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Document Setup

Save the files, illustrator-tutorial-base and nook-card, to your computer in a location that is easy to access.

Open Illustrator and sign in if you haven't already. If you are using a campus computer, sign in with your student email, then use your 4x4 password to complete sign in. The program may show a brief "What's New" popup. You can exit out of the window by pressing the X at the top left of the window.

To the left, click Open. Locate and select from your computer. Click Enter (or Open on Mac). If this is the first time you are opening Illustrator, it might show a brief walkthrough of the program. Proceed through the walkthrough by pressing Next or OK until it closes.

Illustrator Interface

The program should have opened the document in a new workspace and different interface. The interface is used by you, the user, to communicate to the computer what you would like to see through a given set of tools and functions. The tools and functions are always available, but they can be displayed for easy access in your workspace to speed up your work.

Your workspace may look different than the default described below depending on whether you have used Illustrator on your computer before. If you would like to reset to the default interface as described below, you can go to Window using the Menu. Next, go to Workspace, then ensure Essentials is selected before clicking Reset Essentials.

Interface Tour

Default Adobe Illustrator CC interface. See information below.

The artboard is the white rectangle placed in the center of the program. This is where illustrations will be visualized.

The toolbar on the left contains all of the drawing tools and controls for Fill and Stroke, Coloring, Draw Mode, and Screen Mode. It can be customized to hide controls and tools can be added or removed from the bar. The hidden tools can be found under Edit Toolbar... (the button with three dots) under all of the tools and controls.

The area on the right is used to make panels easy to access. There are many panels with different functions, so this area is also customizable. Panels can be added from the Menu through Window. Panels that are already visible will be selected with a check mark. Once visible, panels can be dragged into place, stacked on top of each other, collapsed, or removed.

The top control bar, though not pictured above, will also be important as you work through the tutorial. Note that this is different from the program's menu, which is located directly above the control bar on Windows operating systems. The top control bar is unique because it completely changes according to the object that is selected. For example, the toolbar will have Character and Paragraph options when a text object is selected, but not when a Rectangle is selected. Specific options can be hidden from appearing on the bar by clicking on the edit button, furthest to the right on the bar.

Again, your workspace may look different than the default described above. If you would like to reset to the defaults as described above, you can go to Window, then Workspace, then ensure Essentials is selected before clicking Reset Essentials.

Workspace Setup

If you already have a specific preference for the workspace, you can use that. Otherwise, you can set up a custom workspace for the tutorial by following the instructions below.

From the menu, go to Window, then Workspace. Click Layout. Notice how the control bar is now visible at the top of the program. Next from the menu, go to Window, then Pathfinder to add the Pathfinder panel. You may need to drag it into place, which you can do by clicking on the top of the panel and dragging it between the Transform and Swatches panels on the right. The area where the panel will be placed will be highlighted blue for your reference.

The moving panel's target location will highlight blue.

Note that panels can be collapsed by double clicking on their titles. Some will collapse in increments, so you may need to double click multiple times to completely collapse it. Simply click the panel's title to open it again.

Your workspace should now have several more panels on the right, notably the Pathfinder, Swatches, and Layers panels.

The resulting customized Adobe Illustrator workspace. See information above.

Accessibility Features

Illustrator provides features that may help people with visual, auditory, speech, motor, cognitive, and mobile disabilities to use the program. The program is not entirely accessible for people with full vision loss, though it does provide support for those with limited vision. Visit Illustrator's user guide for Accessibility in Illustrator for more details about the features provided and how to enable them.

Useful Terminology

Before getting started, take a look at some terminology that will be useful to know when navigating through this tutorial.

Path terms

When you create illustrations in Illustrator, it will visually look like a combination of lines and shapes, but from the program's perspective, you are creating anchor points and paths. The paths can be edited by adjusting the existing anchor points' handles, by moving the location of the existing anchor points, or by adding and removing anchor points.

In the images below, all of the anchor points and handles are visible on the path. Note that handles will only be visible when anchor points on curved path segments are selected.

The anchor points are placed and arranged by the user.The handles are attached to anchor points on curved segments. There are typically two handles per point.

Paths connect the anchor points together, forming lines.

Fill versus Stroke

Fill and Stroke are visual characteristics of paths. Fill provides color to the space that paths surround and stroke is the border of the paths. They can be applied individually, simultaneously, or not at all. Note that paths with no fill or stroke are only visible upon hover or selection, and the fill element will color open paths from their starting points to their ending points. The chart below demonstrates what fill and stroke elements look like when applied (or not applied) to paths. Note that the "No fill, No stroke" option is only visible because it is selected and highlighted with a bounding box.

Chart illustrating the appearance of fill and stroke. See information above.

Concluding Tutorial Setup

In this section you learned:

  • About the basics of Illustrator's interface and workspace.
  • The difference between paths, handles, and anchor points.
  • The difference between fill and stroke.

If you would like to see more tips for workspace customization and Illustrator terminology, watch the video tutorials listed below to learn more. These resources will also be listed at the end of the tutorial so there is no need to watch them immediately. You can move on to the next section, Pen and Curvature Tools, when you are ready.