Adobe Illustrator Training Notes

Why Illustrator

  • Illustrator is vector graphics application
    • illustrator creates graphics that are infinitely scalable
      • vector or object based graphics
      • vectors are based on math, you are plotting anchor points and program creates path
      • vector graphics are smaller in file size
        • illustrator only remembers coordinates and stroke/fill colors
      • referred to as object based because you aren’t dealing with pixels, but objects created by paths
    • Photoshop is pixel or raster based
      • raster is a given width or height
        • each pixel can and must only contain one color
      • resolution refers to how many pixels are on frame that can be filled in with a color
      • photoshop files are huge because they remember each pixel individually and records the data
        • megapixels are millions of pixels


  • Two types of paths
    • open
    • closed
  • straight line is path with one point (beginning) and one point (end)
  • there are different types of anchor points
    • corner – has straight line coming from it
    • smooth – has curved line coming from it
  • rectangle is made of four corner points
  • oval have for smooth points
    • control handle determines path of smooth point
    • on a bezier curve
      • control handles get coordinates as well
  • must put appearance on path, paths alone are considered naked
    • fills – enclosed area of path
      • when adjusting fills, hold down shift and click on swatch to alter colors, not swatches
    • strokes – appearance of physical path


  • Black arrow is selection tool
    • grabs entire groups of objects
  • white arrow is subselection tool
    • grabs direct object under arrow
    • direct selection tool can also edit individual anchor points
  • ctrl key allows you to toggle between the arrows very quickly and efficiently
  • shift key allows you to add/remove items to a selection

Stacking Order

    • determines which objects sit on top of eachother, objects are always above or beneath each other, never on some level
    • bring to front is used to take object and place it on top level of stacking order
      • send to back does the opposite

Isolation Mode

  • way to more easily work with object in illustration
  • double-click on object to isolate group
    • can also isolate parts of groups

Document Profiles

  • can use different workflows, from video to web
    • CMYK is for print
    • is document is going to monitor, use RGB

Multiple Artboards

    • Illustrator allows you to use multiple artboards in one document
      • used to hold multiple files of different sizes all in one document
        • great of campaigns
      • can select assignment of canvas’
      • only one artboard can be active at one time
      • can move through artboard with arrows at bottom left
      • use artboard edit tool to select/add/work with artboards
        • in artboard edit mode
          • alt + drag over artboard copies it and the graphics inside
          • shift + change dimensions holds the aspect ratio
      • can edit artboard properties with artboard options button


  • additional content in the form of libraries can be loaded
    • click on library menu
    • one library is exposed, can drag into current document library.  This will show for current doc, but not for others


  • New > From Template
    • adds artboards that can be helpful with preset dimensions


  • Spacebar instantiates hand tool
  • spacebar + ctrl instantiates zoom
    • + alt to zoom out


  • Can have multiple windows arranged in different ways
    • also able to show document in different views in two different windows

Rulers and Guides

  • when creating guides, hold down shift to snap guide to ruler
  • alt key changes between horizontal and vertical guide
    • use contextual menu (right click) to lock/unlock guides
  • Guides act like magnets and are great for placement
  • to create guides which are specific for artboard
    • with artboard edit mode selected, draw guides to place guides on artboards

Bounding Box

  • allows for transformations to be performed more accessibly
  • only shows up when bounding box option is turned on
    • and only when using the selection tool (black arrow)

Drawing Graphics

  • Closed Primitives
    • closed refers to the closed path
    • primitive refers to stock shape
    • when drawing, use these hotkeys
      • shift key constrains proportions
      • alt key draws shape from center point
      • spacebar drags shape to new location
      • when drawing rounded rectangle, up and down keys alter the corner radius
      • when drawing polygons, up and down keys add more sides
        • they are all going to be equal side
      • when drawing starts, alt key aligns the shoulders
        • use ctrl key to change pointiness of star
  • Open Primitives
    • uses very similar hotkeys
      • shift constrains to 45 degree increments
      • for arcs
        • f key will switch arc from concave or convex
        • up and down adjust curve
      • spiral
        • up and down puts more winds in spiral
        • ctrl key adjusts how tightly wound
      • rectangle grid
        • up increase row
        • right increase column
        • down remove row
        • left remove column
        • f, v, c, x all control skew of rectangles
      • polar grid acts much in the same way
  • While drawings primitives, hold the ` (tilde) key down to create exact copies for interesting effect
  • Pen Tool
    • the defining vector graphics creation tool
      • found in multiple applications
    • Pen tool is not used for drawing, it creates shapes by plotting anchor points
      • we just draw anchor points, Illustrator draws the paths
      • shift key makes lines straight
      • pen tool with x means it is about to start new path
      • pen tool with nothing means it is in middle of drawing
      • pen tool with o means it is about to close path
      • pen tool with upside down v means control handles are being pulled out of particular anchor point
        • these are basically combination points, because you only have one side of the control handle, meaning path changes direction as it moves through point
        • control handles are basically magnets, and draw the line toward
      • if you click and drag while using pen tool, you will create curve handles and define a smooth anchor point
        • illustrator will create curve line between anchor points
      • when drawing, need to think anchor points first, then paths will follow
  • Pencil Tool
    • pencil tool and pen tool are polar opposites
    • pencil tool draws paths and illustrator creates anchor points
      • it is tough to draw shapes
      • can redraw lines by hovering over selecting line until x disappears
        • to drag new path, just deselect
        • Pencil Tool Options
          • fidelity is smoothness
          • stabilization makes lines look less jittery

