Does your heart flutter when you look at really cool character animations? Do you also feel the itch to try your hands in animation? If yes, then what's stopping you. Don't tell me it's because you don't have a degree in motion graphics or computer animation. 

If that's the case, then let me break that bubble for you. You don't really need a fancy degree or diploma in animation to create simple animations. With Adobe Illustrator, you're a lot closer to creating animations that are worth bragging about. 

This instructional blog will show you the best way to take vector graphics and transform them into superb animations bound to impress.

So, let's dive in!

What is Adobe Illustrator?

Adobe Illustrator is a software tool for creating drawings, illustrations, and artwork using a Windows or macOS computer. Adobe Illustrator is universally used by graphic designers, web designers, visual artists, and professional illustrators across the globe to create excellent works of art.

Illustrator, one of the widely used character animation maker, also offers many advanced drawing tools that can decrease the time needed to create amazing illustrations.

See what you can do with Adobe Illustrator

  • With Adobe Illustrator, you can create a diversity of digital and printed images, including charts, cartoons, diagrams, graphs, brand logos, illustrations, etc.
  • With Illustrator, you can import a picture and use it as a guideline to trace an object in the picture. This way, you can recolor or create a sketch-like appearance of a picture.
  • With Illustrator, you can also manipulate text in multiple ways, making Illustrator a powerful tool for creating logos, posters, postcards,  and other visual designs that use text and images together. 

Getting Started with Adobe Illustrator

If you’re still contemplating dipping your toes in the world of animation, perhaps this introductory guide will help you make up your mind.  Hopefully, these guidelines will serve as an excellent starting point for you to learn the basics of animation and bringing your designs to life.

Vector Graphics in Adobe Illustrator 

Perhaps one of Adobe Illustrator's best features is that the quality of artwork created with Illustrator does not depend on the resolution at which it is being displayed. This implies that a picture created in Illustrator can be enlarged or minimized without losing the image quality. All thanks to Vector Graphics, which uses numerical relationships in defining lines, arcs, and other illustrator parts. 

A vector graphic is a collection of polygons that make up the picture, which is again composed of vectors. Every vector passes through a location known as a central node or control point, which has a fixed location on the x and y axes on a plane. This node defines the vector's path, including attributes such as color, curve, fill, shape and thickness. 

File Formats Illustrator can Save 

Illustrator allows you to create, modify, and save files in vector graphics formats, including Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), Portable Document Format (PDF), Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), Vector Markup Language (VML), and Windows Metafile (WMF).

  • EPS  files are usually self-contained and can be placed within another PostScript file. An EPS file contains a low-resolution preview of the image, which some applications can display.
  • PDF file format allows images and text to be displayed irrespective of the hardware, software, or OS. It encapsulates the entire description of flat documents with a fixed layout, including fonts, graphics, and text.
  • SVG format is based on Extended Markup Language, which further supports two-dimensional graphics for both animations and interactive images.
  • VML was an XML-based format for two-dimensional vector graphics that was also part of the Office Open XML standards.
  • WMF  format can store both vector graphics and bitmaps, allowing it to be used like the SVG format.

Drawing Shapes in Illustrator 

Click and hold the Shape tool

  • It's the rectangle in the toolbar on the left side of the screen. 
  • You will find a menu of various shapes here.
  • Repeat this step whenever you want to switch between multiple shape tools.

Click on the Rectangle Tool

  • This will allow you to draw squares and rectangles.

Click on the mouse at the canvas and drag in any direction

  • As you drag, you can see your rectangular box on the screen.
  • In case you want to draw a perfect square, drag till you see a pink line intersecting the shape diagonally—this line shows that the square is equal on all sides.

Drawing Straight and Curved Lines

Select and hold the Pen tool on the toolbar

  • The icon resembles a pen on the right side of the screen. 
  • You'll get a list of various pen tool options.
  • It can be used to form paths with straight or curved lines by creating distinct segments connected by anchor points. 

Click on the Pen Tool

  • It is the first option in the menu.

Click on the mouse where you want the line to start

  • Start by drawing a sequence of straight lines. This will add an anchor point (a small dot or square) to the canvas. 
  • Instead of dragging the mouse like you're really drawing, just click once.

Click on the mouse where you want your line segment to end

  • You'll see your line segment now.
  • In case you notice directional lines around the line segment, it means perhaps you mistakenly dragged the tool rather than clicking on the new anchor point.

Editing Shapes and Objects 

Click on the Selection tool

  • It's the arrow at the top of the toolbar at the workspace's left side. 
  • You'll need this tool while selecting and manipulating existing designs on the canvas.
  • You can also use this tool to adjust the shapes, lines, or text you've added to your document.

Select the object you want to edit

  • When you select an object, you'll see a handled border around it.
  • In case you wish to select multiple objects at a time, hold down the ⇧ shift key as you click on each object.

Drag any of the exterior handles to the size you want

  • Dragging a handle will increase or decrease the size of the object in that particular direction.
  • Hold the ⇧ Shift key to hold proportions if you don't want to change the original shape.

Drag an object from the center to change its position 

  • You can also do this using your keyboard's arrow keys.
  • To move a selected object by a particular distance, click on the Object menu, click on Transform, and then click on Move.
  • Enter the desired position and click on OK.
  • You can also cut and paste on the desired position.
  • Select Cut from the Edit menu to remove the selected object. 
  • Then, select Paste from the same edit menu to insert it back into the document.

Add color to the selected object

  • Double-click on the Fill box in the Properties panel to bring up the color palette and select the desired color to fill the selected object.
  • To adjust the color of the selected object's outline, double-click on the Stroke box in the Properties panel, then pick a color.

Watch this short video clip to see how you can create different shapes and add colors to them.

Wrapping Up

Perhaps you might feel that animation is not so easy, and yes, it can be time-consuming. However, once you have created your first few animations, the sense of fulfillment is beyond imagination. And trust me, that is just the beginning.

So what are you waiting for? Start animating!

Frequently Asked Questions

Adobe Illustrator is designed with beginners in mind, offering an intuitive interface and a wide array of tutorials. While it may have a learning curve, with practice, beginners can quickly become proficient in creating stunning illustrations and designs.

Yes, it's entirely possible to teach yourself Adobe Illustrator. There are numerous online tutorials, courses, and resources available. Adobe also provides extensive documentation and guides to help you become adept at using the software. With dedication and practice, you can master Illustrator at your own pace.

Basic skills in Adobe Illustrator include familiarity with essential tools like the Pen Tool, Selection Tool, and Shape Tools. Proficiency in creating and manipulating shapes, working with layers, and understanding the principles of paths and anchor points are also crucial.

Adobe Illustrator (AI) is not available for free. It is a premium software offered as part of Adobe's Creative Cloud suite, which requires a subscription. Adobe does, however, offer a free trial period for users to explore its features before committing to a subscription.