Who the course is aimed at: Science students and Research Scientists who create presentations and posters, and have to produce figures and graphical abstracts for publication and who are not already familiar with Adobe Illustrator. 

Learning Outcomes: Participants will gain an insight into a new methodology for the creation of scientific figures and an understanding of how that methodology can help them create their own figures. 

Participants will gain hands-on experience of the basic functionality in Adobe Illustrator software and an understanding, and experience, of drawing a figure from scratch. 

Date: 28 Feb 2024  ; 14 March 2024 Spaces available here

Time: 12pm - 2pm (GMT) 2 hours 

Location: Online (Zoom) please note the course needs to be attended live

Requirements: No specialist equipment or experience of Adobe Illustrator is required, but participants should have access to a laptop or desktop computer, with a mouse or trackpad, for use during the workshop.  A free 7-day trial version of the Illustrator software can be downloaded from the Adobe website for use in the workshop, if required.


Good and effective visual communication is becoming increasingly important for research scientists, both when communicating with their peers, via paper figures and graphical abstracts, and when explaining their research work to non-scientists, via information sheets, brochures, etc. Despite its importance, research scientists are often provided with little or no training in visual communication. These workshops provide participants with sufficient knowledge and hands-on training to improve their use of visual communication, creating a basic platform of good practice and skills that they can then build upon.  

This workshop tackles the trickiest aspect of scientific visual communication; drawing the visual elements that make up figures and graphical abstracts. Participants are provided with hands-on instruction in the basic functionality of Adobe Illustrator and are also shown a methodology to follow that will allow them to draw visual elements that can be edited, adapted and combined to create the figures they need.

For straightforward graphic design guidance given see Gills other course Good Graphic Design Practice 

Adobe Illustrator is well-supported and many institutions have Adobe software licences. However, the methodology you will learn in this workshop can also be followed using any vector-based drawing software that incorporates layers.  

During her PhD research, Gill worked with scientists to devise a methodology for the creation of scientific figures that are easy to edit and adapt, utilising the layer functionality in Adobe Illustrator software. It is this methodology that underpins this workshop. 

A short presentation introduces the methodology and this is followed by a practical session, where participants will gain experience of using Adobe Illustrator software for themselves. Two hands-on exercises are designed to use the basic functionality in the software. While this workshop is not designed to give comprehensive instruction in the use of Adobe Illustrator it does provide a straightforward introduction to what can seem complex software, plus sufficient insight to judge whether Illustrator could be useful to you in your work.

Before the workshop, you will be provided with ten guides that provide step-by-step instructions for the Adobe Illustrator functionality used in the exercises, as well as for additional functionality that you may find useful.  During the workshop there will be the opportunity to ask questions and to receive one-to-one guidance.


  • Exercise 1 - participants are provided with an example Adobe Illustrator file of an illustration made up of many layers, that they can edit and adapt
  • Exercise 2 - participants draw an illustration from scratch, using a supplied image file as a guide.
I was unsure as to whether the software would be accessible and sufficiently flexible for my illustrative needs. This session gave me the confidence that I could use it effectively.

Course participant

Creating Figures using Adobe Illustrator


Do I need to buy any software to do this course?

No, if you do not already have a Adobe software licence through your institute, a free 7-day trial version of the Illustrator software can be downloaded from the Adobe website for use in the workshop, please see the next questions for details of recommend computer spec for running the software 

I have already used Adobe Illustrator, is the course suitable for me?

Although the workshop does cover basic drawing functionality in Adobe Illustrator, it mainly focuses on making the most of the layer functionality within Illustrator, to create images that can easily be edited, adapted and combined to create a range of visually consistent figures. You will also be shown how to draw an image from scratch (such as the cuttlefish image at the top of this webpage) by using reference images as guides. So if you feel you are not getting the most from Illustrator, the methodologies demonstrated during the workshop should help you.

Do I need any specialised hardware, such as a drawing tablet, to do this course?

No, all that is required is a desk-top computer with a mouse, or a laptop with a mouse or trackpad. You may find it easier to use a mouse for some of the tasks, even if you normally use a trackpad, so it would be useful to have a mouse with you during the workshop.

I use a mac, will this course and the software used be suitable for me?

Definitely, all software and platforms we’ll be using are available for both MacOS and MS Windows. Gill herself uses a MacBook Air to demonstrate the Adobe Illustrator exercises.  Please see the questions on recommended computer specifications for the best experience. 

How do I install the required software for the course?

Go to the Adobe Illustrator webpage - https://www.adobe.com/uk/products/illustrator/free-trial-download.html - to download the free trial version of the software. Be sure to cancel the trial after the workshop to avoid being charged.

Please see the question on recommended device specifications for the best experience. 

Will I be able to get individual feedback on my progress during the workshop?

Yes, Gill can provide one-to-one feedback to participants during the Adobe Illustrator exercises, via the screen-sharing facility in Zoom.

Do I need to attend this workshop live or can I watch it after?

Participants will need to attend the workshop live, as the session will not be recorded.

Will all the course materials be available to me?

Before the workshop, you will be provided with ten guides (as pdf files) that provide step-by-step instructions for the Adobe Illustrator functionality used in the exercises, as well as for additional functionality that you may find useful. The introductory presentation shown in the workshop will not be available to participants, but you will have access to a pdf file that summarises the advice given during the workshop.


Do I need to have attended the workshop on Good Graphic Design Practice to attend this workshop?

No you do not have to have attended Good Graphic Design to attend this workshop.  However the Good Graphic Design Practice workshop will provide graphic design guidelines that will at times be referred to in this workshop and that you can apply in practice during this workshop. 

Is there any pre-course reading or work that I need to do?

A few days before the workshop you will be provided with ten pdf files that give step-by-step instructions to the Adobe Illustrator functionality that you will be using during the workshop. You do not need to read these guides prior to the workshop and you may find them easier to follow once you have started to use the software. However, you should have the guides available so that you can consult them during the workshop.

If you do not have access to an Adobe Illustrator licence, you can download a free 7-day trial version of the software to use in the workshop. It is recommended that you do this one or two days prior to the workshop. You will be provided with an example Illustrator file before the workshop and you can try opening this file to check that the software is working on your computer.

How do the two Scientific Visual Communication workshops differ?

Good Graphic Design Practice is a presentation of good graphic design practice as it relates to scientific visual communication. The guidelines and tips described in the presentation can be applied to any kind of visual communication (a figure, slide, poster, paper, etc), no matter what software package is used to create it. Participants are strongly encouraged to ask questions and to provide examples of visual communication from their own scientific field that can be discussed during the workshop.

Creating Figures using Adobe Illustrator is a practical, hands-on session that concentrates on one particular software package (Adobe Illustrator), and one type of visual communication (scientific figures), with a particular emphasis on drawing illustrative elements for conceptual figures. If you have always wanted to try Adobe Illustrator, but don't know where to start, this workshop provides a very good entry point. The workshop describes a methodology for creating adaptable figures from scratch using Illustrator and participants get to use this method for themselves. The graphic design guidelines described in the Good Graphic Design Practice can also be applied to the figures created during this workshop. 

If I am unable to attend what is your cancellation policy?

If you need to cancel your place on a course please do this through MyMBA.  If you cancel a course or event booking more than 30 days before the start date of the event you are eligible to receive a full refund minus an admin fee equal to 5% of the course fee that you have paid.  If you cancel a course or event booking within 30 days of the start date you will NOT be eligible for a refund.  For more information please see the terms and conditions which are available on booking.

Will I receive a certificate?

Yes, you will receive a downloadable pdf certificate upon competition of the course