5 INSANELY Underrated Tools in Adobe Illustrator to Make Your Design Life Easier

5 INSANELY Underrated Tools in Adobe Illustrator to Make your Design Life Easier


\Why do I need to know these?

Mastering the tools in Adobe Illustrator can make your design life easier, saving time and effort allowing you more time to be creative.

Many of the features in illustrator sit there unnoticed. As designers we use the same tools over and over again as they’re what we feel confident with, but let’s change that. Today we’re gonna unearth some of Illustrator’s deepest darkest secrets.

Let’s get down to business and talk about the tools.

Shape Builder Tool

The First Tool …

The first tool were going to look at is the Shape Builder tool. The Shape Builder is a powerful tool that works in a similar way to the Pathfinder tool but can often be slightly easier to use. When using the pathfinder it can be difficult to work out exactly which one of the functions will give the desired outcome and you can find yourself clicking on one to find out what it does then if it’s not right clicking Undo and moving on to try the next.

The Shape Builder takes the guess work out of combining and removing shapes from each other. Use Shift “M” to access the tool or you can find it in the tool bar. Once you have the tool to join shapes together it’s as simple as drawing through all the shapes you want to join together.

When you want to remove one shape from another simply hold Alt, notice that there is now a (-) on the tool head and you can now draw through all the shapes you want to remove. If the shapes you want to remove are in different locations just click on the shape you want to remove rather than dragging through.

See how easy was that?

Recolor Artwork

The Second Tool …

The second tool were going to explore is Recolour Artwork. Recolour Artwork does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to easily recolour your artwork saving you precious time and effort.

The traditional way of recolouring an illustration or design would be to painstakingly go through selecting every element of the design individually and then changing its colour. Depending on how complex the artwork is this could take hours.

But that method is a thing of the past. Using Recolour Artwork, you can do the same thing in mere minutes. So the first thing is to select everything you want to recolour (if you still want a copy of the original colours consider duplicating the artboard so you have two versions. Once you have selected everything hit the Recolour Artwork button in the upper tool bar. Once the dialogue box appears you’ll be greeted with a list of all the colours in the artwork. There are a number of ways you can use this to recolour your artwork, but for this example I’m going to be switching over to the edit tab. Once there you’ll see a colour wheel that shows all the colours of the artwork using the sliders you can select each and drag them to the new colour. In my example I click on the lock harmony button to lock the harmony of the colours to get a good general starting point for the new theme but remaining in harmony.

Depending on the size and the complexity of the artwork it may take a moment for the new colour to add.

Boom, there you go quick, easy and fast.

Freeform Gradient

The Third Tool …

The third tool is the Freeform Gradient tool. The Freeform Gradient allows us to make more fluid gradients rather than the standard left to right or radial gradient that you would often use in illustrator.

The method for this is quite simple. Using the artwork you want to add the gradient to, just click on Gradient, then if you click the 3rdoption along next to where it says Type, that is the Freeform Gradient. Once you have clicked that option it will insert additional points to your artwork, these are “swatches.” Each of the swatches are clickable and you can edit the colours and by using this tool you can add more dimension to your piece such as making your artwork look 3D which adds extra effect.

So simple, yet so effective!

Export For Screens

The Fourth Tool …

The Export for Screens tool, is also quite a simple tool. It is especially useful if you want a quick way to export your logo designs.

Go to File, Export and click Export for Screens and a dialogue box will pop up. This will allow us to export each of the artboards individually, you can rename them so they match the file. Then you can set the detonation to Export To and the formats you want to do, so you can add in PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF. Once you have everything you want inserted, you can click Export Artboard which will compile a folder with each of the scales and each of the formats in so there’s no messing around and it’s just quick and easy to get the files back out.

How easy was that?

Swatch Libraries

The Final Tool …

The final tool is the Swatch Libraries tool. There are a various different items within this tool that can be used for many different techniques for your artwork, but we are going to focus on the Patterns Tool.

Click on Window, scroll down to Swatch Libraries and click Patterns, then Basic Graphics and we want to look at Dots, Lines and Textures. This will bring up a panel and each tab will show sets of graphics that you can include in the artwork. There are a range of patterns and textures that can be utilized using this tool, these are often used in backgrounds of illustrations to add a bit of depth and texture to a piece.

If you have chosen a pattern you like but it looks too small or too big you can use the Scale tool on the left side of your screen – you can use “S” on your keyboard and click Enter, this will bring up the Scale Window. You need to make sure you have “Transform Objects” disabled and click enable Transform Patterns, this will allow you to scale the pattern freely. Whether your adding it to your artwork, background or even just as a texture, you can scale to suit and because they are a vector they will not lose there resolution.

Final Thoughts and Uses

So there we have it! 5 Insanely underestimated tools in Illustrator to make your design life easier!

Why not give these a try and see how you get on, you will probably find they have been easier than the tools you’re currently using!

If you do give these a try, why not tag us in your Instagram post, we would love to see how you get on!

Thanks For Joining Designers

Before you leave head on over to the YouTube channel and smash that subscribe button we post new videos every Wednesday to help you become a better designer. Also drop a comment on the video and let me know your favourite way to add texture to your illustrations.


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