Logos are the face of a brand: the combination of font, color, imagery, and overall look and feel that represents a company’s offerings and values. Imagine how Nike would be without its swoosh, or Apple without its apple. As a graphic designer, you wield a lot of power with your ability to create logos. The Adobe Creative Suite offers an incredibly useful tool to easily make this magic happen: Adobe Illustrator.
Here’s how you can best use Illustrator to create unique, compelling logos.
The components of an Illustrator document
Like Photoshop, an Illustrator document has layers in which you can place different elements, such as text, overlays, images, and photos.
However, Illustrator documents use Paths to construct shapes. The Paths feature anchor points that you can move to adjust the shape, and you can group Paths so that you can move design elements around without having to rebuild all the Paths.
Bring your sketch into the digital realm
Assuming that you’ve read through the client’s creative brief and prepared an initial mockup or sketch for their review, you’re ready to put your vision into the program.
There are several ways to get your logo digitized:
Use a digital stylus to sketch the logo in digital form on a tablet, then import into Illustrator.
Scan the sketch at high resolution and convert the image to pixels in Illustrator.
Draw the sketch in Photoshop and live trace it in Illustrator.
Live trace it in Illustrator using the Image Trace function.
The technique you choose depends on your comfort level with digital tools and how “handmade” you want the logo to be.
In general, live tracing will give the logo a more “sketched” look, while Illustrator’s Pen tool creates a cleaner look.
Add colors to your sketch
Once you have your sketch and have grouped any Paths you need to, you can use the Fill and Stroke color selectors to choose your colors. Logos usually have multiple components that are the same color.
Group these components so that you adjust the hue later and ensure that they all still match.
Tip: Set your document colors as “Color Swatches” so that you can have easy access to them.
Add any text
Whether you’re using a well-known font or a custom one, add the text as a text layer so that you can easily adjust the opacity, positioning, and color.
You can then use Illustrator’s various distortion and transformation functions to do things such as curving the text or making it ﬁt into your shape.
Tip: Always keep text layers as text, rather than converting to pixels, or you won’t be able to edit the text at a later time.
Once you’ve ﬁnished your logo, check for consistency among colors and fonts. You’re then ready to create alternate versions that the client may want. For example, you can create a black-and-white or color swapped version.
Play with positioning as well to accommodate both horizontal and vertical designs. Most importantly, ensure that you create versions suitable for both print and digital media.
Set the document’s color mode to CMYK for print, RGB for digital.
Tip: Create two versions of your Illustrator document, one for print and one for digital, then use the Artboards function for any variations of the logo.
Export and send!
Once you’ve completed all the design variations and document setup, you’re ready to render! Select all the paths for a given logo variation, then export all the paths into a ﬁnished logo. Illustrator will ask you what size you’d like to logo exported at. You can and should export multiple size options for print versus web publishing. Label all documents accordingly and send to the client. Tip: Watermark all documents or export at a low resolution until you get the logo approved and receive ﬁnal payment!
Adobe Illustrator makes it easy and fun to create a logo. As you build your portfolio, you’ll discover new levels of functionality in Illustrator and be able to improve your logo-building game. Remember to regularly save your work, create backups, and never make changes that can’t be easily undone.