Learn valuable methods for honing your drawing and illustration skills in Illustrator.

Colorful graphic of a Southwestern scene with cactus and a coyote howling at the moon

Figuring out where to begin and what to draw can be challenging. First, get yourself a sketchbook, take it with you wherever you go, and sketch your immediate surroundings whenever you can. Emulating the work of other illustrators is also a great way to practice and learn. Above all, remember, the more you practice, the closer you are to finding your style—or something that sets you apart.

A person's hand with a pencil drawing various forms of cactus plants

Honing your drawing skills is an ongoing process that requires a lot of practice. From tracing a hand-drawn sketch to drawing from scratch in Illustrator, let’s look at some of the most common tools and workflows for illustrating.

Start by tracing

You can easily base a new drawing on an existing piece of artwork by tracing it. If you sketch on paper, use Image Trace in Illustrator, which lets you convert raster images (.JPEG, .PNG, .PSD, etc.) to vector artwork (shapes and paths).

Close-up on the left of a hand-drawn cactus, and the Image Trace properties box in Illustrator on the right side

Optimize creative freedom and control with drawing tools

If you prefer to jump right into digital illustration, the Curvature, Pen, or Pencil tools are great tools for illustration. The Pen tool in Illustrator is powerful, offering the most precision for creating curves and straight lines. Other tools, like the Pencil tool or Paintbrush tool, are ideal for expressive, free-form lines. You can use layers in the Layers panel to lock and dim the image and draw over the top of the image using any of the drawing tools.

A drawing of a cactus is light in the background, while the Pen Tool is being used to make points along the edge of the drawing

Stylize your artwork by adding texture

By applying a brush to new and existing paths created with the Brushes panel, you can add textures that add style and uniqueness to your artwork. After applying a brush, you can change the stroke of the path and other properties in the Properties panel.

Brush options shown on the right, and a line created with the Pen Tool is now green over the cactus layer

Tip: The Blob Brush tool is a great tool in Illustrator for inking illustrations like comic book art.

Illustrator is the industry standard tool for freehand drawing or tracing and recoloring your sketches to turn them into works of art. Whatever you create, you can use your illustrations anywhere—printed pieces, presentations, websites, blogs, and social media.

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