If you’ve been hunting for Illustrator tips, you’ve come to the right place!
I love Illustrator so much.
Despite some snags that cropped up with the conversion to Illustrator CC, I have a very happy long-term relationship with Illustrator.
But it CAN be frustrating, so here are a few Illustrator tips on how to make it work better for you, as well as improve the integrity of your design work.
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If any of these Illustrator tips save you from DH (Design Heartache), I’ll consider this post a success. If I’ve missed anything, include your favorite Illustrator tip in the comments!
Illustrator tip #1: Align objects to an anchor object or to a grid
Here’s a huge tip for using Illustrator. When you’re aligning objects in Illustrator, it’s easy enough to select objects and hit one of the “Align Object” icons in the Align window.
But sometimes you need a little more control than that.
If there’s one item in the layout that you want everything else to align with, here’s a neat Illustrator trick:
- InIllustrator, select all the objects that you want to align.
- Then click on the object that you want to use as the anchor object. When you click that object, you should see the selection border become a little beefier – now it’s the anchor object. (See the left-most green star above.)
- Then, when you click on the appropriate Align Object icon, all of the selected objects will align with that anchor object in your Illustrator artboard.
You can also align to a guide, which is really nice if, say, you want to make sure that everything is perfectly centered in a layout.
- First, make sure that your Illustrator guides are unlocked (View > Guides > Lock Guides).
- Select the Illustrator objects that you want to align – including the guide that you want to align them to.
- Then click on the guide again and you’ll see that beefy border appear.
- When you hit your Align Object icon, everything will be lined up beautifully to that guide.
As an aside, I’m hoping that the folks at Illustrator will adopt the term “beefy border” – it’s pretty great. 😉
Illustrator tip #2: Enforce miter limits on offset paths
This next tip addresses an issue that always pushes my buttons when I see it, and I most often see it occurring on the sides of trucks on the highway.
Someone has designed a logo or word mark and put an offset path around it, but he has ignored one simple thing – miter limits. This results in an overly jagged, menacing path which is completely distracting and inappropriate. (See above.)
You could lose an eye on those points!
The reason the “i” appears to be growing horns is because the miter limit is set too high. The lower the miter limit, the more beveled the corner. (The miter limit controls when a corner gets mitered – pointy – as opposed to beveled – squared off.)
Or use round joins and avoid the problem altogether!
Ahhhh – I feel my road rage subsiding already.
Bonus offset path tip! Once your type is perfectly adjusted, it’s also a good idea to do a Pathfinder > Unite on the offset path so that you don’t end up with a messy snarl of paths – the best paths are the simplest ones.
Hmm– I could probably apply that wisdom to other areas of my life…
Illustrator tip #3: Expand strokes
One dangerous issue I see often in finished logo files is that the strokes are not expanded on paths.
And all it takes is for one user to have “Scale Strokes and Effects” unchecked in her Illustrator preferences, and when she downsizes that logo, the strokes inflate like out-of-control balloon animals.
Your lovely logo is ruined.
Always keep “Scale Strokes and Effects” checked in Edit > Preferences > General – you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you??
Illustrator tip #4: Convert type to outlines
If your type isn’t converted to outlines, anyone with the ability to select the type tool can wreak havoc on it.
Why spend countless hours on a beautiful logo and then allow it to be adulterated (however unintentionally) by users farther down the line?
Especially when all you need is a simple Cmd/Ctrl + O to make those quick type to outline conversions.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Now that we’ve covered the serious stuff, on to the tricks!
Trick #1: Option/Alt + Star Tool
It bothers me that five-pointed stars drawn using the Star Tool look slightly overstuffed. What if I want a traditional one?
Fix this by holding the option (or alt) key as you draw the star for that classic 5-pointed star look.
Trick #2: Tilde + Shape Tool
Hold down the “~” key and try any one of the shape tools.
(I do this when my brain needs a break, and it gets even better with no fill and a very colorful gradient stroke.)
I won’t say more – just try it!!!
Want more software tips?
Check out these posts:
- Simple InDesign tricks to speed up workflow (and get you paid faster)
- 8 Extremely simple ways to save money & time in print design (Pro tips from printers)
- 5 Graphic design tips to shave hours off your work week
And then leave a comment on what types of software tips would be most helpful to you!
There’s always more to say about Illustrator, but now I’ll turn it over to you. Do YOU have any Illustrator tips or tricks that you love? Please share them in the comments!
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