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Adobe Illustrator Review & Rating

Adobe Illustrator has reigned over vector drawing applications since its release in 1987, quickly becoming one of Adobe’s trifecta of industry-standard graphic design tools alongside Photoshop and InDesign. Adding to the software’s already-excellent collection of capabilities, Adobe’s continues to introduce new features and enhancements sure to delight creatives. Recent highlights include path simplification, spell check, the improved Properties panel, the Puppet Warp tool, custom sizing for anchor points, and performance improvements.

In previous updates, Adobe has improved interoperability between the program’s desktop and mobile siblings with shared Libraries. The company also recently integrated and updated Adobe Stock, which now includes design templates as well as vector illustration and photographs. Despite some competition in the vector-based graphics space—Concept Draw Pro, Affinity Designer, CorelDraw, Sketch, and InkPad, to name a few—Illustrator remains the market-leading vector drawing software thanks to its unrivaled toolset, sweeping capabilities, and integration with the Creative Cloud Suite. Note that the apps in the suite no longer include CC as part of their names, however.

What’s New in Illustrator for 2020?

The November 2019 Illustrator updates are not quite as plentiful as what we saw last year but will be welcome to designers, nevertheless. Here’s a quick rundown.

  • Path simplification makes working with paths easier by reducing unnecessarily large numbers of anchor points.
  • Auto spell-check highlights errors as you type—a boon to designers who aren’t also editors.
  • Background save lets you move on to other tasks and export more quickly than before.
  • Faster rendering of drop shadow, blur, and glow effects.
  • More accessible troubleshooting when opening or saving files.
  • New guidance in the form of tutorials and help resources in the Home and Learn tab.

As a refresher, here are the most compelling highlights from the 2018 release, some of which merit further discussion later in this review:

  • The Properties Panel gives context-sensitive info and options about the currently selected object.
  • You can increase the size of on-screen controls, including anchor points, handles, and bounding boxes, which makes them a lot easier to adjust.
  • For users who have ever wanted to tweak or rotate a portion of an illustration without distorting the whole thing, the Puppet Warp tool gives you the power to do so in an intuitive and natural-looking way.
  • Move over PostScript (PS): Multiple Master (MM), TrueType (TT), OpenType (OT), and Variable (var) fonts are here!
  • The app now supports Microsoft’s Surface Dial.
  • It also adds support for CSV and XML in the Variables Panel.
  • You can now import multipage PDFs in one operation.
  • You can use the software to browse Dropbox files without downloading them.

Price and System Requirements

Adobe Illustrator Premiere Pro, and the rest, costs $49.99 per month. A free seven-day trial lets you test the software out with no commitment (and requires no credit card information).

Adobe Illustrator CC - Welcome

Illustrator is compatible with both Windows (7 SP1, 8.1, and Windows 10) and macOS (10.11 and later). For either platform, you need a reliable internet connection to download and register the programs. You can work offline, but you need an internet connection for membership validation and access to some online services. You can find a complete list of the system requirements for Adobe Illustrator on Adobe’s site.

If you’re thinking of leaving Adobe behind because it has gotten rid of the single perpetual license option, CorelDraw Graphics Suite ($499; or $198 per year for a subscription) is the alternative to explore. It’s for Windows only, though. For that price, you get six pieces: CorelDraw, Photo-Paint, PowerTrace, Connect, Website Creator, and Capture. CorelDRAW and Photo-Paint are the two primary applications. The first is a vector and illustration program. The second is an image-editing program. The other pieces are essentially utilities. Corel still offers a shrink-wrapped product, which is preferable for anyone with a spotty internet connection. You can also buy a perpetual single license and download a local copy of CorelDraw.

Is Creative Cloud a Good Deal?

All things considered Creative Cloud is an excellent deal. While I understand the reluctance to getting locked into software subscriptions, there is no denying that membership has its advantages. In return for your annual payment for full Creative Cloud, you get access to all Adobe’s ever-expanding collection of pro applications (and even some betas). This inspires me to keep up my knowledge of emerging trends, technology, and capabilities.

Even if some apps included with my subscription are built for work (and play) outside my expertise, I get to fool around and discover fascinating new tools. With nearly 30 apps for video, audio and motion graphics, web design, 2- and 3-D compositing, game design, and the new UI/UX prototype and design tool called Adobe XD, there is plenty to sate the most curious explorer. Plus, as soon as Adobe releases them, instant updates are yours with just a click. There’s no more agonizing between saving money but falling behind on the latest features and being wiped out by an annual thousand-dollar purchase that allows you to stay current.

