Typographer and illustrator Steven Bonner reveals six techniques for greater flexibility and creativity.

Adobe Illustrator has a wealth of tools and functions for creating incredible vector artworks and graphics. Here we explore its lesser-known functions to help you swiftly produce halftone, 3D and type effects.

Halftones in a jiffy


Here’s how to create quick halftone effects in Illustrator. Draw a circle, then duplicate it and reduce its size. Move it away from the original and blend the two to create the basis of a halftone pattern. Now add copies of the result to each other to create some effective comic style shading.

Give textures a glossy coat


Illustrator’s 3D engine can add glossy textures on a variety of shapes. Draw a circle, for example, and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Click ‘More options’ to show the shading possibilities. You can also add another light source by clicking the New Light icon in the shading options. From here you can experiment with bevel caps, depth and perspective to create everything from realistic red blood cells to raindrops.

Build up your strokes


A lot of people use individual paths to build up stroke effects, but it’s possible to apply varying stroke effects to a single path if you use the Appearance panel. Once you’ve applied your first effect to your path, simply open the Appearance panel and choose Add New Stroke from the panel menu. You can save the line as a graphic style for use at any time.

Replace the spine

When you blend two objects, Illustrator will blend them in a straight line by default. However, by drawing a path and selecting both that path and your original blend, you can make the blend follow any shape you like. Just go to Object > Blend > Replace Spine.

Map to 3D


You can use the Map Art feature to apply anything you like to 3D objects. Firstly, create the graphic you want to wrap and add it to the Symbols library. then when you create your 3D object, you can click on Map Art to open up a new window where you can select graphics to apply and position them wherever you like, following the curves of your new shape.

Keep it Flexible


Try to work so that you keep your images as flexible as possible. For example, rather than using the Rounded Rectangle tool to draw soft-cornered squares, use the Rectangle tool and apply Effect > Stylize > Round Corners instead. This way you can adjust the radius of the corners at any time without redrawing sections.

Steven Bonner has created type and vector illustrations for Cadbury, GQ and Diesel, and his tutorial for us on damask patterns for homewares and wallpaper can be read on our site at bit.ly/nyQcJS. stevenbonner.com