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18 ways you can use Adobe Illustrator in everyday designing

If you’re not familiar with Illustrator, you may think (based on its name, alone) that it is used primarily for illustrating.  And maybe to the professional user, that might be true. But for all of us who just need a program we can use to create for our everyday needs, Illustrator is the absolute best, too (read more of my illustrator love story here)

To show you just how versatile the program is and all the ways I use it on a regular basis, I’ve come up with 18 ways to use Adobe Illustrator in your everyday creating.

Here they are, in no particular order:

18 ways to use Adobe Illustrator in your everyday / jones design company

digitize lettering

Turn your handwriting, calligraphy or fancy lettering into a digital image you can use for print with Illustrator’s Image Trace tool.

(Serve One Another in Love print available to download here)

You can also turn your hand-lettering into a digital file you can overlay on photos.

shebelievedwindow

(see the full step-by-step process here)

   

make your own invitations

Save money and get exactly what you have in mind by creating your own invitations for parties, weddings, baby announcements and more. I spent the first 5 years of Jones Design Company creating custom invitations using programs other than Illustrator and I wish I had known the program then to streamline the process and open up more design options.

(Audrey’s 4th birthday invitations. See more here)

   

make your own holiday cards

Along the same line as making your own invitations is creating your annual holiday card. Give a simple photo an extra bit of personality with a printed greeting or be more elaborate with a folded, double-sided or accordion design.

   

create color inspiration boards

When you are looking for colors that look great together, grab a favorite photo and use the Eyedropper tool to pick colors. You’ll end up with a set of beautifully coordinated colors. I love using this technique when creating artwork or a logo and wanting a concise color palette, but it is also great for coming up with a color scheme for a room you’re decorating in your house.

colors-from-flowers

   

create design boards

This is great for those who are in the interior design business, but even if you’re just wanting to get a good idea of how a room will look put together (or what components you need to add), using Illustrator to compile design ideas on one board helps immensely.  I use a combo of Photoshop (for removing backgrounds from photos) and Illustrator to put the whole thing together.

nursery design board for the little lady / jones design company

See more inspiration boards: boys’ room | dream bathroom | Audrey’s room | happy entry

This method works great for putting together a visual source guide, too!

(living room source graphic as seen on this post)

Design Blog Graphics

I use Illustrator in nearly every blog post I publish. Adding arrows, creating collages, making title images (like the one above) that are good for pinning, numbering or just adding a simple illustration.

   

make collages

Grab a handful of photos and turn them into a basic collage.

You can also cut out photos into shapes (below) or even words (like this).

18 Letterers to follow on Instagram / jones design company

 

When I published this post about my favorite letterers, several people asked if I used a template to create the graphic. Nope. I just used the shape tool in Illustrator and cut out the image using a clipping mask. It looks complicated, but I assure you, this type of graphic is quite easy.

design logos + branding

Illustrator is a perfect program for creating logos + branding collateral (like business cards, postcards, stickers, shipping labels, packaging, invoices, etc).

JDC business card / jones design company

   

make infographics look good

Need an infographic for a project for school or work or on your blog? You can use Illustrator to create consistent, great looking graphics.

(Infographic from the 2013 Blogger Survey. I need to do another one soon!)

   

turn doodles into artwork

If you create a cute little drawing you want turned into artwork, Illustrator is the perfect place to do that. You’ll end up with a vector graphic that can be enlarged without losing its resolution.  This is also great for preserving sweet drawings your kids/grandkids/friends’ kids make. I’ve even turned one of my son’s pictures of our family into notecards (I wish I had a picture to show you. Maybe I’ll take one and post to instagram. They are the sweetest notecards).

In this post, I show you the steps for turning your doodles into artwork in illustrator. This post is fun with a video of the process.

   

customize pre-made clipart

If you find cute clipart that you want to put your own personal touch on (like changing the colors or altering it slightly), you can do that by turning it into a vector and then adding digital papers or fills with the Live Paint Bucket. I walk you through the whole process in this video post.

customizing-clipart

(Easter Clipart found here)

   

design paper, fabric + repeat patterns

Illustrator makes it super easy to create patterns, borders, and even seamless repeat patterns you can use for blog backgrounds, digital paper and fabric. Someday soon, I’d love to create a pattern and have it printed on fabric or wallpaper from Spoonflower. Fun, right?!

