Four Illustrator Tools to Make Your Fashion Sketching More Efficient

We all know the fashion industry is fast paced. Heck, for many of us, fast paced describes our lifestyles. So as we continue to evolve and learn to keep up, we also need to find the tools to help us adapt to that crazy pace.

For fashion designers who use Adobe Illustrator, not only does that mean drawing in an efficient manner, keeping your skills up to date and making use of the existing shortcuts, but it also involves using Illustrator’s panels and functions in a more effective manner.

Below are four options that you may not be making use of, but they can make a big difference in your daily design tasks, saving you time, making your drawing more efficient and navigating the workspace more effectively.

1) Creating a custom workspace. The majority of us use the default Essentials (or Essentials Classic) workspace in Illustrator. And while I’m sure we’ve gotten used to how the workspace is laid out and what panels are included, I’ll bet there are a few things that we don’t use, panels we prefer or tools we use more than others. You may even prefer to have those panels located in specific areas in your workspace. So instead of closing or dragging palettes each time you use the program, create and save a custom workspace. 

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 12.25.02 PM
Move panels and tools where you want them to be, and create a “New Workspace”.

Move all of your preferred panels to your best location, re-dock them with other panels you use often, and close any you don’t use. Then, go to Window>Workspace>New Workspace, or click the dropdown arrow next to the list of current workspaces and choose ‘New Workspace’. Name your new workspace, and it now becomes part of the list of workspaces available to you in Illustrator. And you can easily choose it or reset it so you have your preferred tools and layout at your fingertips.

2) Custom tools panel. Even I don’t make enough use of this great function, but you can create a customized tools panel that contains just the tools you use most often (or might be using for that particular project).

Custom Tools Panel
Create a custom Tools Panel

Go to Window>Tools>New Tools. Name the panel, and hit ‘OK’. An empty Tools panel appears that will allow you to drag all of your favorite or most commonly used tools into it and place them in whatever order you prefer.

3) Custom shortcuts. We all love our shortcuts and know that they are one of the best ways to minimize and speed up your work in Illustrator. What you may not know is that you can create your own shortcuts, adding them for functions, panels and tools that currently don’t have shortcuts, or changing current shortcuts to something that’s more memorable or preferable to you. Here’s a great video I created to show you exactly how to do it.

custom-shortcuts-title-play

4) Properties Panel. The last feature is a fairly new one called the Properties Panel. This new panel is one of the default panels in the new Essentials workspace and replaces the Control Panel that appears at the top of the page. I initially felt like I really missed my Control Panel, but I’ve slowly embraced the intuitiveness of the Properties Panel and the ease of having all of my functions in one place.

Essentially, the Properties Panel helps to improve your workflow by giving you access to frequently used functions and settings for your current tool, all within one panel. You can even get additional options by clicking the ellipses in each section of the panel. As Adobe explains it, ‘you have access to the right controls when you need them’.

Properties panel

Speed, efficiency, ease of use. These are all things we absolutely need from our design tools today to aid our workflow. And Adobe continues to provide the functionality to help facilitate those three things. Are you incorporating any of the above techniques? Do you have any other that help make you more efficient when using Adobe Illustrator? Share your thoughts below.


Mikelle Drew is a teacher and fashion designer working in the fashion industry for over 20 years using Adobe software and teaching Adobe for fashion design for over 10 years. Check out her digital fashion tips and tutorials here at the 383Degrees blog, on our YouTube Channel, or try one of her group classes.

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