

Play around with text alignment to get the text to where you want it to sit. To have centred text, you need to begin typing on the point directly opposite from where you want your text to appear. In this example, I typed on a point on the flat edge of the semi circle. When I centre aligned, it gave me the effect you see in the final image

4. Manipulating Text Shapes


So you’ve just seen how you can get text to follow a path, but did you know how to change the shape of the actual letters too? It’s very simple:

  • Write your text as normal
  • Select the text (shortcut for selection tool: V)
  • Right click and select “Create outlines” from the menu
  • Your text now has points you can manipulate, like any shape. This is grouped, but you can right click and select “Ungroup” to have each letter be individually selectable
  • Use the direct selection tool (shortcut: A) to select individual points and pull them, move them, delete them etc to create new effects


5. Using clipping masks to apply a pattern to text



One more text effect for you! If you want to add a cool pattern to your text, this is the way to do it:

  • Create your pattern/shape. I’ve gone for a scribble here
  • Create your text and lay it over the part of the pattern you’d like to see through the letters
  • Select all (Ctrl/Cmd + A)
  • Go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make
  • You should now have an object that keeps the shape of the letters but has the pattern peeking through. You can also do this for shapes that you’d like to contain an image or pattern.


So there are five simple but fun things you can try out to get you started with Illustrator. If you have any other tips and tricks like this that you think might help someone starting out, let us know in the comments!

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