Create an Illustration on your own containing all of the following
Clipping Mask, Opacity Mask, Art Brush, Pattern Brush, Scatter Brush, a Pattern and some paths with Variable Width.
No realism needed. Here is my Example. A few ghosts throwing flashes through the clouds underneath black rain screaming “boo”. PS: I forgot the pattern 🙂
Workspace and Tablet Setup
Before we start we’ll set up our workspace with only the windows needed.
Setting up your workspace in AI is similar to Photoshop
In Illustrator I tend to use a lot more windows at the same time. We will work with the following windows/panels:
Layers, Brushes, Stroke, Color, Swatches, Transparency, Transform, Appearence, Pathfinder, Align, Gradients and Artboards
Also switch on window → application frame
Save your workspace: window → workspace → new workspace
Your workspace then should look like the following:
Before we start
Here is a video about how Illustrator works in general. I’ll talk about vectors, paths, layers, groups and how they work and what they do. Also about how to apply different appearances to paths, like fill color and stroke. If you are new to Illustrator have a look at this.
Surprise! A lot are the same as in Photoshop.
Oh no! Some are not.
Drawing and Painting Tools
Press B on your keyboard to choose the Brush Tool
Press shift + B for the Blob Brush Tool
Press N on your keyboard to choose the Pencil Tool
The Selection Tool and the Direct Selection Tool
The Selection Tool → V
Select whole paths and move them.
The Direct Selection Tool → A
Select parts of a path or points and move them.
You can click and shift click on path elements to select them and then move or adjust them separately. To select only one point or path parts the easies is to drag around it.
The Lasso Tool → Q
Is like a cooler Version of the Direct Selection Tool for dragging around path and point areas you want to select. Then move them with Direct Selection Tool (A) but make sure you start dragging at a path part or point of the selected area
Switching to last used Selection Tool with the Command key
This is super use full and I use that one ALL the time! If you are working with any other tool (pencil, brush, shape) and want to switch to the Selection Tool you just have to press and hold the Command key.
INFO: It does what the headline says: It switches to the last used Arrow Tool so if you where on either the white or black arrow, that’s the one you’ll be able call with the Command key.
Paste in Front and Back
Probably the MOST useful shortcut in Illustrator ever!
First copy something with Command + C or cut it out with Command + X
Command + F → Paste in Front
If nothing is selected, you paste into the Back of the current group or layer.
In case anything is selected, your content will be pasted behind the selected element(s).
Command + B → Paste in Back
If nothing is selected, you paste into the Front of the current group or layer.
In case anything is selected, your content will be pasted on top the selected element(s).
The great thing and difference to regular paste (Command + V) about both is that they paste at the exact position where you copied or cut your element(s).
The Options Window
Most Tools have “secret” Options that can be set by double clicking on their icons.
The Smooth Tool
Pressing the Option (Alt on PC) key will toggle to the Smooth Tool. The Brush does this by default, for the Pencil it has to be checked in the Pencil Options window
Switch Fill and Stroke Colour
Press X to switch between them
Press D to set them to 100% Black and White
Shortcut from hell: Command + Option + Z
This is only true for older versions of Illustrator (2019 and below).
In older versions of Photoshop (2018 and lower) this command is great for going back more than one step, they changed that in later versions.
The tricky bit: In Illustrator 2019 and below this will Revert to the last saved state of your document and you LOOSE everything you made after that. Fun, isn’t it!
Adobe finally changed the shortcut for Revert to F12.
The Illustrator Top Bar
While the Top Bar in Photoshop switches with every tool, the Top Bar in Illustrator is fixed and shows settings of the current paths selected or if nothing is selected, the settings for the next path that you create.
Also it’s pretty self explanatory. From left to right:
Fill and Stroke Colour – Stroke width – Variable Width Profile – Brush Definition – Opacity
NOTE: Illustrator remembers the Appearance of the last path selected and will apply it to the next path created. This can be used as a quick way of sampling.
If your new paths are white with black stroke no matter where you clicked before go to the burger menu in the Appearance panel and make sure New Art has Basic Appearance is NOT checked.
The Brush and Pencil Tools
General Brush Options and Difference Brush/Pencil
First we’ll have a look at the Brush Options like Fidelity and Edit Selected Paths as well as the main differences of the Pencil and the Paintbrush Tool.
Also I’ll show you how you can use the Smooth Tool (with the Option key) to get smoother, wrinkle free paths.
In Illustrator Colours, Stroke width, Brush are all part of a paths Appearance and can be applied and changed after they have been created.
Use Calligraphy Brushes for writing, lettering and anywhere you want a slanted brush.
TIP: For writing it’s great to add some Pressure Sensitivity and then add more pressure on the downward strokes.
The Scatter Brush is very similar to the Photoshop Brush Tool. You can take paths and use them as repeating path shapes.
Useful for repeating images, random scattering, things that follow a path, and spray textures.
Create an Art Brush with a path or group of paths that will then be stretched along anywhere you draw.
Also you can only stretch between Guides and leave the ends untouched.
Get to know the pattern brush.
Start to around 6:30 is about aligning in Illustrator.
From 6:30 until 14:00 I explain the pattern brush.
I tend to get lost in some details with this one so go ahead and watch the whole video if you want to see me nerd out about the pattern brushes knitty gritty.
