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Working with Panels in Adobe Illustrator CC (2014 release)

📄 Contents

  1. The Illustrator panels that are used in this book
  2. Creating custom tools panels
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This chapter from Illustrator CC: Visual QuickStart Guide (2014 release) will help you become more intimately acquainted with the Illustrator interface features that you will be using continually as you work: the panels.
This chapter is from the book

In the preceding chapter, you learned how to arrange them onscreen. Here you will see what the individual panels look like and be briefly introduced to their specific functions — from choosing color swatches (Swatches panel) to switching among artboards (Artboards panel) to editing layers (Layers panel). Note: In-depth instructions for using specific panels are amply provided throughout this book.

The Illustrator panels that are used in this book

*You can read through this chapter with or without glancing at or fiddling with the panels onscreen, and also use it as a reference guide as you work. Panel icons are shown on the next page. Following that, you’ll find instructions for using the Tools panel, a brief description of each tool, an introduction to the Control panel, then a description and illustration of all the other Illustrator panels that are used in this book (in alphabetical order). Note: To open a panel that isn’t already in a dock, choose the panel name from the Window menu.

Identifying the panel icons

Each panel in Illustrator has a unique icon. A If you keep the panels collapsed to conserve screen space, you can identify them by their icons. If you don’t recognize a panel icon, use the tool tip to identify it.


A When collapsed, each panel has a unique icon.

Using the Tools panel

In addition to the tools on the Tools panel, which are used for creating and editing objects, you will also find color controls, a menu or icons for choosing a drawing mode, and a menu for choosing a screen mode. If the panel is hidden, choose Window > Tools to display it. To convert the panel layout from single column to double column or vice versa, either click the double arrowhead at the top or double-click the top bar.

Click once on a visible tool to select it, or click and hold on a tool that has a tiny arrowhead to choose a related tool from a fly-out menu. You can cycle through tools on the same menu by Option/Alt clicking the visible tool.

To create a tearoff toolbar for a group of related tools, press and hold on the arrowhead for a tool, then click the vertical tearoff bar on the right edge of the menu.A–B To dock tearoff toolbars together, drag one tearoff toolbar to the side of an existing one and release when the vertical drop zone line displays. C–D To make a tearoff toolbar vertical instead of horizontal, click the double-arrow E–F or double-click the top bar. To close a docked tearoff toolbar, drag it by its gripper bar out of its dock, then click its close button (x).

To access a tool quickly, use the letter shortcut that is assigned to it. The shortcuts are listed in parentheses on the next two pages, and also in the tool tips onscreen. G (Note: If the tool tips aren’t displaying, go to Illustrator/Edit > Preferences > General and check Show Tool Tips.)

Some tools can also be accessed temporarily via a toggle key. For example, pressing Cmd/Ctrl turns the current tool into a temporary selection tool. You’ll learn many tool toggles as you proceed through this book.

To turn the tool pointer into a crosshairs icon for more precise positioning, go to Illustrator/Edit > Preferences > General and check Use Precise Cursors. Or if you prefer to keep that preference off, you can turn the pointer to a crosshairs icon temporarily by pressing the Caps Lock key.

You can choose options for the current tool from the Control panel (see page 43). Some tools, such as the Paintbrush and Pencil tools, have a related options dialog, which opens when you double-click the tool or when you click the tool and then press Return/Enter.


A We’re creating a tearoff toolbar.


B Tearoff toolbars can be moved anywhere onscreen.


C We’re docking a second tearoff toolbar to the first one.


Click to view larger image

D The two tearoff toolbars are docked together.


Click to view larger image

E We’re clicking the double arrow on a tearoff toolbar to switch its orientation from horizontal …


F … to vertical.


G Via the tool tip, you can identify a tool and learn its shortcut.

The Tools panel illustrated

The tearoff toolbars*

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