(Tags created with patterns I designed)

   

create pdf worksheets, calendars + charts

You’ve likely seen our Paper Works monthly product … well, everything you see there was created in Illustrator. Calendars, art prints, notecards, and charts can be designed and then saved as PDF files that make it easy for users to download and print.

packaged

   

access the extra glyphs and symbols in fonts

Did you know that many nicely designed fonts have extra characters, symbols, swashes and alternates that you can access from the Glyph panel in Illustrator? It truly opens up hundreds of new options with fonts you may already have on your computer. I show you how to find them in this video post.

   

create wallpapers + backgrounds

If you like to change out your computer wallpaper or phone screens, Illustrator is a great place to create pretty backgrounds for your digital needs. These make great freebies, too! So if you have a blog and make a few wallpapers for yourself, feel free to share them with your readers. When creating wallpapers, just set your artboard to your phone screen size (google will tell you what it is) and save as a jpg. Email or airdrop the image to your phone, save the image and set as your wallpaper. You can do the same on your computer desktop or ipad.

ipadbike

   

create silhouettes

There are a handful of ways to create silhouettes, but I’ve found Illustrator to be a convenient place to outline photos and turn them quickly into great looking silhouettes. Here is a video showing you how I make them in Illustrator.

(framed silhouettes up the stairway)

   

make templates, stencils + patterns

When I initially did my painted wallpaper in my office, I used Illustrator to take my rough, hand-drawn pattern and make it symmetrical.  It’s also great for creating envelope templates, sewing patterns and outlines of letters (for banners or monograms).

   

illustrating

And, of course, we can’t leave out illustrating. Drawing with Illustrator’s pen tool, pencil tool and blob brush tools make it enjoyable to make simple (or complex) illustrations. You can be fancy and use a wacom tablet, or just use your mouse.

download-ingredients

(Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe found here)

double-line-tiny

Phew! See how amazing Adobe Illustrator is?! There are so many uses for the program and the more comfortable your get creating in it, the more times you’ll find uses for it.

   

If you’d like to learn all the basics – seriously, even if you are a very beginning beginner – you will love the online Simplified Graphic Design classes.

register-yellow

double-line-tiny

I’d love to know if you create with Illustrator and what your favorite uses are. Let’s chat in the comments!

45 Responses to 18 ways you can use Adobe Illustrator in everyday designing

  1. tasha roe March 24, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    Hi!! I have adobe suite, but its 4. is that compatible with the videos?

    • emily March 25, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Yes! There are some slight changes to the look, but most of the functions are the same.

  2. Mary Borgsmiller March 20, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    Will you offer this class again this summer? I am a teacher and would like to do it in the summer when I have more time. I want to be able to give it my all. I have already subscribed but haven’t even touched the program.

  3. Julie @ Off to the park March 16, 2016 at 6:40 pm #

    Sounds like a fantastic beginners class! Illustrator has been something I wanted to learn for a long time, but as a SAHM who isn’t earning a salary, I haven’t wanted to spend a fortune on a enrolling in a graphics design course (which can cost @ $10,000 AUD). I might have to save up and join this class :)

    FYI, I noticed the Illustrator trial is only 14 days on the Adobe website (here in Aus, not sure if its the same for the States) not 30 days.

  4. Gracia Gilbertson March 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    Hi Emily,
    I signed up for the Blog class in January. Your initial link landed in my spam box and I could not retrieve it. My email was then hacked and all of my inbox disappeared as well. I have sent you several emails, asking for a new email with the link for the blog class, but have not heard from you. My credit card has been charged monthly so I would so appreciate a response. I so want to take your class! Warmly, Gracia at Graciousoffering@aol.com.

