Adobe Illustrator Foundations

Pick up a fun and useful set of skills while social distancing! Adobe Illustrator Foundations will introduce the application to new users and level-up those already familiar with the program through practical exploration. The course will begin with an overview of the application workspace and core concepts before quickly turning to an exploratory model where students become proficient in drawing and shape building. Students are responsible for furnishing their own computer and licensing their own software for the duration of the course.


Bryan Boone teaches Adobe Illustrator Foundations a 10 week class online 6-8 pm Mondays January 11 through march 22


You must have Adobe Illustrator and a Mac or PC that can run it well. I strongly recommend you have the latest CC version. You can subscribe to Illustrator for the duration of this course for about $60.


Adobe Illustrator | $20.99/month
We will be using Illustrator, obviously.

Unsplash | Freely-usable images
We will work with bitmaps, AKA photos or images too! Unsplash is a source for free-to-use images. See their license for details.

Grabient | Pretty gradients
Need some color inspiration? Gradients are pretty and trendy too. Grab a gradient here.

Behance | Adobe portfolio site
Dig around for inspiration and ideas. User-generated content, so keep that in mind.

General Thoughts

  • Let us please be kind, thoughtful and patient with each other. We’re working with the video format and there will be hiccups and mistakes.
  • The first day will be a lot of talking, but we will move quickly to more doing.
  • Toggle between Zoom and Illustrator. Mac: Command + Tab / Windows: Alt + Tab
  • If you stump me — and this will happen — we’ll do some learning together, which is more fun anyway.


1Students will gain an introduction to the Adobe Illustrator workspace and toolset by learning basic shape building and drawing.
2The class will move beyond basic shape building with the introduction of additional drawing and color tools. Students will design a logo.
3The class will start a website banner project and learn how to mask objects and create gradients.
4To complete the project, students will apply and adjust text along with design elements. The class will conclude the project by properly exporting the drawing.
5Students will learn about compound shapes by designing an abstract paper cutout. We will also cover shape distortions and effects.
6The class will start a poster design project where students learn about color modes. Students will learn additional drawing skills and to make repeating patterns.
7Students will continue the poster project and learn new typography skills, including typing on shapes. Students will conclude the project by exporting for print.
8Through an art illustration project, students will learn how to vectorize images, new drawing techniques and how to use color themes to build pallets from color rules.
9The class will learn several workflow enhancements and shortcuts. Students will synthesize the skills they have developed and apply them to individual capstone projects for screen or print.
10Students will conclude their capstone projects and discuss with the group.
Illustration of a person hiking with abstract representations of Adobe Illustrator drawing tools around them

Daily Schedule Plan

SessionTarget DurationTarget Start Time
Welcome106 PM
Session 1356:10 PM
Break156:45 PM
Session 2457:00 PM
Check in157:45 PM

Weekly Agenda & Notes

Week 1

  • Before class: Download course files from the Dropbox link Oklahoma Contemporary sent you.
  • Introductions
  • Navigation and get to know the workspace
  • Shape building
  • Homework Assignment: Bring a sketch of a logo design or one you want to copy. And some colors you want to use! Use Adobe Capture, your scanner, or just take a photo for your sketch. For color, get hex codes (example #3c2fa5), save an image from the web, take a photo or use Adobe Capture and save to your Adobe Library.
Cartoon dog and cat
Navigation 1Workspace, Properties, Toolbar, LayersFoundations of moving around the workspace. Get to know the panels and tool locations.

Understand the difference between bitmap and vector art.

Get a feel for the breadth of tools and shortcuts. Know that there is more than one way to work, that we will go over a few and students can choose the ways they prefer to work as the course progresses.
Navigation 2Space + drag to move, Z to zoom, Option/Alt + Z to zoom out.

Be able to move around in the workspace.
Shape Building 1: Shapes & linesRectangle, Ellipse, Line, Polygon, Selection Tool, stroke and fill box

Properties Panel for shape parameters

Properties Panel for arranging

Object > Arrange > Send To, Bring To.
Learn that everything builds off of shapes and lines.

Color shapes and lines with fills and strokes. Apply stroke weights. Dial in exact parameters with the Properties Panel.

Order and reorder objects.
Color 1Fill/Stroke Box, Color Panel introduction
Basic introduction to using the Fill/Stroke box and three modes.

Drawing 1: Drawing basics — Curvature ToolCurvature ToolDraw more naturally with the curvature tool. Make fine adjustments.

