Adobe Illustrator for Beginners

Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator in this free course for absolute beginners. By the end, you’ll know how to draw in Adobe Illustrator, how to make a pattern in Illustrator, and so much more.

Watch the Full Illustrator for Beginners Course

What You’ll Learn

  • How to draw in Illustrator
  • Working with color and gradients
  • How to use text and fonts in Illustrator
  • How to create effects and patterns
  • How to export for print and web

About Your Instructor

Jump straight to the Illustrator technique you want to learn:

1. Introduction

1.1 Welcome to the Course

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

I’ll start by introducing myself and telling you what we’ll cover in this Illustrator basics course. So just click the link above to get an overview of what you’ll be learning.

1.2 Getting Started

Watch video lesson (6 mins) ↗

Now let’s get everything set up so that you can follow the course easily. The good news is that you don’t need anything other than a copy of Adobe Illustrator to follow along and do the exercises in this course.

We do need to reset our Illustrator workspace, though, so that we can work more efficiently and make sure we’re all on the same page—I’ll explain how to do that in this section.

You can download all the source files for the course by clicking this button:

Download the Source Files

And here are some other useful links:

2. How to Draw in Illustrator

2.1 Setting Up Our Document

Watch video lesson (4 mins) ↗

Our first exercise will be to draw a penguin! You’ll start with a pencil drawing and learn how to draw over it to create your own vector artwork. Watch this video to find out how to import the drawing from the source files and set up your document properly.

new documentnew documentnew document

Once we’ve set up your document, we’ll look at how to import our drawing using File > Place and then lock the layer so that we can easily draw over the top of it.

2.2 Drawing With Shapes and Lines

Watch video lesson (21 mins) ↗

Now let’s learn how to draw shapes in Illustrator. This is a fundamental skill when learning how to draw in Illustrator because you can create many common objects by creating and adjusting simple shapes and lines.

For example, we can start by creating a simple rectangle using the Rectangle Tool.

rectangle shaperectangle shaperectangle shape

Then we can make adjustments to the shape so that it matches the outline of our penguin.

penguin drawing next steppenguin drawing next steppenguin drawing next step

And eventually we can create a whole drawing, just using simple shapes.

penguin drawing completepenguin drawing completepenguin drawing complete

I’ll take you through every step in the video, so follow it to get the full instructions.

This is the longest part of the course, but the skills you pick up here will help you create all sorts of cool artwork in Illustrator, so it’s time well spent!

2.3 Grouping and Arranging

Watch video lesson (13 mins) ↗

The drawing we just created looked pretty good, but we can improve it by filling in the shapes with color and making it look more professional and finished.

penguin in colourpenguin in colourpenguin in colour

To create this result, you’ll need to learn:

  • how to group shapes in Illustrator
  • how to move shapes in front of and behind one other
  • how to use isolation mode” in Illustrator

I cover all of those things in the video, so follow along to see how it’s done!

2.4 Drawing With the Shape Builder Tool

Watch video lesson (14 mins) ↗

Our penguin drawing keeps getting better! This time, we’re adding shadows to give our drawing more of a 3D look, and we’re working on details like the eye.

penguin drawn with shape builder toolpenguin drawn with shape builder toolpenguin drawn with shape builder tool

Again, we’re just using simple shapes as the building blocks, but we’re making them overlap to create more complex results.

You’ll learn all about the Shape Builder Tool in this video—it’s a powerful tool to help you transform simple shapes into more complex ones.

Watch video lesson (10 mins) ↗

We’ve learned some useful techniques now, so let’s put them into practice with a real-world example: logo design. Let’s see how to create the logo shown below, using the tools and techniques we’ve covered so far.

logo exercise in illustratorlogo exercise in illustratorlogo exercise in illustrator

Want to know more about logo design in Illustrator? Check out this free course:

Mastering Logo Design in Adobe Illustrator

  • Essential tools to use when creating logos in Illustrator
  • How to create simple and advanced shapes
  • How to create a logo using shapes and gradients

Illustrator’s Pen Tool: The Comprehensive Guide

  • Pen Tool keyboard and mouse controls
  • Setting options and preferences
  • Time-saving shortcuts and best practices

2.8 How to Use the Pencil Tool in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (10 mins) ↗

What if you want to draw freehand? Then you’ll need yet another drawing tool—the Pencil Tool! Let’s learn how to use the Pencil Tool in Illustrator to draw these freeform lines and arrows over a photo:

pencil tool illustratorpencil tool illustratorpencil tool illustrator

The Pencil Tool has quite a few different options to play with, so watch the video to learn what settings to adjust to ensure you get beautiful results.

2.9 Using Brushes

Watch video lesson (7 mins) ↗

We’ll finish off this section on drawing in Illustrator by looking at how to use brushes. Here’s what you’ll be creating:

brush tool in illustratorbrush tool in illustratorbrush tool in illustrator

You’ll learn to transform the lines you’ve created with the pen, curvature, and pencil tools into stunning “painterly” strokes. Learn how to use Illustrator brushes, how to change the brush size in Illustrator, and more.

If you want to dive even deeper into Illustrator brushes, check out this comprehensive guide:

A Comprehensive Guide to Brushes in Illustrator

  • How to use Illustrator brushes
  • How to navigate the Brushes panel
  • How to work with scatter brushes, calligraphic brushes, bristle brushes, and more

You can get better results by using one of the premium Illustrator brushes available on Envato Elements.

