5 Reasons Illustrator Proficiency is Closer Than You Think {Sew Heidi}

5 Reasons Illustrator Proficiency is Closer than You Think

This is an excerpt from my Ultimate Guide to Illustrator for Fashion.
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Anyone can learn Illustrator – including you. And it’s more achievable than it seems.

Most of your frustration comes from 2 things:

  1. misconceptions you believe about AI
  2. unqualified teachers who don’t show you how to easily do things in a clear way that’s easy to understand (we cover this in the full length guide)

For now, let’s look at some misconceptions and 5 reasons proficiency is closer than you think.


I feel like I’ll never learn how to do everything! There are so many hidden functions and features in Illustrator, so I feel completely overwhelmed.

Guess what? You DON’T have to know it all. I don’t, and neither do you. Here’s why:

Illustrator does a lot more than fashion.

It’s used for things like:

  • graphic design (logos, packaging)
  • artistic design (cartoons, illustrations)
  • technical design (maps, charts)

There are a lot of fancy tools to do very specialized tasks.

And you don’t need to know how to use any of them.

I don’t want to just tell you this. I want to show you this.

Look at my old college notebook from 2000:

Using JUST the tools mentioned in this photo (actually less), you can draw an entire sketch.

Let’s look at a flat together.

Count the tools used (noted in bold). The entire design was drawn with just 6 tools. And not mentioned but surely used, we’ll add the Selection Tool (black arrow) for a grand total of 7.

So, if I told you all you had to do was learn 7 tools, do you think you could do that? I know you could.


The thought of illustrator terrifies me so I’ve been putting off absolutely everything to do with it. It scares the hell out of me. Sounds silly, but it’s true.”

It’s ok to feel this way – you’re not alone.

You may be surprised to hear this, but tons of designers are scared.

Here are just a few examples of of emails I get all the time:

But you don’t have to let these emotions hold you back. One of my favorite yoga teachers once said:

Fear makes a good servant, but not a good master.

We have emotions for a reason – they protect us. But we can’t let them control our lives.

So when it comes to Illustrator, don’t let the fear win.

Why? You can’t break the software or your computer.

And nothing is permanent.

Did you mess up drawing that princess seam line? Don’t like the fuchsia colorway? Just undo or change it.

Illustrator gives you limitless edits and you can always go backwards.

It’s not like that moment of panic when you mess up cutting $50/yd silk chiffon fabric. There’s no undo for that.

Luckily, in Illustrator, there is.

You can get in there, play around, and have fun – like a kid.

Remember when you used to draw with crayons? Did you worry about what color to pick? If the tip was sharp enough? What happened when the wax wore down to a stub?

No. You just drew and figured it out as you went.

So next time you open AI, explore with the mind of a child. Because you can’t break anything, and you can always undo.


My hand sketches are 100x better and faster, but it’s difficult to keep a hand drawn look and feel in Illustrator.

If you can sketch beautiful flats by hand today, I’m not saying drawing in Illustrator will be easier tomorrow. And there’s a logical explanation for this:

How long have you been hand sketching? Were your sketches perfect the first time you tried?

No, you learned, practiced, and got better. You’d probably even see improvement if you compared sketches year after year.

Have you spent that much time practicing and refining your AI skills? I bet the answer is no.

But like hand sketching, over time, things will get easier and you’ll get better. Just like “S”, you’ll get so good in AI that your hand sketching will go out the window.

In the long run, you’ll find it easier to sketch in AI than on paper. It’s faster to make edits and mock up variations.

Your sketches start to build themselves as you “Frankenstein” the different pieces together from designs you’ve already drawn.

No more drawing everything from scratch, over and over.

You’ll cut your design time in half.


I wasn’t born with artistic talent, and I have no idea how to draw.

You and me both!!! And it’s ok.

Illustrator can be used as a technical and/or artistic tool. Many designers who don’t consider themselves artists, think sketching in AI is easier than on paper.

Here’s proof – I’ve been designing for 10+ years and I still can’t draw a t-shirt. See?

But I sketch in Illustrator like a boss. See?

You can learn the tools to do this, even if you’re not an artist.


But what about Photoshop? It seems like so many jobs list that as a requirement too. Do I need to learn both?

No. Here’s why:

2 things happen with these job postings:

  1. They’re written by HR or management who *think* you need Photoshop to sketch
  2. Designers use PS because they don’t know how to do it the right way in AI

I use Photoshop to crop and edit photos. Not to design. It’s inflexible and inefficient.

Forget about PS. You only need to know AI. Promise.

Feel some relief? Thought so.

Bottom line? You can learn Illustrator. But there are dangers in taking the wrong Illustrator course.

Adobe Illustrator Proficiency for your Fashion Design Job is Closer Than You Think: {Sew Heidi}

I will show you exactly how to confidently choose the right path in my Ultimate Guide to Illustrator for Fashion.

Get it delivered directly to your inbox, for free.

What’s your biggest frustration with learning AI? Tell me below in the comments.

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