Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator Tips and Tricks

There are a lot of resources online for learning the basics of Illustrator. These are a few short cuts/tips that I have found useful. If you have a question that isn’t answered below feel free to stop by my office and see if I’ve run into that issue.


Explanation of Raster vs Vector

Photo editing software, like Adobe Photoshop use raster-based images. A raster image is composed of many little dots, or pixels. This multi pixel composition allows for the creation of a life like images. Raster image files are very large and do not resize well. You will know you have a raster image when you resize and the image becomes pixelated.

Drawing software, like Adobe Illustrator primarily use a vector-based drawing mode. A vector-based program does not render images on a pixel-by-pixel basis but instead uses a “connect the dots” method. For example, a raster-based square is made of thousands of pixels where a vector square would be made of only four vector points (one on each corner). These vector points tell your computer to connect them with straight or curved line, and what color to fill in the closed shape. Vector image files are much smaller, easy to recolor, and resize with losing little or no detail.

Customizing your Workspace

You may not be aware that you can create and save custom workspaces with the panels you use most. If you can’t find a panel you need you can find them under the “Window” drop down. Go here for more details on how to customize your workspace.

Artboards represent the area that will be printed. This means you can work on and keep extra items outside the artboard for easy access. You can also keep multiple documents in one file by having multiple artboards.

Favorite Shortcuts:

V Selection Arrow
A Direct Selection Arrow
P Pen
Ctrl +/- or roll thing on mouse Zoom
Space bar + hand tool Move Artboard
Draw from center Alt
Constrain proportion Shift
Move object while drawing Spacebar
Add/subtract sides, points, spiral segments Up or Down Arrow
Arc tool use up or down arrow to change the arc size
Spiral tool use up or down arrow to make line longer/shorter, Ctrl will chane the distance between the spirals
Grid tool up, down, left, and right arrow adds/subtracts lines on grid
Turn at 45 deg angles rotate while holding shift

While you are drawing a shape play around with using the up or down arrow and Ctrl to see what changes this makes. For example Ctrl while making a star tool changes the lenth of the spikes or you can use the down arrow all the way to a triangle.

PC Shortcuts pdf
Mac Shortcuts pdf

Usefull to Know

– When you “Group” items you can edit each item without ungrouping by double clicking the group. This will open the group in isolation mode and allow you to manipulate. Click outside the group to return to artboard.

– Click on an object while holding tthe Alt key will result in a copy that you can drag to any part of your document. This allows more control than Ctrl V because you know where the copy ends up.

– The align tool is your friend. If you don’t know how to use this, take a little time to learn by reading this blog post

– The pen tool allows for more control than the pencil tool. If you need to trace an object the pen tool is the better way to go. It can take a little while to get used to how it works but once you have it down you will easily be able to recreate a drawing. This tutorial goes into detail on the pen tool: