Whether you're a beginner or an experienced user, the following tips and tricks will help you work faster, smarter, and more efficiently in Illustrator.
From mastering the Appearance panel to using hidden tools and techniques, this tutorial will take your Illustrator skills to the next level. By the end of this tutorial, you'll have a range of new techniques to add to your toolbox, making your workflow smoother and your designs more professional. So let's dive in and start exploring these tips and tricks.
Prefer a video tutorial? We've got you covered. Check out this new video from the Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
Jump to content in this section:
- How to Stylize Text and Keep It Editable Using the Appearance Panel
- How to Copy Appearance Attributes
- How to Scale Appearance Attributes
- How to Scale Patterns in Illustrator
- How to Save Complex Patterns
- How to Add Custom Toolbars
- How to Use Drawing Modes
- How to Quickly Clean Up Asset Panels
15 Tips & Tricks All Illustrator Users Should Know
1. How to Stylize Text and Keep It Editable Using the Appearance Panel
We'll start with text and the almighty Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). By combining these two, you can stylize text and keep it fully editable. You can add a bunch of fills, strokes, and effects, and then edit the text as you wish.
Once you're done stylizing the text, simply double-click it to add more text with the same style.
Here's another great example that shows how far you can go with this technique while keeping the text fully editable.
- A Beginners Guide to the Appearance Panel and Graphic StylesAndrei Marius16 Jun 2022
- How to Create a Spring Text Effect in IllustratorAndrei Marius22 Mar 2023
- How to Create a Pop Art Text Effect in IllustratorAndrei Marius04 Apr 2023
- How to Create a Neon Text Effect in IllustratorAndrei Marius23 Nov 2021
2. How to Copy Appearance Attributes
Once applied, you might want to copy the Appearance panel attributes. Sure, you can go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers), find the object with the Appearance attributes, and focus on these target icons. Hold down the Alt key, click the target icon that stands for your stylized object, and drag it onto the target icon that stands for your other object. While this is a viable method, you should know that there's an easier way to copy and paste Appearance attributes.
Select the Eyedropper Tool (I) from your toolbar, double-click it, and check the Appearance box to make sure that the Eyedropper Tool will pick the Appearance attributes. Remember to click OK to apply the changes.
While the Eyedropper Tool is active, you can hold down the Control key, which will switch to the Selection Tool. This way, you can quickly select any object from your design, and once you release the Control key, you'll be back to the Eyedropper Tool. Now, simply click the object with the Appearance attributes to instantly apply the same settings to your selection.
3. How to Scale Appearance Attributes
Whenever you wish to scale the Appearance attributes proportionally, go to Edit > Prefereces > General and make sure that the Scale Strokes & Effects box is checked.
4. How to Scale Patterns in Illustrator
But what if you want to scale a pattern in a non-destructive way, meaning that you can always return to the original scale or further adjust the scaling? Well, you can achieve this using a Transform effect. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform.
First of all, uncheck the Transform Objects box and keep the Transform Patterns box checked, and then use the Scale sliders to scale your pattern.
Now, if you wish to return to the original pattern size, you can simply disable the Transform effect from the Appearance panel, or you can open it and adjust the scale settings whenever you wish. Keep in mind that you can also rotate your pattern, move it, or even flip it.
5. How to Save Complex Patterns
Let's continue with a simple trick that you can use when you're saving a pattern in Illustrator. Sure, you can save your pattern in the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), double-click it, and use the Pattern Tile Tool to adjust the size of your pattern tile.
This might work for simple patterns, but if you need to do this for a really complex pattern, Illustrator might get really slow or even crash, which can be pretty frustrating.
Here's how you can avoid this issue. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a shape that's the size of the pattern tile that you were trying to set using the Pattern Tile Tool.
Send this shape to the back (Shift-Control-[), behind the rest of the shapes that make up your pattern. Make it invisible by removing any color that's set for the fill or stroke. Now, select this shape along with the rest of your pattern shapes, and drag them into the Swatches panel to save them as a new pattern.
Let's double-click this new pattern. As you can see, your invisible rectangle dictates the size of the pattern tile, so you won't have to mess with the Pattern Tile Tool.
- How to Make a Heart in IllustratorAndrei Marius25 May 2023
- How to Make a Seamless Brick Pattern in IllustratorAndrei Marius21 Mar 2023
6. How to Add Custom Toolbars
You're probably familiar with the default toolbar, but did you know that you can also add custom toolbars?
Click that three-dot button at the bottom of your toolbar to open the menu with all the available tools. Move to the top-right corner of this panel and click that button to open the fly-out menu, and go to New Toolbar. Give it a name, and click OK to add it.
Now, click the three-dot button again on your new toolbar, and simply click and drag the tools that you need. This might be helpful if you're planning to use tools that don't have keyboard shortcuts assigned.
- How to Draw a Flat Designer Character in Adobe IllustratorYulia Sokolova09 May 2023
- How to Create a Hanging Monkey Illustration in Adobe IllustratorNataliya Dolotko28 Feb 2023
7. How to Use Drawing Modes
Using the Drawing Modes command, you can easily switch between adding new objects above, below, or even inside your existing design. Normally, whenever you add a new shape, it goes on top of your design.
Focus on your toolbar and click that tiny button below the color settings. Select Draw Behind, and now any new shape that you add will go behind your existing design.
As long as you have a shape selected and go to Draw Inside, any new object that you add will be masked by your selection. Remember to select Draw Normal or press Shift-D whenever you wish to return to the default mode.
