Adobe Illustrator for Bloggers – Illustrator 101 and how to easily crop photos
Adobe Illustrator for Bloggers – Illustrator 101 and how to easily crop photos
Welcome to the first post in our blog series, Adobe Illustrator for bloggers! This series is geared towards you bloggers who may not have a lot of experience with graphic design. Our goal for this series is to get you guys comfortable using Adobe Illustrator, and to make your graphic-creating process easier! You can either watch the video, or follow the step by step instructions in the post.
Quick Illustrator 101
New doc + understanding the difference between print & web
Let’s get started with a new document. Press command+n on your keyboard, or go up to File > New. This will bring up the ‘New Document’ window. Let’s go through the options:
- Name. It’s essentially what it says. This will be the name of the file, use this to help keep track of what this file is for.
- Size and units. We’re working with a custom size here. 900x900px is great for getting started. You’ll want specific sizes for different graphics, like 600x1200px for pinterest, a square for Illustrator etc. Units goes hand in hand with size. For web use, we’ll be using pixels. Your blog template or design reads measurements in pixels, in fact all websites do, so we’re going to keep this consistent. If you were working on something that would be printed, you would use inches.
- Bleed. Bleed is extra space around the file for print designs. It’s essentially where the paper will be trimmed, and you need more space on the edges to compensate for that. We won’t be using bleed, since we’re working for the web.
- Advanced options- color mode. Color mode is an important practice in the design world. You can choose from RGB or CMYK, which is files for the web, or for print respectively. Screens (your computer, your iPhone, your TV etc.) view colors in an RGB colorspace. They use red, green, and blue squares to ‘mix’, or display, colors. CMYK is for printing. If you’ve ever changed a printer cartridge, you’ll see the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (K) ink. This is how your printer mixes & prints colors. We’ll choose RGB, since these graphics will be on the web.
- Raster Effects- This is another difference between print & web files. Screens rasterize images at 72ppi (ppi stands for points per inch), it’s pretty lo-res compared to print. If you save images for the web with any higher of a dpi, you’re just wasting server space on your blog. For print, higher res files will result in a higher quality print. You have to balance out file size, and higher resolution however. We’re working with web based graphics, so choose 72dpi.
- All of the other options look good, so we’re going to click on OK.
Let’s go over some of the tools we’ll be using.
- Moving around within the file. Press on your spacebar, and click and drag to move the screen around. This is helpful when you’re working on multiple graphics. The zoom tool should be in the bottom left corner of your screen. When the tool is selected & you click on your file, it zooms in. The keyboard shortcut is ‘z’. To zoom out, press on option on your keyboard and click anywhere on your artboard.
- Selection and direct selection. Other tools we’ll be using are the direction & direct selection tools. The selection tool is the black arrow, it should be at the very top of your tool bar. When the selection tool is in use, you can click on specific graphics, photos, or text to select them & manipulate them. You can also click and drag. The keyboard shortcut for the selection tool is V. The direct selection tool is the white arrow underneath the black arrow. This tool will let you select specific points on object, and will let you select specific objects within groups. We’ll be using these two tools quite a bit.
- Rectangle tool & elipse. The rectangle tool is found in the left sidebar, if you click & hold on the rectangle, it’ll fly out with more shape options. Let’s get some shapes on your artboard, click on the rectangle, or press ‘m’ on your keyboard. Click and drag on your artboard to create a rectangle. Once you release your mouse you’ve created a rectangle. To constrain the proportions to a square, press ‘shift’ on your keyboard while clicking and dragging. The same goes for the elipse. Press ‘shift’ while clicking and dragging to create a perfect circle.
Fill & stroke
- Fill refers to the color of the shapes interior. Think of the paintbucket tool in Photoshop.
- Stroke is the outside line around the shape. You can change the colors by selecting the shape, clicking on either the fill or stroke swatch in the bottom/top left, and either using the swatch panel, or double clicking to edit the colors. To change the stroke width of a shape, click on the ‘stroke panel’ in the right panel, and use the arrows to change the width.
- If you don’t want a fill or a stroke on your shape, you can click on the top left stroke or fill swatch, & click on the thumbnail of the white box with a line through it. Easy!
How to crop photos into custom shapes
- Go ahead and dupliacte your artboard if you haven’t already. (Shift+o for arboard mode, option+click and drag to duplicate).
- Let’s create a square (m for rectangle + shift & click) on the left, and a circle (e for elipse + shift & click) on the right.
- Select the square by pressing v on your keyboard, and let’s give it a black fill & no stroke. Up in the top left of your screen, click on the fill color. Click on the black swatch. Now click on the stroke thumbnail, click on the white box with a red line through it. Great! We’ve got our black square.
- Let’s bring in a photo. Find your photo on your computer, and drag it into illustrator. You’ll see an x through the image. This means that the image isn’t embedded into the file, it’s linked. This creates problems when images are moved around your computer. Photos can become ‘unlinked’, and lost. Illustrator won’t know where to find the photo.
- We’ll need to embed it. Select your photo, and click on ’embed’ in the top bar. This brings the photo right into the file, it does make the file larger, but it’s worth it to me.
- Select your photo and drag it over to the square. With the photo selected, you can click on the corners to resize the photo. Make sure to press ‘shift’ on your keyboard to constrain the proportions.
- Position the photo to approximately where you’d like it to be cropped.
- Right click on the image, and hover over ‘arrange’, then select ‘send to back’. This will arrange the photo behind our black box.
- Using the selection tool, now click and drag to select both the box and the photo.
- Right click, and click on ‘make clipping mask’. This will crop your photo to the square that was on top of it! It’s looking good!
- Let’s do the same steps for the circle. Drag your photo into Illustrator & embed it. Using the selection tool, position the photo approximately where you’ll want it.
- Select the photo, right click, hover over ‘arrange’, and click on ‘send to back’.
- Now select both the photo & the circle by clicking & dragging with the selection tool.
- Right click and click on ‘make clipping mask’. Looking good!
- Format. There are tons of different file types you can select from. File types that you’ll use for your blog graphics are JPG, PNG, and GIF. Let’s select PNG here.
- Artboards. Check the ‘Use Artboards’ box. This will acknowledge the separate artboards on your file. We’ll be checking the ‘All’ box, but if you wanted to use a range of artboards, you can do that too. Click on Export.
- Additional options. This pops up a PNG options box. This is going to be similar to setting up the new document. Resolution should be 72ppi since we’re using this for screens. Change the anti-aliasing to Art Optimized, since we don’t have text on these graphics. Click on OK.
Katie @ Katie Jarman
I’m Katie! An illustrator, photographer, and creator. I spend my days illustrating custom portraits, and designing cutting files for paper crafting. When I’m not working, you can find me grubbing around in the garden, or off on an adventure with my husband & our dog. I enjoy fresh cooking, art, live music, and enjoying nature.