Adobe Illustrator Shape Keyboard shortcuts

Creating shapes such as rectangles, ellipse or polygons with Adobe Illustrator might appear easy to do, but lets take a look at some keyboard shortcuts to give you more control.

Drawing tools

The drawing tools referred to in this text can be found in the Tool bar. Click on the Rectangle Tool and hold the mouse button down for about a second so all the drawing tools will be revealed. The desired tool can then be selected.

Shift

Holding down the Shift key, click and drag out a shape.  The Shift key will constrain the shape, which means that the width and height of the shape will be the same. So if you are dragging out an ellipse using the Ellipse Tool and holding down the Shift key, you will get a perfect circle.

Alt/Option

Holding down the Alt key while dragging a shape will allow you to draw a shape from the centre outwards. Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require, then the Alt key on your keyboard. Perhaps you will find this keyboard shortcut more useful with the Ellipse Tool for drawing circular objects such as wheels from the centre outwards, but it works with all the drawing tools.

Incase you were wondering about the Option key. On the mac the Alt key is called the Option key. It’s in the same place as the Alt key, so I will just call it the Alt key for simplicity.

The Star Tool and the Polygon Tool draw from the centre by default.

Shift Alt

Dragging out a shape whilst holding down both the Alt and Shift keys will give you a constrained shape (same height and width) drawn from the centre. Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require, then the keys on your keyboard.

Exact Size

If you want to draw a shape to an exact size, choose a drawing tool such as the Rectangle Tool and click on the document and let go (don’t drag). A dialog will appear where you can type in the sizes you require such as the height and width.

Arrow keys

The up, down, left and right arrow keys on the keyboard will allow you to control extra features for some of the drawing tools. As explained next:

Rounded Rectangle Tool: Using the Rounded Rectangle Tool, click and drag out a rectangle, but don’t let go of the mouse button. Use the Up Arrow key to increase the roundness of the corners or the Down Arrow key to reduce the roundness of the corners. Use the Left Arrow key to set the set corner roundness to the minimum setting or the Right Arrow key to set it to the maximum. Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require.

Star Tool: Using the Star Tool, click and drag out a star, but don’t let go of the mouse button. Use the Up Arrow key to increase the amount of points the star has or the Down Arrow key to reduce the amount of points. Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require.

Polygon Tool: Using the Polygon Tool, click and drag out a polygon, but don’t let go of the mouse button. Use the Up Arrow key to increase the amount of sides the star has or the Down Arrow key to reduce the amount of sides. Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require.

Control/Command

Star Tool: Using the Star Tool, click and drag out a star while holding down the Control (windows) / Command (mac) key, but don’t let go of the mouse button. The Control/Command key allows you to fix the size of the inner points of the star – try it with the Control/Command key held down or released as you drag and you will see what I mean.  Release the mouse button when you have the settings you require, then the Control/Command keys on your keyboard.

Spacebar

Drag out a shape using a drawing tool, but don’t let go of the mouse button. Hold down the Spacebar and drag the mouse. Holding down the Spacebar allows your to reposition the shape as you are drawing it. Release the Spacebar then carry on adjusting the shape as you require, then release the mouse button.

Not working?

If you find that the keyboard shortcuts don’t work, then always ensure you release the mouse button before releasing the keys on your keyboard.

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