Adobe Illustrator is the industry-leading vector graphics and illustration app. This versatile program is great for creating many kinds of artwork, most notably logos, icons, patterns, and product packaging. 

The most common uses for Illustrator are to create company branding and intricately detailed or patterned designs. Its biggest strength, and what sets it apart from other design software, is the fact that it’s vector-based, which means that your designs are completely scalable. It also does extraordinarily well with pattern creation and minute details. 

Professionals from many industries use Illustrator to create branding assets, web graphics, and even fashion designs. If you want your design to be intricate and beautiful no matter what size, Illustrator is the perfect tool for you. 

Key Components of Illustrator

Illustrator is a powerful design tool that has the capability to create almost any kind of vector design you can dream up. With all that capability, though, it can be hard to figure out where to start learning. 

These 4 features are cornerstones of Illustrator and provide a starting point to begin familiarizing yourself with all the things this program can do. 

Vector-Based

One of the basic, and most important properties of Illustrator is that it’s vector-based. What this means is that the drawing tools, including curves, are based on mathematical equations rather than pixels like other design programs are, including Photoshop. 

Illustrator has a couple of neat features specifically using the vector property. It can take hand lettering and “vectorize” it, meaning you can sketch something on a piece of paper and input it into Illustrator, which will turn it into a piece of vector art. 

Another notable element is Image Trace, which allows you to convert pixel art (like you create in Photoshop) into vector art automatically. You can base a new piece of vector artwork off of an existing image, even if it’s a JPG, PNG, or Photoshop (PSD) file. Essentially what happens is that Illustrator traces the lines within the file and creates a new, vector version. 

Image Scalability

Because Illustrator is based on vector properties, the images you create can scale to any size and remain crystal clear. Whether they’re minuscule or gigantic, they won’t lose their resolution. 

This is especially helpful with logos because you never know where they’ll end up—it could be a small business card or social media profile image. Or it could be a billboard. Illustrator has the ability to and is widely used for, creating these responsive pieces of artwork. 

Scalability also makes Illustrator a great tool for icons. We’re surrounded by icons each day. We see them on street signs and even the small images on our desktop for each file. These are vector graphics, too, and are often created in Illustrator.

Artboards

One convenient and powerful feature Illustrator has is the artboard. An artboard is essentially the design canvas you’re working within the program, similar to a piece of paper you might take notes on. 

Within Illustrator, you can have up to 1,000 separate artboards which can each be different sizes. This allows you to mock up websites, apps, and product designs without having to create multiple files. 

Artboards function similarly to a Microsoft Word or InDesign document with multiple pages. You can design each one separately, with the added benefit that Illustrator has features to make creating graphics easier. 

Patterns & Detailed Illustration

We see patterns on websites, in videos, on apps, in print magazines. Although some are simple, or subtle, they don’t have to be. Patterns can be colorful, intricate, and create an eye-catching visual. 

One of Illustrator’s biggest strengths is the ability to create patterns. This is one reason it’s frequently used in creating packaging. What better way to attract attention in a busy product market than to have an interesting and memorable pattern? 

In addition, Illustrator excels at minute details. When you see things like outlined text and dotted lines, those were likely created in Illustrator. This is again helpful for product packaging, but also in the fashion industry. Many fashion designers use Illustrator for designing because of the pattern & intricate detail capabilities. 

Careers that Use Illustrator

Although Illustrator is used to create images and designs, it’s used in careers across the board, not only by creative professionals. 

One of the primary goals of Illustrator is to create sharp, scalable images that can be used on any size item. Illustrator is one of the best tools to create this vector art, whether a business is in engineering, banking, or marketing. 

