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Learn Illustrator

A Comprehensive Guide to Start Learning Illustrator

Illustrator is a design application that uses vector graphics to create scalable images. Graphic Designers use Illustrator to create logos, icons, infographics, fashion patterns, and other types of graphics. Since Illustrator is part of Adobe Creative Cloud, it works well with other Adobe design apps, including Photoshop and InDesign.

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics design tool used by Graphic Designers to create vibrant and memorable logos, infographics, and promotional materials for various products and clients. As one of the industry's most commonly used graphic design tools, learning to use Illustrator can significantly improve your career opportunities. If you’ve always wanted to learn Illustrator but can’t figure out how to get started, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the various ways to learn Illustrator, free resources to take advantage of, and the types of careers that commonly use Illustrator.

What is Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics design tool used in several industries, including graphic design and web design. The program allows users to build graphics and illustrations out of vectors, meaning they are composed of lines, shapes, and points. These illustrations are easily resizable with minimal decay in graphics quality (unlike pixel-based graphics, which do not resize without becoming blurry or blocky). Images designed in Illustrator are perfect for packaging, advertising, or branding endeavors that allow the same image to be placed on both a business card and a billboard.

Illustrator is also a key part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, a collection of creative tools that give graphic designers a wide range of tools for creating stunning visual imagery. These programs are seamlessly integrated and built to allow optimized crossover. Illustrator is frequently used alongside Adobe Photoshop (a program with a similar but distinct function) and Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, video editing programs that utilize Illustrator to create animated effects.

Read more about what Illustrator is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with Illustrator?

Illustrator is a vector graphics design tool that lets users create their own illustrations. Using points, lines, shapes, and text, the program lets users build vector graphics illustrations designed to be infinitely scalable, letting users resize them at will. Therefore, Illustrator is ideal for drawing images that will be mass-produced and placed in multiple contexts, such as art prints, company logos, branded merchandise, official letterhead seals, and many other uses. Illustrator lets users build an image once and repurpose it on everything from water bottles to billboards.

Using Illustrator, creatives can build recognizable logos and iconography to help define a client’s brand identity. The most common uses of Illustrator are within the graphic design and advertising industries, though other industries, such as the fashion industry, have their uses for Illustrator. In these professional settings, users can construct illustrations that quickly and effectively convey meaning and help consumers recognize the products being sold. Almost all product packaging is made using vector graphics, meaning that almost every company selling a product to consumers will use Illustrator.

For non-professionals or aspiring entrepreneurs, learning InDesign can help users build their online identities. Small business owners, crafters looking to break into Etsy, local musicians looking to sell decals, or even activists wanting to build memorable logos and signage for their organization all benefit from learning Illustrator. Quick, efficient graphic communication is vital across many fields, and Illustrator can make building these graphic designs faster and more efficient.

Careers that Use Illustrator

Learning Illustrator can be a helpful early step for aspiring creatives who want to turn their artistic passion into a career, as the program is the industry-standard design tool in many industries. Since Illustrator is used in advertising and brand management, industries that aren’t traditionally associated with creative imagery will want to contract firms or free-lancers to design logos, packaging, advertising, or other branded merchandise.

  • Graphic Designer: Graphic Designers utilize tools like Illustrator to build the graphics, logos, and other media assets for contractors to use in branding, advertising, or messaging. Graphic Designers are responsible for creating recognizable, evocative imagery that can be used to quickly and effectively communicate information. As such, graphic designers work on various projects ranging from traditional advertising such as billboards to web logos, packaging materials, infographics, and branded merchandise.
  • Digital Designers: Digital Designers build graphics, animations, and other visual assets for digital distribution. Often working as part of a large team, digital designers will build assets for webpages, mobile applications, online advertisements, and other digital publications. Digital Designers will often be building more complex assets intended to be animated or made dynamic, often through Adobe After Effects.
  • Fashion Designers: The fashion design industry uses Illustrator to draw and design mock-ups and prototypes of clothing. This is often done to streamline workflow, replacing the practice of drawing and designing complicated clothing features such as patterns or color gradients by hand. Noble Desktop offers a specific Illustrator for Fashion Design Bootcamp for aspiring fashion designers.
  • UI/UX Designers: Illustrator is an essential tool for User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Web Designers. These designers build and optimize the appearance and functionality of the user interfaces of digital and web applications. They will frequently use Illustrator to construct the assets tied to various icons, patterns, and buttons that help users navigate web and digital applications.

