I'm trying to make some short animated gifs about Illustrator, with little step-by-step drawings exercises.

I could put some explanatory text in some frames but I would prefer not to do that. Maybe later, it depends on where it ends up, I can add a text line with the used tools.

That's why I would like to know if something like the animation below is understandable enough for someone having a basic AI knowledge.


Thanks for all the comments. Sometimes when you're immersed in a project, however small, you get a little blind. That's why I put the question. Each comment is very useful and I will keep everything in mind.

  • Want to link us to your website when it's done? Commented May 17, 2018 at 15:42
  • @LateralTerminal i will, but all of you put me a lot of homework to do :-) I'm not sure how long it will take.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 15:45
  • Do you aim at teaching a live audience or online synchronous/asynchronous?
    – curious
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 16:57
  • The objective is not to teach, simply to catch for a minute an audience: • For those who have an idea about vector drawing, they will try to interpret how it is done. • For those who do not know vector drawing, it will only be an animation, even if i put the step by step with shortcuts and tools. That's why I accepted @Webster 's answer, because clarified me the doubt I had, not just for the animation, but for the objective: — it's just an animated graphic about an illustration process —
    – user120647
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 17:25

7 Answers 7


I think without knowing what tools did what, what shortcuts did what, and how to do simple things such as reverse the fill/stroke, the gif may be lacking in detail for inexperienced users. There's merely too much "unknown" if you aren't familiar with the functionality of tools/shortcuts in Illustrator.

enter image description here

Conversely, to me, it's very easy, clear, and simple if you do understand the tools, functions, and shortcuts. So perhaps with so little explanation that particular gif could be an "intermediate user" gif?

  • Yes, i know about the explanation... It has to be in English and Spanish, that's why i'm trying to avoid that. I would like to make it universal, finding a way to explain it with no text. I appreciate your comment.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 13:32
  • Minor additional thing -- also show where you're clicking. Many screen recorders will record little "bubbles" expanding from where you click, and I'm sure you can find software to make that happen on-screen for a screen recorder to pick up. (Also, the modifiers generally have language-agnostic symbols -- a Mac's Command symbol is the same on any keyboard layout, AFAIK, even if the location changes)
    – anon
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 6:01
  • note: moving the entire string when adding a character at the end of it to keep it always centered makes it very hard to read because the text is always moving away from where you're trying to look at Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:00
  • @user1306322 the above gif is merely a sample it's unlikely you would randomly press modifiers one after the other as in the sample gif. In most instances all the modifiers would be depressed at one time.
    – Scott
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 20:35
  • Which tool adds in the keyboard clicks?
    – Welz
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:59

There's a few things you could do to improve this good idea and not make it horrible.

  1. You definitely need to add screen keys.
  2. You should break it up into steps and use multiple gifs to show what you've done instead of just one long gif. This eliminates the issue Scott raised that gifs are too long.
  3. Supplement the gif with a description of what you've done.
  4. Provide a download file with the complete project.

EDIT: I thought about this some more.

Gif technology is awful if you're not hosting funny short clips.

Gif is by far the worst video compression ever invented. Google and imgur basically tried to irradiate gif completely with webm but failed massively.

What Google does now when you search for animated gifs is the preview is re-encoded as VP9, h264 or something similar. It saves A LOT of space and loads a lot faster. When you click on the preview it loads the actual gif file.

Using a real video compression format will have a lot of disadvantages. For one the license involved for using h264 is expensive. You'd have to rely on another service like YouTube to host it so you don't have to worry about being sued. Your site visitors can't download the videos from YouTube easily like they could with a gif.

If you don't want to rely on YouTube as a host you could encode it in an open source video format.


Honestly I'm not even sure about the legality of some of the open source codecs. That's why google has been working on AV1 which still sucks.

Just use YouTube

Whatever short clips you'd save as gif you should just host on YouTube and embed it on your website. You don't have to make a long YouTube tutorial like everyone else does. Just break it in pieces like you would with gif and embed the videos in the same places next to supplemental text explanations like I said you should do with the gifs. Everything will load a lot faster on your site.


To clarify some noise in the comments.