Vector vs. Raster

For the uninitiated, let’s identify the key differences between vector and raster graphics. Vector graphics, defined by points, lines, and Boolean curves, are advantageous in that you can enlarge them infinitely without loss of resolution. This is key when you are designing a huge billboard or other large graphics where scalability is a requisite for success. A second advantage of designing with vectors is that files tend to be much smaller than their raster counterparts.

Vector vs. Raster
Vector graphics (left) are defined by lines and curves, while raster graphics (right) are defined by pixels.
Conversely, raster-based artwork like that created in Photoshop is defined by pixels. When you enlarge or zoom in on raster art, the pixels enlarge too, resulting in visible pixelation, or chunkiness with ragged edges. Also, large raster artwork produces enormous files.

When your work includes logo design, typography, or illustration, Adobe Illustrator is a must in your arsenal. It’s the tool for creating simple drawings, maps, complex technical illustrations, iconography, interesting charts and diagrams, information graphics, fine typography—and even business card or invitation layouts and mechanical art. What’s more, you can export your files in a variety of formats intended for use in print, web, mobile, interactive, app design, and video projects.

Workspace and Tools

If you have worked with InDesign or Photoshop, Illustrator’s environment (robust toolbars and panels, and contextual menus) should be reasonably familiar. You can customize the recently modernized, flattened interface with options from dark to light gray. Palettes and menus snap to any configuration that pleases you. When you have your screen perfectly composed with your favorite preferences, defaults, menu organization, and positions, it’s good to know that you can save your workspace and later clean up palette clutter by returning to that exact configuration whenever you like.

Adobe Illustrator CC - Workspace

I appreciate that the software lets you assign custom key commands, which allows you to further optimize your workflow for any kind of project. In fact, Illustrator ships with customized workspace options specifically suited to disciplines such as layout, printing and proofing, typography and web, and an Essentials space that highlights new enhancements and additions. Fear not, you can still access the previous Essentials setup.

Illustrator supports multiple, repositionable pages, called artboards. You can size these using Illustrator’s myriad presets, cut them down to size with the Crop tool, or define the width and height values yourself. Artboard control has improved, with enhancements to positioning and arranging, as well as an increase in the maximum number of boards allowed.

Appearance and Properties Panels

Although it’s mixed in with other less powerful tools, the unassuming Appearance panel constitutes the Illustrator CC - Properties Panelbackbone and muscle of your workspace. Appearance is arguably the most underappreciated of Illustrator’s default panels—but I consider this tool my information control tower. With the Appearance Panel, you have full command over every aspect of an object’s or group’s attributes including basic fills, stroke color and size, opacity, and blending mode. But where the panel really impresses is when you work with complex operations like creating multiple strokes, adjusting Illustrator Effects (such as glows, feathers, and drop shadows), and reordering or toggling effects layers.

The Properties Panel appears in the Essentials workspace and when you choose Properties from the Window menu. It shows frequently needed tools based on the current context, meaning it changes what it displays depending on what you select. It’s a nice touch, and I could see it being useful for designers, but if you would rather stick with your tried and true approach, you can switch back to the Essentials Classic workspace.

Toolsets Panel

In addition to the Appearance panel, Adobe has stocked the tools panel with everything you expect in a professional drawing application, as well as some unique goodies. If that just isn’t enough for you, there are some extraordinary, high-quality plugin packages built specifically for Illustrator—and updated regularly. Check out Astute Graphics’ jaw-dropping lineup or C.Valley’s versatile sets, FILTERiT 5 and XTream Path 2. If you really want to get your design geek on, know that Illustrator can run custom scripts—you can use the ones installed with the program, code some yourself (in Microsoft Visual Basic, AppleScript, JavaScript, and ExtendScript), or you can scout around online and find plenty of intriguing automation and function-adding scripts.

Adobe Illustrator CC - Puppet Warp

Illustrator’s eight tool categories allow you to get the job done, and they inspire exploration, too. I recommend beginners do just that—explore the tools and their submenus before embarking on a project that’s due tomorrow. This many specialty tools and subtools can be daunting at first glance.

By default, Illustrator shows five selection tools, each designed to choose specific types of objects, groups, paths, and points—and you can get even more precise control via the Preferences menu. A dream-come-true for hard-working eyeballs is the preferences addition of custom sizing for anchor points and handles. Until now, no matter how high you magnified your view, the anchor points remained painfully small.

