How I Use Illustrator to Create Illustrations

Magoz process to create illustrations with Adobe Illustrator

In the past, I used Photoshop to create my illustrations, but it has been a bit more than a year since I decided to switch to Illustrator.

I had to switch because creating animations is way easier when you work with vector shapes.

The transition was a bit tricky, but I’m not looking back. My speed has increased, I optimized every single part of the process, and I still can sketch and draw naturally using Procreate.

Here is my new workflow.

How I Use Illustrator to Create Illustrations

  1. Setting up the artboard
    I usually work with one single artboard that has the same proportions as the required image. If the size is small (less than 1500px wide), I double its size to work more comfortably and precisely.
  2. First layer: guides & color background
    I use the first layer to place a temporary color background using the Rectangular shape. On top of that, I create the guides within a click using the GuideGuide Plugin. I always compose my images using my particular version of the thirds theory.
  3. Second layer: basic structure
    I create a second layer where I start creating the basic structure of the illustration using geometric shapes and the pen tool with a thick stroke. This helps as I begin working on the composition and the color palette.
  4. Color palette
    I limit my color palette to just a few colors, and I force myself not to introduce new ones unless it’s absolutely necessary. The process of choosing the colors is very organic and a bit chaotic, and I usually continue tweaking the color palette until the image is completed. I use the swatches panel to store the colors.
  5. Tweaking the shapes
    I start transforming the very basic shapes by moving the anchor points and the bezier curves. I add and remove points if needed. I also use the Pathfinder to merge or divide several shapes. At this point, I start dividing the illustration into different layers, grouping the elements together.
  6. Polishing the illustration: trial and error previews
    As I only use one artboard per document, I save different versions of the image as I keep working on it. I then export previews of each version to compare the changes. I usually go back and forth using this trial and error system to make sure I’m heading in the right direction.
  7. Final image
    At the end of the process, I still do some tweaks to the colors, composition, and proportions to make sure I get the most of the image.

Tips and Tricks for Illustrator

Here are a few tricks for Illustrator I use to improve my workflow:


I still have a lot to learn, but after a year using Illustrator, I feel that’s a more effective tool than Photoshop to create my illustrations.

Illustrator has simplified the process and the involved tools.

I no longer need a graphics tablet to create my final illustrations; I only need my MacBook. That adds a lot of flexibility to my workflow and helps me to travel light, but most importantly, it has made working on animations possible.