Illustrator Printing Knowledge

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a graphics program that allows you to create new images for the Web or for print publishing. Unlike Photoshop, which is a painting program for the modification of photographs and other bitmapped images, Illustrator is a drawing program where illustrations, objects, line art, and graphics can be created and modified. Illustrator offers compatibility with other Adobe applications such as Photoshop and InDesign and it is available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms.


Layers organize different elements of your Illustrator project into individual levels. This allows you to work on these elements as separate units which can make your work more efficient. This is especially true if your project contains a large amount of objects or if you have a project that contains some graphics and information that is shared with other projects. For example, you may have an application like product labels in which several products share the same type of label except for a few differences between them. It would be easier to have the shared graphics and information on a separate layer so that this layer can be easily used for each different label.

The Layers Palette in Illustrator allows you to create or delete layers, and there are options for the set-up and output of layers. A new Illustrator document contains one default layer (layer 1) when the program is opened, and layers may be added during the design process. A layer can be duplicated and when this happens, it is placed above the current layer. All of the elements of the duplicated layer will contain copies of all the elements that were in the original layer.

There are many other features available when using layers. The contents of several layers can all be merged together into the top layer or an object from one layer can be cut and pasted onto another layer. The order of the layers can be changed using the layers palette. Layers can be locked to prevent deletion or editing, or they can be hidden to prevent viewing and editing. Another useful tool is the ability to display a different color for the borders for each layer to make it easier to identify layers while you work.


The Illustrator drawing tools allow you to form lines, curves, or shapes which are called paths. There are two types of paths:

  • Closed Path - This is any path in which the beginning point and the ending point are the same.

  • Open Path - This would be a path like a line that has beginning and ending points and these points do not connect. The anchor point at the beginning and the one at the end are called endpoints.

The different sections on a path are defined by "anchor points" which can be selected and dragged in order to modify the shape. See the illustration below:

There are a number of ways to form paths with Illustrator :

  • Pencil Tool - You can draw freeform paths with the pencil tool and the anchor points are put down for you as you make a path.
  • Pen Tool - This allows you to draw accurate straight lines and curves. The curves are formed by moving the pen along the direction that you want the curve to go.
  • Brushes - These create brush strokes to form a path. There are four types of brushes that you can use:

--  Calligraphic - This makes the path look like calligraphy.
--  Scatter - This displays copies of an object along a path.
--  Art - This allows you to take an object and stretch it along any path that you wish.
--  Pattern - This brush paints a pattern along a path.

  • Smooth Tool - Although you do not draw paths with this tool, you can use it to smooth out an existing path. For example, you may have a curved path that may look a bit ragged and you want to give it a smoother appearance.
  • Erase Tool - This tool allows you to delete a section of a path.

Besides drawing paths, there are a number of ways to make basic shapes which form the foundation in creating objects for a project. There are tools for creating rectangles, ellipses, polygons, spirals, and stars. All of these can be edited and reshaped to form a desired shape for you project.

Another drawing technique that you may want to use is tracing. You can import an image file and trace over it with the pen or pencil tool. You can also use the Auto Trace tool, which automatically traces the outline of an object simply by clicking on the edge of the shape.


Objects can be edited and modified in a number of ways using Illustrator. The size, shape, and position of an object can be changed using the many tools, filters, and methods provided. Some of these are described below.

  • Rotating - Using the Free Transform tool or the Rotate tool allows you to rotate an object around a fixed point.
  • Scaling - This will change the size of an object horizontally and/or vertically with use of the bounding box, Free Transform tool, or the Scale tool in the toolbox.
  • Reflecting - This flips an object across an invisible axis. From this you can create a mirror image of the object. You may use the Free Transform tool, the Reflect tool, or specify an axis.
  • Shearing - This slants or skews an object by using the Free Transform tool, the Shear tool, or by specifying an angle and an axis.
  • Distorting - This will change the size and shape of an object using the Free Transform tool. This can create a look of linear perspective.
  • Punk and Bloat Filter - This curves objects inward or outward from their anchor points.
  • Roughening Filter - This creates a rough edge on objects.
  • Twirl Filter - This rotates an object more in the center than on the edges to create a spiral effect.
  • Drop Shadow Filter - This produces a 3-D shadow effect on any object.
  • Round Corner Filter - The sharp corner points of an object are converted to smoother, rounded shapes.
  • Zigzag Filter - This creates zigzag and wavy line effects.
  • Add Arrowheads Filter - Add an arrowhead and/or tail to a line.