Week 2

  • Pen Tool
  • Shape Builder
  • Arrange, align, transform and group, snap and Smart Guides
  • Copy/Paste and Paste in Place
  • Eye Dropper and more color options
  • Libraries
  • Homework Assignment: (Revised) Download the course files for Week 3 and a stock photo from or your own stash.
Illustration of a robot
Drawing 1: Drawing basics — Pen ToolPenPen Tool: the original drawing tool.
Shape Building 2: Layers and compound shapes
Shape Builder, Pathfinder

Layers Panel, Arrange Panel

Align and Distribute Panel

Edit > Copy/Paste, Paste in Place, Paste in Front

Alt + drag to duplicate

Object > Transform
Use tools to combine and subtract shapes to create complex shapes.

Arrange shapes and turn on and off snapping.

Align and distribute objects.

Copy and paste objects and arrange them so you can use the Shape Builder

Groups and Isolation Mode.
Color 2: Eyedropper and Color GuidesEyedropper Tool,
Color Panel additional information, Color Guides Panel
Sample colors from objects and bitmaps and change and swap stroke and fill colors. Set colors using the Colors Panel.
Save colors from a Guide as a Swatch
LibrariesLibraries PanelUse Libraries to store colors, patterns and assets across documents easily. Build folders for personal projects, client work, or moods

Week 3

Note: homework was revised for this week. Download the course files for Week 3 and a save a photo to use in the banner. Use a photo of your own or download a stock photo. Course files will be ready by noon on Monday, January 25 in the Dropbox. You can get free, high-quality stock art from
  • Gradients
  • Swatches
  • Clipping Masks
Artboards and PresetsArtboard Tool, File NewUse Artboards for layouts. Use the modern New screen to select common setups.
Color 3: GradientsGradients PanelCreate and modify gradients.
Masking 1Clipping Masks

Object > Clipping Mask > Make/Release
Creating clipping masks for vectors and bitmaps.

Gradients Practice — Break Out Session Notes

  1. Draw a rectangle the same size as the Artboard.
  2. Use the Smart Guides to line it up perfectly. You can check it in the Properties Panel. Drawing should be registered at 0,0 and be 1920 px wide by 1080 px tall
  3. Change the Fill to a gradient, leave Stroke blank
  4. Use colors from your chosen swatch to set the colors.

  5. Play with Gradient Tools to get it the way you want.

Clipping Masks Practice — Break Out Session Notes

Part 1 — Shape

  1. Create a new layer — Layer Panel > Panel Menu > New Layer
  2. Draw a funky shape along part of your design that extends off the artboard
  3. Draw a rectangle that is the same size as your artboard.
  4. Select the funky shape and the rectangle
  5. Object > Clipping Mask > Make

Part 2 — Image

  1. Create a new layer — Layer Panel > Panel Menu > New Layer
  2. Place your image — File > Place, then choose your image
  3. Draw a shape for a mask
  4. Select the image and the shape
  5. Object > Clipping Mask > Make

Week 4

  • Typography
  • Line qualities
  • Pencil Tool, Brush Tool/Brushes
  • Export for digital
Typography 1: FundamentalsType, Type Area, Point Type

Character Panel, Paragraph Panel
Type and the differences between Type Point and Type Area and how to convert.
Select and modify Type, change paragraph and character options.
Drawing 2: Line qualityBrush, Pencil Tool

Properties Panel for strokes

Object > Path > Join
Draw and smooth the Pencil and Brush.

Draw more complex lines, modify widths and profiles, apply Caps, Corners, Dashed Lines and Arrowheads.

Make organic shapes and add texture to your line work
Exporting 1: Exporting for digitalFile > Export > Save As, Export for Screens, Export AsUse the Export options for web, video, apps, and other digital.

Typography Practice — Break Out Session Notes

  1. Set a Point Type on your guide near the top of the art. Make up a title for your banner.
  2. Pick a font and adjust the size. Go for a title with some presence
  3. Set a Type Area below the title. Use the default text or type up a little blurb
  4. Adjust the font, size, and play with options.
  5. Bonus, create a more advanced Type Area that has an interesting shape

Lines Practice — Break Out Session Notes

  1. Draw a few solid shapes using the Pencil Tool. Use a solid fill color from your Swatch and no Stroke.
  2. Draw some lines around your shapes or wherever you want in your design with the Pencil or Brush Tool. Use a Stroke from your Swatch or a high contrast color like black or white and no Fill.
  3. Adjust the parameters of those lines. Stroke thickness, profile, dashes, etc. Pick the elements you are most interested and try those.
  4. If you are interested in Brushes, try several Brush Libraries from Window > Brush Libraries or the Brushes pallet window.

