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Adobe Illustrator Tips, Tricks & Tutorials


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Making it secure
Command/Ctrl 2 (Object>Lock>Selection) will lock any selected artwork. It does not lock the layer, just the selected artwork. In the same menu is an often-overlooked feature that does not have a keystroke associated with it, which is Lock Artwork Above. Locate an object that is buried beneath another, and then use this control for unfettered access. Command/Ctrl+Option/Alt 2 will unlock everything. To lock some objects all the time, place them on their own layer and lock that.

Fixing units of measurement problems
Some users are finding that if in Illustrator CS2 if you open a CMYK file with a unit of measure other than points, and then you open a new document with dimensions set in anything other than points and then select an RGB color, the application quits. If this happens, quit the application and dispose of the Preferences file. In Windows, this file, AIPrefs, is located in Documents and Settings/ [user profile] /Application Data/Adobe/Adobe Illustrator CS2 Settings. On the Mac, delete the Adobe Illustrator Prefs file located in Users/ [User] /local/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS2 Settings.

Enlarging previews
When you preview your document in the Flattener Preview (Window > Flattener Preview), you can zoom in and out and move the image in the small preview window with the normal keystrokes.

Two ways to crop
There are two ways to make crop marks in Illustrator. One way is to select an object and use the Crop Marks filter (Filter>Create>Crop Marks). This will make crop marks around the selected object(s). It will leave the object and simply place crop marks around it. The second way can only be made with a rectangle that is not a clipping path and has not been rotated. Select the rectangle and use the Make Crop Marks command (Object>Crop Area>Make). This will remove the rectangle but will make crop marks as if it was there. If you have nothing selected when you do this, Illustrator will make crop marks around the page boundaries, regardless of what is on or off the page.

Graph formats
If you import data from Excel to make a graph in Illustrator, make sure that the numbers are not formatted with commas for thousands. This will interfere with the flow. Restrict additions to decimal points. Make sure the numbers are in the row and column order you want them to end up in, as formatting in Illustrator is very limited.

Better Glows
If you are creating glows, start with a color that is lighter than the object edges if the object has bright highlights. Start with a darker color if the edge is the brightest part of the object.


Getting down under
Sometimes, when working on an object that is beneath other objects, it is difficult to control the needed object without continually selecting objects that are above it. If it is convenient, you can place the objects on their own layer, but occasionally this is not possible. In these instances use the Next Object Below (Command/Ctrl+Option/Alt+[) to get to your object, then use the Lock All Artwork Above (Object>Lock>All Artwork Above). This will lock all the top objects, allowing you to work on the desired one. If the item happens to be a text character, you may have to press Command/Ctrl+Option/Alt+[ a few times as the selection goes backwards from the order in which text is created, but the locking only happens on the objects above, not on the other characters. If all else fails simply turn off Preview (View>Preview), and you will easily find it, especially if it is selected.

Saving back
Illustrator CS will save into versions 10, 9, 8, 3, and Japanese version 3. To do this, Export (File>Export) using the Illustrator Legacy option. Of course doing this will limit what can be reedited later. Illustrator CS2 will do all these plus save a file compatible with CS.

Get everything included
Illustrator CS and later, sometimes makes PDFs larger or smaller than the printable area; this is because it uses the edges of all bounding boxes of the objects to determine image size. Prior to the CS version it used the page size. To make sure that the total area is included, simply place a rectangle with no stroke or fill behind the image with the bounding box extending beyond the edge of the needed image.

Opening templates
Command/Ctrl+Shift+N opens a new document from a Template by opening the Illustrator Template folder.

Smaller files
To make sure that your files are not too large, you need to save them without all the palette items that you have not saved. Otherwise, the complete set of palettes will be saved with your Illustrator file, which makes a simple document unnecessarily large. To get rid of all these unused items, Illustrator comes with an Action that is automatically installed into the Actions palette called Delete Unused Palette Items. This significantly reduces file size.

Locking and unlocking
Command/Ctrl 2 (Object>Lock>Selection) will lock any selected artwork. It does not lock the layer, but only the selected artwork. In the same menu is an often overlooked feature that does not have a keystroke associated with it, which is Lock Artwork Above. Locate an object that is buried beneath another, then use this control for unfettered access. Command+Option/Ctrl+Alt 2 will unlock everything. To lock some objects all the time, place them on their own layer and lock that.