Here’s an example of a quick use of a pattern brush, that otherwise would take forever to draw.
I explain the process in the next video also starring one of my two cats.
Brushes are automatically saved once you create them. But they are not saved within Illustrator, instead they only exist within the file itself. So every .ai file will come with different brushes and also swatches and patterns.
So if you want to export brushes and give them to somebody else you just need to give them a copy of the file.
Blob Brush Tool
I really enjoy working with this tool as it is more like painting with a real brush and I somehow think it generates nicer more organic forms.
The Blob Brush draws shapes with outlines instead of a path stroke and can merge your drawing to one shape on the go.
Very useful for all sorts of areas with hard corners or calligraphy and lettering as you can directly edit the outline.
It can be pressure sensitive as well! Either set in the Tool Options Window. Double Click on the Tool Icon to get there.
Or choose a pressure sensitive Calligraphy Brush and then use the Blob Brush.
INFO: If your Stroke Colour is empty the Blob Brush will fill the brushed area with your fill color. If not the Stroke Colour will be used instead.
Press I for Eyedropper Tool and sample the Appearance of another object.
When an object is selected it will get the sampled appearance. If none is selected the next path created will have it.
TIP: Add the Option key to it and it becomes a Fill Tool. Sample appearance with a regular click and fill into another element with Option click.
Info: To actually sample the whole Appearance including all effects, etc. go to the Option (double click on Tool Icon) and check Appearance.
It’s way easier to never click on these Tools rather switch to them with your keyboard.
Rotate → R
Scale → S
Reflect → O
R and S is easy to remember and for O think of a round mirror when reflecting.
All three have an Anchor Point that will be set with the first click. The second click already lets you scale/reflect mirror. It’s also possible to drag this Anchor Point around.
Press the Option key before you start and you’ll see a window for numeric scale/rotate/mirror and more options.
Add the Option key after you start and it will scale/rotate/mirror a copy of the paths selected.
Add the Shift key at any time for proportional scaling and snapping to 0/45/90… degrees when rotating/mirroring.
All of the also work on parts of a path or illustration if you selected it with the Lasso Tool.
Free Transform Tool
The first two are the same as proportionally transforming with the shift key and regular transforming.
The last two are useful if you want to transform a whole illustration into a perspective view.
Learn how to create, change and use all the different kinds of gradients in both fill and stroke.
Variable Width Tool
Define a paths width with this tool. Learn how to create strokes like this, and also save their width profile for future use.
You can apply Variable Width to paths with Basic, Art Brush or Pattern Brush strokes.
Working with Masks
Use Clipping Masks when you want to mask multiple forms and lines with just one path. Clipping masks can be applied within groups or layers.
A group or layer can always only have one Clipping Mask. Although you can of course put a clipped group/layer inside another one, and so on.
Here’s a video of how to use clipping groups and some scatter brushes to get some texture in your Illustration.
Use Opacity Mask when you want to mask a path, group, layer
with multiple forms and paths and with grey values for semi-transparent areas like in Photoshop.
Opacity Masks can be applied to any path, group or layer.
You can also add images inside your Opacity Mask. Here for example I grouped ghost and purple background and gave it an Opacity Mask in which i pasted this cloud image.
Combine the two
The two can also be combined. For example you can create a clipping mask group with multiple colours inside and the mask this group with an opacity mask.
Swatches, Colour, Patterns
In the Swatches panel you can save colours for a later use in your project.
To see all swatches make sure you have “Show all Swatches” turned on.
Add swatches to the library by either dragging them in from your fill and stroke colour or by clicking on the New Icon.
Drag and Drop
You may also drag the swatch onto your fill and stroke or onto any path.
NOTE: Dragging a colour onto an element will either colour it’s fill or stroke depending on what is active right now.
Want to change a colour where ever you used it in a document.
Global Colour to the rescue!
Create a new swatch, double click on any swatch or on the Swatch Options Icon (also for multiple swatches) and check the Global checkbox.
Global Colours are identified by a litte triangle in the lower right corner.
Any element that this Global Colour gets applied to can now be recoloured by changing the global colour.
TIP: Adding multiple global colours at once
You can add multiple Global Colours by either selecting an illustration or for your whole file in the Swatches panels burger menu.
The great thing about this is, that these Global swatches are also automatically applied to the selected artwork. A great way to play with colour and to easily recolour your work.
Illustrator has a quite nice pattern engine. To get to know it you can first watch this 5 minute introduction.
Once you know how to create pattern it’s also easy to find out how others work and then create your own. It’s all about positioning, scaling of the tile and some logical thinking about overlaps.
In our Class-Files you’ll find an Illustrator File Patterns.ai with some patterns. Open it and have a look at how they work. Then try creating your own.
TIP: If you want a filled background there is no need to put that into your pattern. Rather add a new Fill in your Appearance Window. We’ll learn more about that in the next lesson.
Scaling and transforming patterns
Once you have set up your pattern scaling can become quite hard inside the pattern preview. I recommend scaling it inside the filled element it is applied to.
You can either Transform Pattern only or Object Only or Transform Both.
Note: Transform Pattern Only just works with numerical input.
And not in the video above but noteworthy: you can also rotate and skew the patterns numerically. Yay!