Adobe Illustrator is an industry-standard vector graphics design tool in graphic design. Illustrator users will build vector illustrations out of lines, points, and shapes to create stunning designs that can be resized and repurposed to suit a business's or organization's needs. Commonly used for designing logos, branded merchandise, and product packaging, Illustrator is used in a wide array of consumer industries. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what Illustrator is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it to determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

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.

How Do You Download Illustrator? How Much Does it Cost?

Adobe Illustrator is available through Adobe’s website as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Users can download the program on any device that runs Windows or iOS (a scaled-down version also exists for Android devices). Adobe offers a brief free-trial period during which they can experiment with Illustrator and take advantage of free tutorials to learn the basics of the program.

Once the trial period has expired, users will need to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud to access Illustrator. This subscription requires users to pay a subscription fee that can either be paid monthly or annually. Users will be able to select a payment method that enrolls them in the program for a year or one that is re-upped every month. In addition, Creative Cloud subscribers will be able to choose whether they want to license Illustrator on its own or if they want to subscribe to all of the programs in the Adobe Creative Cloud. The package subscription has a higher up-front cost but is far cheaper than licensing even three or four Adobe programs.

What Are the Benefits of Learning 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.

Read more about why you should learn Illustrator.

Illustrator Careers

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.

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.

A Brief History of Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator began life in 1985 as a public version of Adobe’s own in-house font development software and is designed to serve as the sister program to Adobe Photoshop. Originally designed as a tool for typesetting and logo design, Illustrator had already become an industry-standard tool by 1988. In 2003, Adobe released Illustrator CS, offering Windows compatibility and 3-D drawing and modeling functionality, entrenching its place as the market's most commonly used vector graphics software.

In 2013, to coincide with the release of the Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Illustrator CC was released, marking an end to the physical distribution of the software. This new version, upon which all subsequent releases are based, gave the program better integration with the other Adobe Creative Cloud applications but also added touch screen compatibility and enhanced tools for altering fonts and colors.

Comparable 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 that uses lines, points, and shapes to build its images. Photoshop is a raster graphics program that builds its images 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 easily, 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 compatibility with other Adobe products. Users performing more complicated graphic design projects will find it easier to use Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects instead of Inkspace alongside two other, less compatible alternatives.

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.

Key Takeaways