Designing Invitations in Adobe Illustrator: Part 1

Ever since my Vistaprint STD post, I have been getting lots of messages from hive members asking me how I used Adobe Illustrator to design my invitations. Learning how to use Adobe Illustrator was NOT easy, mostly because I taught myself. I learned how to use it for work to make figures for academic publications, but the same skill-set works for wedding stationery design.

Now, first things first: Adobe Illustrator is expensive. It comes in a package called “Creative Suite 5″ (or CS5 for short). It includes things like Photoshop and InDesign as well. Right now, it is listed on the Adobe website for $1299 USD. Yikes. I purchased my CS5 Design Standard for around $200 at the University I attend, with an education discount. If you’re in the market to purchase CS5, try to use this discount. It literally saves you hundreds of dollars. But: the website does offer a free 30 day trial. So: if you can teach yourself how to use Illustrator and design your invitations in under 30 days – you can avoid purchasing it.

The most important thing to understand about Illustrator is that it is a vector-based design program.

If you think about pictures that you take with a digital camera, those have a resolution because they are made up of tiny dots of colours. They are called raster images. They can only be resized so large without losing resolution. Vector images are made up of lines, which allows them to be resized to any size without losing resolution.

Since I used Vistaprint to design my STDs, I will show you all how to use a Vistaprint template. As I told you all, I’m spending a month in Africa, which means I am feeling the DIY-time-crunch with all of the things I have to design and print. I wanted to design a basic and fun rehearsal dinner invitation that I could have printed through Vistaprint quickly and easily, which would allow me to focus on DIY-letterpressing my invitations. So you all can get a sneak peek of the rehearsal BBQ invitations, here! Without further ado, here is my hopefully easy to understand “Illustrator for Non-Graphic Designers” tutorial!

Adobe Illustrator / Vistaprint Template Invitation Design

1) Choose the size and type of document you want to make. Browse through the types on Vistaprint here. Once you’ve chosen a product and size, click the blue “Design Template” tab, and download the Adobe Illustrator template. (note: not necessary if you’re not printing with Vistaprint)

2) Open Illustrator. Press File -> Open, and open the Vistaprint template from step 1. (If you are not printing with Vistaprint, create a new file by going File -> New, and set the size measurements to the size of the invitation – this will be the size of your “artboard”). When you open the template, it should look like this:

To turn off the guides layer, press the little “eye” button under the guides layer, in the layers window.

3) Decide what you want as a background. It is best to design from the “bottom up” so doing the background first is important. If you want a solid background, the easiest thing to do is to insert a rectangle the size of the template, extending to the furthest margin line, the bleed line. To do this, select the rectangle tool on the left hand toolbar, and use your mouse to create a rectangle the appropriate size.

To change the colour, select the rectangle and either choose a common colour under “swatches” on the right hand side toolbar, or set the CMYK values under the Color window (which should also be hanging out on the right hand side).

For our rehearsal dinner invitations, I wanted to do a background that looked like a checkered/gingham picnic tablecloth. So, I built the background using tons of small squares, and grouped them together. First, I inserted a square using the rectangle tool that was .25″ x .25″ and coloured it “red” under the swatches colours. I then aligned it with the bleed line in the top left corner. To create the pattern, I then copy and pasted the same square again, and changed the opacity to 50%, using the opacity tool in the header toolbar.

Then I lined up the two squares and “grouped” them. I did this by shift clicking both of them, then two-finger clicked (I think in PC this is right click?) and pressed group. Now Illustrator recognizes these two images as one, and will move them around as one image. (You can group whole rows when you’re done, so that you can copy paste rows of squares, saving yourself a lot of time when making a background!)

Rinse and repeat, alternating with the white and red row, and I’ve got myself a gingham background! (I also grouped each row so that the entire background can move together – if you group all of the rows together, it makes things easier

4) I added a vector shape on top of the background, so that I could put the invitation information on it. I downloaded the free vector shape here. To insert it, I opened the file, and chose the shape I liked the best, and then isolated the shape from the rest of the file by isolating the group, which was the basic outline of the shape.

Then I just changed the colour of the shape, made sure it was filled with colour (which was just an off-white colour) , chose no outline, and sized it to fit my document.

I also wanted to make it pop, so I added the same shape on top of it, just slightly smaller. I made this one have no fill, but a black outline.

note: Centering the image is crucial. You want to make sure that the images are centered to the artboard. To do this, select your image, and then in the “Align” window, choose Align -> to artboard. Then choose “horizontal align centre” and “vertical align centre”, and your images will magically align themselves perfectly.

Stay tuned for part 2… where I will cover text, and vector graphic insertion.


Mrs. Eagle

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Wedding Date:
August 2012
The Part Where It Starts to Get Real
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Meghan, Guest @ 10:44 am

    There’s also a program (that’s completely free) that I used before I bought Illustrator called “Inkscape”. It may not have every single bell and whistle that Illustrator does, but it’s great if it’s for something like this! 😀

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