How to up your Adobe Illustrator game: visual quick tips

Adobe Illustrator has always been a bear to learn, even if you have a design background. This is because most tutorials aren’t made for people who learn visually.

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Hi, my name is Mary. I’ve been a designer for a long time and have even taught design at University level.

I’m writing because I know a lot of people struggle with Adobe Illustrator. Obviously I think it’s great, but I wanted to explain why:

Adobe Illustrator has saved my butt, on multiple occasions. Really.

One time a few years ago, when I was a UX Designer at an unusually stressful job, I showed my boss a series of 20 mockups, in three different screen sizes so 60 total, and he told me he wanted to see them ALL in black & white, by the next day. Editing 60 separate mockups on the surface sounds like a potential all-nighter at work.

But did I end up doing that all-nighter? Hell no. Not even close.

I was able to change the colors on all 60 mockups in about 5 minutes.

My boss, even though his title was Creative Director, did not know that you can edit colors very quickly in Illustrator. His attempt at designer authoritarianism failed miserably. He wasn’t a Creative Director for too much longer after that, but that is a story for another time and another place.

a quick tip to select Adobe Illustrator objects by appearance, one quick way to recolor
a quick tip to select Adobe Illustrator objects by appearance, one quick way to recolor
a quick tip to select Adobe Illustrator objects by appearance, one quick way to recolor

Learn Illustrator the way you learn, visually

I, like you, am a visual learner. I’ve taught graphic design at the university level, but I am always still learning.

When I taught, I never ever required students to buy a book. Why?

I have never understood why so many graphic design books are mainly text. That’s not how I learn, and it’s probably not how you learn either. And technology is changing so much that you probably can’t even sell your textbooks back any more. That’s lame.

Instead of a conventional how-to book, what I’ve done is created lessons on how to use Illustrator, but I made the lessons visual, for the way you actually learn.

a visual explanation of DPI (dots per inch)
a visual explanation of DPI (dots per inch)
a visual explanation of DPI (dots per inch)

I have seen many students struggle with Illustrator in particular. It’s a very complicated program. But by using a few shortcuts and techniques, drawing using Illustrator can become second-nature to you. I have also incorporated general design principles that you will use throughout your career.

Adobe Illustrator has a lot of shortcuts that can help anyone and that’s a beautiful thing. But a lot of those treasures are hidden as obscure shortcuts or menu items or right-clicks.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to Illustrator or have used it for years, there is always something new to learn. And what you learn can potentially have a dramatic effect on your working life.

These online tools contains excerpts from my own personal toolbox. I know that there are a lot of visual learners out there, so I decided to illustrate and share them: first on Instagram, and now here.

Why? Because I want to help you avoid those all-nighters too.

I use the keyboard shortcut d all the time to go back to default colors
I use the keyboard shortcut d all the time to go back to default colors
I use the keyboard shortcut d all the time to go back to default colors

Chapter list:

I go over the basics of both Illustrator and design in general:

Tools: brushes and pens, oh my

Basics: setting up your documents

Shapes: start drawing complex things using simple shapes

Colors: working with and choosing choosing palettes

Organize: you need these if you work with any other designers

Type: tricks to make working with text easier

Mastery: what your design teachers didn’t tell you

No one wants to see the struggle, just the success
No one wants to see the struggle, just the success

If this book helps you save even an hour of your time, you will have paid yourself back and then some. And that will make both of us very happy.

Originally published at marylovesillustrator.com.

#UX Designer and Strategist. I care more about typography than I probably should ❤️💚💙 for life 👀

#UX Designer and Strategist. I care more about typography than I probably should ❤️💚💙 for life 👀