Learn how to use the vector shape tools in Illustrator to create a striking illustration for any medium.

Use the many vector shape tools available in Illustrator to create a variety of primitive shapes you can reshape, combine, and color to make eye-catching illustrations.

Vector illustrations can be infinitely resized with no loss in quality for any final output or viewing device — such as social media pages and digital viewing devices, and even printed projects ranging from a small postage stamp to an oversized billboard.

1. Set up your project

Click the New button on the start screen, or choose File > New.

  • Add a name 
  • Select Profile: We chose Print for our project. You can choose the Web profile if you want to use your illustration online.
  • Orientation: Landscape

Click OK.

2. Draw simple shapes: add rectangles

You'll start by drawing the larger structures, and then fill in smaller details.

First, you'll draw a rectangular base to help you to align the rest of the artwork.

Type M, or select the Rectangle tool from the Tools panel. Click and drag a long, skinny rectangle on the artboard as shown. Drag a corner widget to scale it. To reposition the rectangle, hover over the center point widget, then click and drag to a different location.

Draw more rectangles of different sizes representing walls, using the magenta guides to help you to align them to each other and to the rectangle base.

You can zoom in to add smaller rectangles for the doors, windows, and panes.

Press Control/Command and the "+" key once or twice. To zoom out; press Control/Command and the "-" key.

To draw a square shape, watch for the diagonal magenta guide as you drag, which indicates a perfect square, or press Shift while dragging.

Tip: You can duplicate doors, windows, and any object to speed up your drawing. Type V to access the Selection tool and click a shape to select it. Press Alt/Option and drag a copy to another location and drop it in place. 

3. Add circles

Next, you'll add the round porthole windows.

Click and hold the Rectangle tool to access other shapes and select the Ellipse tool. Drag a circle until you see crosshair guides appear indicating you are drawing a perfectly round circle. Release your cursor when it's a suitable size.

Use the center point widget to reposition the circle, and resize it with the corner widgets.

4. Add triangles

You'll draw the roofs in this step.

Click and hold the Ellipse tool and select the Polygon tool. Click anywhere on the artboard and enter Sides: 3 in the Polygon dialog.

Use the center point widget to reposition the triangle as shown. Scale it to fit the walls proportionally by pressing Shift and dragging a corner widget.

If you wish, you can change the proportions of the roofs after you've drawn them. 

With the Direct Selection tool, click once on the topmost corner of a triangle to select just that point. Press Shift as you drag up or down, or drag freely and watch for a magenta vertical guide to help you keep the point aligned to the center.

Tip: Drag the single rounded corner widget to create a roof with a rounded top.

5. Draw with lines

Use lines to add details to the windows.

With the Line Segment tool selected, place your cursor at the top center of a square until you see intersect and a magenta guide, which indicate the center of the square shape.

Drag a line segment to the bottom. Release the mouse to finish drawing the line.

Repeat to create a horizontal line to complete the window pane.

6. Add color

Type V to access the Selection tool and click the long rectangle base. In the Control panel, click the Fill Color swatch and choose a color from the Swatches panel. Click the Stroke Color swatch next to it and select None to remove the shape's outline stroke.  

Repeat to color all the walls and roofs.

Next, type V, then Shift + click all parts of the window to select them. Set Fill color: None; Stroke Color to white or another color. Change the Stroke Weight if desired.

Tip: It's easy to reuse color attributes already applied to an object. Select a shape you'd like to apply color to, then select the Eyedropper tool and click a colored object to sample its color and apply it to the selected object.

7. Combine shapes easily

Use the skills you've learned in tandem to draw all kinds of objects and add character to your illustration.

For example, use the Ellipse and Line tools to construct a tree. Simply draw three overlapping circles to draw a treetop, and then draw three lines for its trunk and branches.

Tip: Use this technique to combine shapes easily. Select the overlapping circles, then select the Shape Builder tool and draw a line through them as shown.

8. Prepare for output

To save the illustration for print, choose File > Save, and select Adobe PDF.

In the Adobe PDF Preset menu, choose either the High Quality Print or Press Quality presets, based on your print provider's recommendations.

To save the illustration to view onscreen, choose File > Save for Web.

  • In the Preset Name drop-down menu, choose JPEG High 
  • Check Clip to Artboard

Click Save to export your illustration for your blog, website, or digital publications.

Learn more about saving artwork for the web.

Share your work

Share your work on social media by tagging it #illustratewithshapes and view what others have made here

Jing Wei
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