5 simple Illustrator tips

21 Nov 2013
  • posted by Veerle Pieters

As you might know, I like working in Illustrator. The fact that I've been using this application for so long, has a lot to do with that. You get so used to it, and over the years you get better and faster. Though, just like anyone else, I have my moments of frustrations too. For instance if something works differently as expected. Usually I'm simply not aware of certain options available to turn a feature or option on or off. Today I want to share 5 simple tips that I use a lot, or have helped me in the past.

Getting rid of the pixel grid snapping

Snapping to a pixel grid is all good and well if you are working on web related stuff, or any creation that will end up on a display. You don't want this snapping active for any print related work. It honestly took me a bit to figure out how to disable this, because I was looking at —at least what I thought— was the obvious place. I thought disabling Snap to Grid would do the trick: View > Snap to Grid, but it seems this pixel snapping was still occurring. I didn't realise at first that the weirdness happened as soon as I transformed or moved an object. Also when I entered an X or Y coordinate in the Option bar, I noticed that Illustrator sometimes changed it after I hit return. It really annoyed the hell out of me. Luckily after some research, I found what caused this. You need to look in the Transform panel to disable this snapping. First you need to select all objects: Select > Select All (or hit Cmd/Ctrl + A), then go to the Transform panel menu, select More Options and Uncheck Align to Pixel Grid.

Choose 'More Options' from the Transform panel menu to show the extra hidden options.

Uncheck the 'Align to Pixel Grid' from the Transform panel menu to avoid pixel grid snapping for all new objects that you're going to draw.

By default Illustrator has this option checked for each item you draw. So to be sure this option stays disabled for all new objects that you're going to draw, uncheck/disable the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid option in the Transform panel menu.

Switch between fill & stroke

I've written about my Illustrator shortcuts habits in a previous post, but one of the other shortcuts that I also use a lot is the letter X. If you press the letter X, Illustrator will switch between the fill and stroke in the Tools panel (which is the same in Photoshop btw). It's little things like these that help you save some production time. Once you have certain shortcuts in your fingers, you'll notice that you can't live (read work) without them.

Hide selected path

Sometimes it can be handy to temporarily hide the path selections because it hinders the view. You can do this by pressing Cmd/Ctrl + H (which is the same in Photoshop when working with Shape Layers). Just press Cmd/Ctrl + H to toggle the path selections on and off.

Create Guides

In Illustrator guides aren't limited to just vertical or horizontal ones, you can for instance create diagonal guides. In fact, you can turn a path into a guide, whether it's a curved one, a circle or a whole bunch of paths. Just select the path and go to View > Guides > Make Guides, or simply hit the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + 5. You can also turn the guides back into editable paths again if you first unlock the guides by going to View > Guides > Unlock Guides, select the guide you want to unlock and go to View > Guides > Release Guides (or hit Cmd/Ctrl + Option/Alt + 5).

Go to View > Guides > Make Guides to turn a path or object into a guide.

Use Preview Bounds

When you are resizing an object that has a stroke applied to it, the handles of the bounding box appear in the middle of the stroke. This can be annoying for precision work. In Illustrator's General Preferences you can check a setting so that this box appears at the outside border of the stroke instead. Go to Illustrator > Preferences > General and check Use Preview Bounds.

Hope these tips were meaningful and helpful to you. If you would like to share a tip yourself, please don't hesitate to post it here in the comments. Thank you in advance.