[Updated 5 April 2011]
There are many lists of resources for Adobe Illustrator out there, especially tutorials which have had a real resurgence over the past 12 months or so. However, beyond just tutorials, there is now a wealth of websites which offer dedicated or categorised help and learning resources for Illustrator users and related topics. Here are just some of the key sites – by no means exhaustive, but each a leader in their own section of then internet – you should be aware of to extend your knowledge and skills…
Fridays with Mordy
Mordy Golding was previously the Illustrator product manager and remains a certified Adobe trainer and general Illustrator “guru”. His blog Real World Illustrator seems to have come to a halt earlier this year but remains an important and informed resource. Instead, he’s turned his energies to the excellent new Fridays with Mordy series which is a series of in-depth and interactive tips and tricks broadcast live every Friday and recorded for prosperity. The latest instalments include topics such as using Illustrator for web design and a video share with David Macy, the current Illustrator product manager.
A puzzling matter is that if you type in “Illustrator tutorials” into Google, the vectuts web page doesn’t appear as the #1 result. It is truly the broadest and most regularly updated Illustrator tutorial site around; and the content is all original and produced by commissioned authors. But not only does vectuts provide professional tutorials for all levels of Illustrator users, other articles include interviews with prominent vector designers and artists, prize give-a-ways, and links to design inspiration.
Ryan Putnam is a talented designer (for it was he who produced the dove artwork for the release of Phantasm CS Publisher) and an active hunter of all things inspirational to Illustrator users. His regular round-up of vector artwork on his Vectips blog can be addictive as it is informative of current design trends and techniques. Oh, and Ryan also posts some wonderful simple Illustrator usage tips!
Adobe Forums: Illustrator
Sadly, with the demise of the Layers Magazine online forum (where did it go, when did it go and why did it go?), which contained a particularly active Illustrator section, the lead Illustrator forum is now with Adobe. The forum system is a little basic, but that can be a good thing, eliminating clutter. Ask politely, and you’re bound to get an answer, often from a handful of very active and knowledgable members!
With the huge range of online resources, it’s easy to forget traditional printed publications. But do so at your own cost; it is often possible to equate “traditional” with “quality”, especially in terms of professionally edited articles produced by commissioned professionals. The downside of printed publications is that they tend to be regional. For example, only a small selection of US publications are readily available in Europe, which makes it harder to Illustrator users outside North America to obtain what is possibly the only independent publication primarily dedicated to Adobe software users. Layers Magazine thankfully can be obtained by airmail subscriptions for non US and Canadian customers, but they kindly also publish many articles via their website.
Inside Adobe Illustrator
Frustratingly it’s not that regularly updated, but if you want tips, tricks and information direct from the horse’s mouth, look no further than the Illustrator development team’s own blog, Inside Adobe Illustrator. It can also be a way for the development team to reach out to users and gain valuable feedback which can help influence future developments. And they do listen; an example of this is the removal of the useful crop marks Filter in Ai CS4, replaced by a live Effect version which isn’t always a good thing. In this post, Adobe released a downloadable Filter for Ai CS4/CS5 users which remedies this. Set this up in your RSS feed (feed://blogs.adobe.com/infiniteresolution/atom.xml) so that you will be automatically notified when articles appear.
Facebook: Adobe Illustrator
As the World+Dog appears to be on Facebook, Adobe themselves thought it best to make a strong appearance with their own dedicated page. This probably explains the reason for the infrequent postings on their Inside Adobe Illustrator blog, but it does extend the remit of postings to related Illustrator information, inspiration and the like. The nice thing is that visiting their Facebook page doesn’t require opening a Facebook account…
Keeping with a trendy website theme, Adobe’s Illustrator team have complimented their social media presence with a Twitter page dedicated to their vector package. InsideAi provides many links and re-tweets of quality articles, artwork and relevant vector stuff scattered across the internet. But it’s advised that this Twitter content is complemented with a general Illustrator following on Twitter which may be achieved in many popular Twitter applications. This will lead you to great equivalent twitterers such as vectelligence and Illustrator_GU.
If you work with Adobe Illustrator for a living, it’s likely you either don’t have time to trawl the ‘net for an answer or your – and your colleague’s – needs are very specific and too critical to rely on hopefully accurate information. That’s why professional Adobe-certified trainers, such as Canada’s Jean-Claude Tremblay, exists. They can be hired to visit you on-site and ensure that you have the correct information and skills to turn your software investment into a profit. Adobe’s site can provide details of your nearest instructor or trainer: www.adobe.com/training/
Illustrator plug-ins page
Extending your knowledge of Adobe Illustrator is one thing, but extending the software itself is another. Adobe have catered for specific needs by allowing plugins to be created and installed. Third parties such as Astute Graphics have created tools extending Illustrator’s capabilities for CAD, embroidery, sign making, print production, graphic effects and, of course color control. Astute Graphics maintains a continuously updated list of all known third party plugins for Illustrator, plus links to some free and highly useful scripts.