In this session, we welcomed one of our absolute favourite illustrators, Lisa Glanz. Lisa works to add value to our creative process and this session was just that. As a geek when it comes to detail (Lisa's words, not ours), there was no better person to walk us through speeding up our workflow.

Learn the Shortcuts

The key to speeding up your workflow by 100% is to learn the shortcuts. Start learning the shortcuts for the tools that you use the most. Pick one per day and use that tool only through a keyboard shortcut. By the end of the day, you'll be proficient and it will be easy to use. 

Pro tip: Assign keyboard shortcuts to tools, panels, and menu items that you frequently use. 

To set up a shortcut, click on the edit menu and keyboard shortcuts. Click on the menu command and locate the menu. Transform the object and assign a shortcut. Save the option for future use.

Setup the Workspace

Add the layers panel on the left side. This will help in keeping the swatches handy. You can easily drag that to the side and it docks with the tool. Make sure to save that workspace for future use too. To do this, click on the window and under the workspace, choose a new workspace. Name it and then hit enter.

Setup the Toolbar

Setup the toolbar to suit your workflow. To do this, click on the three dots at the bottom. Simply drag and drop tools off the toolbar which comes as a standard with Illustrator. Clean the tools that are not used frequently. 

Use the presentation mode to present a file or a slideshow of your work. Instead of clicking, double click on the tool, press the shortcut on your keyboard to launch that tool. 

Pro tip: Illustrator allows you to get rid of your menus quickly by pressing F on your keyboard. This is handy if you’re presenting any work.

Pro tip: Recommended to experiment and try new shortcuts out.

To increase or decrease a size of an object, hold the up and down arrows. Hold Command to increase and decrease the spike of the star as shown in the image below.

Use the Rounded Corners Tool to round the corners. Use the arrows to change the corners. To save time, use the Option key on the keyboard which automatically draws any shape from the center outwards as opposed to from the corner.

Put Smart Guides on to draw from any angle and click once. Type in any amount and it'll form a perfect square or any shape that you’ve typed in. This saves a lot of time instead of trying to draw it out perfectly.

To copy the attributes, use the Eyedropper Tool. This will choose the same text and color, copying the attributes of the other.

Use the Magic Wand to add or delete similar colors from other objects or shapes.

The Warp Tool and the Puppet Tool save hours of time. Activate the Warp Tool by pressing Shift and Enter on the keyboard. Then hold Option and Shift and use the brush as a circle. Tease the areas as shown in the image below subtly, using Command + H. 

Instead of drawing the areas, manipulate them by using the brush and changing the size, shape or feature.

Duplicate the layer and use the Puppet Tool. This will draw a framework. For example, the pins with the black dots show that the area won’t move. Everything else that doesn't have a pin will be influenced by the movement. See the images below for reference.

Similarly, the same can be done with the bird to save time.

Setup the Layers Panel

Use the layers panel and rename the layers to save time. Choose anything directly from the layers panel. Use the Magnifying Glass to locate objects. For example, copy texts from a different layer by exposing the layer, selecting the text and using the Eyedropper Tool.

Use Clipping Masks to make preview images, etc. For example, to change the house illustration in the circle to the bear, use the layers panel to drag and drop the mask.

Apply an Action

Create actions such as a compound path and then expand them. For example, draw 2 objects as shown in the reference image below. Instead of using Pathfinder, Compound Pass and Expand, use a shortcut.

Choose menu and new action. Rename it to compound. Under action options, choose a keyboard shortcut.

Set Default Actions

Assign a shortcut to default actions such as delete and swatches panels.

Image Trace

Save presets for image tracing. To do this, take a screenshot of an image, for example the van as shown in the reference image below. Use brushes to create shadows. Export the JPEGs and bring them to Illustrator.

Select and start with the default. Work with black and white colors and expand the advance. Click on trace. Retain the grunginess and effects by clicking on grey scale and bringing the noise down to 1% and path at 100%.

Save this new preset for the future. This will automatically show in the menu. Resize this and drag-drop it onto the composition. Make sure to simplify the object and add shadows.

Isolate the two shapes by double clicking and using the Lesser Tool. Use the Warp Tool to make adjustments. This will form an entire compound path of the van. Use depth and shadows.

Use Clipping Masks

Clip all the artwork inside the pattern. Drag and hold the Option key to duplicate the rectangle. Put the clip inside and use the pathfinder to duplicate the composition.

Select everything and then drag and drop the pattern inside. You can also group each of the elements in the pattern. Use the Magic Tool for this. Use shortcut keys on your keyboard for all these steps. 

Congratulations! You can now speed up your workflow in Illustrator with these quick and easy tips and tricks.