Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Adobe Illustrator Letters Tutorial, part 1

Well my new equipment has finally arrived!   I can't wait to go set it up and to start cranking out some t shirts!  While waiting patiently for my package to arrive, I figured out how to take screen shots, and I prepared the following Illustrator tutorial.  Enjoy!

As an Adobe Illustrator newbie, the hardest part about the program has been drawing with the Pen Tool, Arc Tool, and anchor points.  Until like yesterday, I was pretty darn freaked out by anchor points. 
On my long list of things to do, was to make my own alphabet font.  This was a daunting task because of my fear of anchors, so I decided the best way for me to do it was thru the Live Trace function.  By the time I got to 'Z'  I realized I could do the whole thing without Live Trace, just using the Arc Tool and anchor points.  The the first part of this tutorial will show you how to get your original hand drawn letters into Illustrator with Live Trace, because I LOVE LIVE TRACE and think you will too!
Second part will be about how to manipulate the lines with the Direct Select tool, and how to draw the lines from scratch with the Arc Tool.
If you are new to Illustrator, then I hope this is clear and easy and that it helps you figure stuff out!

This is what my original letters looked like after scanning and opening the jpeg file up in Illustrator.  I used File-Place to get it into Illustrator.

This is what they look like after Live Trace and Expand.  There are different settings you can choose when tracing depending on what your original image is.  I used a simple trace,  but you can play around with different settings to see what looks best with your image.  Photos need to be traced at different settings then drawings, etc....
Once you have traced, you can retrace at a different setting.  You can keep trying different settings until you find one you like.  When you like it, hit EXPAND ( its to the right of the live trace button).  This gives your trace the anchor points it needs to be manipulated.

At this point all of the letters are not separate images, they are all in one group. 
Select the whole thing and do Object-ungroup.   
Re select on the background and hit delete.  This should just remove the background, that you can't see.
Now you can grab each letter, as well as delete the ugly stuff around them.

Now you're ready to go in and manipulate the letters.  Some of these letters I used pretty much as is, others looked pretty funky so I used them as a guide and re-drew over them, then deleted the original.  You don't have to have the original drawing to do this, most people who are familiar with Illustrator don't start with a trace, but it's a nice guide to have when learning about anchor points.

The thing about Live Tracing a line drawing is you end up with 2 outlines.  For the letters, I pulled out the inside outline shape, and discarded the outside outline.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial! I use Illustrator too, but am always learning new things. I am a member of the Bay Area Licensing Group too, so perhaps I will see you at the meeting this Saturday.

  2. Thanks Steven for checking it out! See you Saturday!

  3. I've gotta try your tutorial. I've been working in photoshop only and am dying to learn the illustrator program. It's so confusing to me!


  4. Fabulous of you to share your knowledge - thanks for a great tutorial of your process!

  5. So glad you linked in this tut on artsee bloggers. I have to sit down with Illustrator (which I haven't used yet!) and try this - I love it!