In a previous article, I talked about the 10 essential tips and tools all Adobe Illustrator beginners should know, and it went down very well with readers. This time around, I want to share with you the 7 most fun tools and tricks in my favourite vector program.
I'm a big fan of Illustrator, and there are tools and tricks that I can't help but go overboard with, mainly because they're just fun. Now, what I find fun may not be what you do, so I highly encourage you to leave your own recommendations in the comments for me and others to check out. And with that, let's jump in.
1. Feel the Nostalgia With the Live Paint Bucket
Anyone remember doing the below in MS Paint? Chances are, it was probably one of your early introductions to digital graphics.
You can do the same thing with the Live Paint Bucket (K). In fact, you could do the same as above with the Rectangle Tool (M) and the Live Paint Bucket.
One of my favourite tricks is using it to fill in a "pixel"-like grid, like the below end result. However, there is plenty more you can do. Filling in line art with this tool is a great time saver!
There are of course many great uses of this wonderful tool, so allow me to recommend some great tutorials.
- ComicsHow to Color in a Traditionally Inked Comic in Adobe IllustratorSara Berntsson
- Pixel ArtHow to Create Pixel Art Icons in Adobe IllustratorMary Winkler
- PatternsCreate a Tea Party Seamless Pattern From a Sketch in Adobe IllustratorYulia Sokolova
- IllustrationCreate a Wild, Graffiti-Style Arrow Design in Adobe IllustratorSergey Kandakov
- Tools & TipsQuick Tip: Create a Pixel Portrait with The Live Paint BucketLoungeKat
- IllustrationCreate a Punk Queen of Hearts With a Sleeve Tattoo in IllustratorYulia Sokolova
2. Colours From Blends
Do you have problems with creating your own colour palettes? Well, there's a multitude of options out there to help you create them. However, the most fun I've had creating a palette has been thanks to the tutorials of Beto Garza.
He creates palettes using two colours and blends. After expanding the blend, the colours are then added to the Swatch panel. What's fun about this process is that by modifying one of the two colours in the blend, you can create a whole new mood or colour story for your work.
If you want to see how fun this can be, check out some of these awesome tutorials by Beto Garza:
- IllustrationCreate a Cute Bird With Geometric Shapes in Adobe IllustratorBeto Garza
- PortraitHow to Create a Self-Portrait in a Geometric StyleBeto Garza
- IllustrationHow to Draw a Colorful, Fun, Vector Vampire in Adobe IllustratorBeto Garza
3. Extreme Appearance Panel Illustrations
This one is for the vector geeks, and that's the ability to create as much detail as possible within one Graphic Style. Although I mentioned in the previous article that you should learn the capabilities of the Appearance panel because it's so awesome, fun can be found with how much you can push just a handful of points.
I find fun in pushing vector as far as we can to the limits of our processors, and being able to create detailed illustrations and effects with the Appearance panel is exciting. What have you done with the Appearance panel?
Here are some awesome tutorials you can check out to create so much with so little:
- Tools & TipsCreate a Sliced Kiwi Fruit With Only One Shape in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- Appearance PanelHow to Create a Realistic Biscuit Style With Only One Shape in Adobe IllustratorDiana Toma
- VectorCreate an Avocado With Only One Shape in Adobe IllustratorDiana Toma
- Appearance PanelHow to Create a Tortoise Shell Using the Appearance Panel in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
4. Live Reflections Using the Transform Effect
Live effects are fun. They're effects you apply to an object that can be modified, added or removed in a non-destructive manner. My favourite is when you use the Transform Effect to create a "live" reflection effect.
It's fun because you're seeing your strokes and shapes reflected once your cursor unclicks. It can be addictively fun and can be pushed to create intricate designs like the kitty below!
Ahhh, so this is the effect you want to learn how to do? Well, check out these tutorials on how to use this trick to create more mirrored live fun:
- IllustrationCreate a Large Face, Cat Illustration from Stock in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- IllustrationHow to Create a Mirrored Butterfly in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- VectorCreate a Fun Kaleidoscope Effect in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
5. Multiple Colour Combinations With Recolor Artwork
Here's the problem: you've got multiple shapes, and you're not completely happy with the colour scheme. You'd love to change these all and perhaps try multiple options, but to be honest, there are too many shapes to change the colours of at the same time.
