With so many marketers producing visual assets, boosting up blog posts with custom brand images, making infographics, and creating slick SlideShares, I wanted to help out and provide some design tips. Snazzy images can really help amp up the appeal and shareability of your content marketing and you don’t have to outsource simple graphics if you know some Adobe basics. That said, here are my five favourite design hacks for Adobe’s Illustrator.

Each of these discoveries were huge “ah-ha” moments for me, and I’m hoping some will have the same effect for you! To get started, open Adobe’s Illustrator, and select Window > Workspace > Essentials. I’m using Illustrator CS5.

#1 Choose a Killer Colour Combo

Not interested in learning the principles that dictate what makes groups of colours complement each other? Just straight up lazy? No problem.

Illustrator has included a nifty feature called the “Colour Guide Tool” that creates colour pallets for you. To use it, first choose a base colour for your set. You can select a colour easily by using the eyedropper tool (press “i”) which captures the colour from any element with just a click.

Find matching colours easily

With your desired colour selected, click the colour guide tool (in the top right of your screen) and BAM! Illustrator provides you with a colour set that works harmoniously together.

Using the colour guide tool

By selecting the down arrow next to this palette, you can choose different combinations based on different colour theory principles.

Select colour combinations

Now you look like a colour matching genius!
(and your SlideShare uses complementary brand colours!)

#2 Center Objects Like a Pro

Centering objects so that they sit in the exact center of your canvas can be tricky. This is why Illustrator has an Align Tool. To find this tool simply select Window > Align.

The default setting will make selected objects align in relation to one another. To use this function, click the first item you want to align (picture, block of text, etc.), hold shift (keep holding it), and select all other elements you would like to align with the group. Then select how you want these objects to sit in relation to one another in the Align Options menu (see screenshot).

To align objects to the Artboard, select the downward pointing triangle in the top right corner of the Align window and choose “Show Options”. Selecting this reveals advanced settings. Click the graphic under “Align to” and choose “Align to Artboard”.

align objects to the artboard

Now all objects can be centered in relation to your canvas using the same Align Options as above.

#3 Cheat Your Way to Perfect Typography

Painstakingly adjusting the space between letters to achieve the illusion of equal spacing/kerning?

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

With your text selected, try changing the “set kerning between two letters” option from “Auto” to “Optical”. To see this option, select Window > Type > Character.

adjust kerning easily

This setting will automatically take into account the shape of each letter and individually space each one in relation to its partner to the left and right accordingly. This setting is not always ideal, but when using non-native fonts and mixing fonts it can be a lifesaver.

#4 Create Custom Vector Images Faster

Need to create a unique image for a blog post? Give yourself a head start by checking out one of these free download vector sites to see if they have something similar first:

Alter free vector images

With your base image selected, change the colours and add/remove elements to create a new vector image/character in a fraction of the time! These sites also have business card templates, background textures and more!

Check out the wiener dog I created which started out as a free stock image. This little guy is featured in the video for Vidyard’s HootSuite integration:

Free vectors I altered

Note: Be thorough in checking out copyright laws first!

#5 Make a Sunburst…in 30 Seconds!

Want to create a cool retro sunburst for a fact sheet or the cover of your marketing guide? There are tons of tutorials online – but this way is definitely the easiest. Grab the Ellipse tool (found in the toolbar on the left side of the screen, in the same menu as the rectangle tool).

create an ellipse

Hold “Shift”, click and then drag on your canvas to create a circle.

Remove the fill but keep the stroke on your circle. This can be modified in the bottom section of your tool bar.

Remove the object's fill

Open the stroke tool menu, found on the right side of your screen.

Add a “400pt” weight to your stroke. This can be done by manually typing in 400pt in the text entry section.

Not very impressive yet – but we are closer than you think! If only the stroke weight is visible in this window, choose the downward pointing arrow in the top right of the stroke window and click “Show Options”.

Create a sunburst

With the circle still selected, check the dashed line box. Below the dashed line check box, try different combinations of point sizes in “dash” and “gap”. “Dash” determines the thickness of the rays and “gap” dictates the size of the space between the rays. If you want to get fancy, try adding different weights and spaces in the additional dash and gap boxes. This will give your sunburst a more dynamic shape.

Make Your Content Marketing Stand Out

This concludes my five design hacks for Adobe Illustrator. Each of these tips can help you enhance your content marketing assets from fact sheets to handbooks, and more, so I hope you find them useful.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, let me know below or email me at Katie@vidyard.com

Katie Nippell