Picking up colors
Since version 9, the functionality of the Eyedropper tool changed. To pick up colors from a photo, press the Shift key when clicking with the Eyedropper tool. Otherwise, the Eyedropper tool picks up Style info, not pixel info.

To align objects to another single object, select them all, then click one more time on the one you want to remain stationary. This will apply the alignment in relation to the fixed object.

Ctrl/Command+Shift+B will toggle the bounding box when in the Selection Tool. This allows you to see the full extent of items contained with a group.

Changing spaces
If you hold down the Shift key and click on the color bar at the bottom of the Colors palette, each click takes you through the supported color spaces: RGB, Grayscale, HSB, CMYK, and Web Safe RGB.

Layers above
If you hold down the Option/Alt key when selecting the flyout menu of the Layers palette, the top item becomes New Layer Above, creating a new layer above the one selected, rather than below.

No stop words
If you do a search for a phrase, the Illustrator Search tool will filter out ñstop words,î which include ñthe,î ñand,î as,î and ñwhen.î So if you search on a phrase such as ñtype and design,î the Search will return results based on ñtypeî and ñdesignî as separate words and not find only the phrase.

Getting rid of old links
Sometimes old links are hard to delete. If you select the link in the Links palette and click on the flyout menu, there is no delete option. Selecting the object in the Links palette and hitting the Delete key won't do the trick, so instead select Go to Link from the flyout menu, and then hit the delete key. This will delete the object and the link.

Quick none
The shortcut for None in the Colors, Swatches, Brushes, and Stroke palettes is the / key. Pressing / after clicking on any of these palettes changes the selection to None.

Rotating the baseboard
For those times when it would be good to not have everything oriented up and down, you can set the grids and other defaults to any angles you like. In the General Preferences (Edit>Preferences), set the Constrain box to the required angle, and the grid will adapt, as will such occurrences as drawing rectangles. Guides will stay the same as usual.

Custom bevels
You can create your own custom bevel design to use in Illustrator CS. First open from within Illustrator (ƒ/Adobe/Illustrator CS/Plug-ins). Draw the shape you want as the new bevel, and then follow the instructions included on that page.

Math sliders
All the numeric settings in the color swatch palette (and almost any time Illustrator shows a numerical value) work with mathematical settings such as +,-,% /, and *.

Quick points
If you want to quickly add anchor points to a shape without having to use the Add Anchor Point Tool, you can use Roughen (Filter>Distort>Roughen). Make sure that the Size slider is set to zero and the Detail is set to the number of strokes you require. The nodes will be evenly separated along the selected path. Nevertheless, be careful: there are two Distort options in the Filter menu, and this uses the upper one. Also, there is an option to Roughen in the Effects menu (Effects>Distort & Transform>Roughen), which will roughen the fill without adding points.

Learning about output
Adobe has created documents designed to help output providers successfully output Illustrator files. "Adobe Illustrator CS Printing Guide for Service Providers" and "Professional Printing with Adobe Illustrator CS" are filled with information that may be of interest to designers who wish to get a better insight into what happens with their files when they are handed off to a printer. These PDF documents can be found at They are a couple of years old now, but they have excellent information. You can also find information on Acrobat and InDesign, also detailed information about printing PDF's, color, and transparency.

Extra goodies (Images)
A huge amount of material, called Additional Content, ships and is installed with Illustrator CS. It can be accessed through a button on the Welcome screen. If you've disabled this screen, it's available in the Help menu. It's much more useful than using the tiny preview in the Open command. Just note the PDF page number and enter it in the small box when opening. There are 244 pages of PDFs openable in Illustrator. Each page contains many items. They're grouped into sections, including sample pages; samples of the fonts that come with the application; and many templates, brushes, borders, gradients, patterns, Web elements, symbols, and swatches. Before going to the Internet looking for vector objects, first check the bounty in your Illustrator folder.

Point conversion
If you want to convert a straight anchor point to a combination point (a combination of straight and smooth), first convert the point to a smooth point, and then click and drag on the control handle.
Mordy Golding, Adobe Creative Suite, All in One.

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