The Transform Palette displays information about a selected object and allows you to move, scale, rotate, or resize the object. If you want to evenly distribute a number of objects horizontally and/or vertically, you can use the Align Palette.

You may also want to incorporate bitmap images into a project. There are filters that are designed to add special effects to bitmap images, which can make them look less like they are computer generated. The Blur filter softens an image and they are used in transitional areas of color, shading, and shapes. If you want the bitmap image to have the look of an oil painting, use the Brush Stroke filter. You can use the Texture filter in order to add texture effects such as grain, glass, paint, and tile.


Illustrator uses the following color models to display color:

  • HSB - Hue, Saturation, and Brightness. This color model best describes the human perception of color. Hue refers to the name of the color and is expressed as a degree, 0° to 360°, which specifies its location on the color wheel. Saturation is the strength of the color, or the amount of gray that is present in relation to the color. Brightness is the lightness or darkness of a color. Both saturation and brightness are expressed as percentages.
  • RGB - Red, Green, and Blue, or additive color, for use on the Web.
  • CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The CMY are the basis of the subtractive color process and the addition of Black (K) allows for accurate color reproduction for printed media. You should use this color model if you plan to output your project to a printing device and your project will not be used on the Web.
  • Grayscale - This represents shades of gray from white to black and is expressed as a percentage.

When you have created objects in Illustrator, you will want to add color to them. The colors that you will use can be selected from the Swatches Palette, which contains a default set of colors, gradients, and patterns, plus any colors that you have saved into it. You can select colors from several available color libraries or from another object. You can also mix your own colors using the Color Palette. With the Color Palette, you select the color model that is appropriate for your project and then choose the color. The color can be chosen by placing the mouse pointer over the color bar on the bottom of the Color Palette and click on the desired color. The mouse pointer will change into an eyedropper when it is placed over the color bar. You can also use the tint sliders that are underneath each color component for the different color models. Another way to select a color is to enter a value for the individual color components as follows:


  • For H, enter:  0° to 360°

  • For S, enter:   0 to 100%

  • For B, enter:   0 to 100%


  • For R, enter:  0 to 255

  • For G, enter:  0 to 255

  • For B, enter:  0 to 255


  • For C, enter: 0 to 100%

  • For M, enter: 0 to 100%

  • For Y, enter: 0 to 100%

  • For K, enter: 0 to 100%

Grayscale: enter 0 to 100%

RGB Model

CMYK Model

An example would be to enter 100% for the C component (Cyan) in the CMYK model, and enter 100% for the M (Magenta), 0% for the Y (Yellow),  and 0% for the K (Black). The result would be pure blue. The illustration below shows how the Illustrator Color Palette appears in the CMYK mode and it also shows the example just described.

When you want to color an object, select the stroke box in the toolbox and then select a color you have previously selected or mixed in the color palette. This will color the outline of the object. To fill the object with the same color or a different color, use the fill box in the toolbox.

The fill and stroke boxes are shown on the left. The top box is the fill box and shows the current fill color. The bottom box is the stroke box and shows the current stroke color.

Some of the other things you can do with color are:

  • Determine the degree that you want overlapping colors to mix with each other.
  • Determine the degree of transparency of colors.
  • Create a color negative of an object with the Invert Colors filter, as shown below.

The image on the left is using the RBG color model. The R (Red) value is at 51 (or 20% saturation), the G (Green) value is at 153 (or 60% saturation), and the B (Blue) value is at 255 (or 100% saturation).

The image on the right has been inverted and is the negative or opposite (also known as complimentary) color from the one on the left. The R value is 204 (or 80% saturation), the G value is at 102 (or 40% saturation), and the B value is at 0 (or 0% saturation).

