A Child Learning to Swim

I just recently started learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. I didn’t know what an awesome program it was until I watched a tutorial on it. Adobe Illustrator allows us to produce great-looking art, such as icons and logos, and then resize what we’ve created without losing quality. I’m actually doing a little experiment of my own to see how well I’ll be able to teach myself to use Adobe Illustrator, because I want to produce images for professional purposes. But I digress. My point was to talk about tutorials, and how they’re a great tool for learning skills.

I’ve noticed that tutorials are specifically powerful in the computer world. I became first interested in creating websites before we even had an Internet connection in our house. A friend of mine was actually making his website back in 1997, and I got so intrigued by it that I started a website project of my own without even being connected to the net. And when I could finally convince my parents to connect our IBM to the Internet, I was finally able to publish what I had created. But I realized that I’d have to learn more if I wanted to be better at creating websites. So I used AltaVista to come across the first tutorials.

Until then I had been using Netscape Composer, a WYSIWYG website builder that codes everything for the user, to make my website. But then I realized that I should learn HTML to fully understand what’s behind my website, and to take my website building skills to a new level. So I searched for some HTML tutorials and started learning what HTML really is, inside out.

Why tutorials are good

The good thing about learning from tutorials is that we learn the techniques from applied examples. We don’t waste time reading about theory. Instead, we start off by creating something and learning from the creating process itself.

I can always read what the definition of <a href> is, but I can immediately learn how to use it in a real context by learning how to do so in a tutorial. A tutorial tells me to write <a href="http://vector.tutsplus.com/">Simple Vector Tutorials</a>, which allows me to immediately see what it does, and I can also see how it relates to the whole work. By learning from a tutorial, I have a concrete example of the technique in question, so it’s easy for me to understand what it does, and also remember it later on.

I recently watched a video tutorial on how to create a glossy RSS icon with Adobe Illustrator. The video itself was six minutes long, and I could probably complete the tutorial in 20 minutes because I also had to follow and do what was instructed. But the tutorial was packed with practical information that teaches us how to create vector art without any background knowledge. It didn’t need to explain to me how vectors work, because I just drew a bunch of vectors and saw how they behaved in practice.

I’m not saying that glossing over theory is a bad practice, because some skills do need a lot of theoretical understanding. But technical skills can be learned just by doing the task yourself. And best way to find a comprehensive guide that shows you how to perform a certain task is to get a tutorial and start learning.