Post Category: Artist Resources

Adobe Illustrator Quick Tips: Menus and Tools

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In today’s article, we’re going to go over some quick tips and shortcuts that can be super helpful when you’re first learning how to use Illustrator. I use Illustrator CC 2015, but most versions should have more or less the same functions!

Customizing Your Windows

This might seem simple, but a lot of people don’t think about the fact that you can adjust which windows are visible on your screen. If you click on the Window tab at the top, you can see a full list of different options that you can hide or make visible depending on which ones you use the most.

Your Workspace Windows are on the right side by default

You can see all your Window options here.

In the same menu, if you click Window > Workspace, you’ll see a list of presets based on different types of usage. Illustrator’s default setting is usually the “Essentials” preset, but based on your own work, you might prefer “Layout,” “Typography,” or you may want to create a new custom workspace with all of your most used windows.

As you get more familiar with the program, you’ll find which tools you lean towards the most and you can adjust your settings so they work best for you!

Make your most used Windows visible so your Workspace is more efficient!

Menu Icon Sub-Options

Another simple but easy to overlook tip is the sub-options in your tool bar. You’ll notice that some of the tool icons have a little triangle or arrow in the bottom corner – if you click and hold on those, a drop down menu will appear with additional tool options.

Your Tool Menu is on the left by default.

Most of the default Tools have additional options

For example, the Line Segment tool has an additional menu of things like the Arc and Spiral tools, which can be incredibly helpful in your design work. The Rectangle tool also has an additional menu of other shapes including Rounded Rectangle* and Polygons.

These option are great for getting smooth curves and perfect spirals.

These options are perfect for designs with geometric shapes.

Poke around and see what all of your different options are – there might be useful tools you never even knew about!

*You can also manually round the corners of angular shapes, which we’ll explain below!

Manually Rounding Sharp Corners

(Please note: This feature is only available in newer version of Illustrator, so if you’re still running CS5 or CS6, it might not work for you.)

If you’ve made an angular shape and want to round out the corners, all you have to do is click on your shape – you’ll see a small circle appear next to every corner. Simply click and hold that circle, and drag it inward. The further you drag it, the rounder your corners will be.

Anytime you see these circles, you can adjust the corner sharpness.

You can easily adjust how severe the curve is.

If you click on the entire shape with your Selection Tool, all of the corners will be affected. If you only want to round off one specific corner, simply choose the Direct Selection Tool (right next to the Selection Tool in the menu!) and choose whichever point you want to adjust. Easy!

Adjusting Fill and Stroke

When you first open Illustrator, the default color for shapes is white Fill with a black Stroke around it. You can adjust your Fill and Stroke colors, or remove one of them entirely, by using the boxes at the bottom of your Tool menu.

Here is where you can adjust your Fill and Stroke options

If you want a shape to only be a color and not have an outline around it, first click on the Stroke box, and then click the small box below it with a red line striking through it. This turns the Stroke off. The same thing can be done for the Fill, if you only want an outline on your shape.

Turn off your stroke is you don’t want outlines on your shapes.

You’ll notice that when you select Stroke or Fill, one of the boxes will overlap in front of the other. When picking colors, keep in mind that the color will be selected for whichever box is in front. You can also click the small arched arrow to swap between the Stroke and Fill.

Make sure you know whether you have the Fill or Stroke selected!

If you forget which tools are which, also remember that you can hover your cursor over an icon to see what it’s function is!

Keep an eye out for more upcoming Quick Tip articles on the RB blog! Did you recently learn a new shortcut in Illustrator? Go ahead and share below in the comments if you have!

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