Looking to transform your sketches and designs into clean vector images using Adobe Illustrator? This course for beginners will help you find your way around Illustrator and the key tools you'll need to create eye-catching vector illustrations.
Watch the Full Adobe Illustrator: Illustration for Beginners Course
What You'll Learn
- What Is a Vector Image?
- How to Import a Sketch Image
- How to Use the Pen Tool
- How to Use the Pencil Tool & Paintbrush Tool
- How to Use the Blob Brush Tool
- How to Use the Live Paint Bucket Tool
- How to Use the Shapes Tool
- How to Use the Pathfinder Panel
- How to Use Recolor Artwork
- How to Save Your Image
About Your Instructor
Hi everyone! My name is Jonathan Lam, and I'm a digital artist on a mission to empower, educate and inspire creative students just like you to gain the creative skills you desire!
Currently I work for Ubisoft as a senior artist. My skills range from graphic design to illustration, animation, 3D modelling/sculpting, concept art, and video editing. I've also worked as a graphic designer and illustrator with many high-profile clients, including Riot Games, Sony Entertainment, Hasbro, and Google.
1. What Is a Vector Image?
One of the cool things about vector images is that they can be scaled up or down without losing any quality. So if you have a small vector image of a circle, you can make it bigger without it becoming blurry or pixelated.
Because of this, vector images are commonly used in things like logos, icons, and illustrations, because they can be resized and edited easily, without losing quality. They are also smaller in file size compared to other types of images, making them more convenient for storage and sharing.
2. How to Import a Sketch Image
So now that we know what a vector image is, let’s go ahead and get started in Illustrator. Create a new document by going to File > New, and choose what size you want it to be. If you ever change your mind about the dimensions of your document, you can change it later on by using the Artboard Tool.
First let’s import our original sketch by going to File > Place and navigating to the file that we want to import. Once that is done, click anywhere to place it in the project.
From here, you can move it into position and use the Artboard Tool to resize it to the same dimensions as our sketch.
Next, let’s go to the Transparency panel and lower the opacity to about 15% or whatever you prefer.
Go to the Layers panel and double-click on the layer to rename it.
Lock the layer by clicking on this empty space to create a lock icon. This will make it so that we can no longer select this layer or move it accidentally.
Now create a new layer to work from by clicking on the New Layer button.
3. How to Use the Pen Tool
Now, let’s learn how to create nice crisp linework for our illustration. I’ll show you how to do this with multiple tools, starting with the Pen Tool.
Select the Pen Tool (P) from the side panel.
Once it's selected, we’ll want to make sure that the colours here are set to none and the stroke is set to black.
Click on the canvas to create your first anchor point. Then move and click again to create another anchor point. This will create a straight line connecting the two points.
To create a curve, click and drag the control handles of the anchor point. The control handles determine the direction and curvature of the path.
You can continue adding anchor points and adjusting their control handles to create complex shapes and curves.
4. How to Use the Pencil & Paintbrush Tools
Now let’s take a look at the Pencil Tool (N) and the Paintbrush Tool (B).
They both work in a very similar way. The main difference is that you can paint directly with a special brush using the Paintbrush Tool, whereas with the Pencil Tool you can’t (the special brush must be added to the stoke afterwards).
Now, simply click and drag on the canvas to create a path. As you drag the mouse or stylus, the Pencil Tool will trace your movements.
To adjust the smoothness of your lines, you can modify the Fidelity and Smoothness settings in the Pencil Tool options by going to Properties Panel > Tool Options.
Higher Fidelity settings will create more accurate paths, while smooth settings will capture more of the natural hand-drawn style.
5. How to Use the Width Tool
The Width Tool allows you to manually adjust the thickness of your strokes along a path. Select it from the left toolbar.
Click and drag along the stroke to create thickness variations. It’ll change based on the movement of your cursor.
6. How to Use the Blob Brush Tool
Select the Blob Brush Tool from the side toolbar.
