With over 10 years of experience using Illustrator (mostly for fashion design but a lot for general graphic design as well), I have quite a few tricks and shortcuts that I’ve grown to rely very heavily on. Here, I divulge you in those tricks so you too can speed up your work flow. You’re welcome.
10. D for Default Attributes
The default attributes for objects are a white fill and a black 1pt stroke. The keyboard shortcut to change a selected object to the default attributes is simply the D key. Bonus: You can change the attributes of the default settings by editing it in the Graphic Styles Panel.
9. Tab to Hide Panels
If you’re feeling cramped on monitor space or you want to see your artboard without any distractions, hit the Tab key to hide all tool panels. Simply hit it again to bring the panels back. Bonus: Another single key shortcut to change the appearance of your screen view is the F key – there are 3 options that the F key will cycle you through, so keep hitting it until you find the one you want.
8. Opt/Alt to Scale to Center
Hold the opt/alt key while scaling an object with the Selection Tool so that it scales to the center. Bonus: Hold the Shift key as well to constrain proportions while scaling.
7. Shift + X to Swap Fill and Stroke Colors
Use this to quickly swap the position of the fill and stroke colors. Bonus: Use the / (backslash) key to change a stroke or fill to non (whichever is active on the Tool Bar is the one that will be changed to none).
6. Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + Shift + J to Average and Join
Not available via any menus (meaning you can only do this with the keyboard shortcut you see here), this will Join & Average two Anchor Points in one step. Great for joining breaks in paths where you want only one Anchor Point. Bonus: If you’re on AI version 18.1.0, you’ll notice there’s a new Join Tool you can play with (hiding under the Pencil Tool) – I find it a bit finicky but it can be handy sometimes! View the video tutorial here.
5. Cmd/Ctrl + Opt/Alt + Shift + V to Paste on All Artboards
This handy shortcut (a handful I know but well worth it!) will paste an object in the exact place on all artboards! I use it a ton when laying out multi-page files that I want to all have the same header or border and I forgot to add that element at the beginning when creating the artboards. It’s also available via Edit > Paste on All Artboards. Bonus: If you planned ahead and added your header or border before you made multiple artboards, simply use the Artboard Tool to create multiple artboards (use the bonus trick from tip #1 one below to quickly make artboard copies) making sure Move/Copy Artwork with Artboard is turned on in the Control Bar so that your header/border copy along with the artboard.
4. Cmd/Ctrl + F to Paste in Front
If you want to paste an object exactly from where it was copied, this is the shortcut to use (available via Edit > Paste in Place but cmd/ctrl + F is much faster!). A simple cmd/ctrl + V (Edit > Paste) will paste an object in the middle of your document based on the current screen position. When you are creating objects that need to be aligned or you want to return something to its exact original position (ie organizing layers after the fact), Paste in Front is a huge time saver. Bonus: Paste in Front will paste the object in front of everything on that layer, while Paste in Back (cmd/ctrl + B) will paste in back of everything.
3. Cmd/Ctrl + ~ to Transform Patterns
One of my most time saving tricks, the tilde key (~ located in the upper left corner under escape) will make scaling, rotating or moving patterns a breeze. This trick is specifically for manipulating patterns independent of the objects they fill. To move patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using either the Selection or Direct Selection Tool. To scale patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using the Scale Tool. To rotate patterns: hold the tilde (~) key while using the Rotate Tool. Bonus: When scaling, be conscious of whether the strokes and effects are scaling as well – you may not want this. To change whether strokes/effects scale or not, check or uncheck the Scale Strokes & Effects box in the general Illustrator preferences (Illustrator > Preferences > General or cmd/ctrl + K).
2. Spacebar to Move Objects While Drawing
This great trick works when dropping individual Anchor Points with the Pen Tool or when drawing shapes such as rectangles or ellipses. While drawing a shape or dropping an Anchor Point, before releasing the mouse, hold the Spacebar to move the position. Bonus: This also works with the Zoom Tool – when you click and drag over an area to zoom in, hold the Spacebar to move the zoom area!
1. Opt/Alt to Make a Copy
By far one of the best and speediest ways to quickly make a copy of an object. This trick is applicable to anyone using Illustrator, no matter what they’re using it for, thus while I saved it for number 1! With the Selection or Direct Selection Tool, hold the opt/alt key and click and drag on any object to make a copy. Bonus: Opt/alt also works with artboards, so use it while creating multiple artboards with the Artboard Tool.