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Illustrator tutorials: The best lessons to sharpen your skills

Illustrator tutorials [Image: Chris Spooner]

The best Illustrator tutorials will help you get more from Adobe's flagship vector art programme. Whether you’re designing a simple icon set or a complex illustration, Illustrator has a feature set to help you. We've rounded up the best Illustrator tutorials to guide you through different use cases and help you expand your skills. 

Illustrator remains the industry's favourite tool for vector-based design, despite increasingly strong competition from the likes of Sketch and Affinity Designer. For more about what it can do, take a look at our Illustrator CC 2019 review.

Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, you’ll find high quality, free Illustrator tutorials here for you. Use the quick links opposite, or the drop-down menu above to navigate to the right level for you.

Once you've got to grips with how to use Illustrator, it's worth thinking about how you can boost the software. Take a look at our roundups of custom Illustrator brushes or and Illustrator plugins to help customise the tool to suit you.

Don't have Illustrator? Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud here, or take a look at our roundup of free alternatives to Adobe CC software (ideal if you're short on cash or just starting out in design).

Illustrator tutorials for beginners

This entry-level series of Illustrator tutorials teaches you the basic tools and techniques you need to get started with the software. Discover the ins and outs of the Illustrator workspace and learn how to open and save your images.

Get started

01. Illustrator basics in 3 minutes

Totally new to Illustrator? Then first get a quick overview of what it can do and how to use it, in this short and snappy video tutorial from Daniel White, aka Danksy. Get up and running in three minutes flat.

02. 10 essential Adobe Illustrator CC2017 tips

Although this excellent collection of tips was designed with the 2017 release of Adobe Illustrator in mind, it has relevance beyond that version (note, however, that previous builds don't support the rounding corners and join tool that are used in the tutorials). As YouTube user 'bobacks' comments: "Amazing tips. Even after 19 years of usage, I learned some new things."

03. Drawing with the Pen tool

The Pen tool is one of the most powerful drawing tools in Illustrator. With it, you can create and edit anchor points that make up paths. In this tutorial, you’ll learn the fundamentals of drawing with precision using the Pen tool, to create straight and curved paths.

04. Create and edit shapes

Illustrator tutorials: create and edit shapes

This tutorial introduces you to the process for creating and editing shapes in Adobe Illustrator CC using the Shape tools. Learn how to draw, combine, and trace shapes using the sample files provided.

05. Create with drawing tools

Illustrator tutorials: Create with drawing tools

This tutorial walks you through the concepts of Paths and Curves in Illustrator CC and introduces the tools you need to create and edit them, including the Pencil and Curvature tools.

06. How to use the Color Picker

Illustrator tutorials: colour picker

The Color Picker allows you to select and apply colours to your artwork in Illustrator CC. This six-step tutorial demonstrates how to do so.

07. Add text to your designs

Illustrator tutorials: add text to your designs

This beginner-level Illustrator tutorial introduces you to the basics of using text in Illustrator CC. You’ll learn how to add text, apply formatting, reshape and style it, and place it on or inside a path.

Creative techniques

08. Masking in Illustrator

Masking, ask you probably know, is how you hide or reveal different parts of an image or graphic. In this Illustrator tutorial, you'll learn about three different masking techniques: Clipping mask, opacity mask, and draw inside. 

09. Transform and edit artwork

Illustrator tutorials: transform and edit artwork

In this tutorial you’re walked through the basics of transforming and editing artwork in Adobe Illustrator CC. Learn how to resize artwork, use groups, align objects and more using the Selection tool, Transform panel, and other transform tools.

10. Get to know drawing tools

Illustrator tutorials: drawing tools in Illustrator

Illustrator has a wide variety of drawing tools found in the Tools panel, each allowing you to create in different ways. In this tutorial, you’ll gain an understanding of the Pen tool, Pencil tool, Curvature tool and Paintbrush tool.

11. Practise creating with the Pen tool

Illustrator tutorials: Pen tool

Once you’ve covered the fundamentals of the Pen tool, these exercises will help you practise your Pen tool skills by creating new artwork.

12. Change colour and strokes

Illustrator tutorials: Change colour and strokes

Discover how to apply colours to your artwork in this Illustrator tutorial. You’ll also be introduced to how to change an object’s colour, create swatches and recolour artwork.

