5 things you didn’t know you could do in Illustrator

We reveal some of the hidden secrets of Adobe's vector drawing software.

If you work in design, chances are you use Adobe's vector drawing software Illustrator. If you've never done so, then a great place to get started is this great collection of Illustrator tutorials. For the rest of us, in this article we look at a number of ways to enhance your creativity and your productivity...

01. Create glowing text

One effect which can add a lot of power to an object is a glow. This is especially effective with text. To begin, select File>New.

In the New Document dialog box, choose Web as the profile and click on OK.

Next, set the fill to Black and draw a rectangle which covers the entire working area. Lock it in place and name the layer Background.

Next, go to the Layers panel and create a new Layer. Name it RGB Cyan Text. Activate the Type tool and type out a block of text (Impact at 200 points).

Click on Edit>Copy to copy the text. Go back to the Layers panel and create another layer. Name it RGB Blue Text. Click on Edit>Paste to paste the text into the new layer. Fill it with RGB Cyan.

Here is what the process looks like in the Layers panel.

Next, select the RGB Blue text and drag it on top of the RGB Cyan text, making sure the Cyan text is completely covered (use keyboard arrows for precise positioning). Select the RGB Cyan Text (Select>Next Object Below or Select>Next Object Above). Click on Effects>Blur>Gaussian Blur.

In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, enable the Preview checkbox and set the blur for 10 pixels and watch what happens. You can experiment with this setting to attain the glow effect that you desire.

02. Create a specular glow

This is another variation of a glow style from the old multi-image days, where we created special effects with pin-registered cameras, enlargers, and film. The specular effect makes your glow seems like it's alive and it's easy to create. For this effect, a drawing tablet is good to have, though you can still create the effect with a mouse.

Go to the RGB Blue Text and RGB Blue Cyan layers and change the text to 'Specular." Use the Eras Bold ITC font and change the point size to 110.

Next, go to the Layers panel and create a new layer. Name it Scribble and position it under the RGB Blue Text layer. Activate the Scribble layer and click on the Paintbrush tool. Make sure the Stroke is set to Black and then start scribbling in the layer.

It should look like this.

Select the Scribble. Go to Effect>Blur>Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, enable Preview and set the Radius to 4 pixels and click on OK. After that, go to Window>Transparency to activate the Transparency panel. Set the mode to Multiply.

You should get something similar to the effect above. If too much of the glow is suppressed, reduce the amount of scribbling and then apply the Gaussian Blur again. You might also need to use more blur. Test out values of 6, 8, or even 10 pixels.

If you want to intensify the glow effect, select the RGB Cyan text layer then click on Effect>Blur>Gaussian Blur. A message will pop up letting you know that you will be applying another instance of the blur. Click on the Apply New Effect button and create another Gaussian Blur.

03. Create a drop shadow

A variation of the glowing effect is to create a drop shadow. To get started, create a new document (File>New), select Web as the profile and click on OK.

Click on the Fill icon on the top menu bar and select black, then activate the type tool and type some text for the drop shadow effect.

Making sure the text is still selected, start dragging it and press the Alt key to duplicate it. Fill the duplicate text with RGB Green. Drag it so the text creates a bit of a drop shadow effect with solid black text below.

Select the black text (Select>Next Object Below) and click on Effect>Blur>Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, enable the Preview checkbox and set the blur to 4 pixels and click on OK.

Now you can move the drop shadow to achieve the position you desire. For precise positioning, use the arrow keys.

04. Reshape Objects with Live Corners

New for Illustrator CC 2014, Live Corners allows you to reshape anchor points of a path into one of three corner types: rounded, inverted rounded, and chamfer. Here is how it works.

Draw a shape (in this case a star). Set the stroke weight to 5 points.

Making sure the shape is selected, click on the Direct Selection tool. Note the icons that appear in the screen shot above. These are the Live Corners widgets.

Click on the widget near the point of the triangle and drag it inwards. The red line indicates when the maximum shape has been reached.

Double-click on a widget to open the Corners dialog box. Here, you can set the type of corner, the radius and the rounding. Click on OK to accept your changes.

05. Create transparency with overlapping shapes

This is a useful technique if you want to create transparency between shapes. To begin, simply draw a series of overlapping shapes and fill them with the colour of your choice.

When that's complete, select all of the images. Go to Window>Transparency to bring up the Transparency palette if it's not already active. In the Transparency palette, set the mode to Multiply and the transparency to 70. This will give you a nice effect.

As you can see, there are some really cool effects you can create with Illustrator. If you've stumbled across a cool Illustrator tip or technique, why not share it with the community in the comments below?