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The honest to goodness truth is to take a course.
You can follow th tutorials on Adobe TV on this site or subscribe to Lynda.com
Buy Classroom in a Book by Adobe and Morrdy Goldings The real World Illustrator.
Thanks, I cannot take a course since I lack money and time.
I know about lynda.com (hey it is my name => ) but have not looked into it much yet.
I will look at the classroom in a book might be a good route for me to try.
I'd second what Wade suggests with particular emphasis on Lynda.com. There you have in-depth video explanations of everything that Illustrator is capable of - or rather - what you as an artist are capable of doing with Illustrator!
Start off by learning all about the tools and palettes.
Specially the pen tool and its variants (much like Photoshop's).
Basic shapes: Rectangle, ellipse etc. – how to make them, how to colour them, how to transform them.
Experiment and use help files when you get stuck.
And if you're still stuck, ask us.
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In addition to what has been said already:
Start working with Illy and start reading the Helpfile (previously the Fine Manual); those are the basics. When you begin to understand the latter, you begin to be able to use it. It is written by folk knowing Illy and therefore it is a reference rather than an introduction.
As it appears, you are bound to get stuck, with something that is described nowhere and taken for granted by everyone unstuck, with something that is incomprehensible strange or different from other applications, with something that is actually a bug, with whatever.
And that is why we are here.
Use what you already have: the product's instructions. (What a concept!) Your lack of funds for alternatives may prove to be an advantage.
Start at the beginning of the local Help files; the Contents. Page through it like reading a book. As you go, actually perform the operations it describes.
It may seem tedious, but if you actually perform the described opreations (and actually have a genuine determination to become proficient), you will find yourself performing "sde trip" experiments as you go, and it will not be nearly as boring as you might presently think.
In the days before software vendors began cheaping out on providing printed documentation, that's how people serious about getting up to speed in a new program did it. It still works. Print the PDFs if you have to.
It may be more "fun" to read a published book. But the vast majority of those are just wordy reiterations of the same material as contained in the Help files, but interspersed with "clever" or "light hearted" commentary and annecdote which, frankly, I usually find much more tedious than the just-the-facts-ma'am technical documentation.
Thanks to everyone for their input. I believe I will start to mess with the program and read through the help files. I will also be using the Adobe TV, most likely Lynda.com, and of course these wonderful forums. I can agree with you JET that the "humor" you find in some of these books, well, I would not always call it that. If anything it is stupid.
Thanks again everyone for your input. =>
For my small part you are welcome, Lynda.