- How to Create a Dog Logo Design in IllustratorAndrei Marius17 Mar 2022
- How to Create a Palm Tree LogoAndrei Marius17 Sep 2021
8. How to Quickly Clean Up Asset Panels
Keeping your panels clean and tidy will definitely increase your work speed, so in some cases you might want to remove assets that you're not using. We'll use the Brushes panel (Window > Brushes) for this example, but keep in mind that this also applies to the Swatches panel, the Graphics Styles panel, or the Symbols panel.
To remove the brushes that you do not need, open the fly-out menu of the Brushes panel, and go to Select All Unused, which will instantly select all your unused brushes. Once they're selected, you can easily delete them using the trash can button at the bottom of the panel.
9. How to Zoom in Using the Mouse Wheel
Besides the classic commands, zooming in Illustrator can also be done using the mouse wheel. First of all, you don't need to select the Zoom Tool (Z). Just go to Edit > Preferences > General to check the Zoom with Mouse Wheel box, click OK, and now you can use the mouse wheel to zoom in or out.
Keep in mind that when the Zoom with Mouse Wheel box is unchecked, you can still use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out as long as you're holding down the Alt key.
- How to Draw the Wonder Woman LogoAndrei Marius22 Dec 2022
- How to Zoom In and Zoom Out in IllustratorAndrei Marius22 Jan 2023
10. How to Change the Default Font Settings
Whenever you add new text in Illustrator, you can easily see that you're always getting that tiny Myriad font for your starting text.
To adjust the default text settings, first you need to open the Character Styles panel, so go to Window > Type > Character Styles. Open the fly-out menu of this panel and go to Character Style Options. Select Basic Character Formats from the menu, and then feel free to replace the existing settings with the ones that you prefer. Remember to click OK to apply the new settings.
- A Beginner's Guide to the Character Panel in IllustratorAndrei Marius14 Jul 2022
- Illustrator's Type Tool: A Comprehensive IntroductionAndrei Marius12 Jan 2023
11. How to Exclude Words From Hyphenation
When working with massive blocks of text, you might want to set some words that will never get hyphenated. You can easily do it by going to Edit > Preferences > Hyphenation. Just type your word in the New Entry field, and then click the Add button to move your word to the Exceptions list.
12. Warping Text Using Shapes
There's more than just one method that you can use to warp text in Illustrator, but probably the fastest and most versatile is this one. All you'll need is some text and a shape. Select both of these elements and go to Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object. This will warp your text, making it fit into the shape's boundaries.
13. How to Easily Select Objects With the Same Attributes
Selecting multiple objects can be a bit time-consuming, especially when you're working on a complex design. As long as the objects that you need to select share some common Appearance attributes, you can use one of the Select Same commands to easily select them at once.
All you have to do is select one of your objects, go to Select > Same, and you will find plenty of filters that you can use to select all the objects from your document that have the same attributes.
- How to Create a Stained Glass Effect in IllustratorAndrei Marius31 Mar 2022
- How to Create a Stained Glass Text Effect in IllustratorAndrei Marius10 Dec 2019
14. How to Recolor Artwork Using a Photo
You're probably familiar with the Recolor Artwork option, but did you know that you can also use the colors from a photo to quickly recolor your design?
All you have to do is open the Recolor Artwork window (click the button from the control panel or go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork) and click the Color Theme Picker button, and then just click your photo and Illustrator will do the rest.
- How to Design a Trendy T-Shirt in IllustratorAndrei Marius08 Oct 2021
- How to Create a Cat Logo Design in IllustratorAndrei Marius16 Dec 2021
15. 5 Quick Tips to Ease Your Work in Illustrator
Finally, here are some really quick tips that might save you some time.
If you're annoyed by Illustrator's large tool tips, you need to go to Edit > Preferences > General and just uncheck the Show Rich Tool Tips box.
Go to View > Show Edges if you can't see any outline when you have an object selected.
Go to View > Show Bounding Box if you can't see the bounding box when you select an object using the Selection Tool (V).
Go to View > Show Corner Widget if you can't see the corner widgets when you select an object.
Go to View > Show Gradient Annotator whenever you select a gradient-filled object and you can't see the gradient bar while the Gradient Tool (G) is active.
Last, but not least, remember that you can press Shift-Control-I to easily get rid of this perspective grid whenever you accidentally turn it on.
Congratulations! You're Done!
That's it! These 15 Illustrator tips and tricks will help you increase your work speed and focus more on the creative side.
Want to Learn More?
We have loads of tutorials on Envato Tuts+, from beginner to intermediate level. Take a look!
- How to Make a Trapezoid in IllustratorAndrei Marius17 Oct 2022
- How to Draw Stars in IllustratorAndrei Marius03 Nov 2022
- How to Draw a Circle in IllustratorAndrei Marius16 Dec 2022
- How to Make a Wavy Line in IllustratorAndrei Marius20 Nov 2022
- How to Make a Wavy Line in IllustratorAndrei Marius20 Nov 2022
- How to Make a Triangle in IllustratorAndrei Marius22 Jul 2023
- How to Draw a Line in IllustratorAndrei Marius15 Feb 2023
- How to Make a Semicircle in IllustratorAndrei Marius22 Feb 2023
- How to Group and Ungroup Objects in IllustratorAndrei Marius28 Dec 2022
- How to Group and Ungroup Layers in IllustratorAndrei Marius09 Dec 2022