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Working with Basic Shapes in Adobe Illustrator CC (2014 release)

  • Date: Nov 3, 2014.

Note: This excerpt does not include the lesson files. The lesson files are available with purchase of the book.

In the first part of this lesson, you’ll create some lamps for the postcard using basic shapes, like rectangles, ellipses, rounded rectangles, and polygons. You’ll begin this exercise by setting up the workspace.

  1. Choose Window > Workspace > Essentials (if it’s not already selected), and then choose Window > Workspace > Reset Essentials.
  2. Choose View > Rulers > Show Rulers to display rulers along the top and left side of the Document window (if they are not already showing).

The ruler units are inches because you specified them in the New Document dialog box. You can change the ruler units for all documents or for the current document only. The ruler unit shows when measuring objects, moving and transforming objects, setting grid and guide spacing, and creating shapes. It does not affect the units used in the Character, Paragraph, and Stroke panels. The units used in these panels can be changed by choosing (Illustrator > Preferences > Units [Mac OS] or Edit > Preferences > Units [Windows]).

Creating rectangles

First, you’ll create a series of rectangles that will be the start of a lamp on the postcard. Rectangles and rounded rectangles are considered Live Shapes. This means that attributes like width, height, rotation, corner radius, and corner style are still editable later and are retained even if you scale or rotate the shape.

  1. Make sure that the number 1 is showing in the Artboard Navigation area in the lower-left corner of the Document window, which indicates that the first artboard is showing. Choose View > Fit Artboard In Window.
  2. First, you’ll create a rectangle that will become a part of a lamp on the postcard.

  3. Select the Rectangle tool () in the Tools panel. Position the pointer anywhere in the artboard, and click and drag down and to the right. As you drag, notice the gray tool tip that appears indicating width and height. Drag until the rectangle is approximately 1.5 in wide and has a height of 1 in, as seen in the tool tip next to the cursor.
  4. As you drag to create shapes, the tool tip that appears next to the pointer is called the measurement label and is a part of the Smart Guides (View > Smart Guides), which will be discussed later in this lesson. When you release the mouse button, the rectangle is selected and the Transform panel appears. From the Transform panel, you can change the appearance of your Live Rectangle, including its dimensions, rotation, and corner properties. The center point of the rectangle lets you drag to align the object with other elements in your artwork. Also, by default, shapes are filled with a white color and have a black stroke (border). A shape with a fill can be selected and moved by first positioning the pointer anywhere inside the shape and then clicking and dragging.

    After drawing a shape, you can easily edit its size, position, and more using any number of methods.

  5. In the Transform panel, change the size of the selected object by typing 0.9 for the width (W:) and 0.35 for the height (H:). Typing the in for inches isn’t necessary; it is added automatically.
  6. Change the X value to 4.9 and the Y value to 3.6 to move the rectangle relative to the upper-left corner of the artboard. Press Enter or Return after typing in the Y value to accept it.
  7. With the new rectangle still selected, click the Fill color () in the Control panel to open the Swatches panel. When you position the pointer over colors in the panel, a tool tip with the color name appears. We chose a yellow/green swatch with the tool tip that shows “C=20 M=0 Y=100 K=0.” Press the Escape key to hide the Swatches panel.
  8. Next, you will create another rectangle by entering values (like Width and Height) rather than by drawing it. Using any of the shape tools, you can either draw a shape or click on the artboard with a shape tool selected to enter values in a dialog box. This rectangle will become another part of the lamp.

  9. With the Rectangle tool still selected, position the pointer above the rectangle you drew on the artboard and click.
  10. The Rectangle dialog box appears. In the Rectangle dialog box, the width and height values that you see match the last shape drawn.

  11. In the Rectangle dialog box, change the Width to 0.6 in, press the Tab key, and change the Height to 0.1. Click OK.
  12. Notice that the new rectangle has the same fill color and stroke as the previous shape you drew.

  13. Select the Selection tool () in the Tools panel. Drag the new rectangle about halfway up the artboard, above the first rectangle you drew.
  14. This is just to get the shape out of the way of some new shapes you will be creating.

  15. With the new rectangle still selected, click the Fill color in the Control panel to open the Swatches panel. Choose the yellow swatch with the tool tip that shows “C=5 M=0 Y=90 K=0.” Press the Escape key to hide the Swatches panel.
2. Creating a rounded rectangle | Next Section

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