3. Color

3.1 Working With Color

Watch video lesson (8 mins) ↗

This chapter is all about color. First, let’s explore how Illustrator controls color through RGB and HSB settings.

color settings rgb vs hsbcolor settings rgb vs hsbcolor settings rgb vs hsb

RGB stands for “Red, Green, Blue”, and HSB stands for “Hue, Saturation, Brightness”. They’re two ways of defining colors, and you’ll learn about them in more detail in the video.

You’ll also learn how to use Adobe Color to find exciting color combinations. Just go to Window > Color Themes > Explore to find some inspiring color swatches to use in your projects.

adobe color themesadobe color themesadobe color themes

3.2 How to Use the Gradient Tool in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (7 mins) ↗

In this section, you’ll learn how to use Illustrator’s Gradient Tool to apply and adjust gradients to objects. We’ll take a plain document and give it a colorful gradient background.

I’ll also show you how to get gradient color inspiration from a site called Grabient and copy the color values into Illustrator.


Useful Resources

4. Type and Fonts

4.1 How to Use Type and Fonts in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (10 mins) ↗

Now let’s see how to work with text in Illustrator. I’ll show you how to use Illustrator’s Type Tool and how to choose the font color, style, size, weight, and spacing.

type tooltype tooltype tool

You’ll learn the differences between point type and area type boxes. You’ll also learn how to use Adobe’s Typekit system to find exciting new typefaces for your projects. See how to add and change fonts in Illustrator, and much more.

5. Effects and Patterns in Illustrator

5.1 Liquifying and Distorting in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (11 mins) ↗

How do you apply effects to shapes and typography? In this part of the course, you’ll learn how to use the Liquify Tool in Illustrator and how to distort text in Illustrator. You’ll also learn how to cut, twist, and explode your artwork in creative ways.

warping text in illustratorwarping text in illustratorwarping text in illustrator


You can find the Warp Tool and other liquifying and distorting tools by clicking and holding on the Width Tool in the toolbar to reveal the dropdown menu.

warp tool menuwarp tool menuwarp tool menu

5.2 Bending and Warping Shapes and Text

Watch video lesson (7 mins) ↗

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to bend and warp your Illustrator artwork. This feature will allow you to transform simple shapes into radically creative designs. You’ll also see how to warp text in Illustrator.

distort shapes in illustratordistort shapes in illustratordistort shapes in illustrator

You can create different effects by selecting your shape and going to Effect > Warp. Then you’ll see a range of effects that you can apply with a single click!

warp effectswarp effectswarp effects

After you’ve applied an effect, the Warp Options window will open automatically. There you can adjust the values to customize your effect. Simple!

warp optionswarp optionswarp options

5.3 How to Make a Pattern in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (12 mins) ↗

Now, you’ll learn how to create a pattern in Illustrator. This pattern can then be used as a repeating pattern—great for backgrounds, wallpaper, fabric prints, and wrapping paper.

We’ll start with the logo we created earlier, and flip it upside-down…


Then we’ll go to Window > Pattern Options to turn this logo into a repeating pattern:

repeating patternrepeating patternrepeating pattern

And finally, we’ll rotate and duplicate our logo to make a more complex pattern:

complex patterncomplex patterncomplex pattern

Want to learn more about patterns? Watch this free course:

Adobe Illustrator Patterns: A Basic Guide

  • Use Illustrator’s built-in patterns
  • Create your own patterns
  • Understand the Pattern Options panel

Prefer a ready-made solution? Check out the huge selection of beautiful patterns on Envato Elements.

5.4 How to Vectorize an Image in Illustrator

Watch video lesson (11 mins) ↗

Illustrator is often used for vector artwork. But did you know you can easily create vector artwork from a photo, just by using the Image Trace feature? We’ll look at how to use it to create a few different effects:

Useful Resources

6. Exporting

6.1 Exporting for Print and Web

Watch video lesson (11 mins) ↗

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to export your artwork from Illustrator. You’ll learn how to get the best results when you print from your artwork as well as exporting your images for online/web uses. See how to export as a PDF from Illustrator, how and when to export an SVG file, and more.

Although it seems logical to use the File > Export option, it’s actually better to use File > Save As to save your file as a PDF. Then you’ll see the following options.

exporting pdfexporting pdfexporting pdf

I’ll go through all the options you need to choose, and we’ll look at a few different scenarios such as exporting different types of projects, exporting for print vs. web, etc.

7. Conclusion

7.1 What Next?

Watch video lesson (2 mins) ↗

You’ve reached the end of the course! You’ve now learned so much more about how to use Adobe Illustrator than you knew at the start. In this final lesson, we look at what the next steps could be in your learning progression.

Explore the Illustrator add-ons on Envato Elements to take your work to the next level. You’ll find hundreds of premium brushes, layer styles, and more.

Learn More About Adobe Illustrator

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of Illustrator, the logical next step is to learn something more advanced. The perfect choice is Dan White’s Advanced Illustrator course:

Advanced Adobe Illustrator Tutorial | FREE COURSE

  • Advanced shape manipulation
  • Creating 3D artwork and lettering
  • Creating vector graphics with textures and depth of field
  • Mastering the Mesh Tool

After that, check out some of these awesome Illustrator videos:

We also have a massive library of free Illustrator tutorials here on Envato Tuts+. Here’s just a small selection:

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