Editing Points

  • Illustrator allows us to convert anchor points between smooth and corner
    • as one of pen tools, there is the convert anchor point tool
      • just click on anchor point which you would like to alter
        • drag a corner point out to make it smooth
        • with convert anchor tool selected, drag one side of the control handle to create a combination point
        • hotkeys
          • with pen tool selected, alt to change to convert anchor
    • pen tool is great for creating new graphics, not for working with them
      • new preference allows you to add anchor point to path by hovering over with pen tool, you’ll get a + next to mouse
      • if you mouse over anchor point, you get a minus sign to remove the anchor point
      • there is a remove selected anchor points command in the command bar

Pathfinder Panel

  • allows you to take two paths and perform some operation to create new paths
  • must enable panel from window menu
  • tools in Pathfinder Panel
    • unite allows you to take two shapes and combine them into one
    • subtract removes topmost layer from bottom layers
    • exclude combines them except for the parts that overlap
    • intersect only keeps part of graphics that are overlapping
    • divide chops up graphics into parts that overlap and parts that don’t
    • trim removes all overlapping areas completely and gets rid of stroke
    • merge puts them into one shape but trashes stroke comment
    • crop creates a mask of the topmost layer, only showing what would appear through layer
    • Outline chops everything up as individual paths
    • minus back removes bottom layer from front

Joining Anchor Points

  • Shift click on two anchor points, then click on options menu and path > join
    • can only join anchor points
    • creates straight line to join points
    • if points overlap, can choose between smooth and corner points
      • ctrl + J is keyboard shortcut

Averaging Anchor Points

  • Takes points that are separate and recreates them on top of each other
    • then the points must be joined
    • can join by different dimensions

Outlining Strokes

  • select line with stroke > object > path > outline stroke
    • changes stroke attributes to outlines so they can be worked with individually

Simplify Paths

  • more anchor points = more detailed artwork and higher file size
    • not always better to have more anchor points, want to use minimum anchor points to accomplish desired goal
  • click on complex path > object > path > simplify
    • use curve to control how many points are created (go with around 95% for highest quality with good reduction in file size)
    • set angle to somewhere in the middle of the bar

Offset Path

  • creates copy of path with different dimensions
    • scaling keeps proportions constant, so you can’t always scale it in desirable fashion
    • click on path > object > path > offset path
      • be sure to use preview so you can see what you are doing
      • positive numbers make path larger, negative make path smaller

Split Into Grid

  • to split path into grid, select path, object > path > split into grid
    • have controls for display
      • be sure to use preview

Path Cleanup

  • to see all paths on artboard, use ctrl + Y to view outlines
  • Object > Path > Cleanup
    • removes extraneous stuff that clutters up your artboard


  • Point Text
    • has no bounding box
    • text is aligned to the anchor point
    • created when you add text by clicking somewhere and not dragging
  • Area Text
    • created when drawing a bounding box for your text
    • benefits include
      • free resizing
      • can fit text into any path using Area Text tool
        • just click on outline of path to place text inside of said path
      • can place columns in text area using Area Type Options
        • Type > Area Type Options
  • Character Settings
    • Kerning is the space between letters
      • alt + left/right keys to change kerning when working with text
      • optical is better kerning algorithm, looks great compared to auto kerning
    • Illustrator allows for the rotation of any characters
  • Paragraph Settings
    • Roman Hanging Justification makes left justification look more proper
    • Adobe Single Line Composer is used to when creating text, but use Adobe Every Line Composer when going to render