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If you already use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Indesign, the workspace we are presented with in Adobe Illustrator will be familiar to some extent. There are basically eight elements to the interface. The first is, of course, the graphic image itself on the art-board. This sits on the Canvas, a white or grey area surrounding the page. Here we can create extra elements of the artwork, to be used or discarded later.

Illustrator's Tool panel or Toolbox is located on the left-hand side of the interface, and contains all the tools you'll need to create stunning artwork in Illustrator. Users familiar with other Adobe software will recognize this layout - indeed many of the tools are the same from program to program.

A very useful tool among the many in Adobe Illustrator is the Blend tool. Specific contexts would be when you need to create a custom border for a design; or when creating an interesting background to a web banner. The usual method of creating a blend of two or more colours is to select the Fill colour of a shape and add either a Linear or Radial blend via the Gradient tool, the Gradient panel and the Swatches panel.

We can add dynamism to our Illustrator artwork by the simple means of adding a drop shadow. The image shown here, for example, was first collaged in Adobe Photoshop from several photographs, then imported into Adobe Illustrator via the File menu and Place. We then used the Image Trace function to redefine the bitmap (pixel) information as vector artwork.

We often create graphs using software like Microsoft Excel, or, for more sophisticated features, Python or Octave. However, we can also create fully-functioning graphs within Adobe Illustrator. To experiment with Illustrator's graphs features we first go to the File drop-down menu and create a new document.

The term Bleed is used within the printing industry to indicate the "safe" area outside a document to ensure that our artwork will be printed to the edges (or Trim Edge) of the paper, card or vinyl. Many printing companies will specify a number between 2 and 5mm bleed for small to medium print jobs, and possibly 10-15mm for larger print work.

The first step is the creation of a new document within Illustrator, establishing the width and height of the document. We are presented with a drop-down list of various Preset page sizes - these can be for either Print or Web output. In the former we would use millimeters or centimeters; in the latter case, we would use pixels as the unit of measurement.

When it comes to creating professional illustration, Adobe Illustrator has been the world-leader in graphics programs for the past 15 or so years. Specifically geared towards creating vector graphics, Illustrator is used in several industries, including graphic and web design, as well as fashion design and interior design.

When we create artwork using Adobe Illustrator we are creating vector-based shapes or graphics. This is geometry based on mathematical calculations and equations. Such lines, curves, anchor points and colours are generated in quite a different manner than the pixel-based imagery of programs like Adobe Photoshop, which are known as bitmap graphics.

Many people ask the question concerning which program to use: Illustrator or Photoshop? The truth is that all programs have their strengths and weaknesses. And both programs perform best within their own realm of expertise. There are basically two types of graphics programs with the main difference as to the method in which they store their digital data.


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