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Getting Started with Adobe Illustrator

Absolute beginners can learn the fundamentals of design software

Designer working with Adobe Illustrator
Susan Hope Bard - March 24, 2017
How can you get started with design if you are not a professional designer? TechSoup makes it easy for you to learn. For this article, we've curated a series of video tips especially for nonprofits and libraries to get started using Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud (CC).

Nondesigners of the nonprofit and library world can learn about Illustrator's most commonly used tools — compound paths, color and stroke, Bezier curves, clipping masks, and more — right here with five short video tutorials. You can also practice along with us by downloading and using this Adobe Illustrator CC file.

The Most Commonly Used Tools in the Toolbar

Let's face it, just looking at the toolbar can be a bit daunting for beginners, so we've identified a few of the most commonly used tools in Illustrator to get you started. This short video will share how to access and use these tools in Illustrator's toolbar:

  • Rectangle tool
  • Selection tool
  • Type tool
  • Direct selection tool
  • Paintbrush tool

Practice using these tools with Wes by working with the downloadable file.

Download video transcript

Check out Adobe's tool gallery for more information on the toolbar.

The Pen Tool and How Bezier Curves work

Don't fear the pen tool or the word Bezier! The pen tool holds a special place in every designer's heart.

Simply put, a Bezier curve is a curved line. It was named after Pierre Bézier, a French mathematician and engineer who worked for Renault and developed this method of computer drawing in the 1960s. Wes will show you how to use the pen tool and describe how Bezier curves work.

Download video transcript

Color and Stroke

Want to color inside or outside the lines without getting into trouble? With Illustrator, applying a color to an object is fairly straightforward.

A few definitions: A stroke is a line of color that follows a specific path — for example, the border of a shape. The fill is the color that goes inside the border of the shape — for example, the inside of a circle or rectangle.

Watch how Wes shows you how to choose and change colors of a shape and apply strokes of various weights to the border of shapes in this short video. You can practice along using the example file at the top of the page.

Download video transcript

Align and Pathfinder

Now that you can work with the basic tools in the toolbar, let's branch out into how to align objects in several different ways, including vertical or horizontal alignment. Watch how Wes moves simple shapes on the Illustrator artboard.

Download video transcript

You can find out more about aligning Illustrator objects on this Adobe page.

Clipping Masks and Compound Paths

Clipping masks and compound paths can help you when you're editing the background of an image or creating designs. Compound paths can be particularly helpful in the creation of brand-related products, including logos.

Wes shows you how both of these functionalities work in the following video.

Download video transcript

Additional Resources for Learning Graphic Design

Now that you've got the basics of Illustrator down, you'll probably want to know more! Access TechSoup's free courses to round out your beginner designer portfolio here:

Image: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

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