Why Learn Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular vector graphics programs currently available. This program allows users to design vibrant and colorful illustrations by creating lines and shapes or through free-hand drawing. These images are perfect for building logos and illustrations, and the tool is frequently used for designing branded merchandise and advertisements. As a bonus, Illustrator is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, making it easy to transfer work from one Adobe program to another.

Users who learn to use Adobe Illustrator are opening up many new career paths in graphic design and web design. Adobe Illustrator is used in many creative careers, and aspiring Graphic Designers, Fashion Designers, Digital Designers, and UX/UI Designers benefit from learning Illustrator. In addition, since Adobe Illustrator is a user-friendly program, it is also helpful for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to build their own brand identity. Most people can pick up the fundamental skills in the program quickly. Whether used by professional designers or amateur creatives, Illustrator lets users build complex, memorable graphics that they can utilize in various circumstances.

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How to Learn Illustrator

Students tend to find that the best way to learn a new skill is through live Illustrator instruction, either in-person or online. These courses provide students access to professional instructors who can respond to questions and provide feedback in real-time. In-person training seminars are ideal for students hoping to replicate the feel of classroom instruction as closely as possible. However, this can limit a student’s options, as they are restricted to the in-person training options near them. Live online classes can be taken from anywhere, giving students more control over how they learn. Live instructors can guide students through difficult sections and explain challenging concepts virtually.

For students whose schedule doesn’t allow them to take a live course or who feel that they will benefit more from a different pace of instruction, on-demand and asynchronous learning options may be ideal. These classes give students flexibility in how much time they spend training in Illustrator on any given day, which can be incredibly helpful for students with work or family obligations that keep them from attending regular classes. The downside to these courses is that they require a great deal of self-motivation on the part of the student, and while students have more freedom to pace themselves and repeat material, lacking an instructor can risk students feeling lost and overwhelmed.

Some free learning options are also available for students hoping to learn the basics of Illustrator. These tutorials and resources won’t be enough to replace professional instruction for students looking to use Illustrator professionally, but they can help students get accustomed to a new program. Noble Desktop makes many free Illustrator training resources available through their Learn Hub and the Graphic Design playlist on their official YouTube page.

Read the full guide on how to learn Illustrator.

Free Introductory Illustrator Course Online

For students looking to gain familiarity with Illustrator but aren’t yet sure that they want to enroll in a paid training course, there are a handful of free options available to help in learning the basics of the program. These tutorials won’t replace guided hands-on instruction, but they are opportunities to develop a familiarity with the program before enrolling in a training program.

Noble Desktop’s resources blog provides students with brief articles and introductory material to learn the basics of Illustrator. Two introductory courses, Intro to Adobe Illustrator and Creative Effects with Adobe Illustrator, provide students with basic lessons in the illustrations for which Illustrator is most suited. Noble’s Graphic Design YouTube Playlist also provides students free introductory lessons in specific graphic design tools and design philosophies. Students can also find more detailed information about Adobe Illustrator at the Learn Adobe Illustrator on Noble’s Learn Hub.

Additionally, as part of their free trial, the first time a user opens Adobe Illustrator, they are provided with a brief tutorial of some of the program's basic features. This tutorial concludes with directions to Adobe’s free Illustrator tutorials.

Read about more free Illustrator videos and online tutorials.

Level of Difficulty, Prerequisites, & Cost

Learning a new skill, especially one like Adobe Illustrator, can be an intimidating task. Students who are wavering on whether or not they wish to learn Illustrator may be wondering what the learning curve for the program looks like. Illustrator is a program that is very inviting to beginners, offering many resources to ease new users into the program. Still, it is also a very complex tool that will require significant experience and training to master. The difficulty of learning Illustrator will depend on whether you hope to learn the program to build simple, colorful designs or use it to draw complex, professional-looking logos for a business or organization.

There aren’t any formal prerequisites to learning Adobe Illustrator. Users can download the program and experiment with vector graphic design within minutes. Users should familiarize themselves with the platform basics on which they hope to use Illustrator, whether on a desktop PC or tablet. For students considering professional uses of Illustrator, anyone without a background in graphic design may wish to brush up on current trends in the graphic design industry. Knowledge of color theory, philosophies of composition, and typography can help users demonstrate their skills to prospective clients.

As a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, Illustrator requires users to pay a subscription fee to access the program. Several unique packages are available for users wishing to license multiple programs at once, but they should be aware that there are either monthly or annual fees associated with Illustrator.

Read about how difficult it is to learn Illustrator.

