My Top 5 Favorite Adobe Illustrator Tools
I absolutely love the Adobe programs (See: Photoshop logo pillow on my desk chair). I got my first taste of Adobe InDesign in 7th grade and haven’t looked back since. Until I started lettering, I hadn’t used Illustrator much, but it is now what is open most often on my desktop. Photoshop is a close second. So this week I wanted to dive into my process a little and look at my favorite Adobe Illustrator tools.
The blob brush has come in very handy for doing my printable each week. This tool works like a brush but instead of the result being a line when you release the mouse, the result is a shape layer. And even once you let the mouse up, if the next stroke you make touches the previous one it connects them all together as one shape. This is nice when writing letters that aren’t one motion. Since the result of the brush is a shape, I can easily go in and adjust the width at different points without the extra step of expanding the line like you had to do before this tool. I use this tool for the initial sketch of my lettering in Illustrator and many times just refine those shapes for the final printable. Definitely a fan of this tool.
Shape Builder Tool
This tool has multiple uses. It’s main use removes the need of the pathfinder panel to combine shapes. Draw whatever shapes you need to make whatever object/shape you need and then use the shape builder tool to merge or extract overlapping parts of the shapes.
The part of the tool that I use most often is how the tool copies the styles & effects applied to the shape. I set up the style & effects I want on one letter in the word and then select the word. I then use the shape builder tool to copy that style to each of the letters. It works by selecting the letter you want the style/effects copied from and then dragging the mouse pointer to the next letter. Makes applying the effects so much easier.
This tool is used in combination with the pen tool. Draw a line or shape with the pen tool and then the width tool can be used to change the width of sections of the stroke without resizing the whole stroke. You can create the illusion of drawing with a brush pen by widening the downstroke of the letter and make the upstrokes skinnier. I don’t use this tool as much, but it can be very handy when you need to have more control over the width of a stroke.
The shaper tool is for drawing shapes, but instead of selecting the specific shapes tool, you freehand draw the shape and the tool transforms your drawing to the closest perfect version of that shape. This tool is great if you use a drawing tablet. You can draw as many shapes as you want without having to change tools and the tool corrects the shape for you. It doesn’t draw stars, but can interpret circles, triangles, rectangles, and some polygons, the best tip is to keep whatever you are drawing with this tool fairly simple. You can also merge or extract parts of overlapping shapes by “erasing” over a line or part of the shape with the shaper tool.
The Illustrator Appearance Panel is really amazing. With this small panel, you can not only change the fill and stroke but add multiple fills and strokes, plus lots of other effects, to a shape. The effect I use the most in my lettering work is the transform tool (fx > Distort & Transform > Transform). With the transform tool, you can add copies of the shape behind it, shift them vertically and horizontally, even rotate them if you want, and make them a different color. The appearance panel easily creates a 3-D effect on a shape with only a few clicks. It also keeps all this on the one layer instead of you having multiple copies of a layer to create the same effect. If you want to change the color of the 3-D part, it only takes one color change also. So much more efficient!
Do you have any favorite Adobe tools?