Robert Bowen November 1st, 2010

The Ultimate Illustrator Toolbox

In case you have missed them, recently we have been going through the Adobe Creative Suite and putting together posts that would assist our readers in creating their own personal toolbox of resources. We hope we have managed to help you get a handle on the various programs and get the most out of them through hundreds of helpful add-ons. With two down, we are moving right along to the next installment, the Ultimate Illustrator Toolbox. Given the popularity of the Adobe’s two main powerhouses, Photoshop and Illustrator, we felt it was about time that we offered up the illo side of the coin and put the AI builder together. [fblike] Below are the proverbial fruits of our labor, categorized and ready to go for all of you Illustrator enthusiasts and junkies out there, so that you can easily sort through the findings to get any and all of the goodies your arsenal is currently lacking. As before, we have put so much thought and care into finding these resources for you, that we are almost positive that there is a little something for everyone in the mass of AI wares we have gathered. So pop your toolbox open and get it ready to be virtually upgraded and potentially overloaded!

Related Posts


First up as we embark on this quest to stuff our arsenal with new Illustrator goodies, we'll take a look at a handful of websites that are completely dedicated to this design powerhouse. These invaluable cyberspace stops are great places to begin this journey as they deliver and dispense helpful hints, add-ons, techniques and oh so much more! Adobe’s Illustrator Exchange is a fantastic place to turn when you are looking for Illo resources to assist you in your design projects. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Adobe Illustrator Help and Support is another wonderful web locale from the creators of the program themselves. Full of tutorials and tips that can help you solve a problem or work out a technique that has been stumping you. Adobe’s Illustrator Forums is the last Adobe run site that we are turning to, but this growing community of designers and artists all coming together to share with and assist other Illo enthusiasts and newbs is a go-to resource for any assistance or support needed. Vectips is another dedicated Illlustrator site that consistently delivers loads of useful AI content on the web community at large. With a plethora of tutorials, tips, and more; this awesome tool can help you climb the virtual ranks unitl you are near an Illo expert. Vector Diary is a wonderful site to turn to that is dedicated to helping you learn this invaluable design tool. All about Illustrator effects and tutorials, this is certainly a site worth bookmarking as you set out to build up your AI arsenal. Layers Creative Suite 5 Learning Center for Illustrator may not be the entire site, but it is still a fabulous section of the site dedicated to this popular design assistant, so we felt that it should be in this area of the building session as well. A growing resource pool to watch indeed. Free Transform : An Illustrator Blog while seemingly it is no longer an active site for new information, the blog still contains plenty of archives for your arsenal build up. So we still think that it is worth a look.


The next category we are going to look at for building up our Illustrator arsenal and fine-tuning our AI skills is the abundance of tutorials that are out there across the web for this useful design tool. With so many dynamic functions and capabilities to master, there are many depths to the program, and the design community has answered back with a vast number of tutorials to help educate the masses. Here are just a few: When it comes to Illustrator tutorials, VectorTuts is usually one of the first names that comes to people’s minds. Well, those people in the design community, anyway. With archives full of helpful tuts, this is a great stop in your Illo skill build up. N.Design Studio Illustrator Tutorials are another go-to location for many in the design community who are looking to beef up their AI knowledge and sharpen their techniques. With numerous tuts aimed at those with a bit of Illo background already in place complete with source files, this is an awesome addition to any illustrator’s arsenal. Abduzeedo's Illustrator Tutorials, just like the rest of the Abduzeedo content, are always full of useful, quality material. In this case: learning more about Illo so that almost any user can take their work to the proverbial next level. Create Amazing Patterns using Adobe Illustrator is a fantastic tut from over at Tutorial9 that can help you get that perfect pattern that you have been trying to create for your design. Head on over to see what we mean. How To Create a Detailed Vector Sugar Skull Illustration is another detailed and useful Illo tutorial that can not only help you create these wonderful, symbolic vectors, but along the way will impart other important techniques and skills as you work through it. Create a Color Picker Icon In Illustrator is a great tut from the Colorburned site that walks you through the process of creating an icon in Illo. And once again, though its end result is specific, you can pick up some tips for creating other icons in Illo as well. Make a Grungy Hand-Drawn Festival Poster in Illustrator is an another tutorial that we could not leave off of the list as we compiled all of these resources together. Great techniques for adding a bit of grunge to any design. Mastering Illustrator Effects is an awesome tut from Web Designer Wall for teaching all of those basic Illo effects that many users completely ignore, even though it can shave so much time off of their work. Create beautiful repeating patterns is another great place to turn if you are looking for a tutorial for teaching you about creating patterns. Specifically, repeating patterns in this case the Digital Arts Online crew. How to create a Rubiks Cube in Illustrator is an interesting and unique tutorial from the folks over at WeGraphics which is a far cry easier to master than the Rubiks Cube it depicts. Definitely worth checking out. Adobe Illustrator CS, CS4: Gradient Mesh Tool, Gradients & Blends helps you effectively create and use gradients in your Illustrator projects. Illustrator 101: One Gradient Across Multiple Paths is a quick-n-easy tutorial that we thought would be a great way to end this section. This simple explanation of the applying gradients across multiple paths will not take you any time to master.


