Best illustrator tricks you wish you knew!

Personally, mastering the pen tool in Illustrator for creating precise vector paths is one of the best.

For example, many were shocked when they first discovered that holding Shift while creating points with the pen tool ensures straight lines and perfect angles.

Similarly, using the Pathfinder Panel in Illustrator, allows you to combine, subtract, and intersect shapes to create complex designs.
One of the tricks is to exclude overlapping fills.

  • Make sure your shapes have different fill colors.
  • Select both shapes.
  • Hold down Alt (PC) while clicking the “Exclude” button in the Pathfinder Panel.
    This will exclude the overlapping area, but the remaining portion of the back object will retain its original fill color.

Let’s share the hacks that would’ve saved us tons of time and frustration back then!
Drop your best Illustrator tips in the comments and help each other.

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When using the Ellipse tool, hold down shift to create a perfect circle.

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The old thread is closed now thanks to spam. There’s lots of good reading for tips and tricks listed right here


I’m really jaded when it comes to ‘hacks.’ The tools are the tools. Learn to use them. And if the software isn’t doing something you want it to do, try thinking outside the box.

For instance, there are certain cases where the Blob brush is much faster at tracing shapes than the pen tool (especially if you have a pen tablet available :wink: )

The one biggest ‘hack’ is, once you have a workspace set up the way you like, with all your tools, shortcuts and palettes where you want them, save a copy of your preferences file; so when the software goes toes-up – and it eventually will – you can just replace your prefs rather than spend an hour rearranging your space again.


Red, I’m highly suspicious about this guy. Have you and Just-B looked into it?