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Back-to-School With 40 Excellent Adobe Illustrator Tutorials

Learning is a process which continues throughout the life of an artist, graphic designer, and illustrator. Along the way, designers find the task of mastering Adobe Illustrator a large obstacle which requires practice and experience in using the vector-based application. Practice comes in the form of tutorials, which offer tips, tricks, and artistic styles from other designers who have mastered certain techniques based on their experience.

From these tutorials, a designer can polish their skillsets on a variety of topics which will strengthen their own artwork. Sometimes a simple tutorial has tips which may have been overlooked based on the subject of the tutorial. By looking past the subjects of the tutorials, an endless array of learning opportunities exist. Essentially, the tutorials become not only a teacher but a “class” which a designer can repeat as often as necessary to refine their skills.

This post presents 40 excellent simple to complex Illustrator tutorials and presents the overall techniques of each tutorial, summarized in a brief overview. The purpose is to pick and choose among the tutorials based on the areas that need improvment. Whether a seasoned professional or a designer just starting out, these Illustrator tutorials offer a way to brush up on one’s skills.

Illustrator Tutorials Link

Gradient Mesh Bell Pepper Tutorial

  • Use multiple smaller Meshes to create a realistic object
  • Learn to use the Eyedropper Tool (I) to sample colors from a reference photo


How to create a Television Icon

  • Using Offset Path on an object
  • Learn to use Gradients to create surface texture and depth
  • Create a reflection using an Opacity Mask


Working with 3D Objects and Transparencies to Make a Vector Cola Bottle Design

  • Learn to “cut” up an image in Pathfinder and use the pieces in 3D Revolve to create solid objects
  • Map art (symbols) onto a 3D object


Create a Stylish Colorful Text Effect in Illustrator1

  • Learn to use Offset Stroke on text
  • Apply a Pattern Swatch to text


Illustrate a Malevolent Skull in 8 Steps3

  • Working with a sketch and outlining with the Pen Tool (P)
  • Use Outline/Preview modes during design process
  • How to use the Reflect Tool (O) to save time


Create A Wood Grain Texture5

  • Use Raster Effects, Live Trace, and Expand to create a texture
  • Learn to use the Warp Tool (Shift +R) to customize a texture


Illustrator ring shape via overlapping crescents effect7

  • Create abstract geometric shapes with Linear Gradients, Align, and Pathfinder
  • Learn to use Smart Guides (Cmd/Ctrl + U)


How to Illustrate a Brain Icon for OSX and Vista9

  • For faster coloring, use the Live Paint Bucket (K)
  • Bonus Lesson: How to turn art into an icon


Create a Realistic Candy Bar in Illustrator11

  • Tips on stacking order for the Layers Panel when using a sketch
  • Create realistic creases in paper
  • Where to place shadows/highlights and why


How to Create a Vector Smiley Icon

  • Working with Radial Gradients
  • Copy design elements for symmetry
  • Learn how to use the Isolation Mode


How to Create a Radial Mesh in Illustrator and Make a Vector CD13

  • Create a radial mesh from a Radial Gradient and the Mesh Tool (U)
  • Learn the finer points of selecting mesh points
  • Create a Clipping Mask


Illustrator full spectrum spirograph15

  • Using the Rotate Tool (R) to create abstract shapes
  • Learn to use Transform Again to save time


How to Make a Cartoon Style Cereal Box Logo in Adobe Illustrator CS317

  • Effectively use Strokes, Align Stroke, and Selection Tool (V) to modify fonts
  • How to use 3D Extrude & Bevel Options to Create 3D Text


How to Create a Gearbox Settings Icon Using Simple Shapes19

  • Use the Rotate Tool (R) to rotate shapes relative to another shape
  • Create a metallic texture using shapes and Radial Blur
  • Design a perforated metal backing using Gradients


3D Effect Extrude and Revolve21

  • Learn to use simple shapes to create a 3D object with Extrude & Bevel


Illustrator Tutorial: Realistic Orange

  • Learn to use Plastic Wrap Effect and Sponge Effect to create an orange peel texture
  • Effectively use Opacity in an illustration


How to Create Semi-Realistic Scissors in Illustrator23

  • Using shapes and Gaussian Blur, create an aged metallic texture
  • Learn to add highlights on metal contours


How to Create a Hippy Van Vector in Illustrator25

  • Trace a photo with the Pen Tool (P)
  • Expand strokes to add Gradients


Illustrator Quick Tips #1 – Complex Symbols with Pathfinder27

  • Use the Gradient Tool (G) to create a 3D effect
  • With the Pathfinder Divide, create abstract shapes
  • Learn to use the Blending Mode Multiply


How to Make a Vector Diamond Ring in Illustrator29

  • Use Pathfinder to create a compound shape
  • Create a metallic finish with Gradients
  • Create a diamond with Linear Gradients


Create Fun, Eye-catching Text with Adobe Illustrator31

  • Use the Free Transform Tool (E) on text to create depth and perspective
  • Highlight and shadow placement on text


