Illustrator Tips and Tricks 2020 Cover Image

Illustrator Tips and Tricks 2020 - How to improve your workflow with Adobe Illustrator?

ILLUSTRATOR | Updated: 17th February 2020 | Author: Lukasz Adam

I am sure this will sound familiar to you. You open up Illustrator, start creating your shapes but somehow things don’t look like you want them to look like.

Maybe you have missed something?

But most of the time you are on the right path.

There are small things that can make or break a design and the same goes for Adobe Illustrator.

Today I want to show you some small 2020 tips and tricks I have learned along the way. With this guide, you will be able to improve your workflow and you will start getting better with Illustrator day by day.

Table of content

What is Adobe Illustrator good for?

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based software for those who want to create vector-based graphics. It is available through Adobes Creative Cloud and it is one of the most popular software from Adobe along with Photoshop.

Check out Adobe Illustrator.

The main advantage is that with vector-based artwork, your SVG files will look crispy clear on every device and for every resolution.

There is so much you can do with Adobe Illustrator, no matter what you want to create, there are tons of features and options which will make it very easy.

You just need to know them and that is why I am here for 🙂.

Illustrator Tips and Tricks 2020

Why have I started using Illustrator?

One of the biggest reasons was that I didn’t want to rely on others when it comes to my illustrations and Icons.

Today I can say one thing about Illustrator: it is the number one reason why I’ve become a better web designer.

An incredibly powerful tool.

It’s also a nice feeling. After I have created something, I can do whatever I want. I can publish it wherever I want, without thinking about the license.

I can even give my illustrations away for free.

gift icon for my free illustrations

Actually that is what I did here: Free Illustrations.

So today I want to share a few of these tips, which will help you to get more out of Adobe Illustrator. In the end, you will be able to use these tips, to create something you always wanted.

Let’s just dive in with my illustrator tip #1

01 Before anything else, start sketching.

Let me tell you what I did in the beginning.

I just started to create shapes.

Click and drag, a circle here - a rectangle there. It was good to get to know how Illustrator works, but it surely didn’t help me to create better Illustrations and Icons.

So I started to sketch things out before creating them.

Here comes another secret. First I did it with Pen and Paper.

I sketched something, I took a picture of it and then I imported it to Illustrator. Then I could re-do all the shapes and lines.

Problem was, It didn’t look right at all. Not only I felt uncomfortable with the whole process, but it also took me way too long to create something that looks good.

But I wanted to create good Illustrations so badly.

Desperate as I was, I just started to sketch with my mouse.

I didn’t have any special mouse at all, it was some basic thing that you get everywhere for a few dollars.

To my surprise, things changed very fast. I was way more comfortable to sketch things with my mouse and then directly creating the shapes with Illustrator.

sketch made with adobe illustration
Illustration made with Adobe Illustrator.

But there is one important thing to consider when doing so.

Do not sketch with a bold black line. Instead, create a light and thin brush. I use a magenta color for this and I set the opacity to 0.5.

brushes made with adobe illustration
Brushes to sketch with in Adobe Illustrator.

This way my sketches look way better.

You can even choose another color and use the second one for your shadows.

So what is the main point here?

I am not saying that the mouse is the only way to start sketching. I think most of the people won’t even like it.

But it surely helped me along the way. For you maybe a drawing tablet is the better option. No matter what you chose in the end, always sketch things out before creating them. This will improve your workflow immediately.

02 Shadows and Highlights

If I would need to pick one thing, which differentiates basic illustrations from premium ones, it is shadows & highlights.

Let me show you what I mean.

I’ve once created an Avatar Illustration for a friend, here is what it looked like without highlights and without shadows.

illustration without shadows and highlights
Pretty boring in my opinion.

And now the exact same Illustration, except I’ve applied some light and some shadow.

illustration wit shadows and highlights
What a difference highlights can make!

Big difference, right?

And it is very easy to apply. You simply need two darker and one lighter version of your base color.

But how to find that color? Very easy, let me show you.

03 Use the right colors

As a beginner, I just picked random colors. I wasn’t aware that there are colors that can make or break my design. I didn’t even know, that I can find the right colors right here in Illustrator, without using a third-party tool or any other website.

Not only you can find the right colors, but you’re also able to choose from different harmony rules depending on what you want to create.

Today I know and in a minute, so do you.

Open up Illustrator, click on “Window” and then color guides.

color guides in illustrator
color guides in Adobe Illustrator.

This command will open up this tool right here.

harmony rules
harmony rules in Adobe Illustrator.

Now you can select a color as a base color, choose a harmony rule and Illustrator will do the work for you.

Nice, isn’t it?

But what’s up with all the harmony rules, which one should you choose?

There are many different harmony rules. You can choose between complementary colors, Split complementary, Analogous, Triadic and also Monochromatic.

For now, you can stick with complementary colors, these should give you a pretty nice range of colors which you can use for your Illustrations and Icons.

Later along the way, try to get a feeling for the other harmony rules as well. They will surely be of great help to your designs.

04 Use the shape builder tool

After you have done the sketching, it is time to create your shapes. Like this:

shape builder illustrator

To create something in Illustrator, you have basically two options. You can either use the pen tool and draw the lines or you use shapes to combine them into something you want. I use both methods.

I am not saying that one is better than the other, but if you struggle with your mouse or your graphic tablet, try the shape builder tool.

It is so easy, that this could be a clickbait title and people would still love it.

Let me show you.

Let’s say you want to create a cloud. Now, you can pick a brush and just draw the lines until you’ve got the cloud, but this will surely take longer than using the next method.

Let’s do this instead.

Create a circle, then create three more.

Create a rectangle.

Combine them.

In the end use the shape builder tool.

building shapes with adobe illustrator

That’s it. You’ve got the perfect cloud icon. Try this method, it can save you a lot of time.

05 Bonus Tip: Don't overthink!

This applies to many aspects of life, but it is especially true for creating and designing.

Overthinking makes you slow, it stops you from being creative and it stops you from improving your artwork quickly. Actually, it doesn’t really do any good at all.

Let me tell you how I created an illustration once.

After I was finished, pretty happy with the result, I was ready to close and save the Adobe Illustrator file. But instead, I started to overthink the colors, the shapes and everything else there is to the illustration.

In the end, I absolutely disliked the completed artwork. Even I was happy with it a few hours before.

Sounds crazy?

That is overthinking. You can’t see clear and stuff that actually was pretty good becomes bad.

The next day, I realized the artwork was actually really nice and not only it was nice but I was also really happy with it.

Also, I realized very fast, the one thing I should change was the shadow. I didn’t even see that the day before.

So my advice on what to do in this situation:

So that’s it for now. I hope these tips will be helpful to you.

I will make sure to add other tips on this list, so if you want to stay in touch with me, check it out from time to time.

Thanks for reading and if you have any suggestions, please let me know.