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Every second counts when it comes to CADing garments and setting up tech packs. Illustrator is a great program with so many functions to offer a designer, but when you've got to go searching through all the drop down menus to find the action you need, those extra bits of time can add up to many an hour in a dark quiet office at the end of the day.

Shortcuts - the clue's in the name - are the way forward.

I'm Shortcut obsessed. Why take the time to move your mouse or stylus and click through a few different menus when the function can be completed in a quarter of a second instead?  There are a few we all know and love... Cmd + S are always the 2 keys you wish you'd have hit before seeing the coloured wheel of death spinning before your eyes...but there are SO many more which can be fantastically useful for the Fashion Industry. You'll have your non-mouse hand tapping away at your keyboard in no time!

There are keyboard Shortcuts for many of the functions Illustrator has to offer, and the beauty is that if there's not a Shortcut set up for that exact action you use a hundred times a can set one up easily!

This guide will show you how simple managing and using Shortcuts is. There's really no excuse not to... Unless you love spending extra time at work perhaps. Coming up....

1.) How to find Shortcuts on Illustrator

2.) How to create your own Shortcuts - a unique time saver. 

3.) What we all really want, a cheat sheet with all the Shortcuts useful for Fashion speccing.


1. How to find Shortcuts on Illustrator

I do have a list of Shortcuts for you to use below but you can easily find them yourself when using the program: 

Hover your mouse over a tool icon

A box will pop up, naming that tool & showing the keyboard Shortcut in brackets. This example is simply hitting the 'V' key to swap to the Black Arrow. 


Note: If you're typing in your document when you hit the 'V' key, it will simply write the letter V, not change you to the Black Arrow, so make sure you hit the Esc key or deselect the type first.


When using the top menus, the keyboard Shortcuts are displayed on the right hand side. 

Note: The below notations all mean the same thing - hold the Command key and hit N.

 - Command + N

 - Command N

 - Cmd + N

 - ⌘ N

 - ⌘ + N

toolbar shortcuts

The keyboard Shortcuts menu displays them all.

Go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts...

(or Shift Option Command + K if you are getting really into it)


This will display all the Shortcuts next to each of the Tools or Menu Commands - there's a drop down menu to flip between these.





2. How to make your own Shortcuts

Using the Keyboard Shortcuts menu (shown above) you can customise what keys control what Tools or Menu options. I'm going to show you an option I like to add, particularly useful when you colour CADs, patterns or stripes. This is: 

Select > Same > Fill Colour

When using a coloured CAD within a tech pack, there is often instances where I want to change the colour - a red tee changing to blue for example. To make sure all things coloured red on the tech pack (body, sleeves, neck rib & other details such as colour swatches) are selected to change to blue at once, I click on a red detail and from the top toolbar got to Select > Same > Fill Colour. This then selects everything of that exact shade in the document & I can switch the colour easily.

By opening the Keyboard Shortcuts menu (Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts) and following the expandable lists to find the action you want - we can see this action does not have an assigned shortcut.

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Select the empty box and add the Shortcut you would like it to be. I know that Command + E is not taken as a Default Shortcut in Illustrator, so use this one first. 


If you want to use a keyboard Shortcut which is already taken by another action (say ⌘W), the warning note below will come up . Here you can either:

 - Keep trying until you find a combination that's free. 

 - Read the message to see how useful the current assigned shortcut is to you, in this case ⌘W is File > Close, which I never use. So I'm going to stick with my choice to overwrite it and hit OK when I'm done to save it. 



It'll then ask you to name & save these changes. Just save all the changes you've made under your name - you can always add more and overwrite it later!



3. Shortcut cheat sheet

This is for use on a Mac, which I've found most designers use. Although there are a few exceptions, the basic rule when converting this for use on a PC is:

Option becomes Alt

Command becomes Control.


Some of these functions may differ slightly depending on your version of Illustrator - so apologies if they are not 100% accurate for you, but it's a good place to start. 

These are just a few pulled together that I find the most useful - there's a full list of all Shortcuts at the Adobe Website, but many of these will be aimed at Graphic Designers who use different tools to us. As the website grows and shows off more amazing functions of Illustrator, I might be adding to my list, but as you now know how to add your own Shortcuts, here are some downloadable versions for you to create your own Cheat Sheet:

- PDF Cheat Sheet (49k .pdf file), print it out and stick it by your workstation for a quick reference to the most useful Shortcuts

- Numbers (166k .numbers file), an editable version so you can add your own Shortcuts

- Excel (56k .xlsx file), an editable version so you can add your own Shortcuts


If you want to play with Shortcuts even more, I find this website fun too...


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