Studio Calendar:

Wednesday, Feb. 8: Zoom Critique on Project 1

Wednesday, Feb. 15: Intro to Infographic Design, Project 2

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Infographic Design

Wednesday, March 1: Required email check in

Wednesday, March 8: NO CLASSES – SPRING BREAK

Artboards + Layers101

Think of Artboards as pieces of paper. You can rearrange, you can have one for “sketches” and one for finished design, you can have multiple pages (with different sized papers) and rearrange them.

General help:,artboard%20with%20the%20Artboard%20tool.


They are entirely different than Photoshop layers. Organize from the beginning to prevent things getting crazy?

From Sketch to Vector

We will be working on your skills “from sketch to vector” the entire semester. Everyone has a different way of working, but I am a firm believer in sketchbooks! I personally like old school ones, but you can even sketch digitally if that works for you.

I mentioned this tutorial in the previous post, because I really love its simplicity.

But also check out one of my favorite designers, Owen Davey.

His website is fantastic – his shop features many animal illustrations that are really great inspiration for this project – and his IG is wonderful too.


Here are some great resources on gradients – the new-ish free form gradient tool is a great tool to help you add depth once you are ready.


Gradient tool, panel + color stops

Check out the new gradient annotator and free form gradient tools.

Adobe gradients help

Another good one + adding to the swatches panel.

Additional video  – 4 min.

Gradient Mesh tool gives you even more options for how to create more of a 3D look to your gradients  – as opposed to more flat gradients

Excellent branding campaign focused on simple shapes + gradients


Collective Futures

Brushes 101

I’m excited about your first project.  Here are some additional resources on playing with custom brushes that can really enhance your creative aesthetic as well.

General info on Brushes from Adobe – pay particular attention to “create a brush” and “brush options” at the bottom.

Symbols and modify symbols

Images below taken from Behance

Adobe: How to create an art brush

Free Brush downloads

Basic Image Effects

blob brush


Free account – 12 free vector brush downloads per month

Free – Best of 2020 Illustrator brushes


Excellent vector hair tutorial – I like this one because by creating a “base” of hair, you can then add as many details as you want. This tutorial goes the full distance, but you could easily embrace the power of just a few strands for added effect. 

Another hair tutorial

Project 1: Cartoon Me!

For our introduction project, I’m trying something new this semester “From Sketch to Vector”

I noticed a trend on of these photos with vector additions. I think it’s a great way for you to get started in Illustrator learning the tools and what is possible.

Great process video that shows how to get from sketch to vector

Assignment details: In our introductory design project, you will sketch and design a self-portrait to represent you and introduce your style/personality to the class. Your design can be serious, funny or abstract, but should evoke some emotion. You will produce TWO designs: they can display two different sides of your personality or be more of a diptych.

This project will introduce you to Illustrator and get you more comfortable with the tool bar.

I really liked this online tutorial for its simplicity.

Design goals: Produce a unique design that shows technical skills in the pen tool, addition of an aesthetically pleasing color scheme and a basic general beginning knowledge of Illustrator.

1. Watch previously assigned intro videos + Check out Chapter 5: Drawing Basics in the PDF textbook (if needed)

2. Take a photo specifically for this assignment. Think about composition, angle, color scheme, etc. Be your own Film Director!

3. How can you use the pen tool, brushes and shape builder, etc to illustrate your personality? Keep half photographic, half vector illustrations. (if its 60/40% thats fine, it doesn’t have to be exactly 50/50%)

Files should be 8.5″ x 11″ and uploaded as a final versions: toonme.pdf to the Canvas Assignment.

I do not need your .ai files (working files) – but you do!

Here’s a link to my previous Project 1 of many years.. switching it up is good. But happy to show you as many student examples as possible.


Wednesday, Jan. 18

I will meet you on Zoom via our Canvas course today at 8 a.m. 

Happy first day of Virtual SPRING 2023 semester… Today we will go over the syllabus, our proposed projects, options for online tutorials and basic Illustrator technical questions. Please be sure to look at our syllabus, which you can find here .

