If you dream of becoming a graphic designer, some of the key technical skills you will need to learn are digital illustration and vector drawing. Adobe Illustrator is the gold-standard tool used by professional designers to create beautiful and scalable logos, vector icons, and digital art. It is also popular among content creators to produce attractive digital marketing assets.
Designs produced in Adobe Illustrator are used everywhere, from product packaging, infographics, to billboard advertising. Adobe Illustrator allows you to create vector artwork that can be made very small or extremely large without losing resolution or picture quality. Read on to discover the top Illustrator projects to practice your skills and build your portfolio.
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5 Skills That Illustrator Projects Can Help You Practice
Whether you’re just starting out, or are sharpening your Adobe Illustrator skills, the beginner, intermediate, and advanced projects outlined in this article will help you practice the following technical skills. Professional graphic designers and illustrators use these foundational skills throughout their creative process in designing anything from company logos, simple kids illustrations, to marketing media.
- Simple Shapes. Drawing basic shapes is one of the first skills to learn as a foundation for all your designs and logos. Adobe Illustrator offers vector shape tools, which you can find by clicking on the rectangle shape in the Toolbar. Basic shapes can be combined to make more complicated and complete artwork.
- Vector Skills. Vector drawing is what Illustrator is based on. Vector graphics are made from points, lines, curves, and shapes. To draw with vectors, you can use different tools, such as the Pen tool, with which you can create and edit the anchor points in a very precise way and make vector paths.
- Layering. The layers function offered by Adobe Illustrator is very useful to use as an overview of the edits you make in a design. This function lets you place different elements in each layer and activate or deactivate layers. This way, you can add or remove elements without affecting the whole design. It is one of the most useful tools when making any design, especially one that has many details.
- Painting. Illustrator has a wide range of paintbrushes that can be used to create realistic artwork. You can also combine brushes with the fill function to create gorgeous digital graphics. Illustrator offers the most varied range of colors so that you can get unique colors and textures.
- Pathfinder. The Pathfinder tools are extremely efficient in helping you develop unique shapes. The tool allows you to combine different basic shapes to unite them, subtract one shape from the other, intersect, or exclude overlap. Once you learn the basics it’s easier to use than it seems, and will surely speed up your design process.
Best Illustrator Project Ideas for Beginners
If you’re new to digital graphics, Adobe Illustrator can be an intimidating program at first glance. The best way to learn Adobe Illustrator is to practice with small projects to build your foundational vector skills. As you work through the following projects you can also begin to curate a portfolio, as executing and finishing projects will help your creative process.
Create and Edit Shapes
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Simple shapes, vector skills
With the shape tools in Adobe Illustrator, you can draw, combine and trace different simple shapes. It’s a great basic exercise that will help you a lot in later projects. Creating basic shapes that can be used to develop simple icons is a great way to start developing your skills. Adobe Illustrator has a fun tutorial that covers drawing basic shapes and editing them.
Create with Drawing Tools
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector skills
In this design project, you can practice the best tools for making strokes and curves in Adobe Illustrator. With the Pencil tool and the Curvature tool, you can design and edit endless illustrations. You will also learn about paths and anchor points which are key concepts in vector skills, and how to join paths to create a whole shape.
Create an Owl Character Using a Circular Grid
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Simple shapes, vector skills, painting, layer, pathfinder
Learn how to create an owl using a circle grid. You will first draw circles to make a simple grid of circles, and then build the owl figure using only the simple shapes created by the circles in your grid. Finally, you will bring the design to life by adding color to paint your design.
Create an Isometric Illustration
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Simple shapes, vector skills
An isometric illustration is a simple technique that’s very useful for illustrating without using a grid. Apply your knowledge of simple shapes to create a two-dimensional object that visually represents a three-dimensional object. Isometric illustrations are a trending vector graphic style often used in web design.
Create a Set of Productivity Icons
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Simple shapes, vector skills, layers, pathfinder
This step-by-step tutorial by Adobe Illustrator uses the Rectangle, Pathfinder, and Direct Selection tools to make a set of shapes that represent office icons, such as a document, a computer monitor, and stationary. This idea is very useful for many other projects, like creating social media icons.
Best Intermediate Illustrator Portfolio Ideas
Intermediate Adobe Illustrator techniques are great to continue reinforcing your knowledge and learning. Doing the projects in this section will help you improve your Illustrator designs and creative process. Add these projects to your portfolio to demonstrate your skills and show off the designs that prove you have intermediate Adobe Illustrator skills.
Create a Tropical Pattern
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Simple shapes, painting, pathfinder, vector skills
To create a tropical pattern in Adobe Illustrator, you will set up a grid to build elements. You will also use the Shape Builder Tool, Warp Effects, the Pen Tool, the Pattern Tool, and geometric shapes in your creation process. It is a very good project for creating a fabric pattern with applications in fashion design and interior design.
Create a Lettering Postcard
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Sketching, simple shapes, pathfinder, layers.
In this project, learn how to make and decorate a lettering postcard. You will use the Pen Tool and other elements that you consider necessary to decorate the card. The important thing is that you master the lettering technique with the Pen Tool.
Vector Hair With Brushes
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector drawing, sketching
This project is very useful for improving your drawing techniques and making your designs look more realistic. In this project, you will learn how to use vector shapes to draw hair, and then use the brushes to draw a full head of hair.
