Adobe Illustrator is an ancient program with voodoo features that is extremely frustrating to use if you don’t know its ins and outs. Once you do know how to use it well, however, it is incredibly powerful. It’s my opinion that if you want to apply Tufte’s principles on visual information you have to know either Illustrator or another design program as Matlab will only get you half way (and R about 9/10ths of the way). I’ve been working with Illustrator since my days as a Flash programmer, and have created some flyers and stuff in it before becoming a full time scientist. For example, I created this poster for the CUMC undergrad math conference in 2006, which is nothing mind-blowing, as I am no designer, but it’s still serviceable. I’m working on a paper with a post-doc in our lab, Dr. Theo Zanos, and Theo wanted to learn how to use Illustrator efficiently to edit figures before we submit hence I prepared a tutorial for him. I initially thought of giving a lecture to the whole lab at once, but since everybody had other stuff to do I decided to record it instead and uploading it on the interwebs.
This Adobe Illustrator for scientists tutorial is on the YouTube (or should I call it the MeTube?). The tutorial lasts 1h45 minutes, and IMHO if you are currently using Illustrator and are not too familiar with it, you could easily double your productivity watching it. I have optimized the content for scientists who are not interested in design-related issues like color management and drawing logos but rather want to create good looking posters and graphs efficiently.
The tutorial covers the following:
- Part 1: Importing from other software including Matlab plots and Word equations
- Part 2: Selecting and aligning objects, using guides and layers
- Part 3: Resizing regular objects, lines and text separately
- Part 4: Groups, compound paths and clipping masks
- Part 5: Creating filled objects, lines, arrows
- Part 6: Creating and manipulating text, text columns, bullet points, exponents
- Part 7: Creating and editing curved lines and making complex shapes
- Part 8: Exporting for the web, print, or Powerpoint presentation
Part 8 can be viewed out of order if you wish but the others build on each other. Don’t forget to upvote if you enjoy it.