These are some careers that utilize Illustrator in their day-to-day jobs: 

  • Illustrators & Concept Artists create drawings, paintings, and other illustrations for creative projects. They produce custom art for clients, books, or even concept art for products, depending on their specialty. These artists can draw with pen and paper or digitally in graphic design software like Illustrator.
  • Digital Designers create digital assets, such as logos and other branding elements, for businesses. They often work on a freelance basis, or on marketing teams. Illustrator is a critical tool designers use for design projects of all sorts. 
  • Marketers develop and execute marketing campaigns to bring in sales for a business. They’re usually responsible for developing branding and graphics, as well as analyzing the results of their campaigns. They can use Illustrator to create branded graphics for their campaigns, including email, social media, and website images. 
  • Social Media Content Creators manage social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, including writing copy and creating graphics. They also implement social media campaigns and sometimes run strategic ads to attract business. They use Illustrator to create eye-catching and branded graphics. 
  • Product Managers manage products or lines of products for a business and ensure that the products are meeting customer needs. From knowing the technical details to collecting performance data, product managers typically “own” the success of a product and conduct all necessary project communication with stakeholders. Illustrator is a helpful tool for designing product mock-ups and presentations. 
  • Community Managers do outreach and maintain relationships with communities such as volunteers, donors, and social media followers to build community partnerships and positive engagement. They can use Illustrator to create graphics to encourage interaction on social media, or via events in the community.
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Designers work in the engineering field and are in charge of all aspects of structural drawings and designs. They generally work with construction designs, and CAD software, but can use Illustrator to create crisp vector drawings and designs to supplement blueprint drawings. 

How to Learn Illustrator

If you love the idea of creating beautiful digital artwork or learning how, there are several ways to learn Adobe Illustrator without getting a degree. 

You can begin getting familiar with the program and learning the basics for free through Adobe. They have some great Illustrator tutorials to get you started, including practice projects. If you’ve used Illustrator before, there are more advanced tutorials to get you thinking about the possibilities.

Another free opportunity to begin learning about Illustrator, and other programs in the Creative Cloud, is through Noble Desktop’s free online classes. There are introductory courses like Intro to Pen Tool & Straight Lines, Drawing Curves, and Drawing, Tracing, & Basic Shape Tools.

If you know you want to learn the program more in-depth, or that you learn better with instructor-led courses, Noble offers several paid Illustrator training courses live online and in-person in New York City. 

Popular topics include: 

  • Illustrator in a Day
  • Illustrator Bootcamp
  • Graphic Design Certificate, including instruction in Illustrator

Where to Learn Illustrator

Ready to get serious about learning Illustrator? There are several options for in-person instruction, live online learning, and comprehensive certificate options. 

Noble Desktop offers several Illustrator courses. If you’re looking to grow your skills in a short period of time, Illustrator in a Day could be an ideal option. For a longer, more foundational look at the program, Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp might be what you need. For those interested in starting a new career, or pivoting to something you know you’ll enjoy, there’s a Graphic Design Certificate option which includes Illustrator coursework.

For those who like the idea of learning from the comfort of their own home or office, live online courses are a great way to get instructor-led training without the commute to a classroom. You can find live online Illustrator courses using the Noble Desktop Classes Near Me tool. You can use the same tool to compare Illustrator courses in your area. The Classes Near Me tool offers a simple and concise way to compare your learning options and see what’s available from reputable training schools near you. 

How Do You Purchase Illustrator? 

To use Illustrator, users must purchase a subscription from Adobe either individually or as part of the Creative Cloud. There’s also an app for iPad available for professionals who want or need to create on the go. 

Professionals who do a significant amount of design work should consider Illustrator. It requires a monthly subscription fee of about $21 if you don’t opt to purchase the whole Creative Cloud. 

Illustrator for iPad is available on any plan that includes Illustrator. The app has the same tools as the desktop version but includes special features designed specifically for the Apple Pencil and iPad. Users can work from almost anywhere, and there’s even an option to work offline. 

If you need multiple Adobe applications, such as Illustrator and InDesign, it may be a better option to purchase a Creative Cloud subscription, which will run you about $53 per month. Although the price may initially feel steep, if you use several of these tools on a regular basis, the Creative Cloud subscription is the cheaper option than purchasing the apps separately.