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Prof.  Elizabeth  Macdonald

Computer Graphics for Planners
ArcMap AutoCAD Illustrator Photoshop SketchUp Links










Illustrator Overview

Adobe Illustrator is a widely-used vector drawing program that also offers a high degree of graphic control, color selection, and stylized effects.


Illustrator is your best resource for text effects such as drop shadows, diagrammatic line effects like arrowheads, single page presentation board layouts, and touchups to GIS or CAD output files that retain their original vector precision and crisp resolution.


Illustrator 10 is available on all computers in the DCRP lab. A newer CS2 release is available in the LAEP lab. This program is included in the Adobe Creative Suite package, at about 200 dollars with the student discount (this purchase is highly recommended if you plan on using the software at home, as the full price of the software is about 2000 dollars).


The following tutorials are available in .pdf form:

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Urban Data Visualization Seminar Series has produced a set of Illustrator tutorials that include additional useful Urban Planning applications:

Tips and tricks for using Illustrator

  • Separating similar objects into layers (for example, a layer for blocks of background color, a layer for text, a layer for the title block, and a layer for photographs) allows you to lock the content on one layer at a time. This is useful when objects become stacked on each other and you wish to select only certain objects. Within each layer, sub-layers can be created for further separation.
  • To avoid large files that will slow down the computer, create a separate Illustrator file for each presentation board.
  • Use the Pantone Solid Uncoated swatches menu for colors instead of the standard color pallete or creating your own colors. The results are far more consistent during printing.
  • Minimize the use of transparency and effects such as shadows together in the same drawing, as they may cause printing problems.
  • It is a good habit to create a separate folder for each Illustrator file. Save your image files in the same folders that contain the Illustrator file that references them, and leave them there. That way, when moving your Illustrator files around between network locations or burning archive copies to CD, all of the files that have to remain with it are already in place by moving, burning, or copying the entire folder.
  • When inserting objects into a file with the "Place" command, make sure to check the "link" option in the dialog box. This will keep your Illustrator files small, in turn making them much easier to print. However, you must make sure that the source file does not get moved around after you place it as a link.
  • Single-key keyboard shortcuts are available for all of the tools in the tool palette. To see the default shortcut keys, allow the cursor to hover over the buttons on the palette, and the keystroke will be displayed in parentheses. For more advanced users, these shortcut keys can be customized. Panning throughout the drawing can be achieved by holding down the space bar.
  • Before placing image files into Illustrator, first open them in Photoshop and save them as a Photoshop file type (*.psd). The Adobe-native file format is interpreted better by Illustrator than a generic *.tif or *.jpg file.