The Star tool is a great learning tool. Select it from the flyout out tools and then click and drag into a document. You can spin it some, or hold down the Shift key to resize it from the center and force the top of the star to the top. You can make as many as you desire.
The larger star on the left was created by Alt-Shift-Click-Drag over the guidelines. (Mac: Option-Shift-Click-Drag) The Shift qualifier centered the star over the guidelines and the Alt/Option key forced the shape to a perfect star. Successive stars will also be “perfect” stars until changed. The second star in the upper right was created by activating the star tool, then clicking once in the document. Enter the desired size.
The previous stars had five points. For this one, I clicked the star tool in the document, then changed it to six sides. The software will remember your last star settings.
The lowest number of points allowed is three, and it worked with 1000 points for me, too. I don’t know if there is limit. The examples work for the star, but also similarly for the polygon tool. Just enter the number of sides. The radius of the rounded corner rectangle can be entered in the fields, along with the rectangle’s size.
To roughen a letter in Illustrator, first enter a letter, word or phrase in the document. Then select Effect>Distort and Transform>Roughen.
The software usually defaults to 5 in the Size box. That’s always too much. Drag the slider to 1 and notice that is still too much distortion. Click Smooth and Preview in this box to see the changes.
The trick for this effect is to enter a number smaller than 1. For this example, I entered .2, but it is also possible to enter .02 for a very subtle effect.
To polish off the project, I needed to click Object>Expand Appearance. This step applies the Roughened effect to the vector outlines.
For this project, I went ahead and converted the text to outlines. Even though the Roughen effect looked perfect in Preview Mode, it had not affected the vector outlines as seen above.
This shows how the final letter would print and cut.
To create a true vector outline in Illustrator, go to Object>Path>Offset Path and enter the desired amount.

Adobe Illustrator basics

Loaded with nifty features once you’re through the initial learning curve

By Mike Jackson

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2017

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Have you ever loaded Adobe Illustrator on your computer, then tried to figure out how to do some of the most basic functions, only to feel like you were lost in a foreign land? Illustrator has incredible power, but you might not find it as intuitive as you’d like at times.

Illustrator has hidden tools or dialog boxes, and you might need to hold down “qualifier” keys like the Shift key or Alt/Option key to make it respond to your needs. Occasionally, you’ll see an entry box that you might assume ranges from 1 to 10, but find out you can also enter .01 instead of simply 1. Who knew?

So, that’s the purpose of this article. It’s not intended to make you a power Illustrator user, but help you get your feet on the ground— especially if you are used to other desktop publishing programs or sign making programs.

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Mike and Darla Jackson operate Golden Studios in Loveland, Colorado, and do a variety of sign-related projects. Mike’s website is His email address is You can see more of Mike’s photos at and

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