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Advanced Adobe Illustrator Tutorial (Free Course)

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In this advanced Adobe Illustrator tutorial we’re going to be creating a variety of different graphics, in various styles, using a range of tools and techniques. 

You’re sure to learn something new; whether that be alternative ways of using Illustrator’s 3D features, working with custom lettering, or other pro tips like isolating rounded corners, using compound paths, and upping your gradient game with colour swatches.

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Full Course: Advanced Adobe Illustrator

Watch the full course here, jump to a specifc lesson using the chapter links below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Tuts+ Youtube channel for creative tutorials every day!

1. Setup Advanced Illustrator Workspace

To kick things off we’re going to setup our Illustrator with advanced features and tools in mind. Go to the bottom of the toolbar and hit the Edit Toolbar menu, so we can make sure we have the Advanced Toolbar enabled.

edit toolbar linkedit toolbar linkedit toolbar link
advanced toolsetadvanced toolsetadvanced toolset

Over to the right of my workspace I have the Properties and Layer panels open, and I’ve docked Swatches, Gradients, Appearance, and 3D & Materials to one side. You can find all these panels, and many more, under the Window menu.

illustrator advanced panelsillustrator advanced panelsillustrator advanced panels

With all this ready we can get started!

2. Cute Video Game Character 

In this first exercise we’re going to be using some advanced shape manipulation to create a character called “Ori” from a video game. It’s a great game, and Ori’s a very cute character.

ori video game characterori video game characterori video game character

Some of the skills you’ll learn include use of the shape and polygon tools, isolating rounded corners, using compound paths, and (this one is a life-changer) how to use global color swatches in gradients.

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Isolate round corners to create perfect, but unusual forms
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Using swatches for gradients can save so much time!

3. Isometric Mail Icon Using New 3D Features

For this exercise we’re going to begin by using shape and pathfinder tools, plus more color swatches and gradients, to create a 2D icon (see the image bottom, left). Then with that artwork, we’ll take Illustrator’s excellent new 3D panel and make ourselves a 3D isometric version (image bottom, right).

isometric mail iconisometric mail iconisometric mail icon

We’ll use the Extrude tool within the 3D options, and the Isometric Top preset gives us this perfect set of rotation angles.

tip
When working with 3D designs in Illustrator make sure you clean up any stray points or weird lines in your vector work first.

4. Vector Graphics With Textures and Depth of Field

Depth of field can give your illustrations real dimension, so in this tutorial we’ll use blurring and texture effects to create a genuine sense of depth.

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We’ll create the noise by laying a dark block over our illustration, then applying a raster grain filter to it. Various options within the texture menu allow us to set how stippled we want things, then using blend modes and transparency we make our image underneath look as smooth or rough as we like.

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blend modes and transparenciesblend modes and transparenciesblend modes and transparencies

5. 3D Stylized Lettering With the Blend Tool

In this next-level Adobe Illustrator tutorial I’ll show you an approach you probably haven’t used before, leveraging the Blend tool to create a 3D stylized text effect.

stylized letteringstylized letteringstylized lettering

We’ll start by finding a suitable script font, then we’ll trace it with the pen tool to effectively give our letters a spine. To make sure the paths are absolutely spot on, we’ll use the Smooth tool (one of my favorites) to sculpt our characters to perfection. Even if you’re not particularly skilled with bezier handles, you can always rescue your curves with the Smooth tool!

the smooth tool will give you perfect curvesthe smooth tool will give you perfect curvesthe smooth tool will give you perfect curves
Perfect curves with Illustrator’s Smooth tool!

Then for the really cool bit; we’ll create a blend between two ellipse objects, and replace our letters’ spines with those blends. The size of each ellipse determines the width of the resultant stroke, so we can start off small and get thicker. Again, we’ll be using global swatches to enable easy color changing across the whole design.

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replace spinereplace spinereplace spine

6. Cool Gradients Using the Mesh Tool

Gradients and organic forms can be so useful in illustration and design, whether you’re creating interesting backgrounds, or faux 3D effects, and Adobe Illustrator has all kinds of tools to help you experiment with them. In this part of our course we’ll create some cool, free-form gradients.

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We’ll use the Mesh tool to create our gradients, and this is a fun one because whenever I do this I never quite know what I’m going to get.

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Conclusion

Whether you follow all these advanced Adobe Illustrator tutorials, or just pick the ones which most appeal to you, this course should give you some brand new techniques to take your Illustrator skills to the next level. Share your creations with us on social media, don’t forget to like and subscribe, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!

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