Let me tell you about the fun that is Recolor Artwork.
It's fun being able to cut down a significant amount of time and at the same time being able to utilise one of the biggest benefits of creating using vector art, let alone Illustrator. However, it can go a bit overboard if you have too much fun, as I've done with Paisley Graphic Styles...
Less talking and selling this to you—here are some awesome tutorials using Recolor Artwork, and I recommend you check them out to learn more:
- IllustrationGo from Day to Night with a Beach Scene in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- Tools & TipsCreating Paisley Graphic Styles with Scatter Brushes and Recolor ArtworkSharon Milne
- IllustrationHow to Create a Flat Grayscale Cityscape in Adobe IllustratorYulia Sokolova
- PatternsLeapin' Lizards! Create a Chameleon Pattern in Adobe IllustratorMary Winkler
- IllustrationCreate Simple Flowers With Gradient Mesh in Adobe IllustratorDiana Toma
6. Painted Effects With Blends & Brushes
Vector art has a very distinctive style. It's often associated with a cell shading look and the layering of shapes, so it's hard to create something unexpected and airbrush-like, without going into, say, gradient meshes. Featuring again in this article, we have blends... but this time combining them with brushes.
Blends within brushes give the appearance of a flawless airbrush look or more effortless flexible gradients. This was well before you have "gradients on stroke" and Bristle Brushes... and the latter are actually a lot of fun in themselves. These brushes can really kick your work up a notch. These sorts of brushes are fun because they break away from the "vector" look, and who doesn't love pulling the wool over people's eyes, huh?
Find out how you can create your own brushes and how to include them in some projects in these awesome tutorials:
- IllustrationCreate a Jellyfish with Brushes in Adobe Illustrator CS5Sharon Milne
- IllustrationCreate a Vector Bamboo Forest With Blends, Brushes, and ProfilesSharon Milne
- Tools & TipsHow to Create a Set of Multi-Use Blend Brushes in Adobe IllustratorDiana Toma
- PortraitHow to Create a Vector Portrait With Curly Hair in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- BrushesQuick Tip: Create a Rainbow Brush Using a Blend in Adobe IllustratorCheryl Graham
7. Clever Brushes Rule the World!
Like blends, brushes get a second feature in this list, and there's a very good reason why. They're awesome... NEXT LIST ITEM!
Seriously, though, basic brushes can be made from simple shapes, but like the extreme Appearance panel illustrations, there's a lot of potential in the creative use of brushes.
This is another case of clever brushes being fun because it's geeky... it's for the vector nerds. Although it could be debated that anything vector is fun for the AI geeks. There is, however, a deep sense of satisfaction when you can create a uniform, stylised effect with an Art Brush or Pattern Brush or even a Scatter Brush. The thrill is in the creativity.
Keep an eye on that Andrei Marius... he makes great creative brushes. And here are some more recommendations for you:
- BrushesHow to Create a Confetti Brush in Adobe IllustratorSharon Milne
- Illustrator BrushesIllustrator in 60 Seconds: How to Install and Use a Custom Brush SetAndrei Stefan
- Text EffectsHow to Create a Road Text Effect in Adobe IllustratorAndrei Marius
- BrushesHow to Create a Detailed Bullet Chain Pattern Brush in Adobe IllustratorAndrei Marius
- Adobe IllustratorCreate a Dandelion in Adobe Illustrator Using Two Custom BrushesCheryl Graham
- BrushesQuick Tip: How to Create a Pencil Pattern Brush in Adobe IllustratorAndrei Marius
If vector brushes are your thing, why not check out our article featuring a huge collection of 60 free Illustrator brushes.
What Tools & Tricks Are Fun for You?
A lot of my fun tools and tricks are either based in vector geekery or are genius approaches to common issues I may encounter. These 7 items are fun for me but may not be for you... so I encourage you to share with me what you find fun.