Illustrator Tools Panel

Illustrator’s Tool panel or Toolbox is located on the left-hand side of the interface, and contains all the tools you’ll need to create stunning artwork in Illustrator. Users familiar with other Adobe software will recognize this layout – indeed many of the tools are the same from program to program. Adobe has created slight overlaps between the programs, for instance the Pen tool makes an appearance in Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign and Flash, and behaves in much the same manner in all programs.

Many of the tools, however, are unique to each program, and this is certainly true of Illustrator. There are tools for making selections of shapes within the overall artwork. There are also specific tools for drawing, painting, adding effects, and navigating the artboard.

You will notice that some of the tools have a small arrow on the bottom right of the tool – by right-clicking on these tools we are presented with a drop-down list of related tools. If you are unsure of a tool’s function simply hover your cursor over the tools and a small tool tip appears, with the name of the tool and a keyboard shortcut in brackets.

Notice that the tools panel has several internal divisions which serve to stack the tools into related groups. The top section is the selection tools – here we have the main Selection tool (“the black arrow”) which is used to select and move whole shapes. We can also rescale a shape by clicking and dragging on a corner point. Beside this is the Direct Selection tool (“the white arrow”) – this tool is not used quite so much. Its purpose is to select and move individual anchor points of a shape. We also have a Magic Wand tool and a Lasso tool, which both work in a similar fashion as their counterpart tools in Photoshop.

Below we have a section containing the various Type tools, the Pen tool and its related anchor point tools, as well as various basic shape tools (Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Star, etc). The Paintbrush and Pencil and Blob Brush tools are also located here. Below this section is one devoted to transforming objects – these are functions like rotating, scaling, shearing and reshaping. A couple of odd tools are stacked here, like the Perspective tool and the Shape Builder tool.

We also have sections for Distort tools like Warp, Twirl and Pucker, as well as for creating and editing graphs.

Near the bottom of the tools panel we have the navigation tools of Hand and Zoom – there are keyboard shortcuts for these functions, of course. And at the very bottom of the tools panel we have icons for changing the colours of Fill and Stroke. The fill is the main colour of a shape, whilst “Stroke” is the Adobe word for “outline”. We also have the default black stroke and white fill colours icon, and some small shortcut icons for the last used colour, the default gradient blend, and the all-important “None” button which will remove a colour from the stroke or fill.

The Tools panel itself can be moved around to dock at any point on the workspace, but we generally keep it glued to the left-hand side. It is, of course, an indispensable element in all we do when creating artwork in Adobe Illustrator.

Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.

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Illustrator Basic Tools

It’s important to feel confident with the various tools, panels and menus which comprise the Adobe Illustrator workspace when working with this industry-leading program. In addition to assist in speeding up your workflow and efficiency it’s beneficial to get familiar with a few keyboard shortcuts also.

The Illustrator interface is made up of four main elements: firstly, the image itself, of which you can have one or more open at one time. The Toolbox or Toolbar is the second element and sits on the left-hand side of the interface. By hovering your cursor over these tools, a small tooltip appears which reminds you of the tool’s function. The keyboard shortcuts for those tools are also included in brackets. It will speed up your workflow if you use these shortcuts for the more commonly-used tools. Some tools have a small arrow on the bottom right, indicating that other related tools are available on a pop-up list if you click and press down on the top tool.

Unlike pixel-based programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator works with vector-based artwork. Shapes are thus created mathematically. An example of this would be a shape like a circle where its size and position, colour and width are all defined and saved as mathematical data. Compared with bitmap images, vector files are relatively small and are known as “resolution-independent”, meaning that they can be scaled up to billboard size without losing their definition. Lines will always be drawn smoothly with colours solid.

Creating basic shapes is a simple matter. Firstly a new print document is created in Illustrator. Next go to the toolbox on the left and note that the Rectangle tool is stacked directly underneath the Type tool. Press on the Rectangle tool to reveal several tools stacked behind it. The Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon and Star tools all belong to this group. Choose the top Rectangle tool, then click and drag across your page. This draws a rectangle shape in the default colours of black and white. To draw a square press down on the Shift button on your keyboard as you drag out the rectangle shape. The width and height proportions are constrained by pressing Shift.

The Rounded Rectangle tool is the next basic drawing tool, the corner radius of which can be adjusted by clicking once on the artboard. This opens up a dialog box where you can enter in the precise values for width, height and corner radius. Changing the colours of the fill and stroke is easily done, as is changing the thickness (or weight) of the stroke (or outline), at the top Control panel or in the Stroke panel on the right-hand side of the interface. Next in the stack is the Ellipse tool. Again we press down on Shift to create a perfect circle. Alternatively, clicking on the workspace will open a dialog box in which we can enter the radius value of the circle.

Next is the Polygon tool which creates a hexagon by default. The number of sides can be altered by clicking on the artboard to open the dialog box. The Star tool is also stacked in this group. An alternative to changing the numbers of arms via the dialog box is hitting the arrow keys on your keyboard as you drag out the star shape.

And finally the Flare tool creates a camera-lens flare which is good for adding a simple lighting effect to an image. Again the values can be adjusted in the dialog box to alter the effect. All of these shapes can now be moved, scaled and rotated with the top Selection tool.

Tom Gillan has been training Adobe Illustrator to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about adobe illustrator courses when you click this link.

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