You can also use gradients and patterns to fill objects just as you would with solid colors. The Gradient Palette is used for selecting the various properties of the gradients. With this palette, you can create a gradient with one color or multiple colors. You can adjust the midpoints and endpoints of the gradients so that more solid color show at the end of a gradient or the blend between light and dark is not always in the middle of the gradient.

The above illustration show how the Gradient Palette appears in Illustrator. Note the boxes at either end of the color bar at the bottom. These are the endpoints and they can be slid to adjust the gradient. The diamond shape directly on top of the color bar is the midpoint and can also be moved to adjust the gradient.


The size, shape, and scale of text can be changed when designing documents in Illustrator. Text can be made to flow into any shape or follow any path that is set up. Type can be painted with colors, gradients, and patterns, or transformed into new shapes. Text can also be placed inside selected objects.

With the Character Palette that comes with Illustrator, you can choose the font style, type size, or whether or not text should be bold or italic. Also included in the Character Palette are kerning and tracking controls. The kerning control determines the spacing between two characters of type. Tracking adjusts the spacing between three or more characters. With tracking, you can adjust the spacing of a word or entire block of text.

The Direction Menu in the Character Palette allows you to change the direction of an individual character or block of text. You may also adjust the horizontal and vertical spacing between lines of type, the width and height of individual characters or text blocks, and the degree of slant for characters in italics.

The Paragraph Palette allows you to set-up and adjust the format of paragraphs within text blocks. You can change the spacing between lines of text and/or between paragraphs. The amount of indentation at the beginning of a paragraph can be changed. You can align the text in a paragraph to be justified left or right, to be centered, or to justify only certain lines.


Graphs may be used in your Illustrator project to give some variety in displaying certain kinds of information. Data may be entered into a graph by typing it into the Graph Data dialog box, by importing the data from another file, or by pasting data from a different graph or program. Different graphs may be displayed at one time for a better illustration of data. There are nine graph types available and they are described below:

  • Column - This is Illustrator's default graph type. It compares values with bars that are proportional in size to the value. The bars representing the different values are side by side and run in a vertical direction.
  • Stacked Column - This is the same as a column graph except that the bars are stacked on top of each other rather than side to side.
  • Bar - This graph is like a column graph except that the bars are horizontal instead of vertical.
  • Stacked Bar - This graph is like the stacked column except that the bars run horizontally.
  • Line - This graph uses a line which connects points that represent data that is plotted on the graph.
  • Area - This is the same as the line graph except that the area formed by the line is shaded in.
  • Pie - This is a circular graph with wedges that represent the values.
  • Scatter - Data points as plotted as coordinates on X and Y axes.
  • Radar - The values are displayed in a circular format. The connected values look like a spider web.


Illustrator allows you to copy and paste files from other applications. The Place Command puts files from another application into Illustrator. For example, you may want to import a photograph from Photoshop. You can also link objects created in Illustrator with a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), which links the project to an internet site. Illustrator documents can be exported to another application as long as the document is saved in a file format that can be opened in the other application. Some common file formats supported by Illustrator for exporting are: JPEG, GIF, PDF, PICT, TIFF, EPS, and Photoshop.


An Illustrator file can be sent directly to an inkjet or laser printer for output or it can be output on a digital press. It can also be converted to positive or negative image on film. The film can be used to make printing plates so that the Illustrator document can be printed on a mechanical press in mass quantities. The printing may consist of a simple page of text, or an image that simulates a continuous tone image like a photograph. Images that are in full color and produced on a mechanical printing press rather than the desktop, require color separations, representing the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black components of the image. These color separations are then used to produce the printing plates used on the press for the color printing. There are also ways to manipulate images, screens, and colors in Illustrator to help make the printing process easier and as a result, improve the quality of the finished printed piece.

System Requirements


Minimum Requirements


PowerPC processor.


Apple System software 7.5 or later.

Mac OS 8 or later

32 MB of application RAM.

64 MB of RAM

50 MB of available hard disk space.

95 MB disk space.

CD-ROM drive.


800 x 600 or greater monitor resolution.




Minimum Requirements


Intel Pentium processor or faster.


Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, or later operating system.


32 MB of RAM installed.

64 MB or more of RAM.

50 MB of available hard disk space.

95 MB hard disk space.

CD-ROM drive.


800 x 600 or greater monitor resolution.



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