Illustrator Intro Course: Drawing, Tracing, & Basic Shape Tools

Introduction to Adobe Illustrator Video Tutorial

In this video, we'll show you how to use tracing templates, the Pen tool, and some other basic drawing tools in Adobe Illustrator.

Video Transcript

In this video I'm going to show you how to create a no smoking sign and along the way you'll learn how to use tracing templates, the Pen Tool, and some of the basic drawing tools. I'm going to create a new document here. It doesn't matter whether I'm creating this as a print document or a web document, depending on what I want to do with this.

If I do want to print out the no smoking sign, I'll create a letter size page using inches. If I was creating this as a web graphic, I could create it as an RGB file at a certain pixel dimension. So it really just depends on what you want to do with this.

I'm going to place a pixel-based graphic into the document. Before I do, I'm going to make sure I check the "Template" box. This process is going to create a new layer. It has locked it, and it has created a little bit of a different eyeball to indicate that it's a template layer.

Now I'm going to draw on the top layer and this new layer. I want to make sure I'm on the right layer, so I'm going to draw on layer one. I'm going to trace some of the things, starting by tracing the "no" part of the smoking sign. This needs to be a red circle with a slash going through it at a 45-degree angle. I want to make sure that as I'm drawing those things, I'm drawing from the center.

I'm going to show my rulers and actually pull out some guides from my rulers so I can do that under View > Rulers > Show Rulers. Then I can drag from the left ruler, pull out a guide, and drop it there. I can also drag from my top ruler, pull it down, and drop it there. One thing to be careful of in Illustrator is that rulers are objects that you can select, copy, paste, and delete. To prevent accidental deletion, you can go into your Guides and lock them.I want to draw a circle, so I'm going to go over to my Ellipse Tool.

To draw from the same center point, I'm going to hold Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows), and add Shift to make it a perfect circle. I'm also going to make sure my Stroke has black color and a thicker weight so I can see it as I'm drawing.Now, I want a center line there, so I'm going to use my Line Tool. I'm again going to hold Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and draw out the line, adding Shift to snap to a 45 or 90 degree angle. I'm going to select both the circle and the line, expand my Color Panel, and choose Magenta and Yellow to make a nice red.I don't need the guide anymore, so I can go to View > Guides and hide them. I'm going to draw a rectangle and reduce the Stroke to black.

If I have Real Time Drawing turned on, it can be hard to see what I'm drawing over top of because my stroke is so thick. I can go into View > Outline Mode to show a wireframe of my vectors. It doesn't show how it actually looks and how it prints. You can go into Preview mode for that. You've got two modes: Preview mode and Outline mode.

If you preview this, this is how it looks when it prints or is visible on screen when you go to outline mode. Some of the nice things about outline mode is that you can reach through objects. For example, if I draw another object on top and if I go to my fill color and I give that a fill color, I cannot see through that object but I know the other object is back there if I switch into outline mode.

Everything is just a piece of wire, it's not like it's a solid thing. I can click on any shape that I want, even though it's behind it, I can still select it and I could bring this to the front while I'm in this mode because you can work in outline mode and when you're done, you go back into preview mode and look at that, I brought that thing to the front even though I couldn't even see it prior to that. So sometimes it's easier to do things in outline mode.

In a case like this, it might actually be useful to switch into outline mode and then I can draw this rectangle over top without the outline getting in the way. When I'm done, I can then switch back over to preview mode and see how it looks and I can fix and say okay, I just want, I don't want to fill, and I want a stroke, but the color is fine but the thickness is a bit too much, so I can dial that down a little bit let's say something like that.

All right, I'm going to hit Command+ on the Mac or Control+ on Windows to zoom in. I'm also going to draw a rectangle over here for the butt part of the cigarette and I do also want black to fill this out, I want black on the stroke because I want the same thickness here as the other object, but I also want the fill to be black. And so I can go here to fill and click on black. That's one way that I could do it or let me undo that. If you have your fill and stroke colors, these colors are actually drag and drop, they're actually trying to drop from one shape to another.

So for example, if I have let's say one color here, and I have another color here, if I want to drag and drop, I can take this pink and drop it onto the other shape and it fills it, or if I undo that, I can select the other shape and I can drag the green onto the other shape. Now, whichever of these two things is in front, the fill or the stroke, whichever one's in front, that's the thing that's going to get the color. So let's say I have the shape selected, I'm grabbing the green, but the stroke is in front, so since the stroke's in front, the stroke's going to get the color. So you're dragging a color, but it doesn't matter where it's coming from, it matters which thing is in front. So if the stroke's in front, you're going to apply the color to the stroke.

If the fill is in front, let's say I grab black, because the fill is in front, you're applying that color to the fill. So drag it, drag from anywhere, but make sure that your fill or your stroke is in front because that's what's going to get that color. Now, in the case of this shape right here, if I drag from my stroke to my fill and just let it go, you got to make your own sound effects there, but you can drag and drop from one thing to another from fill to stroke or stroke to fill, and it'll just kind of copy that color over there. That's just a little quick shortcut there, neat little tip there.

