How to Design Efficiently in Adobe Illustrator

Time is always of the essence and being able to work quickly is always a great advantage for any designer. There is nothing more stressful than missing a deadline and doing so can make it hard to keep clients. As a designer, it is important to “work smart, not hard” so you are designing successfully and efficiently while working in Adobe Illustrator. Here are a few tips that you can add to your design process to boost your workflow:


Organize your workspace
Setting up your workspace will make navigating that much easier because you will already know where to find all your essential design tools. There’s no exact rule for how your workspace should be organized, just be sure to arrange it in a way that is logical to you. So ,if you use the “Gradient” tool often, it would make sense to add it to your workspace so you don’t have to search for it every time you use it. In my workspace, I like to have the “Navigator” panel open so I can see how my work will look from afar as well as up close. How do you have your workspace set up?


Use grids and alignments
Grids are a foundation of guides that help structure content and add a visual harmony to layouts. Using grids in your design process will make you more efficient because you can successfully organize graphics and type, without having to stop and measure out space for each element. Additionally, the alignment tools will help you move faster because they do all the work for you by evenly distributing objects, aligning anchor points together, even centering objects to the artboard. Grids and alignments help designers maintain precision while keeping a steady workflow. Is there any grid in particular that you use in your design process?


Name your layers
Labeling your layers will allow you to design more efficiently because you know exactly what’s on each layer. It’s pretty simple. It may seem tedious at first, but think of all the time you’ll be saving in the long run: the few seconds it takes to think of a layer name can replace the minutes it may take to find it among other “unknown” layers. The name doesn’t need to be really deep or insightful, just enough so you can easily recognize what you have on that layer. What the highest number of layers you’ve had in a project?


Learn shortcuts
Though it may not seem like it at first, learning shortcuts can drastically change how fast you design. Shortcuts help you build a rhythm to your workflow and make creating on the computer that much easier. Did you know that by holding down the spacebar and right-click on your mouse, you can grab and pull your way around the artboard? This beats having to scroll sideways any day! 🙂 Print this Adobe Illustrator Shortcuts for Graphic Designers  infographic to use as a quick reference while you work. And Mac users, keep in mind that the “ctrl” button is replaced with the “cmd” button and the “alt” key with the “option” key.


Get off Social Media
Social media can be really beneficial tool for designers to share their work, get inspiration and network with other creators, no matter the distance. On the other hand, social media can become a distraction, especially when you’re trying to brainstorm or develop a design concept. It’s important to unplug and really focus on what it is you’re doing if you want work more efficiently. What’s your biggest distraction?


Do the Hard Stuff First
Procrastination is a sure way to make anything take longer than it needs to, and the same thing applies when you’re designing. There’s always going to be some part of a project that you’re not looking forward to, nevertheless it must be done. Try not to save these “daunting tasks” until the end. Start with your more challenging areas so you can ensure you’ll have ample time to finish. Once you get all the “hard stuff” done, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment, which can help motivate you to finish a project faster. Have any projects in mind? Then, get started!


Keep Track of Time
The only way to tell if you’re working more efficiently is to monitor how long it takes you to complete a project. Keeping track of time helps you see how you are utilizing most of your time and where you could improve. Additionally, try to work in time increments. For example, after working on a project for about 50 minutes, I take a 5-minute break. Taking breaks may not seem like it will help someone work faster…but it does! Breaks keep you from burning out, and often times taking a step back from what you’re working on can help you see something you didn’t see before. What do you like to do during your breaks?


Work smart, not hard, so you are designing successfully and efficiently! #ariananicoledesigns Click To Tweet



Have additional tips for how to design efficiently in Adobe Illustrator? Be sure to share them below and print or share the Adobe Illustrator Shortcuts infographic.

Ariana Nicole
  • These are great tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

    December 5, 2017 at 9:27 pm

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