Day 22: Creating Special Effects

Using filters and live effects we can creates lots of special effects instantly. You can smooth out sharp corners, create warp text, add drop shadows and make textures with the live effects. There are many filters in Illustrator and you can have lots of creativity in experimenting all the filters.

Live Effects or Filters

To create special effects, we can use either use Live Effects of Filters. Most of the time I will be using live effects as I can continue making changes using the Appearance Palette. The choice is up to you.

Live Effects: When you apply live effects to objects you can still continue to modify the effects and objects. You will need to expand the object break it into paths again.

Filters: When you apply filters, you can’t make changes to the effect anymore. It is already expanded.

Raster Effects

There are some effects that uses raster effects instead of vector. This includes all of the effects in the bottom section of the Effect menu, and the Drop Shadow, Inner Glow, Outer Glow. When you apply raster effects, it uses the resolution in your raster settings which you can set it under Effect>Document Raster Effects Settings. Raster Effects are not considered as vector as it contains high resolution bitmap.

Common Uses of Effects

Round Corners (Effect>Stylize>Round Corners)

Round Corners is very useful in making smooth corners from sharp angles. You can set the Radius to adjust the amount of smoothness you need for the corners. It can add style to your icons and making your illustrations appear more natural.

Warp Options

This is one of my favourite filter. It can make you text stand out from the crowd by distorting it using arc, fisheye and wave effects. It can also bend bend boring lines to curves. Something to spend time experimenting with.

Distort & Transform (Effect>Distort & Transform>Roughen)

Roughen, Zig Zag and Twist are some handy tools under Distort to quickly make wave or roughening the edges. You can make make paper tears, waves and terrains with it. Below is an example how I can make a mountain skyline just by roughening a line.

Editing or Deleting Live Effects

After you have applied Live Effects, you can edit it with your Appearance Palette. Below shows the arrow with Round Corners effect. You can edit it by double clicking on the effect or delete it by clicking on the dustbin icon..


There are many more things you can do with live effects, so spend some time an experiment with it. Remember to go Object>Expand Appearance if you need to expand the shapes.

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About The Author: Tony Soh

Hi. I'm the founder of Vector Diary. Illustrator is my passion and I have written numerous tutorials on illustrator helping people learn illustrator. My most popular tutorial on learn illustrator has been a hit. It makes learning illustrator so easy and has benefited more than 20,000 people worldwide. Also, I've revealed some of my secret techniques in the premium tutorials. So don't forget to check it out!

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  1. Gravtar for Lolka
    Lolka August 6th

    Nice tutorials ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait for the more advanced ones.

  2. Gravtar for jess
    jess December 19th

    really good tutorials, helped me a lot in learning illustrator!

  3. Gravtar for maria
    maria January 5th

    it is the best tutorial forever! each lesson is great! Thank you for helping us to improve our knowledge!

  4. Gravtar for pajo
    pajo March 14th

    please,publish more tutorials,but we can not regisried !

  5. Gravtar for NuttyProfessor
    NuttyProfessor June 27th

    I’ve been a mechanical engineer for over 25 years…I wished that the taught engineering this simple!

  6. Gravtar for Claude Lahiton
    Claude Lahiton December 30th

    I can’t read it, i am logged on. Can you fix it

  7. Gravtar for Tony Soh
    Tony Soh December 30th

    Try press Ctrl+F5 to refresh it if you are logged on.

  8. Gravtar for Mahseh Vishwakarma
    Mahseh Vishwakarma May 9th

    tey press alt+f4 to close …

  9. Gravtar for Marivic So
    Marivic So February 28th

    i can’t find transform>roughen. i went to object>transform, but there’s no roughen option.

  10. Gravtar for RSCdev
    RSCdev March 10th

    @Marivic So – you will get it to work going: EFFECT >> DISTORT & TRANSFORM >> ROUGHEN

    PS: Looks like you`re trying to get it via the menu “Object” and it isn`t there, instead go to “effect” in the menu and sure you`ll find it. ๐Ÿ™‚