Export Notes

  • Asset Export — Window > Asset Export
    • Great for quickly exporting some art regardless of Artboard
    • Drag objects in to make “assets”
    • Option (Alt) drag to make several objects into one asset
    • Set export scales/formats you want and click Export
  • Export for Screens — File > Export > Export for Screens
    • Great for carefully exporting whole Artboards out at multiple scales and setting complex naming options.
    • Select one or more Artboard
    • Choose and export location
    • Set up one or multiple scales/formats
    • Set a filename prefix if you want
    • Click Export to save them out

Week 5

Let’s take break from projects and just warp stuff and learn some more tricks for lines.

  • Warp Tool
  • Effects
  • Turn lines into shapes
    • Width Tool
    • Outline Stroke
  • Compound Paths
Distortions and EffectsWarp Tools and the warp family of tools

Effects > Illustrator Effects

Object > Expand Appearance
Contort and smash up shapes using Warp tools.

Distortions change actual shapes by altering Anchor Points. Effects are preview rendered until expanded.

Apply Illustrator effects.

Understand how the Appearances are applied and modified for live effects.

Expanding an Illustrator Effect creates a vector.
Drawing 3: Combining drawing and building lines into shapesObject > Path > Outline Stroke
Width Tool
Turn your modified lines into outlined shapes.
Masking 2Compound Paths

Object > Compound Path > Make/Release
Cut out and combine shapes and retain the ability to edit the individual shapes in the Path.

Warp Tool Exercise Notes

  1. Open from the course files
  2. Make sure the Warp Tools layer is visible and unlocked an the other layer is neither
  3. You must turn on the Advanced Toolbar first:
    1. Click the … at the bottom of the Toolbar
    2. In the Fly-out, click the pallet’s menu and select Advanced Toolbar
  4. Click and hold on the Width Tool to find the Warp tools
  5. Try out the Warp tools on the ice cream cones

Effects Exercise Notes

  1. In the file, make sure to show and unlock the Warp Effects layer and hide and lock the Warp Tools layer
  2. Play with Warps and Distortions & Transformations
  • Warp effects are under Effects > Illustrator Effects> Warp
  • Distortions are under Effects > Illustrator Effects > Distort & Transform
  • Effects are Appearances and can be changed after being applied through the Appearance Panel. Double-click and Appearance effect to reopen the dialog box and edit.
  • To commit an Appearance, go to Object > Expand Appearance
  • Photoshop effects are too much for our time today, but apply raster (pixel) effects. They turn vectors into images when applied.

Width Tool Exercise Notes

  1. Create a new blank document using the Print preset for Letter
  2. Draw some lines and use the width tool on them
  3. If you want, use File > Place to insert the Lettering PDF file from Course Files into the document, lock it on a layer and draw on top of it

Compound Path Exercise Notes

  1. New Document: File > New and choose Letter from Print.
  2. Get a Color pallet going by opening the Window > Color Themes panel
  3. Click the Explore Tab and find a theme you like
  4. Click the … and then Add to Swatches
  5. Now draw a rectangle the size of the Artboard
  6. Duplicate that rectangle until you have five. Use the Layers panel’s menu to Duplicate or Copy and Paste in Place
  7. Make each rectangle a different color from your swatches. Use the little target button next to each rectangle to select it since they are all on top of each other.
  8. Draw out some shapes with the Pencil Tool or your favorite drawing tool. Make a series of four shapes that become smaller each time.
  9. Feel free to have some overlap for interest
  10. Rearrange your layers so each shape or blob is over a rectangle
  11. Select pairs of blobs and Rectangles using the object target in the Layers panel
  12. Use Object > Compound Path > Make once each pair is selected. You will do this once for each of the four pairs.
  13. Rearrange the layers so the solid “base” rectangle is on bottom
  14. Next on top of that is the smallest blob, then the next smallest until the widest one is on top
  15. Select all and go to Effects > Stylize Drop Shadow and play with settings

If you think Compound Paths are cool, and want to get into advanced territory, here’s the complete Adobe help article on combining shapes.