13. Draw and edit curves using the Curvature tool

Illustrator tutorials: draw and edit using curvature tools

The Curvature tool in Illustrator CC enables you to draw smooth, refined curves and straight lines easily. This tutorial offers five simple exercises to help you understand how to use it. 

14. Add images and artistic effects

Illustrator tutorials: add images and artistic effects

This tutorial begins by explaining the basics of adding images to your projects in Adobe Illustrator CC. It then walks you through how to add and edit effects, apply brush strokes, and more.

15. How to duplicate objects around a circle

Spencer Martin, aka Pixel & Bracket, dishes out some great beginner tips here during a tutorial that describes how to duplicate objects around a circle using the transform effect to create a non-destructive repeated shape. 

16. Create and Edit Gradients

Illustrator tutorials: create and edit gradients

This introduction to working with gradients in Illustrator CC explains how to create different types of gradients and modify options such as colours, position, and opacity. This is great for creating basic gradient effects. Note that new freeform gradients have been added in the 2019 Illustrator update, and these aren't covered here. 

17. Create art with the Paintbrush and Pencil tools

Illustrator tutorials: Paintbrush and Pencil tools

With the Paintbrush tool, you can draw a path and apply a brush to the stroke at the same time to give paths an artistic look. This tutorial explains how to use the Paintbrush and Pencil to create expressive, freeform drawings.

18. Edit paths in Illustrator CC

Illustrator tutorials: edit paths

Learn how to edit the paths in your artwork using a variety of tools and options, including the Pen tool, Curvature tool, Anchor Point tool, and others.

19. A guide to Pathfinder Shape modes

There are four different ways to combine basic shapes in Illustrator: unite, subtract, intersect and exclude overlap. In this two-minute tutorial, Dansky runs through how to use each one. 

20. Combine shapes in different ways

Illustrator tutorials: combining shapes

Shapes are the building blocks of an illustration. This tutorial explains how to create complex shapes by combining simpler ones, using the Shape Builder tool and Pathfinder effects.

21. Overlap artwork with drawing modes

Illustrator tutorials: create artwork

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the drawing modes, Draw Inside and Draw Behind, to easily and quickly add interest to your artwork.


22. Organise content with layers

Illustrator tutorials: Organise content with layers

Here’s a great beginner-level introduction to layers in Adobe Illustrator CC. You’ll discover how they work, what they’re for and how to use them to create, edit and organise content.

23. Explore the Essentials workspace

Illustrator tutorials: explore the essentials workplace

Learn how to customise your workspace using the Properties panel in Illustrator CC, allowing you to find and use the right controls when you need them. 

24. Arrange artboards

This super-speedy video tutorial from Dansky walks through how to easily arrange your artboards in Illustrator. An essential skill if you're to stay neat and organised, and keep your focus on your design work.

25. Work with artboards

Illustrator tutorials: work with artboard

This tutorial explains the function of artboards in Illustrator CC, which are similar to pages in InDesign CC or Microsoft Word. Watch the three videos and you’ll soon learn how to create multiple artboards and edit them.

26. Shortcuts to speed up your workflow

Illustrator tutorials: Illustrator shortcuts

If you’re not using shortcuts, you’re not maximising your productivity. Here’s a great list of Illustrator shortcuts for handling layers, selections, text and more, along with some handy hints for brushes, saving and closing, and viewing options. 

Export and share work

27. Shortcut your logo design exports

In this helpful video tutorial, Dansky walks through how to streamline the process of exporting your logo designs. Creatives will be well aware of the hassle of exporting logos in a range of different sizes and formats for different client needs, but Dansky has created a helpful free pack to make things easier.

28. How to share artwork

Illustrator tutorials: how to share artwork

Learn the basics of sharing in Adobe Illustrator CC in this tutorial. Topics covered in this guide include how to share files, how to save them as PDFs, and how to export your images.

29. Export high-quality, optimised SVG

Illustrator tutorials: export SVGs

Once you’ve created your vector artwork in Illustrator CC, you need to export it. This tutorial explains how to export lightweight, modern SVG (scalable vector graphic) files.

30. Export assets for web and app design

Illustrator tutorials: export assets for web

It’s important to be able to share your assets with others in different formats. Since 2015, Illustrator CC has offered an option to export higher quality SVG artwork for use in web and app projects. This tutorial explains how to do so.

Next page: Intermediate Illustrator tutorials