Creating Vector Images Using Adobe Illustrator®

In our previous two posts, we took a look at the basics of Adobe Photoshop®, including working with smart objects. In this post, we’re going to dive into the basics of Adobe Illustrator and creating vector images.

Adobe Illustrator® is a drawing program that is designed to output images as vector graphics. It is used to create everything from logos to business cards to t-shirts and even package designs – essentially, if you can think of it, Illustrator can be used to make it. Most often, however, it is simply used for creating vector images out of a graphic, which can then be printed without losing image quality. We’ll walk through the basics of creating vector images with Adobe Illustrator®, starting with the basics of the work space all the way up to creating a logo in Illustrator.

Let’s get started with the basics of the Illustrator work space.

Adobe Illustrator® basics – the work space

The Illustrator workspace looks a little something like this:

If you said to yourself, “Hey, that looks a lot like Photoshop!” you’d be right. This is because Adobe has slowly but steadily begun to intermix the features of the different Creative Cloud apps, so that each can do a little bit of what the others can do. That doesn’t mean that the raster graphics of Photoshop are an adequate replacement for Illustrator, especially when it comes to print media: Illustrator still has some tricks up its sleeve in that department. We’ll take a deep dive of the Illustrator work space shown above and walk through each of the tools at your disposal before we start building a logo in Illustrator.

There are three main sections of the Illustrator work space:

The main menu: This menu contains your File and Edit menus, as well as the Help menu and others. It is generally used for high-level operations that affect the whole file or workspace, such as changing the image size, changing the canvas size, saving out Illustrator files and opening new files into the work space.

The tools panel: The tools panel is where you’ll find all of the different tools that you can use in Adobe Illustrator®, such as the Pen tool, the Brush tool, or the Text tool. If you can’t remember which tool is which, we’ve included a reference image below to make things a little easier.

The panel docking area: The panel docking area has three different panels inside it: the Properties panel, which allows you to change the properties of the selected tool; the Layers panel, which allows you to manage the different layers you’ve created inside your Illustrator document; and the Libraries panel, which allows you to manage collections of design assets across computers.

Creating a logo in Illustrator

Now that we have some of the basics down, let’s create a logo in Illustrator to put what’s on the page into practice.

Our little company will be “Dr. Swole’s Protein Shakes” and the logo will look a little something like this:

Step one: defining our logo size

When you first open up Adobe Illustrator, it will ask you what size canvas you want to work off of. Select “New Document” from the “File” menu. The “New Document” dialog box will appear, asking you what size of canvas you’d like to use.

You can choose from Adobe’s pre-defined Mobile, Web, Print, Film & Video and Art & Illustration canvases, or define a custom canvas of your own. For our project, we’re going to define a custom canvas. In the width and height boxes on the right of the “New Document” dialog, enter 200 pixels (200 px). Set your orientation to landscape and click “Create”. Your art board will populate, though this might take a second or two.

Step two: populating the ellipsis

With your art board populated, it’s time to get started. Select the Ellipsis tool (click on the Rectangle tool and hold until the context menu appears, then click on the Ellipsis tool.) With the Ellipsis tool selected, double-click on your art board. Another width and height menu will appear. Set your width to 150px and your height to 75px. Click “OK”: your ellipse will now appear on the artboard, which should look a little something like this:

Step three: fill and stroke

With your ellipse defined, go over to the panel docking area and find the “Stroke” option under “Appearance” on the Properties panel. Bump it up to 2px. Now we can add a fill. To do so, click the “Fill” option (above “Stroke”). A list of different color options will appear: you can hover over them to see their names. For this project, we’ll use the red labeled as CMYK Red.

Step four: rulers and text

Now that your ellipse is defined and colored, it’s time to add the text. If you haven’t set any already, setting rulers and guides is a great step to help with this. To set rulers, click the “View” tab, scroll down to Rulers, and click “Show Rulers” from the context menu that pops up. From there, you can drag a guide line over or down from each side. I usually drag one down from the top to the center of the object I’m working in – this is especially helpful for aligning text.

With the ruler in place, we can now define our text. In this example, we’ll be using Montserrat by Google, which can be downloaded from the Google Fonts website. After choosing our font, we can set it up on the page using the Type tool.

With the Type tool selected, click somewhere inside your ellipse where you’d like to put your text. If you’re still not sure, one of the best things to do is set a couple more rulers. Here I’ve set a central ruler at 100px each for the X and Y coordinates (which can be defined in the Properties tab under “Transform”). Then two more rulers, one at 65px and 100px and the other at 135px and 100px, respectively. This gives me a pretty solid baseline from which to center my text, as seen below.

With the initial text defined, we can go on and add the secondary text for “Protein Shakes” underneath the text for “Dr. Swole’s”. Once your secondary text is defined, your ellipse should look something like my example:

You’ll notice that I set a second ruler underneath the first one. This is to give both blocks of text some breathing space. That way they’re not cluttered together as we finish creating the logo.

With the bones of our logo created, we can move on to the last steps, which is simply applying effects.

Step six: applying effects

Applying effects is as simple as going into the Effects panel and choosing the effects you’d like to use. In the case of our logo, the only effects used were a pair of drop shadows (on “Dr. Swole’s” and the ellipsis, respectively) and superimposition of both pieces of text. Once you’re done, your finished logo should look a little like this:

If you’d like to learn more than just the basics of logo design, consider checking out the Illustrator tutorials on Adobe’s website.

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