Close Menu

Quick tips for Adobe Illustrator (+ a PDF of my favorite shortcuts!)

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design software, and my favorite amongst the big 3 (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop)

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design software, and my favorite amongst the big 3 (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop). I have been knee deep in this program for almost 10 years – woah! I’ve gone through the struggles of first learning the program, the “ah-ha” moments of discovering a new + necessary tool, and the robust power this software entails. Though I would never use the word “proficient” for my skillset (there is always room to grow, people!), I definitely have a mastery of Adobe Illustrator.

I’m openng up registration soon (!!!) for my Share-worthy Design course, where I dive into not only how to use Adobe Illustrator, but my step-by-step process to creating blog graphic images that get shared, pinned, and noticed online. Since Adobe Illustrator is essential for my process, I thought it was time a few of my favorite tools took the stage today. I hope you find these Illustrator hacks useful, and hopefully learn something new!

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are such a great feature of any program, and Adobe Illustrator has no shortage of them. There are countless shortcuts to choose from, but rather than listing every shortcut possible, I wanted to mention a few of my favorites that I use daily. I also attached a PDF of an extensive list of my favorite shortcuts, that is actually a part of the Share-worthy Design course workbook!


The spacebar in Adobe Illustrator transitions from the selection tool to the hand tool. It allows for dynamic movement throughout your artboards with ease. This is probably my favorite shortcut!

Command/Control + U:

This shortcut toggles on and off the smart guides. This tool is great for aligning objects to a guideline, or aligned with another object.

Command/Control + Shift + V:

This shortcut pastes in place. Simply press Command/Control + C (copy), then this shortcut, and your object will be pasted in the exact same position. By default, Illustrator pastes the object in a random position on the artboard.

Command/Control + D:

I only recently discovered this shortcut within the last year, and don’t know how I functioned in this program without it. This shortcut will repeat the last action you made in Illustrator. For instance, if you would like to create a simple striped pattern, you could create one rectangle, copy it with your preferred spacing, then perform “Command + D” as many times as needed, and you will have your pattern! It will create equal spacing as well.

Saved Swatches

If you have a blog or business, most likely you are incorporating a consistent color palette throughout your brand. (If not, you should be!). Rather than either referencing a previous illustrator file, word doc, or simply trying to estimate your colors in Illustrator, you can actually save your brand colors in Adobe Illustrator. Create groups of your colors, and save them through the swatch libraries menu. Follow the diagram below:

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design software, and my favorite amongst the big 3 (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop)

Blog Post Templates

Adobe Illustrator templates are versatile for a number of functions — standard paper + envelope sizes, design templates and my favorite: blog post templates. Bloggers typically have a few templates that they use for their post graphic images. Rather than recreating these images, or saving over an existing file, you can setup your blog post template in Adobe Illustrator. Simply save your file as an illustrator template, then when you are ready you will create a new file from the “new from template” option.

Glyphs for Icons

There are a number of fonts designed for icons, rather than typeforms. These resources are great to use for simple icons in your design, and they are vector (meaning they can scale to any size). Think of it as an advanced Wingdings font. My favorite has been Font Awesome, which has all social media icons, as well as other simple icons such as arrows. You can access these icons through the Glyphs palette in Adobe Illustrator. To access: Window > Type > Glyphs.

Dotted Lines

If you are familiar with InDesign, you most likely have been spoiled by the various stroke options (dotted, dashed, wavy, etc. lines). Adobe Illustrator has yet to incorporate these styles, however there is a workaround for a simple dotted line. Open your stroke palette: Window > Stroke. Change the stroke weight to your desired width. Select the Round Cap and change the dash to 0 pt. For even spacing, enter a value twice the stroke weight for the gap. (see example below)

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design software, and my favorite amongst the big 3 (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop)

Transform Patterns

When working with patterns in Adobe Illustrator, sometimes you want to scale the pattern to a larger print, without scaling the object as well. While your object is selected, click Object > Transform > Scale. Uncheck the “transform objects” in the dialogue box, and alter the percentage in the uniform scale option. This allows your pattern to reduce or increase in size, without distorting your object.

