Adobe Illustrator Tools That I Cannot Live Without
I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator everyday for almost 10 years, and I find that there are certain methods and tools that I use repeatedly. Learning these shortcuts and getting quick at these workflows has drastically improved the speed I can work, not to mention the ease. Here are my top ten (ish) ‘most-used’ tools and workflows in Adobe Illustrator. If you’ve got more tips that I’ve forgotten, we’d love to hear them!
1. Contain longer paragraphs of text within a transformable boundary box using the Area type tool. Draw any object, choose the Area Type tool, click anywhere on the object path, type or paste your text into the object.
2. To Duplicate an object or objects, select the objects, click and hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key on the keyboard, while dragging the object to a desired position with your mouse. A duplicate object will be created and placed at the new position upon letting go of the mouse button. Holding shift while dragging will ensure the duplication will be aligned horizontally, vertically or diagonally, with the original.
3. Use the Align tools to help precisely place or organize objects. Select the objects to align and in the align panel (Window > Align), or in the control panel, choose the alignment you desire.
4. Transform Align is helpful any time you need to repeat a transformation. Create an object and transform it in someway (In the video, I duplicated objects to a new position at the right.) To repeat this transformation, (Object > Transform > Transform Again), or just Ctrl-D (Windows) or Cmd-D (Mac).
5. We can all copy and paste, but sometimes you want to control where you paste. To Copy/paste in the same place as the original (Edit > copy / Edit > Paste in place). Ctrl-C/Shift-Ctrl-V (Windows) or Cmd-C/Shift-Cmd-V (Mac)
To join endpoints, select the 2 path endpoints by dragging a marquee through or around both endpoints. Click the Connect Selected End Points button in the control panel, or join with shortcode Ctrl-J (Windows) or Cmd-J (Mac). In the video, I select all 4 endpoints at the same time and hit Cmd-J twice on my Mac.
6. Pathfinder (Window > Pathfinder) are my all time favorite tools that allow you to combine multiple objects in a variety of ways. Select the objects to combine and choose one of the ten interaction modes in the pathfinder panel. I tend to use Combine, Exclude and Divide most frequently. Combine will add the objects together to create one larger object. Exclude will ‘punch out’ any interior shapes, like a hole punch. Divide will use any intersecting paths to break apart the objects into numerous smaller objects.
7. Global color swatches is an feature in Illustrator that is useful when you want to use many tints of the same color, or to globally change a color used throughout a complicated project without having to select every object using that color. Choose your swatch in the swatches tab (Window > Swatches), or create a new color swatch (Window > Color > Create New Swatch…) Double click the swatch to open its dialogue box. Be sure to click the “Global” check box. Global swatches in the swatch panel will show a little white triangle in the lower right corner.
8. Stroke Width is a new tool that came in with CS5. You have the ability to create variable width on each individual stroke. Create an object with a stroke, click the Width tool (Shift-W) and click and drag anywhere in the stroke to change the width at that point.
To expand a stroke into a filled object, simply choose Object > Expand.
9. Multiply Transparency (Window > Transparency) is one of my favorite ways of adding shadows to an object. Applying this effect to a shape sitting on top of another will result in a color that is a darker version of the original.
10. Image Trace is a time saving tool for converting a raster image into vector. The end result will depend on how large, or how complex, the original raster image is. Place the raster into illustrator, select it, choose (Object > Image Trace > Make and Expand.)