It is very important that you keep up with your projects as well as participate in our virtual critiques- not only for the benefit of your grade, but for your greater benefit towards becoming professional graphic designers!

I’m looking forward to a great semester!

Best, Prof. Miller

Course Description: This entry level course to Illustrator basics will give you the essential skills you need by covering a range of projects and creative explorations. Emphasis will be placed on creative problem solving, the pen tool, shape building, pattern creation and typographic experimentation.

What to expect in terms of method of working: We will use this website for all class assignments, host Zoom critiques (find Zoom links on our Canvas course), as well as have at least one “half-way” check in on each assignment.

And FYI – you can email me ANYTIME for feedback, technical assistance, or just to say hello 😉

Welcome to our first day of class!

We will go over the following logistical things: syllabus, student work examples/projects,

Semester Projects: 

  1. Project 1: Toon Me
  2. Project 2: Infographic Design
  3. Project 3: Pattern Design Collection
  4. Project 4: Music Illustration Poster

In addition:

Today I will give an overview lecture on Illustrator program basics such as :

What is Illustrator? What are vector graphics?

The PEN tool – the pen tool is one of the most important tools to master in Illustrator. Throughout the semester you will get better at the pen tool, but only with lots of practice!

Setting up new document

Selection vs. Direct Selection

Pen tool basics: add, subtract, convert, handlebars, curves, pencil

Creating/editing shapes + fill with color/stroke, Pen tool, Shape builder and Image Trace demo

Good link on drawing basics

Fun interlude: Play this game for a few minutes to practice the pen tool 😉 

More pen tool resources: 

         Pen tool tips

Other general Adobe Illustrator tutorials

 Practice assignment: With internet images or your own, work on practicing the use of the pen tool. Add and subtract anchor points and merge shapes together. 

  1. Two images traced with the pen tool
  2. Two shapes built with the pen tool – without image reference
  3. Two images traced with the shape builder tool

Homework: Finish watching video tutorials, sketchbook brainstorming for Project 1. Install and get Illustrator software completely ready to work!

We will meet next week for live demo and introduction to Project 1 project. 

Lets talk socio-political

Assignment: Design an illustrative poster with global, critical, socio-political content that stimulates emotion, provokes dialogue, and rouses an audience to support or engage in an issue or event, cause or mission.
In other words: Take a stand + make other people care too.
Project Goals: Introduction to the visual language of advocacy and engagement. Understand the power of the poster. Continue building your Illustrator skills. Can include text as a visual component but does not have to – its your design choice.

Project  DUE: Uploaded to Canvas: Dec. 12 by 8 a.m. Last class and critique.


Nature + Environment + Climate Change

Solar Panels + Sahara – really great overall link

Nature + Us

Climate Change

Environmental Issues Round Up.

Climate Despair

Immigration / Work

Gig Economy

Journeys to America – StoryCorps

Wall – not a designed poster, but could be!


Seven Magazine Cover

LGBTQ rights in Russia

Employment Discrimination

Employment Discrimination

Women in STEM

Patriot Act

Patriot Act


Barack Obama

Go Vote!

Editorial Works

Hot misc. topics

PostPartum Depression

Excellent link: Mental Health Campaign Posters

General Wellness

Body Dysmorphia

Suicide Prevention

Political Posters

Reproductive Rights

Reproductive Rights 2

Affordable Housing

NYTimes Editorial Graphics

Be inspired! Excellent student examples from previous Illustrator 2 classes: 

Putting it in Perspective

Some online inspiration comes from :

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Chris Ware : Lost Buildings series and Building Stories series


Adobe: Perspective tool help

Perspective Tool help

Defining the grid

VIDEO Tutorial:

Assignment details: Design and illustrate a cityscape using the perspective tool and a unique color scheme. Your cityscape can be fantasy, based on a real place, or a combination of the two. Build a unique world and put as many details in as possible, continuing to build our storytelling skills.

Your landscape/cityscape can be anywhere in the world… Where do you want to go??

I liked this one for its use of an antique map for reference. Remember my post on digital library collections that are now all available via public domain.

Croatia map

Be inspired! Excellent student examples from previous Illustrator 2 classes!

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