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:
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
(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 may have seen Paper Works, our monthly print design 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.
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.
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).
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.
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 class.
I’d love to know if you create with Illustrator and what your favorite uses are. Let’s chat in the comments!