My Favorite Illustrator Tips for a Faster Workflow

Just recently, I had the opportunity to work on our team’s shirt design. Illustrator has always been my tool of choice when it comes to doing print work, but before we dive into some tips, let me share with you the completed design.

toaster-v2-final001.jpg

Why a cereal box? This is actually spin off of a previous design, “I eat data for breakfast.”

toaster.jpg

The team wanted to maintain “breakfast” as a theme and our Data lead, Martin, suggested the idea of a cereal bowl with 1s and 0s. My co-worker, Michelle, came up the clever name, “Hadoop Loops”, pertaining to the database framework the team uses.
Now here are a few of my favorite Illustrator tips in no particular order:

Live Corners

It’s pretty easy to set rounded corners by clicking Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners then setting a value for the radius. The problem with this is the lack of control and the addition of rounded corners to areas you don’t want them added to. With Live Corners, you can manually add rounded corners to certain areas of your shape and easily apply them to other areas.
I found this especially useful to achieve the look I was going for with the cereal name. In this design, I used the font Chowderhead from FontDiner. It’s a great font, but I wanted to make it a little less sharp around the edges.
Screenshot 2017-07-30 20.32.55.png
With Live Corners, I can manually round my corners by dragging the nodes using the Direct Selection Tool.
Screenshot 2017-07-30 21.22.38.png
I’d then double-click on one of the nodes to reveal the value of the radius and then assign the same radius to the other corners.
Screenshot 2017-07-30 21.23.20.png
This is particularly helpful when dealing with type because you’re able to manually add rounded corners to the outer edges without it affecting the inside. In this example, notice how I’m able to round the outer corners of the letter P, but its inside remains sharp-edged.
Screenshot 2017-07-31 21.03.09.png

Vector Textures

Textures can really help provide more depth to your designs. In some cases, it may make sense to do them in Photoshop, but I always try to add them in Illustrator for scalability and the ease of manipulating them.
For example, a sprayed shadow effect can easily be done by adding Effect > Texture > Grain > Stippled (Grain Type) to a gradient then Live Tracing it.
Screenshot 2017-07-31 16.20.45.png
Just make sure to add textures as a last step because it can easily result in a behemoth of a file, making it really slow to work with.

Target Layer

This is particularly useful if you want to quickly copy an effect you added from one object over to another. In this example, I added a shadow to the cereal name and wanted to apply the exact same effect to the 1s and 0s. I simply had to activate the Target Layer icon of the object with the effect and dragged it over to the other object while holding the alt key.
Screenshot 2017-07-31 20.47.13.png
This quickly applies the exact same effect to the other object with just a single step.
Screenshot 2017-07-31 20.53.21.png
Feel free to give these a shot if you don’t use them already. Illustrator can be a pain to work with in the beginning. It just takes some getting used to!

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