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7 Fun Tools and Tricks in Adobe Illustrator

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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.

Filling shapesFilling shapesFilling shapes

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. 

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.

Self portrait tutorialSelf portrait tutorialSelf portrait tutorial

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.

Colours from BlendsColours from BlendsColours from Blends

If you want to see how fun this can be, check out some of these awesome tutorials by Beto 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.

Kiwi Fruit with one shapeKiwi Fruit with one shapeKiwi Fruit with one shape

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:

If Graphic Styles are your thing, you can find a large selection of complex and unique Graphic Styles over on GraphicRiver.

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. 

Kaleidoscope funsiesKaleidoscope funsiesKaleidoscope funsies

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!

Mirrored KittyMirrored KittyMirrored Kitty

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:

Want to create these effects straight away? Why not try this Mirror Symmetry Drawing effect over on GraphicRiver.

Mirror Symmetry DrawingMirror Symmetry DrawingMirror Symmetry Drawing

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.

Create multiple flowersCreate multiple flowersCreate multiple flowers

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...

Paisley patternsPaisley patternsPaisley patterns

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:

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.

Blend BrushesBlend BrushesBlend 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?

Bamboo forestBamboo forestBamboo forest

Find out how you can create your own brushes and how to include them in some projects in these awesome tutorials:

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.

Race brushRace brushRace brush

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.

Bullet brushBullet brushBullet brush

Keep an eye on that Andrei Marius... he makes great creative brushes. And here are some more recommendations for you:

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.

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