During our Adobe training courses, we have come to realise that one of our tasks is to rid people of the belief that Illustrator is a difficult program to learn. We find that new users to Adobe Illustrator will often moan that they find the program complex. To solve this problem, there are three main things that we like to point out to everyone who attends our Illustrator classes.
Firstly, we point out to people that they must be on the right tool in order to carry out a given operation. Secondly, we teach them to observe and interpret the rich visual feedback provided by the program as you carry out various operations. Thirdly, we always remind new users of the ease with which you can revert your drawing back to a state prior to the point where something has gone wrong.
New users to Illustrator will often attempt to manipulate elements within their drawing without first activating the Selection tool. For example, they will create a shape with, say, the Ellipse tool and then, while the Ellipse tool is still active, they try to move or resize the shape they have just drawn or click on the page to attempt to deselect the shape. They then get puzzled and annoyed when little ellipses keep appearing in their drawing or Illustrator’s shape dimension dialogue box keeps on appearing.
Avoiding this problem is simple. Always ensure that you are on the right tool. So, if you wish to manipulate an existing element, you must have the Selection tool highlighted. One of the first shortcuts that we teach people who attend our Illustrator training courses is that you can temporarily activate the Selection tool by simply holding down the Control key (or Command on a Mac).
Another thing that new users find is that they are unable to carry out a certain operation because it is not permissible under the current circumstances or at that point in time. For example, you want to resize an object and you end up rotating or moving it instead.
A simple way of avoiding this kind of problem is to keep an eye on the many visual clues that Illustrator gives you and, in particular, those that relate to the cursor. Let’s take an example. Say you are attempting to change the size of a circle, you can only carry out this operation if your cursor has changed to a diagonal line with an arrow at both ends thus showing you that have positioned the cursor precisely over one of the resize handles.
If you have just started using a program like Illustrator, it is to be expected that you will make mistakes: things may go a little wrong or even get completely screwed up. The main thing is develop the “Undo reflex”. For example, if you move an object by accident, don’t try to manually put it back where it was, just choose Undo from the Edit menu or use the keyboard shortcut Control-Z (Command-Z on a Macintosh). If you Undo too much, you can use the Redo command to take you forward again. (The keyboard shortcut for the Redo command is Control-Shift-Z.)
If your effort to create a drawing has gone horribly wrong, the best thing to do is to bite the bullet and choose Revert from the File menu. This is a way of saying “OK, this isn’t working. I give up!” The Revert command discards all of the changes you have made to the document since it was last saved and can be another useful way of avoiding unnecessary frustration.
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