Reduce Anchor Points

A related feature that arrived in the November 2019 update is the Object > Path > Simplify tool. This can remove unecessary anchor points, especially important for paths created by tracing or with mobile apps. The tool keeps the path essentially the same as it does this, but you can adjust the number of anchor points with the Reduce Anchor Point Slider. Getting even further into the weeds, you can open the Simplify dialog to specify the Corner Point Angle Threshold.

The program’s 18 drawing tools are sure to satisfy. Among them is the invaluable Pixel Perfect tool which aids in creating crisp web-destined graphics with pixels that align along a grid. The Puppet Warp tool gives you a way to make minor adjustments without having to select lots of points and move each separately. The tool allows for more holistic complex-shape editing by creating a triangulated mesh envelope around your selection that allows you to lock certain zones while manipulating adjacent areas, rather than having to do so point by point.

Working with complex typography is a pleasure with six type tools, including the revolutionary Touch Type tool, which allows repositioning, rotation, and scaling of individual letters within live text blocks. Now typographers can assign OpenType alternate styles to a text block.

Artists will enjoy playing with eight paint tools, including the Live Paint tool, which fills the need for the current coloring book craze by allowing users to color fill shapes simply by clicking in them. The Brush tool allows you to create custom brushes (Pattern, Art, Scatter, Calligraphic or Bristle), a feature that becomes even more awesome when you realize that you can create unexpected shapes by replacing polygon and ellipse strokes with a custom brush.

Related to the paint tools is the delightful Symbol Sprayer tool with its seven variants. You can assign a symbol you created—let’s use a star for this example—to become the paint, and the tool sprays stars. With the Sprayer’s sub-tools you can control the density of spray, randomness, color variation, size variation, and individual rotation of the stars with the aptly named Styler, Shifter, Scruncher, Screener, Sizer, Spinner, and Stain tools.

Illustrator promises power and the reshaping and transformation tools feel quite satisfying as you manipulate your work in every way imaginable, like shape blending, morphing, warping, twisting, shearing, tweaking, puckering, and bloating. With five slicing and cutting tools, you get ultra-fine control over lines and shapes with the Pathfinder tab, which performs operations like unite, exclude, intersect, merge, and divide. Try experimenting with these different functions for often-unexpected results.

Graphing in Adobe Illustrator

Considering the popularity of data visualization and information graphics, Illustrator satisfies with nine graphing tools that allow you to get down to business. It lets you transform your data with an adequate variety of graph types, including the more common bar and pie charts, and also scatter and radar charts. I’m eager to see if anyone comes up with scripts to help create unconventional graphs like tree maps, network diagrams or bubble maps, which are more adept at displaying complex data.

Hottest Features for Work, Fun, and Experimentation

Precision Drawing. Illustrator was born for this more than for its other abilities. Amenities like perspective grids scaffold the foundation of perspective drawing and create dimensional lettering effects, while axonometric angle constraints save time and minimize frustration. Layers help organize and isolate components of your illustration for easy access when making edits or for variable overlays. Finally, although it takes a bit of practice to master, the Pen tool is your go-to for creating beautiful vector paths, Bezier curves, defining anchor points, and coaxing handles.

Copy & Paste and File Export. With so many potential asset destinations within each project, you only get the best final product if you supply the optimum file type to your colleagues and vendors. Of course, with other Creative Cloud apps on your desktop, you can copy and paste into and out of Illustrator—or even drag. But I enjoy being able to trust Illustrator’s wide range of file type conversions which include export for print, web, and mobile in formats such as AutoCAD, BMP, CSS, JPEG, PDF, PNG, SVG, TIFF, and more.

Type Wrangling. As a typographer, I find a lot to love when working with type in Illustrator—especially now that Adobe has not only integrated InDesign’s easy OpenType glyph chooser pop-down. You can now assign alternates to entire text blocks rather than having to assign glyphs one character at a time. All you do is highlight a character and select from the alternates options pop-down. For example, if you highlight the numeral 5 (depending on the typeface), you can choose from superscript, subscript, tabular, old style, denominator, numerator, case sensitive, small caps, and other alternates.

Illustrator also borrows from InDesign’s professional character and paragraph formatting options. The addition of Touch Type tool, described above, a Glyphs window and support for Asian (horizontal and vertical), Indic, Arabic, and Hebrew languages makes working with type in Illustrator a stellar experience. Thankfully, the formerly anemic spellchecker has been revamped so that it’s now actually helpful.