When we covered the Photoshop toolbox, 'brushes' was a main section because there is a large demand for unique brushes within the community. That does not land far from that same area with Illustrator. Brushes are popular among the design crew, and that that doesn’t change as they adopt another tool. So we have gathered a selection of brushes for your illo needs. Colorburned Illustrator Brushes is a wonderful section of the site to focus on as you go in search of Illustrator brushes. With so many various collections of brushes to choose from, we bet that you will be going back for more. 30 Illustrator Pattern Brushes for Making Flowers and Circular Designs is a great post from Bittbox that will certainly help you along your way as you collect brushes to stock your Illustrator toolbox. 64 Free Marker Pen Strokes Illustrator Brushes is an awesome set of original brushes from Fudgegraphics that will help complete anyone’s arsenal of Illo brushes. To add those marker-esque, grungy strokes to your work this is the place to go. Digital Art Corner's Illustrator Brushes is a site that has a little corner set aside just for these AI additions, where you might just find that little extra that you are looking for among their handful of brush options. 230 Vector Marker Brushes is a huge selection of grungy and colorful Illustrator brushes created by the folks over at Think Design Blog just for you. Well, for the communal ‘you’. It's like the royal ‘we’. 14 Free Scatter Brushes & How-to is an awesome set of brushes with a tutorial to boot from one of the top names among illustrators: Go Media. This quick tut and freebie pack of brushes is merely scratching the surface of this awesome resource hub. 27 High Quality Paintbrush Style Illustrator Brushes Part 2 is another fantastic Illo brush set from the Colorburned archives to further fill up your Illustrator toolbox with. Checking back in once more with Think Design Blog, we find 15 Paint Brushstroke Illustrator Brushes. This is another wonderful set of brushes that give your strokes that painted-on feel and appearance.