Next up, pen tool, so pen tool for drawing this stuff. In another video I talked about how to draw with the pen tool, and this is going to be some practice with the pen tool. Some things to keep in mind, some general best practices, think about breaking your path into segments, portions of the line. If you think about this, this is kind of one section of the line before it changes to another section. So this section is very straight and this is curved. So when things change, like if you were driving a car on this road and you're going to turn your wheel, so here I'm turning to the left, I'm turning to the left, but then I start to straighten out my wheel.

Well, when you're changing that wheel, that's a change from one segment to another. So here then I'm going straight, I'm going straight, that's one segment, but then if I need to change and turn my wheel, that's going to be another segment. Oh here I hit the end and I got to turn my wheel, turn my car, turn all the way around, that's going to be another segment there from going around. So I kind of think about a segment from start to finish, and when I'm using this pen tool, I'm dragging in the direction my line is starting to head.

So I click, hold the mouse and drag, and the further you want to go in that direction, the further you're going to drag, but you're never going to go beyond that line, probably not for a normal smooth curve. You're going to go roughly about a third of the way to the next segment, so like if you think about drawing from here, that's one-third and then two-thirds, and then another third, but that's if you want a totally smooth curve.

In this case, this starts out really straight, and so it kind of pushes the curve, the curve is more curvy at this end than it is at this end, so that means I'm gonna have to push more than that one third, which is kind of a general idea. So I'm gonna push up about like that. The further you want to go straight, the more you push, and you let go, then you come to that end of that segment, and you're gonna click and hold, don't just click, click and hold to pull out these handles, and since this is a small curve, it's a small drag. So big curve, big drag.

If I push this out, I can see how pushing that out really flattens out that portion of the curve. With a little drag, it doesn't flatten it out, but a big drag flattens it out. I'm talking about this end part right here—just ignore the other part. I'm going to draw it like this, adding a shift key just to make sure I'm perfectly horizontal as well. I have a black fill that I don't want, so I go over to fill and choose none. Then I can keep drawing. I'm going to hold shift to make sure it goes in a straight line across and I'm going to shift drag. This is a pretty smooth curve, so I'm going to use that rule of general rule of thirds.

Dragging from this point about a third, imagine another third, and then another third—just a rough rule of thumb, not a hard fact perfect figure kind of thing. I can draw another one up here and something like that looks pretty good. Not quite perfect, but I can come back in and finesse it. I'm done with this curve now, so I can go back into my direct selection tool and finesse any points I need to.

I want my line to have a soft round edge, so I go to my stroke panel and choose rounding for both end caps and the corners. Now let's finish up. I go to my pen tool again, zoom back out, and drag up. This is a pretty big curve, so I'm going to drag up quite a bit. I come over here and this is a smaller curve, so I'm dragging just a little bit. I'm going to hold shift to keep it perfectly horizontal and then I come over here and do my shift drag again because I want to pull out a handle for the next part of this.

Now I'm facing the wrong direction, so I'm going to hold Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and point me into the right direction. Notice you're keeping your handles towards the outside of the path. Think about it this way: it's going in that direction, but it's going to veer off to the next point. These handles are the farthest right point to that, so it's going to veer off in that direction. The only two things you can adjust here on points are for these handles: the distance and the angle. Those will result in different shapes for your line.

Now I'm going to group these things together, selecting them by dragging across using the selection tool. I'm going to move it down and now if I click off I can just grab on any one of those and position it here. It is behind this slash and I want it to be in front of the slash, so I can do it multiple ways. I can say Object > Arrange > Bring to Front for the slash, so the slash comes up front.

Another way you can also do this is in the Layers panel. You can open up your layer and see the things that are in there, and you can drag to reorder things. You can also select something that you want to put this new object either right behind or right in front of, and paste it in back or in front.

Now that I've done all my tracing, I don't need my template layer anymore. If I want to merely hide it, I can, but if I don't need it, I can drag it to the trash to get rid of it.

Now I want to show my guides again because we need a container for this sign. I'm going to draw a rounded rectangle from the middle so that it'll be the frame for this sign. I can drag it out and make sure to hold shift to make it a perfect square. I can switch over to black and a thinner stroke. To make the rounded corner portion, I can go to my selection tool and pull those corners in to choose how rounded or not rounded those are.

If the sign were to be a specific size, instead of visually drawing this out by holding Option or Alt, I could instead Option or Alt-click and type in a size. For example, I could make it three by three with a quarter-inch corner radius. Normally it'll go to the top left corner when you click. But if you Option (Alt on Windows) click, it'll put the center there. You can be precise if you want to make it a specific size. When you're done with your guides, you can hide them. I hope that was useful for you and you learned some cool tips and tricks for doing some vector creation.

Continue learning more Adobe Illustrator in our NYC Illustrator classes. For those outside New York, find and compare the best Illustrator classes near you or live online Photoshop classes.

How to Learn Illustrator

Master Illustrator with hands-on training. Illustrator is an Adobe design application that uses vector graphics to create scalable images, including logos, icons, and fashion patterns.

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