Variable type resembles a smart build-out of Adobe’s Multiple Master technology of yore. Six typefaces in the new OpenType var format come preinstalled: Acumin, Minion, Myriad, Source code, Source Sans, and Source Serif. What’s great about variable fonts is that in Illustrator, you can precisely control width (condensed or extended), weight (thin to black) and slant with the software’s sliders—it’s like getting 30 fonts in one typeface. Something to note here is that the slant is like an oblique, and is not a true italic.

Automation. Graphic Styles in Illustrator are akin to Photoshop’s Styles—they are one-click mechanisms that automate the application of attributes to an object or type in a single step. In Illustrator, these attributes can be something as simple as a slight drop shadow or as complex as a seven-layer stroke with offsets, feathering and an inner glow, for example. Note that in Illustrator, shadows and glows are made from stepped gradations of solid colors that simulate a blur.

A great way to understand building and using Graphic Styles is to select an object with a Graphic Style applied to it and examine the Appearance Panel. There you will see each of the attribute layers that combine to generate the Graphic Style’s effect. To further automate your process, you can deploy a bounty of Photoshop-style Action presets or make your own.

In terms of convenience, automatically having assets wherever you need them is great. In Creative Cloud Libraries, users now have access to their palettes, styles, and even blocks of copy from whichever application they are using.

Libraries and Mobile Apps

Creative Cloud Libraries keep your project assets from desktop apps and mobile apps at your fingertips for easy integration between the apps. You also have the ability to keep handy often-used text blocks like taglines or disclaimers in your Libraries.

Adobe Illustrator CC - Libraries

Integration with Adobe mobile App cousins—including Capture, Fresco, Illustrator Draw, Sketch—is a treat. These iOS apps are surprisingly simple to use, and worth a serious look. For instance, you can be on the train to work and create a custom brush on your iPhone by taking a snap of anything interesting and let Capture do its magic. Once you get to work and open Illustrator on your desktop, that brush you made on the train awaits in your CC Library—ready to use in any project.

Everyone benefits from a streamlined professional process; with Creative Cloud, collaboration with team members and clients is easy with shared and private assets and libraries.

Also with your subscription comes Typekit, Adobe’s well-populated library of typeface families for print and web. Just choose your fonts and sync to your desktop (or grab code for your site). The only drawback here is that when you collect for output, Illustrator does not copy Typekit fonts in the packaged folder—your printer or service bureau must have a CC subscription too. Of course, if you don’t have a type-heavy, multipage document, you can go ahead and convert type to outline to get around the problem.

In addition to the goodies above, with Creative Cloud for Teams, your enterprise gets a team website, premium fonts, 100 GB of cloud storage for collaboration, dedicated 24/7 technical support, shared Adobe Stock plans, streamlined management, the ability to reassign licenses (this is fantastic for dynamic staffing situations), a web-based admin console, consolidated billing, and purchase orders. There are also targeted plans for students, teachers, schools, and universities.

Design Wish List

No software is perfect—and even the beloved Adobe Illustrator has some fans hoping for a variety of new or enhanced features. Here are some of my wishes for built-in features (a few of which are met by the plugins mentioned above):

• Numeric handle adjustments would be a nice touch, along with the ability to symmetrically synchronize movement of more than two point handles.

• Having a hybrid rotate-and-reflect tool with a variable axis number would be awesome for making interesting patterns and shapes including mandalas, snowflakes, and interlocking shape rotation like those you see in many Japanese family crests. Taking the rotate-and-reflect idea a little further, for complex geometric pattern making (think of the stunning Islamic tessellations), a way to draw precise complex geometric multi-symmetries and polygons with user-determined angle measurements. These features could be part of a new, more robust pattern-making tool that incorporates the 17 types of symmetry!

• As I mentioned, with the popularity of graphing big data, we are seeing many interesting new ways to visualize information. But big data requires the big computing power of algorithms. At the least, I’d like a more flexible tool for making inventive graphs and data images.

• A lot of folks would be pleased to have uniform key commands for Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. And speaking of Photoshop, it would be great if Illustrator had a similar history panel that allowed you to hop back to a certain state.

Queen of the Vector

Adobe Illustrator is essential for any serious designer or artist’s software collection—with it you can create vector solutions for any challenge. What’s more, by being curious and taking advantage of Illustrator’s generous expansion capability, you can turn the application into a personalized digital dreamworld. With steady use and inquisitive inspection, the multitude of tools, menus, palettes, pull-downs, and features become second nature and Illustrator feels like an unconscious extension of your mind. Adobe Illustrator is the clear PCMag Editors’ Choice for vector graphics design.