If there is one Illustrator resource area that tends to trump most others as far as numbers of available content, it would be vectors. So many amazing designs have been crafted and released into the design community that we could have done an entire post based around them. However, given that we tend to need a bit of balance in our arsenals, we have gone out and collected a sampling of about a dozen sites and sets of vectors for you here. Vector Lady is a fantastic stop along the way when you are sourcing out free vectors to pack in your Illustrator toolbox. With pages of original vector packs piled on top of each other, we thought this would be a great place to start. Speaking of amazing places to turn for vector freebies, Vecteezy is easily one of the top communities for vector artists to come together and share their work with others on the web. If you are on a quest to load up on quality vectors for your Illustrator arsenal, make sure this stop is on your list! QVectors is another fully loaded site of free quality vectors where users can not only upload and share their own graphics with the web, but they can also browse through the numerous categories of vectors to find some missing pieces to their own design puzzles in progress. When it comes to finding the right free vector for your work or finding inspiration in vector art from around the world, Vector Vault is a good place to turn. Once you find some resources for your toolbox, you can browse the artwork and get inspired to put them to use. Vector Portal is a wonderful direction to head in when you are looking for free vectors for any of your Illustrator projects. All open licensed graphics, this large collection of vectors certainly should be a stop on your virtual toolbox building bus route. Dezinus’ Vector Illustrations section is another valuable vector location for design freebies that you can load up on. Just be sure that you have some time on your hands, because you are going to lose some of it to this site. Go Media Zine’s Vector Freebies are just some of the great resources you will find here in the archives, from one of the most respected names in the illustration game. We couldn’t get through the vector section without showcasing the GM Zine team. Designious Freebies is another great stop to make while building up your AI arsenal from another trusted name when it comes to vector graphics. Your toolbox will be glad that you stopped by. Free Vectors is a fabulous location to put in your sights if you are looking for, well, free vectors. The name pretty much says it all. This is another hub where users can upload their free vector graphics to be downloaded and shared. In that same vein, Vector4Free is another site whose name pretty much tells you exactly what you are going to get from them. There are pages of user created work, where you can also add your own, should the mood strike you. Now if it is silhouettes that you are looking to score for your Illustrator toolbox, then head over to All Silhouettes and your search just may be over. With thousands of quality silhouettes to choose from consider your silo illo needs pretty well covered. iPhone 360 Adobe Illustrator CS5 is just that. A vector freebie template of the iPhone from a near complete 360 degree perspective. Great for creating previews of iphone wallpapers or apps that you want to display and show off. 1985 ñ A Free Vector Pack of Your Favourite 80s Icons is our last listing in the vector heading of our post, because we not only wanted to go out with a bit of a bang, but also with a bit of a blast from the past. Enjoy this iconic 80’s set.

Articles and More

We are going to wrap up with a section that is a sort of miscellaneous gathering of useful Illustrator articles from sites around the web that not only offer some great advice, but also some downloadable resources to go along with it. So have a glance through this final segment to get a few more toolbox additions for your AI arsenal. Adobe Illustrator CS5 HTML5 Pack is a great write-up and discussion about the a new pack that Adobe released for free for CS5 users. It gives a quick rundown of what this new add-on allows before delving in it a little deeper. Vector Artist: Natalie Sklobovskaya`s Creative works is an inspiring showcase of some of the graphic illustrations of this amazingly talented artist. Once you have your toolbox loaded, get inspired through these breathtaking vector creations. 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts is another helpful article that you need to swing by and checkout as you are crafting your ultimate arsenal for AI. 50 Wonderfully practical Scripts for Adobe Illustrator is another article that is a must if you are hoping to score some useful scripts to simplify your Illustrator endeavors, and to load into your virtual toolbox. Huge List of Adobe Illustrator Plugins & Filters & Toolsf is a incredibly packed full post of Illo resources for you to load up on, gathered together by the folks over at the All Graphic Design blog. Web 2.0 Gradient Swatches is a collection of over a hundred Illustrator gradients that you can download from over at Dezinerfolio and easily load in to your program for access to these unique and colorful swatches. Even though we already listed this site as a go-to place when sourcing vectors online, we felt that before we bowed out of this building post, we would shine a light over on the Vector Portal’s Templates section just to be sure that you did not miss them.

That’s a Wrap!

That does it for this edition of the Adobe toolbox building endeavors, hopefully there are enough useful links to keep you busy for a little while. If there are any go-to places that you turn for your AI needs that we left out of the list, then by all means, hit us up in the comment section to fill us in! (ik)

Robert Bowen

Robert Bowen is an emerging author, celebrated podcaster and poet, and most recently the co-founder and imaginative co-contributor of the creative design and blogging duo at the Arbenting and Dead Wings Designs.


  1. Illustrator is next on my ‘to-learn’ list (doing AE now) and I am definitely bookmarking this page for future reference!

    Illustrator is such a nice tool, it deserves more visibility.

    So when is the AE toolbox post?

  2. Admittedly, I don’t use Illustrator enough for vectors. I’m spoiled on the rapid nature of using Fireworks, but I need to switch, especially for my CMYK print needs!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *