Does the little orange icon scare you? Don’t let it. Check out the slides below and learn to love Illustrator.

Illustrator Basics cover slide

The abridged version follows:

1. Embrace Selection Tools

The selection tool (black arrow) allows you to select a whole shape or whole group. The direct selection tool (white arrow) allows you to select an individual anchor point, an individual piece within a group, or allows you to modify a path using anchor points and bezier curves.

2a. Learn Shift + Alt…

When holding shift, you can scale an object proportionately from a corner. When you hold shift+alt, it still scales the object proportionately but uses the center as the reference point.

2b. Revisit Alt and Shift

When you hold alt and drag with your mouse, you create a duplicate copy of a shape or group. When you hold alt+shift, and drag with your mouse, you create a copy of a shape or group and move it in a straight line horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

3. Understand Align and Distribute

When you select multiple objects, the align menu will pop up along the top. Alternately, you can always access the align palette from the Window menu. There are three ways to use align/distribute: to selection, to key object, to artboard.

  1. In order to align to selection, choose multiple objects by holding shift on the keyboard while clicking each object/shape, choose Align to Selection from the menu or palette and select your alignment(s).
  2. In order to align to artboard, choose a single or multiple object(s), choose Align to Artboard from the menu or palette and select your alignment.
  3. To align to key objects, choose multiple objects (holding shift). Release the shift key and click the object you want to set as your key object. You will notice your key object will have a thicker selection border around it; all other objects will now be aligned relative to this object. After selecting your key object, select your alignment(s).

To distribute spacing, choose multiple objects and choose to distribute spacing vertically or horizontally in the align palette. The objects will be spaced evenly, even if they are sized differently from each other. (Tip: This is a great tool to use when aligning social media icons on a graphic!)

4. Create Text Easily

When creating a text box, always click and drag. Don’t single click and start typing. Why? When you click and drag, you can resize the text box to accommodate more text and the text box is more flexible for adjusting. When you click to type, you can’t resize the box; you have to break a line of text manually; you may accidentally stretch or shrink text; and aligning text is difficult. (Did you forget? For shame. Don’t worry; you can convert your type to area type within the Type menu. It’s as if you clicked and dragged a text box from the start! Magic!)

5. Enjoy Typing on a Path

In order to use this fun tool, first you must find your patience because it can be finicky, but it is also worth it.

Create a path with a shape or line. Click and hold on the text tool to reveal hidden options. Choose the Type on a Path tool, and click anywhere on the path (generally, the top is a good starting point). Type or copy and paste your text. Click and drag the long bar opposite the beginning type to adjust where the type is on the path.

6. Some Miscellaneous Type Tips

Character palette: Use this to change physical characteristics of selected text.

Paragraph palette: Use this to change text alignment.

Type > Change Case: Did your client send you a SENTENCE IN ALL CAPS? Well, that’s sort of annoying. Use this tool to quickly change the text to sentence case, title case, etc.

Glyphs palette: Use this to access “hidden” characters included in a typeface including ligatures, smart quotes, dashes, or various wingdings.

Outline type: When should you use it?

  • When you’re sending a file to a printer, client or coworker who may not have the fonts you used, and they won’t need to change the text.
  • When you’re using a glyph as an icon and want to resize it.
  • When you’d like to edit a character/glyph in a non-standard manner.

How do you do it? Select the type box then use Type > Create Outlines (Note: Outlined text is no longer editable, so be sure to proofread beforehand!)

7. Round It Out: Rounded Corners

There are three ways to achieve rounded corners:

  1. Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners.
  2. Use shape properties and choose corner radius for individual or all corners.
  3. Use selection tool or direction selection tool to drag the blue dot on the corner in and out.

8. Warp the Text: Arched Text

Use Effect > Warp to alter the shape of text while leaving it editable or to alter the appearance of a shape in various ways. Be careful not to overdo it! Don’t worry, though; you can always edit your warp within the Appearance palette (Window > Appearance) and click on any blue link to edit an aspect of the shape’s appearance.

9a. Intro to the Pathfinder Tool

Common uses for the Pathfinder tool include: add/unite, subtract/minus front, intersect or exclude. Use this tool to build complex shapes from basic ones.

9b. Slice Shapes in Half With the Pathfinder Tool (by special request!)

Create the shape you want to “cut” in half, then draw a dividing line through it using the Line Segment Tool. With both the shape and the line selected, use the Divide Tool within the Pathfinder palette. Use either the Direct Selection Tool to move just one half or ungroup (Object > Ungroup) the shape to manipulate the halves individually.

10. Blend it All Together: Blending Shapes and/or Colors

There are four steps to any blend:

  1. Create the beginning and end shapes.
  2. Select both shapes.
  3. Set options within Object > Blend > Blend Options.
  4. Finalize by using Object > Blend > Make.

There you have it. You can now navigate Illustrator confidently!

Got a question? Your own Illustrator tip to share? Leave it in the comments or Tweet us! We’d love to hear!