Illustrator: a crash-course (ie-how to make stuff look awsome)

Adobe Version

The version this tutorial uses is CS5 for Mac. If you have a different version or operating system, please note that some things will be different. This tutorial focuses mainly on Illustrator but you may also find Photoshop and InDesign helpful.

Illustrator Layout

This is what Illustrator will look like when you create a document. This page will introduce you to the main tool bars in Illustrator.

The white rectangle in the middle is the size of the document you chose. In the bottom left, you can see what percentage zoom you are at. To zoom in and out quickly on a Mac, you can use the command key and the plus or minus key.


You can set the size of the drawing you want to make when you create the file. If you need to change the size later, you can click on the Edit Artboard tool (in the main tools palette) and drag the handles to make your workspace bigger.


The menu bar gives you access to many tools, options, and preferences.



The main tools palette is where all of your important tools are. This palette will be on the far left of the screen, but you can turn it on or off by clicking the Window menu and checking or unchecking tools.

Each of the tools on the toolbar does something different, but there are a few main zones of tools on the bar. This tutorial will not cover every tool, but experiment with some of the others too.

The top two rows of buttons are the selection tools that we will talk more about in one of the next lessons.
The next four rows of buttons are mainly for creating content in your illustration.
The next rows are for modifying the content you just created.
Then there is the color panel that shows the colors for both fill and stroke. We will talk more about this in the color/gradients lesson.
The tools on the bottom are to change the colors or gradients and to change the layer you are drawing in.


This is the right tool palette. It contains options that you can use with the tools on the main palette.
The top two tools open up color pickers.
The next one you can create and access swatches of colors you want to use on your project.
With the next two you can change brush styles or symbol styles.
With the next tool, you can access stroke options.
The next button allows you to create unique gradients
These tools are not discussed in this tutorial.
This is the button to open the layers viewer.


This is the control bar. It changes what options are on it based on the tool you are currently using. (The options shown are when the Pen tool is in use).


Saving an Image

To save your work as an image, you can use the export button in the File menu. You can save your image as various types of image files. If you plan on printing your image, make sure you select 300 DPI for the best final print quality.