When it comes to creating professional illustration, Adobe Illustrator has been the world-leader in graphics programs for the past 15 or so years. Specifically geared towards creating vector graphics, Illustrator is used in several industries, including graphic and web design, as well as fashion design and interior design. The program is also used to create floor-plans for fire safety, maps for various industries, signage for retail and event planning, and many more applications.
Whatever your industry is, Illustrator provides many tools and functions for the creation of professional artwork and design documentation. The purpose of this article is to introduce some of the main features of this revolutionary program.
As mentioned above, Illustrator excels in the creation of vector graphics, which are mathematically generated shapes, as opposed to the pixel-based files of photographic images. Whilst the workspace and tools appear similar to others in the Adobe Creative Suite, like Photoshop, Indesign, Dreamweaver and Flash, there are important differences. Illustrator works with art-boards, which are basically pages with a paste-board around the edges of the interface. These art boards may be of identical sizes or varying sizes, for example, you may wish to have an A4 version of a design alongside an A3, an A2 and an A1 version. This would result in a multi-page PDF which could be sent to the printer. Various numbers of each type could then be ordered without the hassle of submitting several different documents. The paste-board around the edges may be used to store extra artwork which may or may not be used in the final design. Any items on this paste board will not be printed, and do not significantly add to the size of the file.
The tools in the Toolbox on the left-hand side of the workspace bear a superficial resemblance to those of other Adobe programs, but whilst a few of the tools are shared by Photoshop and Indesign, for example the Pen tool and the Selection tools, there are many which only apply to Illustrator artwork. Some tools are stacked together with other related tools indicated by a small arrow on the bottom right of the tool; these become available by right-clicking on the top tool.
In common with other programs each tool has various options accessible through the top horizontal Control (or Options) panel.
The various panels on the right-hand side of the interface behave in a similar fashion to those of other programs, with some of the main options at the bottom of each panel, but a more complete list of panel options accessed via the top-right drop-down list. Such panels may also be resized, docked or kept as floating panels. Workspaces may saved in your favorite configurations and whenever the workspace becomes too unwieldy the user may revert to a default or saved workspace via the top right Workspace Shifter list.
Navigation in Illustrator is actually identical to that in other Adobe programs, the main tools being the Zoom and Hand tools. And Illustrator shares the navigation keyboard shortcuts with the other Adobe programs. This consistency is particularly useful when working between several programs at once.
And in common with other Adobe software, many of Illustrator's Preferences can be changed via the top Edit drop-down menu (PC). For Macintosh users these preferences can be found in the top left Illustrator drop-down menu. But this is one of the few differences between using the program on a Windows versus Macintosh platform. Some keyboard shortcuts are a bit different, but that's all. The actual functionality is the same.
The simplicity and logic of the Illustrator interface means that it's easily mastered by beginners, and has contributed to its success as the world-leader in graphics illustration.
Tom Gillan has been training Indesign to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.