How Does Learning Illustrator Compare to Other Applications?

One of the first things students should know going into their Illustrator training is when they should use Illustrator rather than another program. Many people don’t know the difference between Illustrator and Photoshop, leading students to think that the two programs serve the same function and can be used interchangeably. This is, however, not the case.

Illustrator is a vector graphics program meaning that users use lines, points, and shapes to build their images. Photoshop is a raster graphics program, meaning that its images are made out of pixels. The advantage of vector graphics is that the images built in Illustrator can be resized to almost any size without losing any of their clarity or definition. Resizing an image made of pixels will make it blocky or blurry. By contrast, pixel images are better for displaying textures, and the images can be more precisely edited.

Vector graphics images are ideal for building images that will be placed on a wide variety of different prints and objects. Since you can resize them quickly, clients can put the same logo on a poster, a water bottle, and a billboard without building the image three times. This makes Illustrator an ideal program for building logos and other branding iconography.

Illustrator also has built-in compatibility with Inkscape, the most popular free alternative to Illustrator. While the two programs won’t overlap perfectly, users can move between the two to share files and collaborate across platforms. As with most of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications, Illustrator's most significant advantage is its integration with other Adobe products. Users performing more complicated graphic design projects will find it easier to use Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects instead of using less compatible alternatives.

How to Decide the Best Way to Learn Illustrator

Students who want to learn how to use Illustrator may find the number of options available slightly intimidating. While there are several factors to consider when choosing the correct training option, students should first consider what uses they intend to use the program for and how much training they want to receive.

Noble Desktop offers a wide range of options for direct Illustrator training both online and in-person in New York City. These courses range in time commitment, allowing students to gauge how much they will use Illustrator and make a course selection based on their assessment. Students looking for an introduction to the program may consider Illustrator in a Day, which offers accelerated instruction in the program's essential features, such as using the pen and pencil tools and building images with shapes and lines. This course is ideal for students looking to learn Illustrator's basics for personal use.

Students looking for a more detailed training program may consider Noble’s Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp, which provides in-depth training in Illustrator paired with practical exercises that allow students to build their own illustrations. This course covers the use of layers and the manipulation of colors and patterns and has students build practical examples of illustrator designs for logos and packaging. It is ideally suited for students who either already have training in other graphic design skills and want to build their resume learning Illustrator or for experienced Illustrator users trying to take their skills to a more advanced level.

Students seeking a career-oriented training program that pairs Illustrator with other professional skills may wish to consider a Noble certificate program, such as their Graphic Design Certificate or Digital Design Certificate. These programs provide students with industry-recognized professional training in various skills, including Adobe Illustrator. They are designed so that upon completion, students will be prepared to enter a career as a Graphic Designer or Digital Designer. These courses are best suited for students who want to build a graphic or digital design career and feel they would benefit from focused career training rather than more specific Illustrator instruction.

Learn Illustrator with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Noble Desktop offers an array of Illustrator classes and bootcamps for students hoping to receive Illustrator training through a live online course. Noble’s Illustrator in a Day course offers introductory instruction in the basic functionalities of the program, such as the pen and pencil tool, the function of different layers and brushes, and the process of preparing a file for publication. This course is ideal for students who expect to work with Illustrator in the future but don’t imagine that they will do so every day or that they will need to engage with the complicated features of the program.

For students who do feel that they will need to work with the more advanced features of Illustrator, Noble’s Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp offers in-depth training in the tools that allow Illustrator to create complex and vibrant vector illustrations. Students will learn to work with masks, alter colors and gradients, and build custom patterns. They will also create practical sample designs such as T-shirts and signage to include in a design portfolio. These exercises mirror the projects that professional Graphic Designers undertake, and this course is an ideal place to learn how to use Illustrator professionally.

Aspiring career Graphic Designers can build their skills in many different design programs by enrolling in Noble’s Graphic Design Certificate program. This program confers upon students a state-approved certificate in the mastery of Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Beyond learning the functionalities of these programs, students will receive lessons in theories of design and composition. They will work towards building various sample designs to be included as part of their sample portfolio as a prerequisite for completion. Students looking to expand their design skills further can enroll in Noble’s Digital Design Certificate program, which covers all of this information, plus lessons in user interface and web page design for digital publications.

These Design Certificate programs are career-focused courses that provide students with one-on-one career mentorship. As a student’s final project, they will build a sample design portfolio to showcase their skills to prospective employers. By the end of these programs, students will be prepared to enter the workforce in a new, high-paying career.

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