You can also adjust the pattern placement on the object through clicking the tilde (~) icon, clicking and dragging in the object. This alters what is visible within the object.

Adobe Illustrator is my go-to design software, and my favorite amongst the big 3 (InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop)

Copy text formatting with eyedropper

I’m all about saving time, and improving efficiency when working in design! The eyedropper tool in Adobe Illustrator is widely used to copy the color style of another object, and apply it to your current object. Another function of this tool is to pick up character styles and appearances. Simply select the text you want to adjust, and click the eyedropper tool. Once the eyedropper tool is selected, click the text style you want to mimic and it will apply it to your current text.

Select same color/stroke

I’m not going to lie… somehow I missed this function in Adobe Illustrator for a good couple years. It seems so basic, and is an essential tool I use frequently now! When you are designing, sometimes you desire to change all of the strokes to the same weight, alter a specific color to something a little different, or even group the objects with the same color. Rather than clicking around trying to locate each of the objects with those apparences, simply navigate to: Select > Same. This allows you to adjust the colors of multiple objects at once. Easy peasy.

Creating the optimal Adobe Illustrator Workspace by Spruce Rd. | Since working in Adobe Illustrator for years, I've created systems + processes to improve efficiency. I'm always learning new tips + tricks, but have finally found a system to setting …

Download our top Illustrator shortcuts!

I hope these tips were helpful for you! I’ve also included a list of my absolute favorite Adobe Illustrator keyboard shortcuts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Weekly Resources for Designers | The Blog Market

    […] want to have open alongside the program so you can go through things step by step. Her quick tips can be used by anyone from total beginner status to someone who is just interested in learning […]

  2. elle | wonderfelle world

    This is so helpful! I’ve used Photoshop for years, but have limited experience with illustrator. I’ve recently started to use it more and these shortcuts will be very valuable!!

    1. Jamie

      Hi Elle! We are opposite! Though I use Photoshop everyday, I haven’t picked up as many handy shortcuts as illustrator. Have fun in Illustrator!

  3. Ale

    Thank you! I took a class in Illustrator a few years ago, but I knew nothing at the time, so I feel like I only absorbed 20%. I am trying to incrementally learn more as I practice. Tips and shortcuts like these are very helpful. I am looking forward to signing up for your course!

    1. Jamie

      Hey Ale! So glad this tutorial was helpful for you! I definitely learned WAY more outside of the classroom, through good ole trial and error :). Hope to see you in the course!!

  4. Monica Galvan

    This is such an amazing resource Jamie! Love my shortcuts! I don’t know what I’d do without them 🙂

    1. Jamie

      Thanks Monica!! Just headed over to read your post on the Elle & Co collaborator blog! Shortcuts = the BEST.

  5. Sasha-Shae

    Awesome sauce!! So looking forward to your course, and also Kelsey’s for InDesign course!
    I wonder wonder, if there will be a nice little bundle deal surprise for both?

    Anyways, thanks for sharing these helpful tips, some I knew but others are definitely great to learn. And I am definitely looking forward to the next Lunch+Learn 🙂

    1. Jamie

      Hi Shae!! Can’t wait until the course launches :). There may or may not be a nice bundle with Paper & Oats ;). Can’t wait to see ya at the next lunch + learn, I always love seeing you there!

  6. Briana kapper

    This. Is. The. Best. I love this post. I’m the worst with illustrator! I hid in the corner from it during design school! I also think Aaron will benefit from these shortcuts. Thanks for the awesome download!!

    1. Jamie

      Hey Briana!! So glad this post was awesome for you! I feel like every designer hides in the corner for one of the programs (mine is photoshop!!!). LOVE adobe illustrator, but just depends on what type of work you are doing if it is necessary 🙂

    1. Jamie

      Hey Brigette! So glad you enjoyed the post! It was a *facepalm* moment when I discovered the same color/stroke tool! Such a great time saver!

Free Training

Want zero-revisions with your design clients?

Snag our Zero-Revision Presentation Method to nail your next client project. In this quick 10-minute training you’ll see exactly what our client presentations look like, the scripts we use and more to cut down revisions!