ILLUSTRATION

Shortcuts in Illustrator You Need to Know About

If you love Illustrator for... illustrating... you're not alone. But you may be wasting a lot of time without keyboard shortcuts.

A few years ago, I was using the tool palette for everything in Illustrator, and work was slow. I found myself constantly searching, clicking, opening up menus, forgetting which menu to open, etc. 

In the words of Peter Drucker:

“Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.”

So I finally made a resolution to stop wasting time and start learning keyboard shortcuts. 

It was slow at first. I mean, really slow. But eventually shortcuts became second nature and now I can create things in record time. Here’s an example of making a cloud icon in real time:If you want to speed up your process as well, there are a select few keyboard shortcuts I’ve found are really important when designing icons. 

This list can seem a little overwhelming if you’re just getting started, so check out the end of this article for some tips on memorizing. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a race, and learning even a few of these shortcuts will help you. 

Mac Shortcuts

  • M = Rectangle
  • = Elipse
  • V = Selection Tool
  • A = Direct Selection Tool
  • X = Change Between Stroke and Fill Colors
  • Z = Zoom Tool (click to zoom in, hold option and click to zoom out)
  • P = Pen Tool
  • Command + J = Join Points
  • Option + Command + Y = Pixel Preview
  • Option + Command + E = Export for Screens
  • Shift + O = Artboard Tool
  • Command + ; = Show and Hide Guides
  • Option + Command + ; = Lock and Unlock Guides

Windows Shortcuts

  • M = Rectangle
  • = Elipse
  • V = Selection Tool
  • A = Direct Selection Tool
  • X = Change Between Stroke and Fill Colors
  • Z = Zoom Tool (click to zoom in, hold option and click to zoom out)
  • P = Pen Tool
  • Ctrl + J = Join Points
  • Option + Ctrl + Y = Pixel Preview
  • Option + Ctrl + E = Export for Screens
  • Shift + O = Artboard Tool
  • Ctrl + ; = Show and Hide Guides
  • Option + Ctrl + ; = Lock and Unlock Guides

How to Memorize These Shortcuts

I wrote the list above by memory and I want to help you memorize them as well. 

To start, pick one shortcut for something you do often (Usually this is something like the rectangle or eclipse tool). Then, bookmark this page and reference it when you start your next project. 

Challenge yourself to only use the keyboard shortcut you’ve chosen and don’t click in the toolbar or on any of the menus. Yes, this is extremely frustrating at first and a lot slower than the way you’ve been doing it, but once it’s second nature, you’ll be able to go a lot faster (and you’ll save a few hundred mouse clicks). 

Call me crazy, but I’ve also found saying shortcuts out loud helps for memorization. Though, I wouldn’t suggest it in a quite office full of co-workers (they might have lots of questions). 

Saying what you’re doing out loud will speed up the process of learning, because now you’re thinking, speaking, and pressing those keys. Sometimes you may even remind your hands where to go on the keyboard as you’re working. 

Anyway, no matter how you do it, learning to use keyboard shortcuts, or adding some of these to what you already know, will help make designing icons (and a lot of other things in Illustrator) a lot easier!