Words alone are rarely enough to explain architectural concepts, so architects regularly translate their ideas into graphics and visuals that are easy to understand.
Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for creating clear and creative graphics that can help communicate complex ideas. In this article, we discuss how Illustrator is used in the architecture industry, and how you can improve your presentations with it.
Do architects use Adobe Illustrator?
With work now largely computerized, architects are quickly becoming more familiar with digital media, including things like graphic design and typography. Many firms harness the power of Adobe Illustrator to make professional visuals that are informational and aesthetically pleasing.
Alongside other frequently used programs from the Adobe Suite, Illustrator provides architects with a vast toolbox of functions to make creative vector graphics. It also works well with many CAD, BIM, and 3D modeling programs to create and manipulate lines, shapes, and exported vector images quickly and seamlessly.
Pros and cons
- Fast output and immediate visual results
- Widely used in the architecture industry
- Versatile for different file types and programs
- Fully scalable vector graphics
- Learning curve for new users
- Subscription can be pricey
- Keyboard shortcuts differ from other Adobe programs
- Software requires 2GB storage space
How do architects use Illustrator?
Adobe Illustrator can automatically recognize vector lines exported from modeling and drafting programs. This allows architects to easily adjust linetypes, line weights, and line colors to refine the presentation with depth and detail.
It’s also very simple to create and adjust new lines, whether they’re straight or curved, continuous or dashed. Lines play an integral part in the workflow of architects to achieve clear and concise drawings.
With Illustrator, architects can draw shapes with ease to create objects that fill the drawing with color and mass. Illustrator’s shape and selection tools make it effortless to create uniform and non-uniform shapes.
For imported graphics, Illustrator can recognize faces from 3D models as shapes that can quickly be reformed, recolored, or removed.
Architects have full creative freedom in Illustrator when it comes to color. With the right color palette, a well-made diagram can go from good to great. Illustrator has plenty of helpful tools for selecting and creating swatches that can be used to maintain consistent colors that work well together.
Whether it’s a simple chart or a full perspective collage, adding color can make images more vibrant and easier to read.
As with any kind of graphics, there needs to be some level of order to keep things organized. Architects often make use of grid guides in Illustrator to ensure a clear and orderly composition.
Guides can be used to align images, text, objects and illustrations. They are especially helpful for creating presentation boards, portfolio layouts, infographics, and orthographic drawings.
In order to make visuals more explanatory, illustrations are often accompanied by various kinds of text for things like titles, labels, and descriptions. A major benefit of Adobe Illustrator being a vector program is that text is never rasterized, meaning it can be exported to a pdf that won’t get pixelated no matter how far you zoom into the document.
Within Illustrator, designers can explore a wide variety of fonts, type styles, and text effects.
Icons and symbols
Architects use icons and symbols in Illustrator to visually label and annotate the artwork. Common symbols include arrows and shapes, while icons are widely available online to further enhance your illustrations.
Adobe Illustrator is also a great program for creating and editing icons, and many architects create custom graphics for each project.
Illustrator tips every architect needs to know
Maintain organized layers
As with programs like AutoCad and Photoshop, it’s best to keep a close eye on layers. Adobe Illustrator has a detailed layer panel that can keep your project nice and tidy when done right.
When layers are organized and appropriately labeled, it can save you valuable time and effort navigating the project and making changes. They can be used for controlling visibility, separating different parts of the drawing, and locking layers to prevent unwanted changes.
Arrange your workspace
Illustrator features a massive set of tools at your disposal, all arranged in different tabs and windows that are usually minimized around the perimeter of the interface. Although having all of these tools is one of Illustrator’s great strengths, it’s also one of its big downfalls as many users spend countless minutes searching for particular tools while they work.
This is why it’s important to arrange your workspace long before you begin working. Find your most frequently used tools ahead of time, maximize and snap them to the sides, and maintain a standard workflow for all of your projects.
This will optimize your working conditions and save you time in the long run.
Isolate objects for individual editing
Objects are often part of much larger groups that can sometimes be frustrating to edit. One quick way to edit an individual member of a group is by double-clicking the object to isolate it using the Selection tool.
Isolating an object gives you full control of the individual element without affecting the rest of the group or drawing. You can also enter this mode by clicking on the Isolate Selected Object button in the Control panel.
Once you have an object isolated, you can use lassos and selection boxes to select parts of the object without having to worry about everything around it.
Hide parts of an object with transparency masks
In order to cut or hide part of an object without actually deleting it, transparency masks can be applied. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, masks in Illustrator work the same way.
It involves using black and white on a mask layer to hide or reveal parts of an element. This can be used to convey foreground and background in an architectural diagram, or to hide undesirable areas from the drawing.
Recolor artwork from a single window
If your illustration is coming along and you’re not quite satisfied with the color palette, there is a convenient recolor tool that you can experiment with. It can be found under Edit, Edit Colors, Recolor Artwork.
The tool is used for quick, centralized control of all colors in an artwork. This makes it easier to mix and match different color combinations, and to make swift changes as the project progresses.
Release compound path to separate elements
Oftentimes with imported or premade graphics, lines in an object are locked together in a compound path. They can be difficult to access, and the usual double click doesn’t work to isolate each line.
In these situations, you can use Release to separate the individual elements. Just click on the object using the selection tool, then go to Object, Compound Path, and Release.
After that, you should be able to access or ungroup to edit those evasive compound paths.
Duplicate in one direction with Ctrl+D
Many architectural illustrations use repetitive objects like trees and cars. To simplify the process of placing these objects, you can use the Ctrl+D function. This function repeats the last command in Illustrator so you no longer have to select tools multiple times in a row.
Using the selection tool, hold Alt to enable the move+copy cursor, click and drag a duplicate of an object, then press Ctrl+D as many times as needed to duplicate in a single direction with consistent distance.