‘Women and Cats’ How-To Advanced Tutorial33

  • Learn about shading/highlights in vector portraits
  • Use of Transparency and Opacity Masks


Turn Any Font Into a Sketch Font35

  • Learn to use the Scribble Effect and Roughen to create a font
  • Create a custom Graphic Style


How To Create A Realistic Pendrive in Adobe Illustrator37

  • Learn how to align objects to the Artboard
  • Create a realistic metallic surface using Linear Gradients


How to Create a Rainy Window Vector Background39

  • Create an abstract background with the Mesh Tool (U) and circles
  • Use Gradients, Inner Glow, and Warp to design raindrops
  • Learn to make a Symbol from artwork


Draw a Cute Purse Using Simple Shapes41

  • Modify shapes using the Warp Tool
  • Use Pathfinder Exclude to create new shapes
  • Learn to design a simple pattern
  • Quick Tip: Horizontal Align to align anchor points


Make a Christmas Light Bulb in Illustrator

  • Create a quick glossy orb using Gradients and the Blend Mode
  • Add an image to a round surface using Pathfinder


How to Create Shiny, Vector Dice in Illustrator43

  • Learn to use the 3D Extrude & Bevel
  • Create highlights on a 3D object with the Gradient Mesh Tool (U)


Create a Cute Vector Monster from a Pencil Sketch45

  • Learn to rough in a character using the Pen Tool (P)
  • Use tapered brushes to create a sketch style


Drawing a chinese fan47

  • Create symmetric shapes using the Rotate Tool (R) and Ctrl+D
  • Overlay images using Symbols and Color Burn


How to Draw A Realistic Vector Light Bulb From Scratch49

  • Create a metal thread contact with Effects and Gradients
  • Use the Zig Zag Effect to create wires


Create a Character Mascot with Adobe Illustrator CS4

  • How to set up an Adobe Illustrator file to trace with a sketch
  • Create a Custom Art Brush


Hit the Mark with a Realistic Vector Dartboard51

  • Using Transform Effect to create segments
  • Save time with Live Paint
  • Learn to create bent wire numbers


The Shane Harper way to go Lineless!53

  • Add details to a drawing with the Pencil Tool (N)
  • Alter shapes quickly using the Knife Tool


Illustrator Tutorial: How to Make an Icy Cocktail

  • Simulate “glass” using Color Burn and Gradients
  • Create Water Drops quickly


Create a Simple Vector Creature in Illustrator55

  • Learn to use Guidelines effectively
  • Use the Reflect Tool (O) for symmetry
  • Change end caps on Strokes to alter paths


Create an easy landscape scene in Illustrator57

  • How to use the Crystallize Tool to create shapes
  • Learn to use the Free Transform Tool (E) to create perspective


How to Create a Killer Chainsaw Bunny Character59

  • Learn to trace with vectors
  • Block a character in using the Pen Tool (P)


Blueprint-Style Text in Adobe Illustrator61

  • Use Scribble Effect to create a hand drawn font
  • Learn to use an Opacity Mask with a Gradient


Create a Cute Lipstick Tube63

  • Working with shapes and Pathfinder
  • Learn shading tips for 3D Objects
  • Design a Reflection on a shiny surface


Conclusion Link

These Adobe Illustrator tutorials are just a sample of some of the free learning opportunities available online. Learn to look past the tutorial subject and find what skills the tutorial covers. After all, it’s never too late to go back to school!

Further Resources Link

Footnotes Link

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SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf Barcelona, on October 25–26, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

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Melissa Scroggins is a freelance graphic designer and co-founder of PeachPoPs. She loves designing icons, creating vector illustrations, and playing survival horror video games. Follow her design adventures on Twitter and feel free to send a tweet.

  1. 1

    oh men, this smashing me! :D

  2. 2

    Very useful tuts smashing!

  3. 4

    Nice article, really useful tutorials!

  4. 5

    Some very good tutorials, nice :o) will have to go and play about with some of them…

  5. 6

    Great collection .. thank you! =)

  6. 7


    September 23, 2009 4:09 am

    Very nice collection, but dont’ miss the “Viking Logo-Tutorial”!

  7. 8

    Great…………. :)

  8. 9

    Good collection …thank you

  9. 10

    Exactly what I needed! Thanks :D

  10. 11

    great stuff

  11. 12

    As always…..Very useful tutorial specially for designers who wants to improve their illustrator skills!

  12. 13

    Very helpful, back to Illustrator School ;)

  13. 14

    Caitlin Reynolds

    September 23, 2009 10:10 am

    Awesome article.. I’m going to give the bell pepper and the skull a try when I get some free time.

    Smashing Mag is still kicking ass!

  14. 15

    I can’t wait to try these tutorials at home. You guys rock!

  15. 16

    grate work….

  16. 17

    I think SM post this already…

  17. 18
  18. 19

    Very Useful!!!

  19. 20

    This is just what I am after. Cheers!!!

  20. 21

    Thanks for featuring two of my Illustrator tutorials, very much appreciated! :D


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