If you liked my previous article on Photoshop shortcuts, you’ll probably find this post useful. Here are 26 Illustrator shortcuts that can help you to speed up productivity. I use most of them (in fact, I can’t work without them). Most of shortcuts listed in this article aren’t documented in the software, so keep reading and you’re sure to find at least one new trick to put up your sleeve. Enjoy!

Note: this article is written in Mac Illustrator CS3 format. If you are using PC, Cmd key = Ctrl key and Opt = Alt.

  1. Change the Unit Setting
    You can quickly change the Artboard unit measurement setting by right-clicking on the ruler.

    unit setting

  2. Activate Tool Options
    With the tool selected, (e.g. Blend Tool), press the Enter key to open up the Blend Options window. Another way to open up the tool option panel is to double-click on the tool icon.

    blend tool options

  3. Duplicate a Series of Objects
    Select the object, hold down Option key and drag. You now have a copy of the object. Each time you press Cmd + D (Transform Again) you distribute more copies.

    tranform again

  4. Draw Shape with Options
    Select any shape tool, (e.g. Star Tool), click anywhere on the Artboard, it will let you draw a shape with options.


  5. Zoom With Mouse Wheel
    Hold down Option key & scroll the mouse wheel up or down to zoom in/out

    mouse wheel

  6. Gradient Stop Color
    To quickly change a gradient stop color to any color swatch in the library: select a gradient stop, hold down Option key and click on a swatch.


  7. Switch Color Profile
    Hold down Shift key and click on the color bar will let you toggle through the color profiles: Grayscale, RGB, HSB, CMYK, Web Safe RGB.


  8. Layer Visibility
    Cmd + Click Visibility Icon = toggle view mode (Outline/Preview)
    Opt + Click Visibility Icon = hide other layers (Opt + click again will show all)
    Click Visibility Icon & Drag = toggle multi layers

    layer visibility

  9. New Layer
    Cmd + L = New layer
    Cmd + Opt + L = New layer with options

    new layer

  10. Select All Objects on Layer
    To select all objects on a particular layer, hold down Option key and click on the layer name.

    select all objects

  11. Navigate Live Paint Bucket Color
    With the Live Paint Bucket tool selected, click on any swatch in the Color palette, now use the arrow keys (Up, Down, Left, Right) to navigate through the swatches.

    navigate color swatches

  12. Fill and Stroke Color
    D = Default color (white fill & black stroke)
    X = Toggle between fill and stroke
    Shift + X = Swap fill and stroke color
    / = None (transparent)
    < = Color fill
    > = Gradient fill

    fill and stroke

  13. Saturate or Desaturate Color
    Holding down Cmd key and dragging the color slider will saturate or desaturate a mixed color.

    color slider

  14. Increase/Decrease Input Field Value
    Place the cursor in any input field, press arrow Up or Down to increase/decrease.

    input field

  15. Close Pencil or Brush Path
    By default, Illustrator will use close a Pencil and Brush path. To close a Pencil path manually, hold down Option key when you are about to finish drawing the path.

    close pencil path

  16. Add or Subtract Sides
    With the Star Tool, drag on the Artboard (do not release the mouse yet), press Up or Down arrow to add/subtract sides. Notes: this shortcut can also works for the Arc, Spiral, Rectangle Grid, Polar Grid, Polygon, and Flare Tool.

    add or subtract sides

  17. Inner Radius
    With the Star Tool, drag on the Artboard (do not release the mouse yet), holding down the Cmd key while dragging will let you control the inner radius. This shortcut also works for the Spiral Tool.

    inner radius

  18. Continuous Duplicates Based on Mouse Movement
    With any shape tool, holding down the Tilde (~) key while dragging will make continuous duplicates based on your mouse movement. This is a very useful shortcut to create fun and complex artwork.


  19. Straight Sided Star
    With the Star Tool, while dragging holding down the Option key will let you draw a straight side star.

    star shape

  20. Lock and Unlock Objects
    Cmd + 2 = Lock selected object(s)
    Cmd + Opt + Shift + 2 = Lock all deselected objects
    Cmd + Opt + 2 = Unlock all

  21. Switch Between Move and Selection Tool
    Cmd + Opt + Tab = Switch between Move and Direct Selection Tool.
    Option (Direct Selection Tool selected) = toggle to Group Selection Tool.

    selection tool

  22. Hide and Show Objects
    Cmd + Opt + Shift + 3 = Hide all deselected objects
    Cmd + Opt + 3 = Show all objects

  23. Eyedropper – Sample Photo or Gradient Color
    To sample intermediate color from a gradient or photo: with the Eyedropper tool selected, hold down Shift key and click on the photo.

    eyedropper color

  24. Make and Release Guide
    Cmd + 5 = Convert selected object to Guide
    Cmd + Shift + double-click on Guide = Release Guide

    make and release guide

  25. Font: Size, Leading, Kerning and Tracking
    Cmd + Shift + > or < = Increase/decrease font size
    Opt + Up or Down = Increase/decrease leading
    Opt + Left or Right = Increase/decrease kerning or tracking
    Cmd + Opt + Q = Reset kerning/tracking to zero

  26. Add New Fill and Stroke
    Cmd + / = Add new fill
    Cmd + Opt + / = Add new stroke

    new fill and stroke

Final Remarks

If you are interested in learning more Illustrator stuffs, try my Illustrator tutorials. I haven’t updated the Illustrator tutorials in a while because I’m busy testing Illustrator CS4 Beta version. As soon Adobe officially releases CS4, I’ll work on posting some Illustrator CS4 reviews and tutorials.


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  1. VectorBoom
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    Thanks for that illustrator tips!


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