Adobe Illustrator is 2D vector-based drawing program which has three primary functions. Firstly, it can be used to create graphics for print, such as logos, illustrations and diagrams. Secondly, it can help you build web graphics: buttons, icons; even entire web page designs. As well as drawing, Illustrator can also become a desktop publishing environment where you can create single page layouts such as posters, fliers, book jackets, DVD CD covers, etc.
Illustrator is often the final member of the Adobe Creative Suite that people will get around to learning. Delegates coming on our Adobe Illustrator training courses will often complain that the program seems less inviting and exciting than Photoshop. And, although Photoshop is a complex package, they find themselves using it for all their graphic work, even things which would much easier to create in Illustrator. Part of this difficulty in getting started with Illustrator is the fact that it often appears to new users that the program is hard work: you create a new file and you’re presented with a blank page. You have to create your drawing entirely from scratch.
As Illustrator trainers, we take on board the fact that running an Illustrator training course involves more than just tuition of the use to tools and techniques. To get delegates feeling enthusiastic about using the program, we also need to rid them of their fear of the stark blank canvas facing them every time they create a new file. We have identified four main techniques for ridding new users of “Blank Canvas Syndrome”. Firstly, it is important to clearly identify the type of artwork you want Illustrator to create for you. Secondly, use Illustrator’s Live Trace facility to create vector elements which can become a starting point for your own artwork. Thirdly, use background images as guides as you create your own drawings. And, fourthly, copy, reuse and modify elements that already exist within your own drawings.
Getting started with Illustrator becomes a lot easier once you have a clear idea of what type of artwork you need to produce. When often run courses for companies who will be using Illustrator in a very specific way, such as fashion companies, architects or cartographers. This type of training tends to be very successful because it’s just a case of showing people which tools and techniques they need to use to create the necessary output.
For those users who are not using the program in a very pointed fashion, we always try to emphasise that creating Illustrator artwork doesn’t have to mean originating every single stroke from scratch. We show users how they can use imported graphics as a starting point for their own artwork. For example, keeping scanned images on a background layer and drawing over them using the pen tool or converting bitmapped images into vectors with Illustrator’s Live Trace utility.
Illustrator’s Live Trace utility was developed from a standalone program called Adobe Streamline and is extremely powerful. It can be used to convert any scanned or bitmapped image into a vector. Naturally, the nature of the resulting vector image depends on the original. However, it’s very fast and the results can be extremely impressive; so it’s always worth trying it out if your feel that it may create something you can clean up and use.
Scanned or other images can also be placed on a background layer and used to provide constant points of reference when originating new Illustrator artwork. Background images can help to ensure that elements within the Illustrator artwork you create are of the correct dimensions have the correct relative proportions and so forth. For example, if you are drawing human figures, placing a photo of some people on a background layer can help to ensure that you don’t end up creating figures with disproportionately large heads or long arms.
Another trick we always point out to delegates attending our Illustrator training courses is the ease with which you can create elements which are variations on existing elements within your drawing. Illustrator has powerful techniques for creating transformed copies of an object. It also allows you to place multiple strokes and fills on an object and to apply effects to each of them. Thus, for example if you need to create four concentric circles, you can just create one circle and give it four strokes, using the Offset Path command to position each of them.
The fact of the matter is that “Blank Canvas Syndrome” will just disappear once you formulate a clear idea of what you achieve learn to avoid creating all your elements from scratch. Start using the Live Trace facility to generate useable vector artwork. Use background images as guides to help you draw your own artwork and, wherever possible, reuse and modify elements that you have already created.
You can get up to date information on Illustrator training courses, visit Macresource Computer Training, an independent computer training company offering Illustrator Classes at their central London training centre.