Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard vector drawing tool, and is used for a wide variety of print and web publication uses. Adobe Illustrator training is one of the trifecta of useful skills to put onto your resume as a web developer, along with experience with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Flash. Getting the basics down on any one of the three of those skills is a useful graphic design seminar setting. We’re going to cover Illustrator in this article, future articles may cover Photoshop and Flash. We’re covering Illustrator because it’s somewhat the ‘forgotten step child’ when it comes to working within the web developer’s daily routine, which is a shame, because it has a lot to offer.
The most useful tool in Illustrator for most web developers is Live Trace, which is a tool that will import an existing bitmap or raster image and convert it to a vector format. You can specify how sensitive the transformation is, and whether to use solid fills or gradient fills on the conversion. There are two benefits to converting a raster image to a vector one. The first is scalability; you have a lot more flexibility in manipulating a vector image without it getting compression artifacts or pixilated. The second is that vector formats are generally easier to animate for Flash and Shockwave.
Most Adobe Illustrator training will focus on the drawing tools in Illustrator; while there are limited drawing tools in Photoshop, once you’ve grown accustomed to the flexibility Illustrator has to offer, there’s no going back. You can create effects using Bezier curve tools, adjust stroke and fill independently, and have the full range of alignment and adjustment tools imaginable. You have access to the InDesign font engine, and the same color matching palette that Photoshop has.next
One of the more interesting tools within Illustrator is the Pathfinder tool set, which allows you to merge shapes, or subtract a foreground shape to make compound artifacts. For example, the usual tutorial shows you how to create a logo from multiple parts by aligning them, then subtracting the attachment points on the front shape and subtracting it from the back shape, creating a ‘star callout’. This is the tip of the iceberg, and when combined with the drawing tools that Illustrator has, allows you to do things quickly that would be very time consuming or labor intensive in Photoshop.
There are other tips and tricks with Adobe Illustrator that are worth getting training on. First, it outputs to both PDF and exports to Flash, which are the two most common interchange formats on the web. While it’s not the optimum choice for it, it can export AutoCAD format files, and quite a few vector formats, as well as being able to export to the web standard raster formats of GIF, JPEG and PNG.