Do you have Adobe Illustrator on your computer?
Are you still making figures in PowerPoint?
If you just answered yes to those questions, allow me to bring you back in time a little bit to express how I'm feeling. Were you ever late coming home to your parent's house as a teenager and arrived home to your mother clutching a phone with the county accident report line on speed dial and your dad sitting in a chair with a fixed stare at the front door meant to melt a hole trough it? If yes, then you know the look I'm giving you right now. You know you're wrong and that I'm disappointed, I don't even need to say it.
So what is it going to take for me to get you to actually get off your ass and try the powerful tools you have at your fingertips but refuse to open? Clearly your manual spontaneously combusted in a tragic fire a few months back, so it looks like I'm going to have to pull you kicking and screaming through this.
Over the next little while I'll be posting pointers on how to get started with AI, but you'll need to do a little exploration yourself. I am not an expert with this program and learned it entirely myself, so others may be able to provide useful hints that I can't. However, I often get compliments on my figures, and I can assure you that no one is referring to my swimsuit bod.
Today's lesson is the first thing you will need to recognize in AI, the spy vs. spy arrows.
One is white, one is black and they sit side by side at the top of your toolbar. They are critical to everything you hope to accomplish, so get to know them. Know them well.
But before we get into their function, you'll need something yo play with. Open a new document and select the shape tool from the toolbar (likely a shaded box if you haven't changed defaults). Click on your document and drag in a diagonal direction. Congratulations, you've made a box.
Feeling good? Alright, let's do something with it. You might notice that your cursor is still a cross. This will allow you to draw more boxes, but if you want to play with the one you made you will need to chose an
weapon arrow. Since the black one is on top, let's start with that one.
Clicking on the black arrow should give you white boxes around the perimeter of your box. If not, click an edge.
By hovering your cursor over one of those boxes you should get a bidirectional arrow that indicates the direction that you can move that side. For instance if you go to the box at the top, you'll get an up/down arrow and you can move that side up or down (extending or compressing the lines on the sides). Grabing a corner will make the box bigger or smaller. You may also see a rounded bidirectional arrow that will indicate that you can rotate the shape. If you click on the shape anywhere away from those boxes or in the middle, you can move it around your document. That is about it for the black arrow.
See, this isn't hard.
Now the white arrow. This tool is a little more complicated, but you can do a lot with it. Choosing the white arrow should give you white boxes at the corners of your shape.
Clicking on one of those boxes will cause it to become a black box. Grab it and move it.
ZOMG! You fucked it up! (I assume that this type of grade school flash back is the primary barrier to people playing with this software)
It's okay, breathe. The white arrow allows you to grab and move certain (black boxes) points, while leaving the others (white boxes) as anchors. You can drag your cursor to grab more than one box and move those points while leaving the others.
Notice the two filled boxes here on the left side allow me to move those while keeping the "white" corners in place. As always, "command Z" (or whatever you use on a PC) is your friend. It will undo anything you do.
If you want to get crazy, try playing with a circle. To make a circle, go back to your toolbar and click and hold on the little black corner of the shape icon (lower right). That will bring up a submenu of different shapes (all of the tools that have a black corner have submenues under them). Make a circle just like you made a square and see what the different arrow tools do with it.
You have no just scratched the surface of what AI can do. In the next post in this series we'll get into colors, fills and shading.