Once your artboard is populated, you can also adjust each copy by flipping, scaling, and rotating the objects to introduce some variation. Trees are rarely identical in person, so changing up the height and width of these objects can add a touch of realism and make your drawing feel more natural.
Convert raster images into vector graphics
Outside of the art and design world, almost all photos are raster images. This may pose some challenges if you need to make adjustments in Illustrator, because you’ll need vector graphics in order to make detailed edits.
This is where Image Trace comes in handy. To begin, open an image in Adobe Illustrator. Then, go to Window, and Image Trace to open up the panel. Select your image, and adjust the settings with the Preview box checked to see the expected outcome. Once you’re satisfied with its look, click on Expand to generate the vector graphics.
Now it can be edited and saved in vector formats.
Results from the Image Trace tool don’t always turn out perfect, but depending on your photo, it can sometimes trace and convert things with impressive accuracy.
Converting raster images to vector graphics also gives you more flexibility for the final resolution, as you’ll be avoiding pixelation from blown up pixels. Conversion with Image Trace is useful for images of floor plans, icons, logos and symbols.
Adobe Illustrator courses for architects
Illustrator 2022 MasterClass
The Illustrator 2022 MasterClass is the latest edition of Udemy’s best-selling Illustrator course. It’s taught by one of the Top 10 Adobe Instructors in the world, and it provides A to Z lessons for creative professionals of all levels.
The content, techniques, exercises, and quizzes have all been carefully crafted and refined to offer the most efficient and enjoyable way to master Adobe Illustrator.
The course is intended for all levels of experience, from complete beginners to long-time Illustrator users seeking to bring their skills to the next level.
Adobe Illustrator CC – Essentials Training
This essentials training course is taught by an Adobe Certified Instructor & Adobe Certified Expert. The course covers all of the essential tools to get started with Adobe Illustrator, along with hands-on exercises to practice creating real-world projects.
The course is aimed at people new to Illustrator and design in general. It starts with the basics and progresses through lessons step-by-step to ensure beginners are not left behind.
By the end of the course, you’ll be able to create just about anything in Illustrator, including icons, logos, postcards and hand-drawn illustrations.
The lessons dive into lines and brushes, the use and manipulation of typography, and many other essential functions that are used with the majority of illustrations. You will learn how to make graphics from scratch and easily start and finish projects on your own.
Adobe Illustrator CC – Advanced Training
If you’re already familiar with the lessons covered in the essentials training, or if you’ve completed the essentials course and want to further elevate your skills, the Advanced Training course might be right for you.
This course is a more advanced look at Adobe Illustrator, not intended for users new to the program. The course is designed for those with experience and a decent grasp of the fundamentals.
It is project-based, and you will learn the advanced tools and tricks to create stunning design styles. By the end of this course you will be able to speed up your productivity and workflow, with more in-depth knowledge to create advanced artworks and diagrams.
The course covers advanced functions for all of the major toolsets, and discusses how to best utilize and manipulate different tools for optimal results. The projects include making charts and graphs, and the lessons show how these can be integrated with Adobe InDesign and other related programs.
Adobe Illustrator Mega Course – From Beginner to Advanced
The Adobe Illustrator Mega Course takes users with little to no knowledge of Illustrator from the very basics of the program all the way through to the advanced lessons and how to apply it in actual work.
It’s designed to guide absolute beginners step by step into an advanced level of design and illustration. It covers all of the fundamentals with detailed lessons of each major tool, with exercises to apply what you learn with portfolio-ready artwork.
The course is divided into two sections, the Basic portion and the Advanced portion. The Advanced portion is where you will develop real-world knowledge of how Adobe Illustrator can be used in multiple different industries for all kinds of illustrations.
Some of the applications include abstract artwork, 3D environments, data visualization, photo illustration, and how to gain income with Illustrator online. The course will also cover how to prepare your project for animation in Adobe After Effects. If for any reason you do not like the course, you have a 30-day money back guarantee.
Free vector graphics resources
Freepik is one of the largest providers of downloadable graphics and vectors. The platform features millions of free graphic resources, including vectors, stock photos, logo files, and icons. Many of their files come fully customizable with raw formats for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
PngTree provides free downloads of png images, backgrounds, clip art, and vectors. They have a large library of high quality and free resources, including png, psd, ai, and eps files. Their site features many high resolution cutouts of popular logos, as well as different effects that can be used in creative projects.
Vecteezy is a leading global provider of digital imagery, developed by Eezy Inc. Their site offers thousands of royalty-free vectors, icons, stock photos & videos, backgrounds, patterns, banners, and designs from artists around the world. They also have some of the most intuitive search features to make it easier to find the best graphics for your project.
FreeVectors.net is a community of vector artists who regularly share free vector graphics. All of the images on the site are free to use for personal use, and most of them can be used commercially.
The featured art is a collection of the most recently added vectors, with content constantly updating for all kinds of projects. It is a simple and straightforward site to use, and you can also contribute your own art for the world to see.
All-Free-Download is a true all in one source for free creative content. They have graphics, fonts, web templates, brushes, and more. All files are premium quality, free for commercial use, and easy to download, with over 200,000 vector files in editable ai, eps, and svg formats. There is no limit to daily downloads and the content is updated every day.
Although Illustrator is primarily used by the graphic design industry, it’s gradually becoming a staple software at architecture firms around the world. It can be incredibly useful for visualizing and communicating ideas, and it can be integrated well with other architecture software.
With digital media sweeping the globe, Illustrator may soon be a must-have skill for new and existing architects to remain competitive and up to date. Whether you’re an aspiring architect, or well-established in the field, illustrator can be a helpful tool for making creative vector graphics.