    • emily March 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

      Hi Gracia,

      I just forwarded your email to our support team. I’m so sorry we haven’t replied sooner! Look for an email today …

  5. Rita March 15, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Hi. I have Adobe Illustrator CS5 Version 15.1 that came with Photoshop package that I bought 5 years ago. I never used it. Would this work for your class? Thanks.

    • emily March 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

      Absolutely! I recorded many of the videos on CS5 before upgrading to Creative Cloud. There are a few changes to the software, but most of the functions are the same!

  6. Ashley March 15, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    Hi, Emily! Was just wondering if you can buy Adobe Illustrator as a software program to keep, not to rent/month on the Cloud? What is the best version, of so?

  7. Angela March 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    As a designer myself, I love Illustrator and use it in combination with InDesign for great results. I like InDesign for any kind of typesetting (business cards, invitations, etc). However Illustrator is the best for logos, creating masks, etc. Love the idea of this class! :)

  8. LeAnne March 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    This is such a great post! My teenage daughter is interested in taking it but should probably wait until the school year is over. When do you plan to offer it again?

    • emily March 14, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

      We are rotating through each of our classes and offering them about once per quarter. So the graphic design classes will be available again sometime during the summer.

  9. Kendra March 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    Awesome tips! I have been in such a Photoshop rut and I know that I could be freed up a ton by just learning illustrator. Thanks for the motivation to start learning!

  10. Stacy March 14, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    Hi Emily!

    Do I understand correctly that Adobe Illustrator is a subscription? Where’s the best place to find out what our additional costs would be outside of your class fee?

    Thanks! :D

    • emily March 14, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

      Yes, Adobe Creative Cloud is where you can get Illustrator. It is a subscription for $19.99 per month or you can get all of the Adobe products for $49 per month.

      • Stacy March 15, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

        Thank you! I forgot to say….I loved this post! It was really fun to see how much you can do with the program. Thanks for putting this all together.

  11. Tonya March 14, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    I’m curious how you get clear jpgs in Illustrator? I do all the promotional materials for our small church on Illustrator, which I’m very much still a beginner, and while pdf works for printing posters, I occasionally need something to be saved as a jpg. It is maddening to put so much time into making it just right only to have it end up blurry after I save it!

    • emily March 14, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

      The main thing is making sure your artboard is set up as the finished size. So if you need the printed size to be 5×7, set your artboard to that size. There can be a resolution issue, so you can always make your finished file larger than needed.

  12. Abby March 14, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    I have a 13 year old who is interested in graphic design. Too young for this class?

    • emily March 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

      Not at all! I’d love to have you in class. My son, who is 12, has watched many of the videos and he can follow along. This would be great for you, Abby!

  13. Megan Walsh October 2, 2015 at 5:55 am #

    Hi Emily,
    So this is the most chuck-filled, info post, ava! Loooooove it!,
    I was sitting on the fence regarding illustrator and I have officially jumped off!
    So here is my question……received adobe elements as a gift years ago and have done nada with it! I suppose that baby is now eligible for “antique” status? Would it be oh so wise of me to just purchase from the cloud? Ya know start fresh, cuz gosh I feel bad that I wasted that fine gift years ago.

    And one more….how long of a time commitment is involved with your class?
    Loving you and your beautiful peeps
    Thanks
    Megan

    • emily March 14, 2016 at 10:32 am #

      Hi Megan! I really like the Adobe creative cloud subscription option. You get the most updated software and can choose which programs you want. I say upgrade!

      The class is about 3.5 hours in total, but broken up into 12 videos. You can go at your own pace so there is no rush to finish in any certain amount of time.

  14. Kelly June 11, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Emily,
    I sent the link to my hubby with a hint that I would like this class for my bday but he sadly missed the deadline. I know you offer it periodically…any idea when you will offer it next?
    Thanks,
    Kelly

    • emily June 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

      The next session of the graphic design class will open September 2nd! Sorry you missed this round, but we’ll be ready for you next time!

  15. Shelly June 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    Just signed up for the course last night! I can’t wait to get started! I’ve already used your silhouette tutorial with great success (see link below) and am looking forward to all the new techniques I am sure to learn.

    http://shellymade.com/silhouette-tote-bag-tutorial/

    • emily June 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

      Those totes are darling! So glad you are enjoying the tutorials.