There's no real difference between a YouTube video and a Gif. They are both video formats. The difference being that a YouTube video would load faster, have better color, and would also have the ability to pause (it's very important to pause).

.Gif is going to give you a lot of artifacts and improperly display colors because that's how gif works.

So wherever on your website you would place that 4 second gif instead it would be a 4 second video. Why would you still want to use gif at this point? If you use video from YouTube you can hide the videos from the public so that it's only seen on your website.

In the end if you do it the way I'm suggesting it will save you a lot of stress provide higher quality at a smaller size and it will allow people to easily view it on mobile phones that don't have high speed data.

  • Good, i will take a look.
    – user120647
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 15:03
  • Honestly we should be using embedded videos here instead of gifs but stackexchange doesn't support embedded videos into answers so that's why we use gifs. The only reason we use gifs here. Commented May 18, 2018 at 17:12
  • Realize that due to Terms of Service, utilizing services such as YouTube can relinquish rights to original content. That's not always a desired option. Heck... even here, once you post an image, it's free to everyone under a Creative Commons License. The only way to prevent such licensing is to host the content yourself where you have ultimate control. There are also services such as giphy.com which uses video and may offer a better alternative to YouTube.
    – Scott
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 18:11
  • @Scott That's not true. If you upload something to YouTube you get to choose a checkbox for that. You can retain copyright if you chose the right options. YouTube can always delete your video if someone else claims copyright but that's another matter. Commented May 18, 2018 at 18:14
  • Actually YouTube assigns a very similar CC-By license to uploaded content : support.google.com/youtube/answer/… You are mistaken if you think others can't use your YouTube content. As long as they adhere to the CC license, then can. It's the same as posting images here. You aren't "giving up" your copyright, you are allowing free use of anything you upload.
    – Scott
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 18:17

I sporadically use Illustrator but do have full Photoshop knowledge.

I could vaguely guess which tools you are using but have no idea what shortcodes you are pressing... I wouldn't know how to select part of that path and then magically flip it over like you did.

So my guess is someone with more extensive knowledge than 'sporadically' would understand it, but then I'm wondering if they wouldn't already know how to create a drawing like this?

Something else I am personally worried about is the lack of a pause button, if I ever lose track it will be hard to get back in I think.

  • You are right about the shortcuts. The problem is not just the shortcut, but it must be followed with the explanation about what it does: Press "E" to make a free scale :-(, to long. I still thinking how to manage this.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 13:13
  • @Danielillo just a quick mind spin, maybe you can fix the button/combination in one of the corners? So list 'command + c' if you need to copy or something like that. I've seen games do this often.
    – Summer
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 13:39
  • yes, remember must be for Mac and Win: +A / Ctrl+A
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 14:39

I'd leave the gif, unless it is a really short animation, and use a video instead. The ability to pause and scroll makes it much easier to watch-and-try-it-yourself.

I'd add small panel in one corner that will diplay the keys pressed (V for select, etc.) and what it means (Select tool), the keys that are pressed and held (Alt for drag the copy) and indicators what mouse buttons are clicked, double clicked or held.

And in the first lesson, describe what those letters and incons of yours mean. You can sacrifice a couple of first frames to show titles just to remind what the panel means.

  • I know what you mean. In fact the gif of the question is a video, converted to gif and re-edited. For the moment I like the gif retro touch, i just need to think about the design with some universal explanation. Universal means no language and Mac-Win.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:08
  • 1
    @Danielillo, I can just imagine a bunch of people watching through the whole thing over and over because they missed something. It doesn't have to have sound to justify using a video format... If you keep it a video, you'll have more freedom in how you present it. Like with bells and whistles such as play and pause and timeline scrubbing. Besides if it's a gif, you'll have huge pressure in keeping everything short or else it's just too long to make any sense being a gif. Like 2 minutes in and you miss one step "well, I guess I load the page again or something..."
    – Joonas
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 18:56
  • @Joonas That's why i have to make it shorter. Anyway, this sentence "...a bunch of people watching through the whole thing over and over ..." I think it's a bit exaggerated ;-), it is not the last Gaga video! Anyway, as i wrote on the question comments, i feel pressed now to make a whole project. I will let you know all when it's done to get your critics.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 19:32
  • @Danielillo, I'd like to see a beginner or even seasoned AI user keeping up with that, if the point is to follow what is being made in the gif. As I understood they are tutorials of some sort?
    – Joonas
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 19:36
  • 1
    @Danielillo windows have ctrl, alt and shift. Apple has different buttons to alter the shortcuts. If it is possible, you can use pear symbol for Ctrl, peach for Alt and cherry for Shift. (I'm sorry I've never used a Mac). Or display Apple shortcut above and windows shortcut below.
    – Crowley
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 20:04