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Adobe Photoshop comes to iPad (Illustrator in 2020)

The list of things iPads can’t do shrank dramatically at Adobe Max when Photoshop finally became available for iPad.

Adobe also confirmed that another key creative industry tool, Adobe Illustrator, will ship for the Apple tablet in 2020.

The do-anything iPad

Introducing the apps, Adobe VP Creative Cloud Services & Strategy, Simon Longbottom confirmed Adobe will continue to improve these products, aiming to deliver something like feature parity across all its supported platforms.

“We are launching the first version on the iPad, starting with Photoshop’s top workflows, compositing, masking and retouching, with more to come,” the company said.

It is perhaps worth noting that Photoshop on iPad is already a beast, capable of handling 500 layers in a single image, and capable of ingesting and working with 1GB image files.

That’s significant, but it’s probably equally important to note that Photoshop for iPad is compatible with any iOS 13 iPad – which means you can use it on older iPad minis.

Of course, the industry continues to move on and it is arguable that Adobe no longer enjoys the same level of industry dominance it once held.

Sure, Photoshop remains a key industry tool, but now faces stiff competition from the likes of Affinity Photo and Pixelmator.

All the same, backwards compatibility and previous investments in creating creative assets using the company’s creative tools mean most of the world’s largest graphics-related companies still need to make use of Photoshop, if only to take a look at PSD files.

That they can now create new assets with these tools will help Adobe retain relevance in competitive age. Making or editing images is now as easy as pulling out your iPad.

Adobe Photoshop on iPad is available to all Creative Cloud customers subscribed to Photoshop, or as a fee-based app at the App Store.

Illustrator is coming in 2020

Adobe confirmed plans to introduce Illustrator for iPad in 2020.

Compatible with Apple Pencil, the company says its “reimagined” app “brings the precision and versatility of the desktop experience to the tablet.”

You can watch a video of the new app in action here.

As you’ll see, it turns your iPad into a powerful tool for vector-based illustration and uses an ‘iPad-ified’ user interface.

The iPad is a connected product, so it lets you work with the same documents across all your devices, and provides access to all Adobe’s cloud-based products including stock mages and fonts.

The implication is clear:

The raft of iPad enhancements Apple introduced in iPad OS had already moved the platform forward as a productivity device.

Adobe’s decision to make two of the world’s most veteran creative apps available as apps for those systems serves to drive the point home: The iPad is a viable PC replacement.

You can sign up to a beta version of Illustrator on iPad here and decide to just what extent this is the case.

Going with the flow: AR and AI

Adobe Aero is also interesting. The company is quite clearly climbing aboard the Augmented Reality (AR) wagon with the release that Longbottom promises will let you “build AR experiences with no coding skills”.

The app essentially allows you to create layered PSD files, combining various imaging assets (and Adobe’s own libraries of creative assets) in order to build AR experiences using graphics tools, rather than needing to code.

Adobe is also exploring the use of machine intelligence in its creative apps: The introduction of its all-new Photoshop Camera app combines some of the features of Photoshop within an app that allows users to apply industry-standard imaging effects when taking a picture.

The app includes a library of unique lenses and effects from leading artists, the company said. Adobe has also put more AI inside the desktop version of Photoshop in the form of Sensei AI.

Up next:

The direction of travel for Adobe is clear enough:

The company has looked at the evolution of mobile devices and recognizes that its solutions must shift with that tide – particularly now high-end mobile devices (well, Apple’s at any rate) are powerful enough to run complex applications such as these.

For Apple, the fact that two of the world’s most important apps, (and they are, I can recall devoting entire magazines to these creative solutions back in the day), now run on an iPad is a testament to its multi-year effort to ensure its mobile devices carry the kind of punch such high-end solutions need.

There’s a way to go, of course, but the validation of Steve Jobs’ claim that “PCs will become trucks” rings loud and clear. This is exactly what is happening.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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8 Adobe Illustrator Tips to Help You Design Faster

Adobe Illustrator is the best program for graphic design work; for pros and amateurs alike. But it’s such a in-depth app that the quickest ways to do simple things are not always obvious.

Here are the essential Adobe Illustrator tips and tricks that will get you designing faster than ever.

1. Apply Multiple Strokes to an Object

Adobe Illustrator is built around vector objects that have a stroke (the outline) and a fill (the central color). If you’re relatively new to Illustrator, you might not realize that objects can have multiple strokes and fills.

illustrator strokes

This target board image might look like it’s made from lots of different objects combined. In fact, it’s one object. A circle with a yellow fill, and red, blue, black, white, and black strokes.