  16. Mary June 5, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    Is the only way to buy Illustrator is through the cloud?

    • emily June 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

      Yes, this is now how Adobe offers their programs. The benefit is that you will always have the most updated version without having to purchase new copies!

  17. susan June 5, 2015 at 6:55 am #

    Hi Emily, Any chance you’ll do another class more in depth showing how you create some of these examples?

  18. Rebecca June 5, 2015 at 4:05 am #

    Hi! I really want to register for the course, but I cannot get started for 3 weeks. If I register, can I log in in three weeks and start then? Or is it something that has to be started right away? Thank you!!

    • emily June 5, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

      You can take your time! There is unlimited access once you register, so just login and begin anytime that is convenient for you.

  19. Kelli June 4, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Hi Emily, I was curious if you have ever used Photoshop Elements and what you think are the disadvantages to using Photoshop instead of Illustrator. I *think* I could do all the above in Photoshop, but maybe it’s way easier in Illustrator??

    I’d love to have your insight.

    Thank you! Kelli

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

      I have not used Elements, but I do use Photoshop fairly often. Yes, you can achieve many of the same techniques with Photoshop as there are many crossovers between the Adobe line of products. The main difference is that Photoshop is great for editing and manipulation images and Illustrator is best for creating graphics and images with it’s vector capabilities. Both are great and both have their limitations. If you can do everything you need in Photoshop, keep going! But if you find that there are functions you want to do that are not available in photoshop (like accessing the glyph panel, live trace, scaling images without losing resolution) Illustrator is your best option. Hope this helps!

  20. Lil June 4, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    This post is chock full of eye candy and links! Thank you!

  21. Allyson @ All Our Days June 4, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    You can also get a huge discount if you’re a teacher (homeschool counts)!

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

      Oh, yes! I should have mentioned that!

  22. Rachael June 4, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    I took the class last month and I’m now officially Illustrator obsessed! I was able to make invitations, banners, and other decorations for my niece’s birthday party and I’m now on the lookout for the next project. So, so, soooo fun to see the designs take shape!

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

      So great to hear! It’s so fun to feel like you have the tools to create what’s in your mind – or what you see on pinterest :)

  23. Maegan June 4, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    I. Love. Illustrator. I do graphic design for work (and I designed a media kit for my sister’s blog), and I always use Illustrator. I had a class where we only learned InDesign, but I like Illustrator much better! I haven’t tried a lot of these things you mentioned, though, so I’m excited to give those a try soon!

    Also, I love your blog so much. It is what I hope my blog could be someday! ;)

    http://runningwithrandom.com

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

      It’s pretty fun, yes?! So glad you can learn a few new things! And thank you for your sweet compliment on the blog.

  24. Gray June 4, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    WOW!!! Thanks for all of that! You.are.the.best. I was going to ask the difference with this and InDesign, which my son used, but you sort of answered it above….. THANKS for the info!!!!

  25. Amy Beth June 4, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    I definitely need to learn more in Illustrator, but I’m wondering, do you use Illustrator for all of that? I would think InDesign would be easier for all of the layout portions.

    Sandi – You can also do the curving of a particular font (I’ve downloaded lots of free ones) right in the Silhouette software!

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 10:39 am #

      I do use Illustrator for all of it!

      Many of Adobe’s programs have cross-over and I’ve heard InDesign is great for layout, but I’ve never learned it, so I just do everything with Illustrator.

  26. Sandi June 4, 2015 at 3:52 am #

    I recently bought a Silhouette Cameo with the hopes of making my own typography signs like the ones in your post (I am His, Praise from whom all blessings flow). Would Adobe Illustrator help me create a file with a particular font and then enable me to manipulate the wording (curve the words)?

    • emily June 4, 2015 at 9:28 am #

      Yes! You can definitely curve lettering. I show a simple way to do it in the video at the bottom of this page: https://jonesdesigncompany.com/graphic-design/

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