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© Ugur Akinci
Add the title “Technical Illustrator” to your job title in a hurry and earn more!
Adobe Illustrator is a bottomless well in terms of its capabilities.
But you can’t postpone drawing forever until you learn “everything” that Adobe Illustrator can do.
You can take so many classes and read so many books. At some point you need to start to DRAW and learn the rest as you go.
Here are some basic AI tools and concepts with which you can start to draw technical illustrations of amazing complexity right away.
I’ll start with LAYERS…
Start simple, slow and easy. In no time you’ll find yourself tackling illustrations of amazing complexity. You’ll add a valuable skill to your arsenal as a “technical illustrator” and perhaps get that promotion you always wanted as well.
A personal note: These are exactly the same tools with which I, as a technical writer, thought myself how to draw illustrations of motherboards and other electronic equipment. In these turbulent times, the more you can achieve on your own and deliver for your boss, the more job security you will obviously have.
TOOL 1: Layers
This is a concept rather than a specific tool; but a concept that you need to understand very well and use regularly like nobody’s business. Fluency in layers is a must if you need to draw complex technical illustrations.
Layers, as the name suggests, is what an AI drawing is made up of. Image a picture made up of transparent onion-skin layers on top of each other. Each layer contains one part of the picture so that when you look at all of them from above you see the whole picture.
Why layers? Because you can change the content of each layer independently of all the others.
You can make a layer INVISIBLE by toggling the EYE icon right next to it. That way you can work on a complicated detail without obscuring it by all the other visual elements.
You can LOCK a layer by toggling the PADLOCK icon so that the elements on that layer cannot be changed and knocked out of position inadvertently.
You can of course also both LOCK a layer and make it INVISIBLE. You can easily bring them back into the picture by toggling their EYE and PADLOCK icons:
A selected layer will reverse colors and become darker.
You can select and work on ONLY ONE LAYER at a time.
You can ADD and DELETE a layer by clicking the following buttons AFTER selecting the layer:
RULE OF THUMB: Create as many layers as necessary to draw different components of your illustration on separate layers.
For example, I usually draw connection terminals on one layer, and their labels on another. That way, when I need to modify the labels, I can turn off (make INVISIBLE) the terminal connections layer. Change the label text comfortably, without getting confused by all those terminal markings. And when I’m done with text editing, turn back the connections layer on again by toggling its eye icon.
There’s a LOT MORE to know about layers but this much should be enough to get you going right away.Learning more about layers at this stage might confuse you and hamper your progress.
More Illustrator tutorials to come in the days ahead…