So you finally made the leap from Photoshop to Illustrator. Congrats. It’s time to brush off your shoulders, because those Photoshop-sweating amateurs ain’t got nothin’ on you.
But here’s the thing. Remember how it took you literally (okay, figuratively) 100 years to finally get good at Photoshop? Well, now you’re back at square one. As with all Adobe software, Illustrator is a complex program, and knowing the right shortcuts can save you big time.
So to make your design work (and frankly your entire life) easier, our design experts at The unFactory put together this quick list of Illustrator shortcuts.
Note: For this post, we are using Illustrator CS6, so some of these tips may not work with older versions.
Illustrator Shortcut #1: How to Navigate Artboards
At times, you may find yourself zoomed into your project at 6400% working on some fine details. But, oh no, you forgot to fix something on the opposite side of the artboard. Rather than scrolling all over the place or selecting the hand tool from the tool panel, simply press and hold the Spacebar to quickly toggle the hand tool.
Illustrator Shortcut #2: How to Hide Bounding Boxes and Edges
Too many outlines can be distracting when laying out a design. To quickly hide the bounding box press Shift+Cmd+B (Mac) or Shift+Ctrl+B (Windows). To hide edges press Cmd+H (Mac) or Ctrl+H (Windows).
Illustrator Shortcut #3: How to Turn Off Smart Guides
Smart guides can be great for centering and aligning elements, but they can also prevent you from moving these elements precisely where you want them to go. To turn smart guides on and off, use Cmd+U (Mac) or Ctrl+U (Windows).
Illustrator Shortcut #4: How Align to Pixel Grid is Quietly Sabotaging Your Designs (and Probably Your Life Too)
Ever wonder why your anchor points aren’t snapping together or joining correctly? When you connect objects using the pathfinder window, are your final shapes shifting ever so slightly? The culprit is most certainly the “Align to Pixel Grid” preference. This preference is on by default when creating a new document, but can be found (and turned off) at the bottom of the Advanced section in the New Document window. The preference can also be turned off later in the flyout menu of the Transform window. If you use the latter method, be sure to deselect the “Align to Pixel Grid” option in the Transform window for any object you have already created.
Illustrator Shortcut #5: Pen Tool Hacks
When creating shapes with the Pen Tool, it’s often necessary to move anchor points or to adjust curves to better suit your design. Rather than jumping back and forth between the artboard and toolbar, there are some simple shortcuts that can be used to easily access the Direct Selection Tool and the Convert Anchor Point Tool without ever abandoning the Pen Tool. To temporarily switch from the Pen Tool to the Direct Selection Tool, press and hold the Command key (Mac) or the Control key (Windows).Note, if you more recently used the standard Selection Tool, this shortcut will default to that tool instead. To fix the issue, click the Direct Selection Tool in the toolbar and reselect the Pen Tool. To temporarily access the Convert Anchor Point Tool, press and hold the Alt/Option key.
Illustrator Shortcut #6: How to Create Custom Shapes Using Shape Tools
If simple shapes are needed in your design, Illustrator’s built-in shape tools can be very useful for quick generation. There are several simple shortcuts that allow you to quickly customize these shapes before committing to them. When using any of the shape tools, holding the Shift key will both straighten the shape and keep it in a perfect 1:1 aspect ratio. Holding the Spacebar will allow you to freely move the shape around the document while retaining the current look and size.
The Star Tool offers some additional customizations that are not applicable to the other shapes. Holding the Alt/Option key straightens all sides of the star. Holding the Command key (Mac) or the Control key (Windows) allows you to lengthen or shorten all points on the star while the other anchor points retain their current position.
The Star Tool, Polygon Tool, and Rounded Rectangle Tool can all be customized using the Arrow keys. The Up and Down Arrow keys can add or remove points from the star, add or remove side from the polygon, and increase or decrease the curvature of the rounded rectangle corners.
Illustrator Shortcut #7: Distraction Free Font Surfing
There’s nothing more frustratingly time consuming than choosing a font for your project. When testing different options in your design, the last thing you need clouding your vision is an underline, a border box, or a text highlight that inverts both your font color and any element below. Hide all of these distractions using Cmd+H (Mac) or Ctrl+H (Windows).
Note: If you are using a newer version of Illustrator, you can easily cycle through fonts by scrolling up or down over the Character drop-down list or by clicking the list and using the Up and Down Arrow keys.
Give these Illustrator shortcuts a shot – they’ll facilitate a more seamless production process and create better work (that does better things) for you and your clients. Our team at The unFactory uses Illustrator everyday to create logos for our brand names, and we’re always psyched to pick up new tips and tricks. Got any hacks that aren’t listed here? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!