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Top 5 Adobe Illustrator Mistakes

Updated on June 9, 2012
Vector Illustration done in Adobe Illustrator
Vector Illustration done in Adobe Illustrator | Source


Here is a collection of commonly-made mistakes while working in Adobe Illustrator. A lot of the material I gleaned for this article are from my own experience (hey, I do it so that you don't have to! :P) and the rest from talking to other artists who have experience working with the program.

1. Using Shapes with Gaussian Blur Instead of Gradients and Gradient Mesh

When you want to make a relatively representational object with rather complex shading and highlighting that goes beyond what the normal gradient tools can do for you, use the Gradient Mesh Tool. I regret not having discovered this tool earlier, when I was making an commissioned illustration of a beaver for a client (I took this job on not realizing that I had to do it in vector format due to the size), because I tried to do the shadings by making several shapes, fill them in with colour, lower the opacity and set gaussian blur in an attempt to blend the shading. What resulted was the file quickly became so huge and it really slowed my working process. It was so frustrating.

If you are a complete stranger to gradient mesh, it could stumble you a little, but I assure you, the learning curve isn't huge. Below is the Illustrator gradient mesh tutorial that helped me start off, I hope you will find it helpful, too!

2. Not Using Layers

Due to the nature of the program, I find that using layers in Illustrator is essential. Each time you create a path, Illustrator gives it its own 'sub-layer' Each object may have more than one path, so after a while, it will pile up and can start getting messy. Using layers will help keep each object separate, helping you keep the document organized and in turn will help increase your productivity.

3. Not Naming Layers

Closely intertwined with the last item, the more complex your image is, the more and quicker those paths will pile up and soon you'll be left spending ages combing through the layers to find that path for that monkey's right eyebrow if you don't name them! Again this is about maximizing efficiency and productivity.

4. Not Isolating Paths

One way to edit one path without accidentally clicking on or disrupting other paths is to lock every other paths and layers except for that one, but in my opinion the more efficient way to do this is to isolate that path. It's probably the coolest feature that Illustrator has. Just double click on that path and the rest of the image will dim out (helps you see better!) and a breadcrumb navigation trail will appear on the window. When you're done, just click on the breadcrumb navigation trail to get out of isolation mode.

5. Not Using the Pathfinder Tool

When I said that the isolation path is the coolest feature in Illustrator in the last item...well, I think I take that back. I guess I like this one very much as well. It's an extremely useful tool for manipulating paths. I was put off using Illustrator for a long time because I was thinking, what if I want to make a shape that is an outline of, say, a shape that looks like a combination of two shapes? In Photoshop, I would have overlapped the two shapes and erase the lines inside the shape, but I couldn't figure how to do it in Illustrator (that is, without having to do a lot of manual tracing) for a long time. I guarantee that you would find it indispensable!

Here is an article explaining Pathfinder Tool in detail, I hope you would find it very useful:


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    • andrewdavidlowen profile image

      Andrew Lowen 16 months ago from Fallbrook, CA

      awesome article! really helpful. Curious...have you done something similar for Photoshop? common mistakes? would love to read it if you ever thought about it :)


    • profile image

      Limo Les 4 years ago

      Great tip on the gradient mesh tool. Thanks

    • Kayness profile image

      Kayness 5 years ago

      Thanks! I'm sure there's nothing that you don't know here

    • stephenjm profile image

      stephenjm 5 years ago

      See? I knew you'd be a pro at illustrator in short order and start teaching me things!