Research: Image Manipulation Techniques

Using Illustrator as the Ultimate Type Tool

Illustrator makes it incredibly easy to work with type. Just view the options under the type tool (T) to get started.

One of the of the most useful tools is Type on a Path. First draw a path of any shape, and select the Type on a Path Tool. Then select the path with your cursor and begin typing. There are some excellent opportunities for type design using this tool.

Also note, that the usual type options are available from the Character Panel ((Cmd + T).

Using Swatches and Color Groups to Stream Line Color Management

The swatches panel contains colors, tints, gradients, and patterns that can be saved separately from your document. Why is this useful? Let’s say that your working on a project that contains 4 colors plus a gradient and two seamless patterns for a client. This is print project 1 of 8 that the client has requested, and you know that you will be using these exact colors over all of these pieces. You can simply create a new color group by choosing it from the panel drop down menu, then drag and drop each color to the group, or choose “Add Selected Colors” from the drop down.

Once your colors and gradients are contained within the panel you can save them from the drop down menu within the swatches panel.

Filling Your Shapes with Gradients, Meshes and Patterns


Gradients in Illustrator can be added from the gradient panel (Window | Gradient). In the Gradient panel, the Gradient Fill box thumbnail displays the colors and type of the current gradient. When you click the thumbnail, the selected object on the art board is filled with the gradient.
Gradients can also be added with the Gradient Tool (G), which provides some of the same features as the Gradient Panel except they are directly over the object on the art board. With the slider you can modify the angle, location, and spread of a linear gradient or the focal point and origin of a radial gradient. You can also add and edit color stops right from the slider when you hover the mouse over it.


When a mesh object is created it allows that object to contain multiple colors which can flow in different directions and transition smoothly from one point to another. Multiple lines cross the object and provide a way to easily manipulate color transitions on the object. Where these lines cross a mesh point is created. Mesh points appear as diamond shapes and act similar to anchor points but with the capability of accepting color. You can add and delete mesh points as needed.
To convert an object to a mesh, simply select the Mesh Tool (U), choose a fill color for the mesh, and begin click on the object to add mesh points.


Patterns in Illustrator are saved in the Swatches Palette. Anything can be saved as a pattern, but most likely you will be creating a seamless design. To create a new pattern simply choose (Edit | Define Pattern). Patterns can be saved along with colors and gradients in a Swatch Library.

Ultimate Shape Manipulation using Envelopes

Envelopes are objects that reshape selected objects. You can make an envelope out of an object or you can use a preset warp shape or a mesh grid as an envelope.

To distort an object using an Envelope

Select an object. Choose (Object | Envelope Distort | Make With Warp or Make with Mesh). To use a object as the shape of the envelope, make sure two objects are selected, the top most object being the envelope shape, and select (Object | Envelope Distort | Make With Top Object).

Then edit any anchor point on the envelope with the Direct Selection Tool. This gives you the ability to fine tune the object to whatever shape you desire.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Editing Shapes

Switch Pen tool to Convert Anchor Point tool (alt)PC (option)Mac
Switch between Add Anchor Point tool and Delete Anchor Point tool (alt)PC (option)Mac
Move current anchor point while drawing with Pen tool (spacebar + mouse drag)
Cut a straight line with Knife tool (alt + mouse drag)PC (option + mouse drag)Mac
Cut at 45° or 90° with Knife tool (shift + alt + mouse drag)PC (shift + option + mouse drag)Mac

Non-Destructive Design with Appearance Attributes

Appearance Attributes are similar to adjustment layers in Photoshop. Basically its Illustrator’s answer to non-destructive design. Appearance attributes are properties applied to the look of an object that do not effect its underlying structure.  If you apply an appearance attribute to an object and then decide to remove it later, it does not change the underlying object or any other attributes applied to the object.

Take a peak at the Appearance Panel (Window | Appearance). From within this panel you can control EVERYTHING about an object or group of objects. Get to know this panel and understand how to use it. It will make a huge difference in your workflow and how your vector artwork is structured.

This is very handy for my infographic because it will feature a lot of text on different angles and vectors. The information about gradients, outlines and fills are of paramount importance as well because my infographic will feature many images that represent the hero’s journey. In order to make it look appropriate to the infographic style I will need to apply the skills that have been outlined here in order to make my infographic easy on the eyes and appealing.


Brown, N. (2011). Illustrator Mastery: 25 Techniques Every Designer Must Know. Wegraphics. Retrieved from:




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