I’ve always hated that little cartoon that says “better, faster, cheaper — pick any two” and not just because it’s alway accompanied by an awful cartoon of doughy little men doubled up laughing. (I’ve always been influenced by bad graphics, perhaps overly so.) It’s a fact of life, especially these days, that we need to be able to do things more quickly than ever and to keep costs as low as possible, but it does not necessarily follow that the only way to do so is to reduce the quality as well. In fact, it might be argued that quality is even more important now because you don’t want to risk alienating a repeat client or a potential customer just to save a buck. As we all know, among the best ways to work faster (and, therefore, cheaper) are those that make the computer do a lot of the work for you and/or remember frequently utilized tasks.
Adobe Illustrator is an amazingly powerful tool, so much so that I’m alway finding new ways to use it, often by accident. I will look at something — a photo, some other piece of art, maybe even an actual 3D right-in-front-of-me thing — and try to see it in terms of how I could recreate it in Illustrator. Sometimes it will involve using Gradient Mesh to get a photorealistic effect, other times it will mean reducing it to basic geometric forms to convey the impression of what I’m seeing. Every new trick or observation adds to my arsenal of skills, even the ones that don’t work out as I’d hoped.
In this blog I hope to share some of the ways I’ve learned how to make Illustrator make me look good. Get yourself a good-sized external drive, because a lot of it involves building a library of Brushes, Symbols, Graphic Styles, and Swatches and you will be compiling a vast inventory of images and templates. (It might even eventually cover ways to actually catalog your work so you can call items up when you need them; there are a lot of image collection resources out there in a variety of price ranges.)
I will also be sharing ways I’ve streamlined my workflow, shortcuts I’ve learned, and each week I hope to include a free download of some Illustrator element that ties into the topic of the post, starting with this one, a Symbol I originally posted to the Adobe Exchange community a few years ago that this past year has turned up all over the web. If you’ve missed out on it somehow, now you can have your own string of lights to deconstruct and enjoy!
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