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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

1. What Is a Vector Image?

Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

Adobe Illustrator is famous for creating eye-catching vector illustrations. Now if you’re wondering what a vector illustration actually is, we can basically describe it as a type of computer graphic that is made up of points, shapes, curves, and lines, instead of pixels.
vector vs pixelsvector vs pixelsvector vs pixels

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

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

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.

create a new documentcreate a new documentcreate a new document

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.

import a sketchimport a sketchimport a sketch

From here, you can move it into position and use the Artboard Tool to resize it to the same dimensions as our sketch.

the artboard toolthe artboard toolthe artboard tool
I'm using this illustration from Envato Elements.

Next, let’s go to the Transparency panel and lower the opacity to about 15% or whatever you prefer.

transparency paneltransparency paneltransparency panel

Go to the Layers panel and double-click on the layer to rename it.

layers panellayers panellayers panel

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.

lock the layerlock the layerlock the layer

Now create a new layer to work from by clicking on the New Layer button.

create new layercreate new layercreate new layer

3. How to Use the Pen Tool

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

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.

select the pen toolselect the pen toolselect the pen tool

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. 

set the color to none and stroke to blackset the color to none and stroke to blackset the color to none and stroke 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.

create a straight linecreate a straight linecreate a straight line

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.

create a curvecreate a curvecreate a curve

You can continue adding anchor points and adjusting their control handles to create complex shapes and curves.

add more anchor points to create line artadd more anchor points to create line artadd more anchor points to create line art

4. How to Use the Pencil & Paintbrush Tools

Watch video lesson (4 mins) ↗

Now let’s take a look at the Pencil Tool (N) and the Paintbrush Tool (B).

pencil and paintbrush toolpencil and paintbrush toolpencil and paintbrush tool

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).

pencil vs paintbrush strokespencil vs paintbrush strokespencil vs paintbrush strokes

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.

tool optionstool optionstool options

Higher Fidelity settings will create more accurate paths, while smooth settings will capture more of the natural hand-drawn style.

fidelity and smoothness settingsfidelity and smoothness settingsfidelity and smoothness settings

5. How to Use the Width Tool

Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

The Width Tool allows you to manually adjust the thickness of your strokes along a path. Select it from the left toolbar.

width toolwidth toolwidth tool

Click and drag along the stroke to create thickness variations. It’ll change based on the movement of your cursor.

create thickness variationscreate thickness variationscreate thickness variations

6. How to Use the Blob Brush Tool

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

Select the Blob Brush Tool from the side toolbar.

blob brush toolblob brush toolblob brush tool

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.

blob brush vs strokesblob brush vs strokesblob brush vs strokes

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

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

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.

live paint makelive paint makelive paint make

Now choose a colour from the Swatches panel, and simply click on the shape to fill it in.

fill the shapefill the shapefill the shape

8. How to Use Shapes & Pathfinder Tools

Watch video lesson (5 mins) ↗

Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the side toolbar to create shapes for the books and bookshelf.

rectangle tool rectangle tool rectangle tool

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.

round the cornersround the cornersround 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.
pathfinder panelpathfinder panelpathfinder panel

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.

unite toolunite toolunite tool

9. How to Use Recolor Artwork

Watch video lesson (3 mins) ↗

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.

recolor artworkrecolor artworkrecolor 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:

  1. The predefined colours available in the colour library.
  2. Restricting the number of colours used in the illustration.
  3. Using the colour theme picker to extract colour palettes from another image.
  4. Using the colour wheel by moving the handles representing each colour within the illustration.
recolor artwork panelrecolor artwork panelrecolor artwork panel

Experiment with Recolor Artwork to change your colour scheme quickly and easily!

new color schemesnew color schemesnew color schemes

10. How to Save Your Image

Watch video lesson (1 min) ↗

To save your illustration, go to File > Save As and choose your vector file type, such as EPS for printing.

save filesave filesave file

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.

save for websave for websave for web

11. Now You Know How to Create Vector Graphics in Illustrator

final imagefinal imagefinal image

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!

For this course, I used an illustration from Envato Elements, an all-included, subscription-based marketplace where you can download as many graphic assets, illustrations, fonts, and add-ons as you need. Be sure to check it out for your creative projects.

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.

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