Here’s how it was done:

illustrator strokes outside

Draw the circle, 80px across. Set the fill to yellow, and the stroke to red with a 40pt width. Click the dotted line under the Stroke option and set Align Stroke to Align Stroke to Outside.

Now open the Appearance panel through the Window menu, or hit Shift + F6. Select the stroke and click Duplicate Selected Item. This creates a copy above the existing stroke.

Select the one below (we want the original stroke to be above) and set the color to blue and the size to 80pt. Then duplicate that.

illustrator repeat stroke

Repeat the process, changing the color and adding 40pt to the size of the stroke each time. For the final stroke, add just 2pt extra.

illustrator appearance

There are lots of other options. You can combine gradient and texture fills, add effects, change the opacity of elements, and more. You can also play with the order the strokes are placed on the image, to see the effect that has. Just drag and drop them into position.

Once you get used to the feature it becomes a whole lot easier than combining lots of elements to make relatively simple objects.

2. Make Patterns and Textures the Easy Way

Creating patterns and textures is time consuming when you do it manually. You can do it in seconds if you learn how to use the Blend Tool.

With the Blend Tool you can repeat objects a set number of times, morph one shape into another, or create smooth gradients between different colors. And it’s really simple to master.

illustrator blend tools

To get started, draw two objects on your canvas. Now double click the Blend Tool to open the options dialog box. Set Spacing to Specified Steps and enter the number of times you want the object to be duplicated.

The other options are Specified Distance, which sets the distance between each repeated object in pixels, and Smooth Color for smoothly blending between two colors.

illustrator simple blend

Click OK. Then, with the Blend Tool selected, click the first object on your canvas followed by the second. The gaps fill in automatically.

types of illustrator blend

The Blend Tool works with almost any object, including text, with only a few exceptions. Try experimenting to see what you can achieve.

3. Hide Parts of Objects With Masks

One of the best Illustrator tips you can learn is how to use masks. They’re a massive time saver. A clipping mask, as it’s called in Illustrator, is a shape that masks the object below it. Only the content that is positioned directly below the mask is visible. Everything else is hidden.

Masks let you combine patterns, textures, and gradients with shapes and text very quickly, and in a non-destructive way.

create illustrator mask

Start with the object you want to be masked, open on your canvas. Now draw a new shape on top of it. Make sure it’s on the same layer.

masked item illustrator

Use the Selection Tool to select both objects. In the Quick Actions panel on the right, click Make Clipping Mask.

You can reposition either the mask or the object being masked at any time.

illustrator compound path

To create a mask from multiple objects you need to combine them first. Select all the objects you want to include then go to Object > Compound Path > Make. This turns them into a single shape.

multi mask illustrator

Select your new compound path plus the object below it. From the Quick Actions panel choose Make Clipping Mask to finish the job.

4. How to Create Complex Shapes

Shapes are integral to Illustrator, but creating complex shapes has always been tricky. The problem has been solved by the Shape Builder Tool.

The Shape Builder Tool works by dividing a group of selected objects into segments, wherever their lines cross. All you need to do is select which of those segments you want to include in your shape, and which you want to exclude.

Here’s a simple example to explain.

build shapes illustrator

Draw a few overlapping shapes, then use the Selection Tool to select all of them.

Now click the Shape Builder Tool.

shape builder tool

When you move your mouse pointer over the selected objects you’ll see each individual “segment” become shaded. Simply click and drag through all the ones you want to add to your shape.

You can create more than one complex shape from any group. Just click and drag as often as you need.

custom shape illustrator

To discard segments you no longer need, hold Alt and click inside them.

5. Draw Shapes Freehand

Here’s an even quicker Illustrator trick for building shapes: draw them freehand.

illustrator shaper tool

The Shaper Tool recognizes certain gestures. Draw a rough circle, rectangle, triangle, and so on, with your mouse or pen and Illustrator will convert them into perfect shapes.

But that’s not all. You can use the Shaper Tool to combine shapes using an additional “scribble” gesture:

  • You can scribble inside a shape to remove its fill.
  • Scribble inside, then cross over the stroke to delete the shape completely.
  • Or scribble inside then draw a continuous line through connected shapes to combine them into a single shape.

scribble gesture

Although less precise than the other options available to you, the Shaper Tool is an effective way to get quality sketches down quickly. It’s a tool you’ll use a lot if you buy one of the best graphic tablets


The Best Graphic Tablets and Graphics Programs for Digital Design




The Best Graphic Tablets and Graphics Programs for Digital Design

We’ve rounded up the best graphic design tablets and software to use if you want to break into cartoons and other forms of digital art.
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.

