Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

Graphic Design Exercises
Illustrator: Joining Primitives


To learn advanced Illustrator drawing techniques. To practice working with Illustrator's primitives by recreating the following illustration by designer Mark Fox of Black Dog Studios:


What unifies this illustration is the strict use of primitive shapes to create the horse (all the curves have been cut from a perfect circle). Although mechanical looking at first glance, the charm of this art lies in the creative way the horse has been simplified to its barest essential elements.


prepping for the exercise

  1. download starter file
  2. launch Illustrator, file > new (profile=print), save as ""
  3. file > place "horse.psd" (template=yes)
  4. rename "layer 1" as "tail"
  5. practice Illustrator's navigation shortcuts (download Illustrator keyboard shortcuts)

creating the art in illustrator

  1. set stroke to red and fill to none, stroke weight = 8pt
  2. draw circle (shift to constrain, option to draw from center), position
  3. repeat until you have enough circles for the horse's tail
  4. view > outline (cmd+Y)
  5. view > smart guides (cmd+U)
  6. go to the direct selection tool; then select the pen tool
  7. expand layers to show sub-layers (content): lock/unlock as needed
  8. add anchors where circles need to join
  9. delete unneeded anchors
  10. to join lines: select object (opt-click), move object away (this is temporary), carefully select anchor to join, move anchor back until it snaps, marquee snapped anchors, then join (cmd+opt+shift+J)
  11. add new layers as needed to complete the illustration
  12. view > preview (cmd+Y)
  13. change stroke to black
  14. new layer "color"; add colored rectangles
  15. select > objects > stray points, delete
  16. save


  1. file > save as (format=PDF)
  2. delete unused art
  3. add your name and the exercise number to the file
  4. print a proof for grading
  5. file your graded proof in your Process Book for individual review

Last updated: 3/1/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young