The Blob Brush Tool combines the characteristics of the Paintbrush Tool and the Shape Builder Tool, allowing you to create interesting and complex filled shapes instead of strokes. Simply click and drag on the canvas to use it.
Try increasing or decreasing the stroke radius to better fill the shapes you want to create.
7. How to Use the Live Paint Bucket Tool
To use the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K), first you need to select the shape you wish to fill, and then go to Object > Live Paint > Make. This will allow you to fill the selected shape.
Now choose a colour from the Swatches panel, and simply click on the shape to fill it in.
8. How to Use Shapes & Pathfinder Tools
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the side toolbar to create shapes for the books and bookshelf.
Once you’ve got all the shapes ready, we can use the Direct Selection Tool to click and drag the live corner widgets to round the corners.
Now open up the Pathfinder panel. This tool has different modes that allow us to combine and manipulate our shapes. These will be detailed below:
- Unite: This unites your selected shapes. The resulting shape keeps the colour attributes of the shape that is in front.
- Minus Front: This allows you to subtract the frontmost selected shape or path from the shape or path behind it. It effectively cuts out the front shape from the back shape.
- Intersect: This operation creates a new shape that is the intersection of the selected shapes or paths. Only the overlapping areas are retained.
- Exclude: This operation removes the overlapping areas of the selected shapes or paths, creating a new shape with the remaining non-overlapping parts.
- Divide: This operation divides the selected shapes or paths into individual sections based on their intersections. It essentially cuts the shapes or paths at the intersecting points, creating separate pieces.
- Trim: This operation trims the parts of shapes or paths that extend beyond the overlapping areas, leaving only the shared areas.
- Merge: This operation combines the selected shapes or paths into a single shape, preserving all the individual shapes' outlines.
As you can see, the Pathfinder panel is extremely useful, so experiment with the different modes to get a feel for it and discover what is useful for you when creating your illustrations.
9. How to Use Recolor Artwork
Now once your illustration is finished, we can easily create some colour variations of the image using Recolor Artwork. Select the artwork or objects that you want to recolour. Then go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork.
The Recolor Artwork dialog box will open, displaying your selected artwork and its existing colours. In this dialog box, you'll see various options and controls to manipulate the colours. Here we can experiment with all the different options, such as:
- The predefined colours available in the colour library.
- Restricting the number of colours used in the illustration.
- Using the colour theme picker to extract colour palettes from another image.
- Using the colour wheel by moving the handles representing each colour within the illustration.
Experiment with Recolor Artwork to change your colour scheme quickly and easily!
10. How to Save Your Image
To save your illustration, go to File > Save As and choose your vector file type, such as EPS for printing.
Or if you want to save the image for the web, go to File > Export > Save for Web and select either JPEG, GIF, or PNG.
11. Now You Know How to Create Vector Graphics in Illustrator
So there you have it! You've learnt how to create a vector illustration from a sketch using Adobe Illustrator.
In this tutorial, you've learnt how to use all the basic tools necessary for you to create awesome vector illustrations. I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you've learnt many new tips and tricks that you can use for your future illustrations and designs. See you next time!
Learn More About Adobe Illustrator
If you want to learn more about Adobe Illustrator, here are some great videos from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube Channel that you'll want to check out.
Or check out some of these awesome written tutorials. Envato Tuts+ has a huge library of free Illustrator tutorials for you to learn from.
- How to Make, Save, and Load Gradient Swatches in IllustratorJonathan Lam04 Mar 2023
- How to Use the Warp Tool in IllustratorJonathan Lam08 Jan 2023
- How to Make a Heart in IllustratorAndrei Marius25 May 2023
- How to Underline Text in IllustratorAndrei Marius30 Apr 2023
- How to Draw a Flat Designer Character in Adobe IllustratorYulia Sokolova09 May 2023
- Learn How to Make Clouds in IllustratorRoman Volkov14 Oct 2022