6. Draw Inside Shapes

Illustrator has three Draw modes that control where and how your tools can draw on the canvas. They’re found through a tiny button below the toolbar on the left edge of the screen.

The default setting is Draw Normal. This means you can draw anywhere on the canvas.

paint inside only

Select an object and set the Draw mode to Draw Inside. Now, anything you add to your image will only be visible if it’s within the bounds of that object. This is effectively a masking shortcut, and is very useful when working on icons, buttons, or small details.

The Draw Outside option has the opposite effect, and lets you isolate and protect certain parts of your image without needing to worry about re-ordering your layers.

7. Edit Similar Objects at the Same Time

Illustrator 19 introduced the Global Edit tool. This enables you to select similar objects based on their shape, size, color, and so on, and edit them all in one go. It’s ideal when you’ve copied the same object, symbol, or logo onto the page several times.

start global edit illustrator

To use it, select one instance of the object you want to edit. In the Properties panel, select Start Global Edit. All the copies of the same object will also be highlighted. Now start editing the object you selected, and your changes will be reflected in all the objects.

global edit illustrator

To finetune the selection, click the drop down arrow next to the Global Edit button. Appearance limits the selection to objects with the same fill or stroke, and Size to only the same size objects.

When you’re done, either deselect the original object or click Stop Global Edit in the Properties panel.

8. Switch Colors Quickly

When you’re experimenting with colors or color schemes you will often find you need to change all instances of a single color within your image. You can do this quickly using the Recolor Artwork option.

First up, select the object whose color you want to change. It may be a single object. Or, use the Same option outlined in Step 8 to select all the objects containing the same fill or stroke color. Alternatively, hit Ctrl + A or Cmd + A to select everything on the page.

recolor artwork illustrator

Next, click the Recolor Artwork button in the Options Bar at the top of the screen.

The color of your selected objects will be shown under Current Colors. Double click the box under New to select a new color to change them to.

preset colors illustrator

If you’re working with logos, web artwork, or the like, hit the Harmony Rules dropdown at the top of the window to see a range of preset color schemes based on your existing choices. The colors update in real time, so keep clicking through until you find a combination you like.

Now You Can Work Faster in Illustrator

These Adobe Illustrator tips and tricks should help you become a whole lot more efficient with the app, and you can then start using it for all your design projects. Whether that’s designing a logo in Illustrator or designing a business card in Illustrator.

For the quickest shortcut of all, here’s our guide to free Adobe Illustrator templates


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12 Places to Find Free Adobe Illustrator Templates

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. They’ll help get your project started and looking amazing in no time at all.

Explore more about: Adobe Illustrator, Design, Graphic Design.



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How to Convert an Image to a Vector in Adobe Illustrator

There are two types of digital image: rasters and vectors.

Raster images are made up of individual pixels, and contain tremendous amounts of detail. However, you can’t enlarge them without losing quality.

A vector image is made from lines and shapes. They’re usually less detailed, but you can make them as big as you like without losing anything.

When you’ve got a raster graphic that’s too small for your needs, the solution is to convert the image to a vector. And you can do this in Adobe Illustrator. It’s a quick and simple process, and produces excellent results. Here’s how to convert an image to a vector using Adobe Illustrator.

What Is a Vector Image?

A vector image is a scalable image comprised of values rather than pixels.

Most images found online are raster images (see different file types, explained


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). Raster images use square pixels (bits of color) to convey an image. Vector graphics convey color using scalable color polygons. Since vector images use dynamic color sections as opposed to static squares, they provide perfect lines and crisp colors.

The geometry which comprises vector images is formulaic, making them resolution-independent. That means images don’t lose quality when they’re scaled up or down, since the color polygons in a vector image will always maintain their shape. The same is not true for raster images, since the color information of these images is stretched when scaled.

Once you know how to convert a JPG file to a vector in Adobe Illustrator, you’ll be able to scale anything you find to the size you want—without losing image quality.

Step 1: Pick an Image to Convert to Vector

The image you use won’t matter when using the following process, except for the fact that larger images will take longer to edit. There are some images, however, which work better as vector images than others.

It’s better to edit a single subject than a landscape or the like. Preferably, the image should have a white or transparent background and have a relatively low resolution.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

We’ll be using the image of Ryu from the Street Fighter series above. It works as a perfect example for a variety of reasons. For one, it’s a single subject. It also lends itself to a vector image format well, as it’s a recognizable character. The vector images format is typically used for logos or recognizable images.

