Adobe Illustrator is a widely used vector drawing application with three main areas of functionality. Firstly, it allows the creation of corporate and other graphic artwork for high quality printing. Secondly, it can be used in the web design process, allowing you to build the overall design as well as individual items like icons and buttons. Illustrator is also a basic page layout program suitable for originating single page documents like CD covers, book jackets and posters.
Illustrator is often the final member of the Adobe Creative Suite that people will get around to learning. Delegates coming on our Adobe Illustrator training courses will often complain that the program seems less inviting and exciting than Photoshop. And, although Photoshop is a complex package, they find themselves using it for all their graphic work, even things which would much easier to create in Illustrator. Part of this difficulty in getting started with Illustrator is the fact that it often appears to new users that the program is hard work: you create a new file and you’re presented with a blank page. You have to create your drawing entirely from scratch.
Adobe Illustrator training courses need to do more than simply teach delegates how to use the various tools and techniques. Delegates also need to learn how to get past that intimidating blank page they see when they create a new image. We’ve identified four main techniques for curing “Blank Canvas Syndrome”. Firstly, to identify precisely what type of artwork you need to create. Secondly, to use Illustrator’s Live Trace facility to generate useful vector content. Thirdly, to use scanned images as background elements within your drawings which can act as guides and points as reference for the artwork you create. And, finally, to base new elements you create on elements that already exist within your drawings.
The most successful Illustrator training courses that we run are for people who know exactly what they want to use the program for. It could be cartographers, technical illustrators or fabric designers; as long as they have a specific brief, we can show them the best techniques to solve their particular requirement. However, for a lot of delegates, Illustrator is something they feel they could and should be using but they don’t really know where to start.
For users who are using the software in a less clear-cut and focused way, we always try to point out on our Adobe Illustrator training courses that you don’t have to start with a blank canvas. We always recommend that wherever possible you import relevant graphic material such as scanned images, keep them on a background layer and use various Illustrator tools and techniques to either trace the images or simply to use them as guides and points of reference as you are creating your own original artwork.
Adobe once owned a program called Streamline which was a utility for converting bitmapped images into vectors. Though they have now discontinued it, Streamline lives on in the guise of Illustrator’s Live Trace function. This allows you to convert bitmaps imported into Illustrator into vectors, either by choosing one of the preset settings or by creating a custom set of parameters. The program is very fast, so it is easy to experiment with several different settings to see what gives the best results. Once you have got your vectorised version of the artwork, you spend a bit of time cleaning it up and it’s good to go.
Scanned or other images can also be placed on a background layer and used to provide constant points of reference when originating new Illustrator artwork. Background images can help to ensure that elements within the Illustrator artwork you create are of the correct dimensions have the correct relative proportions and so forth. For example, if you are drawing human figures, placing a photo of some people on a background layer can help to ensure that you don’t end up creating figures with disproportionately large heads or long arms.
Almost all drawings you create will contain elements that either repeat or are variations on the same theme. Naturally, you will not create such elements from scratch each time you need them. Illustrator contains a wide variety of useful techniques for duplication and transformed duplication of existing elements within your drawing. It also allows you to apply multiple attributes such as fills and strokes to the same object. Thus, for example, you can create the appearance of several concentric circles simply by adding several strokes to one circle (using the Offset Path effect to get the right position).
The bottom line is that Illustrator’s blank canvas doesn’t have to stay blank for very long. You just need to formulate a clear idea of what you want to achieve with the program. Wherever possible, find images which you can either trace or use as reference points as you originate your own artwork. And, when creating new elements always ask yourself: “Can I base these new elements on items that already exist within the drawing?” If you use these simple techniques, then Blank Canvas Syndrome will never become a huge affliction for you.
Image by d-illusion
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