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Adobe Illustrator Tutorial

Here is a (mildly dated) tutorial I had to publish a few years ago for my adv/design coursework.

This illustrating technique allows you to take any photo or image and essentially trace it and “cartoon-ize” the image. You can vary the realism in your final creation simply by controlling how many detail shapes you add to the base shapes of the image. Enjoy.
And by all means, if you need help, questions, advice, etc., comment or email me at

Adobe Illustrator is my favorite program out of the CS3 package. Although there are many intricate layers to learn in Illustrator, once you master different techniques, it can be a very useful source to design, create, and publish different works.

I am going to guide you through one useful technique I enjoy that involves illustrating a photo to give it a different feel.

First, choose a photo… I will be using this one to demonstrate the process:

1. Place a photo

First place a photo in Layer 1 by File > Place or Copy & Paste from clip board. Double click on Layer 1 to change the Layer Options. Set Dim Images to: 30% and lock layer.

2. Start tracing

Make a new layer (Layer 2). Hold down Ctrl key and click on the eye icon of Layer 2 to view Layer 2 in Outline mode. Use the pen tool to trace the basic shapes of the snowboarder.

When you finish, you should have something like this (this process requires you to be somewhat familiar with the pen tool):

3. Color with live paint.

Using the selection tool (black arrow), select all the paths/shapes you drew. Find the paint bucket icon in the toolbar or simply press K on the keyboard. Drag the mouse over one of the shapes and click with the paint bucket. This will transform your paths into a live paint group.

Using the live paint tool, fill in the different shapes. You can use solid colors or gradients (note: if you are using gradients, the gradient tool is an important tool to be familiar with).

Delete the first layer (the photo you started with).

This is what I finished with:

4. Save and Export

First, you want to save the file in illustrator in case you want to go back and edit it. Go to File > Save. Name your file, hit save and you’re done.

Now, you will probably want to share this piece of work with some friends or post it on your site. You will want to export this as a .jpeg so it is compressed and takes up less space. Go to File > Export. Name your file and under format, select JPEG.

After you click export, a new window will pop up with different settings to save the .jpeg. Unless you want a extremely high quality image, you can get away with setting the quality at 5 or 6. This will take up less space and send faster in emails/load faster on sites.

If you plan on printing the image as well as uploading it online, you may want to export two sizes. If the file is staying on the computer, you should probably save it at a resolution of 72dpi (this is standard for digital images). If the image will be printed, a resolution of 300dpi is recommended.

Now that you have your file exported, you can upload it to your Flickr, blogger, facebook or other site.

To upload it to Flickr, first, make sure you are signed in. On the homepage, you should see a link towards the top that says Upload Photos

You will be guided, step-by-step on how to upload your photos. First, find your photo after clicking “choose photo”.

**Make sure you exported a version that isn’t too high in quality… and make sure you select the .jpeg version of the image, not the .ai version.**

Click “OK” and your photo will be uploaded. Next you have the option of naming and tagging the photo. Give it an appropriate title, and if you’d like, tag it with keywords. Tagging your photo will make it show up when other users do a search using one of the tags you used.


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