How to Cheat at Drawing in Illustrator

Being able to draw is a skill not granted to everyone. So for the rest of us Adobe made Illustrator, a way to create great artwork without the natural talent.
Here’s a simple trick to create a simple vector drawing in seconds without any actual drawing involved !

Before we start it’s worth mentioning that this tutorial shows you how to copy simply artwork only such as a silhouette or a basic icon or shape. It won’t for example be able to copy and recreate a photo in high quality or work as well on colourful complex images. This however, is a quick and easy way to create simple silhouettes and shapes without the drawing element.

Step One

The first stage is simple. Find an image you would like to draw. As we said at the beginning this typically works best when using a simple image or a silhouette. For this example we will be using this drawing of a penguin.

penguin image

Remember that the item you choose to copy, particularly if taken from the internet, belongs to someone else, and so replicating the image should be for personal use only.

Step Two

Once you have chosen your image open it up in Illustrator. At the top of your screen you will see the button “Image Trace” with a small triangle next to it. Click on the triangle to reveal a drop-down menu with various tracing options.

Which option works best depends entirely on the image you’ve chosen. Try each one of the options available until you find the one that works best. You’ll notice that most tracing options convert the image to black and white, however there are a few color tracing options available.

Step Three

When you have decided on your trace option highlight your newly trace image and select the “expand” button at the top of your screen next to the newly appeared “Tracing Result” button. This will separate the colors (or in most cases the black and white sections).

penguin - outlines

Step Four

The last step is to delete any part of the image you no longer need, such as the background that came with the original artwork.

To remove this highlight the image and select the “Shape Builder Tool” in your design panel. You can also use this tool by pressing cmd + m on a mac or shift + m on a pc.

penguin - without background

You will notice when hovering over your image that a plus sign now appears next to your cursor along with three color swatches. If you press and hold down the alt key you will see that the cross changes to a minus. Whilst holding down the alt key click on a section you want to be deleted. Keep doing this to all sections you want deleted until you are happy with your final image.

If you would like to change the color of a section simply use the Shape Builder Tool without holding down the alt key. To add a specific color simply choose one from the swatch panel. You will notice that the color you choose will appear above your cursor along with a color either side of it that matches the colors next to it in the swatches panel. To navigate between them simply use the arrow buttons on your keyboard.

You now have a drawn vector artwork that didn’t require an ounce of drawing talent!

A Step Further

You can continue to use the shape builder tool to add to your artwork. The example below shows two circles overlapping. We highlighted both of them and using the Shape Building Tool changed the color of each circle and deleted the overlap, creating two new shapes. Try using this technique yourself to make drawing even easier!


September 4, 2015  |  03:48:24

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