Create an Emoji iMessage Stickers
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector drawing, painting, layering
In this excellent project, you will learn how to create a custom emoji pack. First, you will learn how to turn your hand-drawn artwork into a vector format. Next, you will use the Ellipse tool to make your own calligraphy brush, then trace the sketch using the Paintbrush tool, color in your stickers, and finally import the emojis into Xcode.
Create a Flat Winter Scene
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Layering, simple shapes
Here you have an awesome holiday-themed pattern idea. To make this Adobe Illustrator flat illustrations project, you will ]use basic shapes to create the winter scene with the help of the Pen Tool and the Pathfinder panel. You will also use some colors and add highlights and shadows to complete this flat design.
Advanced Illustrator Project Ideas
Advanced Adobe Illustrator projects will help you demonstrate your ability to complete the most challenging digital graphics, and present a complete portfolio of designs that include the most advanced techniques. Read on to discover several online advanced tutorials that can help you develop a wide range of expert-level skills.
Create a Watercolor Mermaid Illustration
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Layering, painting
For this advanced project, you will design a realistic watercolor painting of a mermaid. Just like in the previous tutorials, you will start by sketching the mermaid and then vectorizing it. Alternatively, you can sketch directly in Adobe Illustrator using a drawing tablet. Next, you will use the drawing tools that Adobe Illustrator offers, such as custom brushes to add details and finish your work.
Create a Surreal Portrait
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector drawing
For this Adobe Illustrator project, you will practice your skills to transform a real portrait into a surreal one using Illustrator’s image tracing tool or Live Trace tool. Follow the in-depth tutorial to add texture and layers to compose a surreal vector portrait.
Design a Logo
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector drawing, simple shapes
Adobe Illustrator is the best tool for designing a logo. Depending on what you want to make, a logo design can range from being basic to difficult. Therefore having more than one logo design in your portfolio is a good idea. Throughout the creative process of designing a logo, you will use a wide range of Adobe Illustrator tools and techniques to complete your design.
Design Game UI Assets
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Vector drawing, simple shapes
Designing game UI assets in Adobe Illustrator will only require simple shapes to form game assets such as buttons and icons. This project requires the skillful process of adding texture, highlights, and creating alternative shapes. It is very good practice in which you will use your imagination to create many objects.
Design a Cartoon Character
- Illustrator Skills Practiced: Painting, vector drawing
Creating a cartoon character design can be a lot of fun and requires skills with most of the Adobe Illustrator tools. With a tutorial to guide you, you can create a set of characters that are unique and express different emotions by using basic geometric shapes and gradient colors. Character design has applications in children’s books, animation, and game design.
Illustrator Starter Project Templates
When it comes to getting started with Adobe Illustrator design projects, having a template or detailed tutorial can go a long way in mastering both basic and advanced concepts. Here are some starter template resources to jumpstart your design project.
- Adobe. Adobe Illustrator doesn’t leave its designers in a pinch, offering many cool Illustrator tutorials that take you through the entire process of designing a project. Their wide range of subjects will help you master various Illustrator skills.
- Envato Elements. This resource offers thousands of templates compatible with Adobe Illustrator, over 82,000 vector templates alone! You can find a range of templates from a quick tutorial with simple steps, as well as a more detailed tutorial with advanced Illustrator techniques.
- Template.Net. Put your Pen tool to the test with over 8,000 templates and detailed tutorials to help you build a great portfolio. They emphasize the use of simple images and bright colors to make amazing Illustrator art and product designs.
Next Steps: Start Organizing Your Illustrator Portfolio
When it comes to showcasing your projects, the best idea is to create a portfolio. By creating a portfolio, you can demonstrate your Adobe Illustrator skills to potential clients. It’s a great way to promote your work, so here are some ideas you can follow to create a great portfolio and begin a very successful career as a digital designer.
Make Your Website
Create a website to host your Adobe Illustrator portfolio. It is a very good option that you should consider to easily show your work to potential clients who request it. By using your own web domain or placing your portfolio on a third-party website that allows you to host it, you will be able to present your work more professionally and make a strong impression.
Easy to Navigate
You should organize your Adobe Illustrator portfolio so that the viewer can easily see or find your work. Try to design the portfolio in a minimalist, organized way. Consider putting only your ten best pieces. Put only one design per page and on that page, explain what the project was about.
Make a Selection
Don’t put all the work you’ve ever done in your Adobe Illustrator portfolio. Just make a selection of the ones you consider the best and the ones that help you create a story. Remember to show the passion projects that you’ve worked on as they’ll highlight what your style is.
Illustrator Projects FAQ
Adobe Illustrator is a very powerful tool to create a great variety of vector designs and illustrations. With Adobe Illustrator you can work with shapes, colors, text, and many other elements to create anything from simple shapes to complex vector artwork. Some of the most common design projects using Illustrator are logo design, posters, illustrations, and icons.
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There are many cool Adobe Illustrator tutorials online that you can follow as you practice your vector skills. Start with easy projects that involve the main tools that Adobe Illustrator includes. Start practicing with simple shapes, figures, the curvature tool, vector paths, and simple patterns. You can also play around with basic tools like vector elements and the Pen Tool.
The best option to learn Adobe Illustrator skills fast is to take a highly-rated Adobe Illustrator bootcamp, or follow Illustrator tutorials that teach design techniques ranging in various skill levels. The best way to become an Adobe Illustrator expert is to practice by doing a variety of projects.
Adobe Illustrator can be used to create many designs, such as logos, icons, and digital art using colors, shapes, text, and different effects. Once you have developed great illustration and digital art skills you might consider learning graphic design.
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