Week 6

  • Transformations
  • Patterns
  • Color Modes
  • Print file setup
Color 4: Color ModesFile > Document Color Mode > RGB/CMYKUnderstand the difference between RGB and CMYK.
TransformationsScale Tool, Rotate and Reflect Tools

Object > Transform >
Scale, rotate and reflect objects.

Transform Each and Transform Again.
PatternsPatternMake repeatable patterns and apply them.

Transformation Notes

  • You can use Shift to constrain Rotation and Reflection tools to 45 degree increments. Use Option / Alt to duplicate
  • Click to move the rotation/reflection point or click, hold and drag to move.
  • Find transformations under Object > Transform > …
  • Transform Again is Command + D / Control + D

Pattern Notes

  • Window > Pattern Options
  • Use the panel’s menu to create a new Pattern.
  • When you create a Pattern, you’re creating a type of swatch.
  • You can then use it as a fill or stroke.
  • Double-click the swatch to open it as an editable pattern.
  • The art you used to create the pattern remains as regular art, separate from the copy turned into a pattern swatch.

Print File Setup Notes/Homework

  • File > New and use the Tabloid (11” x 17”) preset under Print.
  • Change to Inches instead of Points, keep CMYK color and add 0.125 (1/8) inch bleeds all around.
  • The project is up to you to design with the skills you have learned, but here are some ideas:
    • Create a color palette with your own colors or found colors.
    • Use Point Type to create headlines and subheads.
    • Use Type Area to make paragraph text boxes.
    • Create design elements with shapes, lines and patterns.
    • Add images.

Week 7

  • Precision drawing using the grid
  • Recolor
  • Type on Paths
  • Create type outlines
  • Save for Print


Start thinking about your capstone project. It could be illustration, print, web, whatever.

What do you want to accomplish as your final project? What do you want to try why you have a friendly community around you to ask questions and solve problems?

Drawing 5: Precision drawingGrid, Snap to Grid

Object > Path > Join
Use the Grid to draw with precision.

Connect Paths with Join.
Color 5Color Themes Panel
Discover and built color themes and use color theory

Recolor art with Recolor
Typography 2: Modifying textType on Path
Type > Create Outlines
Convert text to shapes to break apart and modify text.
Exporting 2: Export for printFile > Save As
Use Save As to create PDFs. Use the PDF dialog to specify things like bleeds, crop marks and optimal settings for print.

Grid Notes

  • Turn on the grid with View > Show Grid — near the bottom of the menu
  • Turn on snapping with View > Snap to Grid
  • Set up the grid preferences in the Preferences dialog. Look for the Guides & Grids section. Mac: Illustrator > Preferences. Windows: Edit > Preferences

Export Notes

  • Saving to PDF is like saving your document, not exporting.
  • File > Save As…
  • Choose PDF from the Format options at the bottom of the window.
  • This opens the PDF dialog with loads of options.
  • I recommend High Quality Print
    • It flattens layers
    • Sets PPI/DPI at 300 for image compression
    • I recommend turning off “Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities” as it will reduce file size

PDF embeds all images and fonts, but to be really sure your text comes across exactly as you have it, and to prevent clients or others from messing with it, you can outline the text. I recommend doing this on a copy. For example, my typical print workflow goes like this:

  1. Finish up work on a document and use Save as… or Save a Copy to duplicate my work. I save this one with the word print in the name, usually at the end like “Poster –”
  2. I outline all text (select all text, Type > Create Outlines)
  3. Remove any extra layers, guides, anything not in the final visual product
  4. Then either package the file or save as PDF, depending on the client or printer’s request.

Week 8


Start work on your capstone project! We’ll discuss any issues you’re having in Week 9.

Vectorize BitmapsProperties Panel: Quick actions > Image Trace/Expand Appearance

Import a bitmap and run an Image Trace. Explore the outcome of different presets.
Commit a trace with Expand Appearance
Drawing 4: Blob Brush ToolBlob Brush Tool

Draw with the Blob Brush tool to draw shapes freeform.
Distortions and Effects 2: Raster effectsEffects > Photoshop Effects

Rasterize > Rasterize
Apply Photoshop effects.

Expanding a Photoshop effect creates a bitmap.
Color 6: OpacityOpacity and Blend ModesChange the opacity elements and alter blending modes.

Week 9

  • Workflow tricks and keyboard shortcuts


Keep working on your capstone project. Not working out? There’s plenty of time to correct course.


No skills table for this week. We’ll run through lots of keyboard shortcuts and workflow tricks. 


Week 10

You did it! We’ll share our experiences and art from our capstone projects.