I have rather suprisingly like scott no problem in following what you do, but then if you showed me the last picture i would know how to do it anyway.

But in my experience at teaching id say the following: The gif is both too fast and too long. See you can not rewind or stop the gif so it should be slower, but it is also too long to follow if you try to do the example so i would split the gif up into separate gifs if possible and put a textual explanation between the separate steps.

Remember that doing is different context from seeing. So the user needs to switch to doing, by that they lost a lot that they saw. This forces the user to rewind, in this case waie, do, wait, do. But id say its fine as a overview just as long as its clearly communicated and tgeres better instructions to follow.

  • I guess i will make different levels gifs: beginner, medium level and "half" advanced.
    – user120647
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 14:50
  • 2
    @Danielillo if all you have is a hammer then either your option is to treat everything as a nail or go to the hardware store.
    – joojaa
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 15:06

It's easy to see, follow or understand(?) the steps in creating the chair.

Nothing is conveyed about how to do it, which tools are used with which shortcuts, except the changing cursor and highlighted nodes.

If this will be a teaching tutorial it'll need more explanation.

If it's a graphic about the illustration process then it works well as is.

  • You hit the nail on the head, it is not a tutorial and of course not a teaching resource, it's just a drawing made with AI tools. I'm trying to make it as comprehensible as possible, but simple, clear, without too much noise. After reading all the comments, I will crop it and add some keys and shortcuts on the animation, but as secondary thing.
    – user120647
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 19:32

To answer your question bluntly: no it is not easy to understand.

From your questions + comments spread out over the answers it seems you have the following requirements:

  • Short animations
  • No language
  • No OS specific instructions

Other users already provided excellent suggestions, however I feel that the latter two requirements are not fully met by them. @Crowley provided an answer which I think is very helpful, especially this part:

I'd add small panel in one corner that will diplay the keys pressed (V for select, etc.) and what it means (Select tool), the keys that are pressed and held (Alt for drag the copy) and indicators what mouse buttons are clicked, double clicked or held.

But why add a panel in a corner while Illustrator already has this panel built in with language independent icons? The Tools panel can be shown alongside the image, allowing the student to see what tools are clicked:

enter image description here

This covers your No language requirement. To slim it down, you could use a custom Tools panel that only shows the relevant tools for the shown instruction:

enter image description here

However, I don't think you can avoid using OS specific keyboard shortcuts altogether. Otherwise you do not have any means of indicating that one has to press Shift when rotating to snap to 45o or Shift+Alt when using the Free Transform Tool.

  • My original idea is to make simple animated illustrations with Illustrator. Many comments point to an Illustrator tutorial, and that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. My interest is finding a middle point between an animation and an exercise, avoiding the tutorial. If i put the AI interface on it, breaks totally the essence of the work i'm trying to do.
    – user120647
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 12:02
  • 1
    @Danielillo Ok, but that was not clear from your question. I think it would be good for the answer quality (and for your satisfaction) if you sit down for a minute and think what you want to ask and which boundary conditions you have (i.e.: not a tutorial, no language, simple, etc...). Then edit the question accordingly. Now your requirements are spread over multiple comments, making it very hard to come up with a satisfactory answer. I am happy to think about your question if it's clearly defined and there's no "moving target". Commented May 18, 2018 at 12:54
  • Ok, I'll think about it. At the moment I am very grateful for what they have given me: a good number of honest criticisms and several comments (including yours) with which I am very satisfied and from which I will take good advantage to improve my project. In fact, thanks to these comments I have reached the conclusions you mention and I did not take into account before.
    – user120647
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 13:29

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