Every professional designer should know Illustrator. It’s used in pretty much every area from print to digital illustration, web design, icon design, you name it.
We covered a detailed intro to Illustrator guide and there are many others like that on the web.
But written content can only go so far and that’s especially true for beginners who have no idea where to start. That’s why video courses are often much better: they show you step-by-step what to do so you can watch the result from start to finish.
In this post I’ve curated my picks for the best Adobe Illustrator video courses. These are by far the best options for beginners and if you follow this list start to finish you’ll walk away feeling incredibly confident with this vector design program.
Illustrator CC Fundamentals
If you have no idea where to start then the Illustrator CC Fundamentals course on Pluralsight is excellent.
This is the very first part in their massive “Illustrator CC” collection of courses. Over all of them you can learn the fundamentals of Illustrator for every medium. Digital design is the main focus but it can apply to animation, cartooning, print work and more.
In this course you’ll specifically learn about the fundamental behaviors of the Illustrator GUI. You’ll follow practice lessons to learn about:
- Using vector tools
- Creating layers and groups
- Exporting ideas with different filetypes
- Editing effects and layer styles
It does briefly touch upon the pen tool but this gets covered in another course with far more detail.
I only recommend this to beginners who have pretty much no experience using Illustrator. The software is not inherently that difficult, but when you’re first starting it can be crazy confusing to understand.
No question this course will help you get far and it’s part of the Pluralsight package so you don’t need to pay individually(they actually have a free trial for beginners).
Absolutely my top recommended starting point for Illustrator newbies.
Illustrator CC Building on the Fundamentals
Once you understand a little more about the program you’ll want to take your skills up a notch. This is where you might turn towards Pluralsight’s Building on the Fundamentals course.
It’s just as lengthy as the previous course with tons of demo exercises geared towards people who want to nail down Illustrator’s many features.
You’ll learn everything from typography to custom icons, layout designs, print mockups, and a simple icon project.
The goal here is to take the fundamental knowledge of Illustrator’s tools & panels, then expand that to practical real-world scenarios.
Very few lessons teach practical exercises as examples because they’re so difficult for beginners. That’s one reason I really like this course: it’s factual and practical no matter what you want to use Illustrator for.
Just make sure you’re comfortable with the GUI before starting this course.
It does not hold your hand or teach you the raw fundamentals. It’s really like a follow-up to the first course so I’d say they both go very well together for taking a novice and turning them into a comfortable AI user.
Illustrator CC Pen Tool
Absolutely everyone who works with vectors needs to understand the pen tool. It’s without a doubt the most important tool for digital vector work.
With mastery of the pen tool you can design custom icons, edit illustrations, and even craft your own typefaces with ease.
And the Illustrator CC Pen Tool course is an excellent place to start if you’re fairly new to this subject.
I will admit this video series feels like a simple intro to the pen tool for beginners. It does start with an easy-going learning process and some very basic introductory material.
But lessons quickly advance into layer effects and pen tool effects like working with bitmaps and tracing them into vector graphics.
Curves are really the biggest subject because you’re designing with the goal of creating curves that match proportionally. Anchor point manipulation is all about getting the proper curve that you’re looking for.
I struggled for years with the pen tool until I did some video courses. The only written tutorial that helped was this guide and even that is very complex.
If you’re struggling with the pen tool then do yourself a favor and grab the free Pluralsight trial just for this course. It’s the best way to learn from scratch and it covers every technique you’ll need.
Illustrator CC Typography
The previous three courses from the “Illustrator CC” series are all must-watch resources no matter what type of work you do.
But I’ll admit, this one is very much optional.
I still think it’s an excellent course for all designers because you learn how to edit type and how to create beautiful logos/effects just with Illustrator.
Illustrator CC Typography is a massive course spanning 6 hours long and featuring dozens of custom lessons.
Each video covers a different idea like working with the type tool, changing orientation, manipulating anchor points, and designing type for readability. You’ll get a nice mix of practical techniques along with design-style advice on how to craft typefaces that work.
Note this video doesn’t exactly teach you how to create type from scratch.
Instead it’s more focused on working with typography to create logos and identities that mesh with whatever project you’re doing. It’s always easier to distort an existing typeface by messing with the anchor points, rather than to create your own typeface from scratch.
But either way this course is the perfect guide to all of it and honestly it’s just the starting point.
Drawing and Painting in Illustrator
A lot of people use Illustrator for drawing characters, mascots, and even comics. Sometimes Photoshop is the better choice with painting but Illustrator can handle this all the same.
Drawing and Painting in Illustrator is the best introduction for existing artists who want to transition to the Adobe environment. You do need some artistic skill so it’s worth looking into drawing courses if digital painting seems a little over your head.
But you also don’t need to be an expert artist just to follow along. It’s good if you already know how to use a digital tablet and how to draw with accuracy.
This course really aims to teach you how the artistic process works inside Illustrator rather than how to become a good artist with Illustrator.
From custom pattern brushes to all the major painting tools, this course has it all with practical examples along the way.
Just note this is a really short course totaling less than an hour of video time. You have to really practice on your own to see results and this holds true for all types of art.
Logo Design: Illustrating Logo Marks
Almost every digital design job relates to logo & identity work. This is perhaps one of the largest areas of digital design because it blends into print work, web design, app design, marketing, everything.
A great logo is the cornerstone of a solid branding effort. Anyone who wants to work in the design space should understand branding and know how to create brands from scratch.
Logo Design: Illustrating Logo Marks teaches one aspect of logo design through Illustrator. It’s a 5 hour course on Lynda.com and it’s perhaps the definitive guide to drawing and designing in Illustrator.
Note: you do not need much artistic skill for this. You should be comfortable sketching ideas roughly with a pencil but that’s about it.
Logo design is much more about shapes, composition, form, symmetry, balance, and other general design ideas. These come with practice so the more projects you do the easier they’ll become.
Still if you wanna get started on the right foot with logo design in Illustrator I highly recommend this course. The instructor Von Glitschka is incredibly talented and well known for his amazing Lynda course material.
Drawing Vector Graphics: Iconography
Here’s one other course also taught by Von and his amazing design skillset. This one’s a little shorter totaling just under four hours, yet it’s still packed with information about icon design for digital artists.
Drawing Vector Graphics: Iconography is just one of many incredible courses on icon design. I really like this one specifically because it focuses on vectors and Illustrator design work.
You’ll start by learning about metaphors, visual concepts, rough sketching, and how to take ideas to a finished product with detailed planning.
There is no easy way to learn icon design. Your skill will develop over months(if not years) of hard work and patience. But this video course is a great way to start and you’ll learn many fundamental ideas behind iconography:
- Simplifying shapes
- Blending colors
- Flat icon styles
- Establishing metaphors
Pick this up if you want to greatly improve your icon design capabilities. It’s part of the Lynda library so if you have a subscription already you’re set.
Adobe Pen Tool: Mastery
The pen tool course I mentioned earlier was really just a primer for the detailed stuff. If you wanna push boundaries then check out the Adobe Pen Tool: Mastery course on Lynda.com.
It is by far the most detailed guide to the pen tool that’s out there in video form. It doesn’t just show you the basics or introduce the related pen tools from the toolbar.
Instead it teaches you through example how the pen tool works in the real world.
Over this massive seven hour video course you’ll pick up a lot of practical ideas. In fact, this is a course you might watch many times over because the information is so dense.
Most of the techniques are advanced concepts like connecting curves and merging two shapes properly with many anchor points. This includes a lot of manipulation for bezier handles like adding multi-point curves or moving others that are placed improperly.
It’s not just about knowing how to do these things, but also how they affect the final outcome of your vector.
That’s really the goal of this course is to have you walk away feeling like a true master of the pen tool.
And it should be noted these ideas apply to every program that has a pen tool including Adobe Photoshop. Different software has different GUIs for the pen tools but Illustrator is not the only resource for vector pen work.
Creating Infographics with Illustrator
Infographics are all the rage these days with more designers learning this skillset from scratch. It’s not easy to design a great infographic.
The process involves an understanding of visual design and composition while also displaying raw information that’s readable and easy to consume. Meshing certain visuals with numbers and data is no easy task.
The awesome course Creating Infographics with Illustrator is the best place to dive in and start learning.
It’s just over 3 hours long with a bunch of detailed videos featuring complex projects from start to finish. You’ll learn how to design infographics with style that also fit the end goal of sharing data and keeping people engaged with the content.
One thing I wish was covered more is the process of finding information. This is a huge part of infographic design where you’re trying to find stats, figures, and case studies to reference in the graphic.
But overall this is mostly a design course, and with that said I’m very pleased with the quality.
You’ll learn the ins & outs of Illustrator’s many tools along with how they apply to infographic work. I actually think a beginner could pick up this course and work through it comfortably, although practice is the true decider of quality.
Designing a Logo for a Media Company
Here’s one other Lynda course I wanted to mention that goes back to the branding side.
Designing a Logo for a Media Company is a short one-hour course targeted towards mid level designers. It’s not meant to teach you the fundamentals of Illustrator or how to get started with the program.
Instead this guide is for existing designers who want to improve their branding skillset. You’ll learn some really cool tricks for creating logos and how to optimize your process.
The biggest benefits come towards the end where you learn how to create logos with final deliverables that clients will love. Knowing how to handle client work is a requirement as a designer whether you work freelance or with an agency.
My biggest gripe is how short this course it. Because it’s just a “start to finish” tutorial there isn’t a lot of room to pad out the course with further examples.
I don’t think this is worth joining Lynda solely for this course but if you’re already in or have a free trial this is totally worth following.
UI & Web Design using Adobe Illustrator
Every so often I’ll find really amazing courses on Udemy. It’s tough to wade through all the junk on there because anybody can submit content and the prices are always discounted like crazy.
But one of the best courses for web designers to check out is UI & Web Design using Adobe Illustrator.
This was created by expert designer Daniel Walter Scott and it’s still actively maintained with updates to source materials. The course has over 2000 purchases as of this writing and it’s one of the lengthier guides to Illustrator with a focus on web/UI design.
It comes with 4 hours of video instructions and a pretty nice tutorial-style teaching method. Although a good portion of this course is very theory oriented so you may end up skipping through those videos.
Still I’d have to say this is the best web design Illustrator course out there.
I’m hoping to find a lengthier one that talks about the details of different layouts and how to create many variations of a layout in Illustrator. But until someone make a course like that I’m left thinking Scott’s is still the best.
Adobe Illustrator Advanced Vector Artwork
It’s important to remember Illustrator works well for all types of vector work.
Of course this includes icon design for the web and for mobile too. But this also includes custom vector artwork for games and comics. The Adobe Illustrator Advanced Vector Artwork course is an excellent place to start learning this side of AI work.
Overall this course is pretty darn long with 7.5 hours of quality video. Some videos are lectures or suggestions showcasing what you can do, but most are direct screens showing you how to approach a certain technique in Illustrator.
You’ll need at least Illustrator CS6 but preferably CC to work with this course.
This is perfect for taking an existing vector skillset and applying it to more advanced designs. These can include comics, infographics, mascots, and of course game art.
And with that we’ve reached the end of my list!
I certainly hope there’s something here that grabs your attention.
Whether you wanna design type, create icons, build websites, or craft your own illustration work, Adobe Illustrator is the best software to learn. But you won’t get far without the fundamentals down pat.
If you are a complete beginner start with the Illustrator CC Fundamentals course first. From there you can branch out and explore what this program has to offer.