Step 2: Select an Image Trace Preset

Illustrator has a special tool that lets you vectorize images. It’s called Image Trace and it comes with a range of presets that do most of the work automatically. Broadly speaking you should use the Image Trace preset that most closely resembles the type of image you’re converting.

Your options are:

  • High Fidelity Photo and Low Fidelity Photo. These produce very detailed, and slightly less detailed vector images respectively. Ideal for photos or complex artwork, such as the example image we’re using.
  • 3 Colors, 6 Colors, and 16 Colors. These presets output vector images with three, six, or 16 colors. They’re perfect for logos or artwork with lots of flat color.
  • Shades of Grey. This preset produces a detailed grayscale image.
  • Black and White Logo. This creates a simple logo with two colors—black and white.
  • Sketched Art, Silhouettes, Line Art, and Technical Drawing. These are best used for specific types of image, and create black and white, predominantly line-based drawings.

Open your image in Illustrator and select the image to activate the image options. These options should be present on the top of your Illustrator window.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Click the drop-down arrow next to Image Trace to select your Preset. We’ll be using Low Fidelity Photo. Click it to begin tracing.

Step 3: Vectorize the Image With Image Trace

Once you click the button your image will go through the tracing process automatically. You’ll note several changes to your image, but overall it should remain much the same. For example, the following is a closeup of our image before the tracing process.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Note the pixelation. Here is the image after the process:

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

While much of the detail has been stripped from the original image, it also appears much sharper. You’ll note the color shapes do not pixelate no matter how close the image is zoomed.

Zoomed out, the image should look virtually the same. Here is our overall image before editing.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Here is our image after editing:

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

While the top image may appear sharper in some instances, the quality of our vectorized image is still pretty impressive.

Step 4: Fine Tune Your Traced Image

Once you’ve traced the image, open the Image Trace Panel to fine tune the conversion.

Select Mode to switch between color, greyscale, and black and white. Also, drag the Colors slider left to simplify your vector image, or right to add more detail.

image trace options

If you’re happy with your settings and want to re-use them, click the Manage Presets button next to the Presets option. You can now save your settings as a new Preset.

Step 5: Ungroup Colors

Your image has now been ordered into colored shapes fitting the original raster image. In order to finish your vector, you’ll need to separate these color groups to edit them. To do so, select your traced image and click on the Expand button on the top of the window.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

This will allow you to view the composite shapes which make up the vector image. Each of the shapes is outlined in blue. Next, right-click the image and select Ungroup in the menu. This will allow you to separate your color shapes into individual parts.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

In your Layers panel, you’ll see that your color groups have been separated into layers.

Step 6: Edit Your Vector Image

After converting a raster image to a vector, you have free range to edit the image. Begin by deleting whatever color groups you desire. You can select whole color groups by clicking on a shape and heading to Select > Same > Fill Color. This will select all groups with the same color as the one selected using your Direct Selection tool (A).

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Then hit Backspace on your keyboard to delete the shapes. If you’d like to modify or expand a particular color group, you can do that as well by selecting a layer using the Direct Selection tool. After you’ve selected a layer, fill in empty spaces or add additional colors to your design using the Pen or Brush tools.

Step 7: Save Your Image

Here is the original image after deleting the pesky white background and modifying the image slightly using the method presented above.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Now we’re ready for the final step in converting an image to a vector in Illustrator: saving the image in a vector format to preserve its quality. There are a variety of vector image formats to choose between: PDF, AI, EPS, SVG, and others. We’ll use the SVG format. When you’re finished with your image, head to File > Export > Export As.

In the following window, title your file and select SVG in the dropdown menu beside Save as type.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

That’s it. Your scalable vector file should now be saved onto your PC.

Don’t Compromise, Vectorize!

Now you know how to convert an image to a vector in Illustrator. Scale your new creation to whatever dimension you wish.

how to convert images to vector in illustrator

Keep in mind that complex vector files can be significantly larger than their raster counterparts. That means they may take longer to load and edit. Nevertheless, your vector image will maintain its quality no matter the scale.

And what if you don’t have Illustrator, or you’d prefer to use something else? You can work with vector graphics in Photoshop


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, and there’s also a lot of fantastic browser-based Illustrator alternatives


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that you can try. You can get similar results in many of them.

Explore more about: Adobe Illustrator, Image Editing Tips, Vector Graphics.



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