Working in a fast-paced environment like a Social Media Agency has definitely taught me a few things that have enhanced my productivity, redefined my skill set, and completely changed the way I work. 

Whether you have used Adobe Illustrator for a long time or are just getting started, you might not be aware of these (sometimes) overlooked features that can save you hours on any project. There’s always something new to learn about Illustrator, even for the most seasoned creative professionals. 

Buckle up and get ready! These 9 time-saving vector techniques will super-charge your workflow!

1. Fast Lines With Pen Tool

The Pen tool is Illustrator’s most powerful and effective tool. It is the best tool when you are working with tracing sketches and drawing customised vectors.You can manage and define your anchor points while also tweaking the curve, controlling two points attached to each anchor makes this possible. The Pen tool might be difficult to use at times, here is a surefire way that reduces the hassle.

When you are tracing shapes or drawings with a pen tool, do it with quick easy straight lines. Press Alt or Option key for Mac users, and simply Click and Drag on the lines you want curved. This helps to remove a step when creating curved lines in designs.

(Pen Tool image source Callum CQ)

2. Vectorize That Image

Did you know that you can make an image into a vector in Illustrator in seconds? You can change the appearance of it and have fun with it like any other vector with just a simple click of a button. This hack does not work all the time! However if you are in a time crunch and you don’t have the time to trace an image, use a tool called Image Trace.

You can use Image Trace to convert raster pictures (JPEG, PNG, PSD, etc.) into a vector artwork. You may quickly base a new drawing on an existing piece of artwork by tracing it with this function. You can also use Image Trace to turn the image of a pencil sketch you’ve created on paper into vector artwork, for example. To acquire the required effect quickly, you can choose from a range of tracing presets.

Place a high quality image onto your artboard and simply click on the image, head to the top panel and click on the button Image Trace and click on the Image Trace Panel icon and you will see a detailed overview of the image trace feature. Go ahead and click on the High Colour icon (camera icon). Let it render and now you can scrub the amount of colour you wish to include into your vector. The lesser the colour, the lesser the details are seen.

If you wish to alter the appearance of the vector, click on Expand simply Right-Click and select Ungroup and you can freely change any element you desire.

(Image Trace image source Pink Pony Creative)

3. Transform Effect Is Your Best Friend

Want to create complex typography designs effortlessly? Now you can! With the help of the Transform Effect. In Adobe Illustrator, the Transform Effect allows you to move, scale, flip, rotate, and duplicate the appearance of one or more selected objects (all from a central dialogue box). 

It allows you to design patterns with paths and text blocks, as well as manage the entire pattern by adjusting the native project.

To access it, click on the text you wish to transform and click on Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. You can change the amount of copies and change the scale values and you have a cool tunnel effect. Take it up a notch by changing the angle value slightly and you will have a fun spiral effect.

In just a few seconds, you can create a typography design that appears like it took hours!

(Transform Effect image source Holly Johnson)

4. Rinse And Repeat

Are you looking for a unique radial pattern for a logo, crest, or badge? Perhaps you would like to create a radial infographic or some circular design elements. In any case, knowing how to use Illustrator’s Rotate tool could save you days of work. Easily create repeat pattern designs using the Radial Repeat tool.

To start creating, click on a single design element and select Object > Repeat > Radial. Easily edit the size by using the bounding box or the click on the circular bounding box to adjust the distribution or even change the orientation of the element by simply clicking and dragging the element.

(Radial Repeat image source Platon Ayfert)

5. Spiky Crystals

If you are a fan of spiky and sharp designs, you will love this tool! No more using the pen tool to create spiky points. 

You can now use the Crystallise Tool and create spikes with a single click. This fun tool allows you to add random spiked details to the outline of your shapes and objects. To access it, simply click and hold the Width Tool and select the Crystalize Tool at the bottom.

Then use the tool by clicking and dragging over any object to create these cool random spikes around the edges.

(Crystallise image source Envato Elements)

6. Blend Blend Blend

The next best-thing in Adobe Illustrator is the blend tool. It can be used on all kinds of elements to create complex designs fast.

My personal favourite way of using the Blend Tool is to blend colours. It is my go-to tool to create colour schemes whenever I get stuck creating something eye-catching for branding. This tool is perfect to find that “in-between” colour.

Simply select 2 objects with different colours then select Object > Blend > Make. Then select the following and click on Object > Blend > Blend Options and change the number of Specified Steps to your desired number of colours you wish to have. There you go! A complete colour scheme with zero effort! 

You can now use the Eyedropper Tool to select the individual colours to use in your designs with ease.

(Blend Tool image source Design Bundles)

7. Up, Down & Sideways

With the rise of trending social media design styles such as Y2K Nostalgia & Editorial Zine, stars are used more often in designs. Adobe Illustrator has made it easy for you by using the Star Tool, easily accessible by clicking on the shape tool button. 

However, not many know that you can change the shape on the fly. Just by simply tapping on the Arrow Keys on your keyboard. By clicking the Up Arrow, you increase the number of points and likewise for the Down Arrow. Go wild and tap on the “`” key on your keyboard to create a trippy spiral effect! 

Arrow keys are not just applicable for the Star Tool but the Rounded Rectangle Tool as well! You can apply the same method to adjust the roundness of the corners. You can work even faster by hitting the Left Arrow for the roundness to be in the minimum setting and the Right Arrow for the roundness to be in the maximum setting. 

Once you are happy with your shape, simply release your mouse. There you have it! Quick and easy shapes. No more doing it the hard way or even Googling and scrolling for the perfect png shapes for your designs.

(Star Tool image source Holly Johnson)


So if you are a professional designer who has been using Adobe Illustrator for years or one that has just downloaded it, there is always something new to learn. Detach from tools you are familiar with and explore! It doesn’t hurt to try new things, especially when it helps with your productivity and efficiency at work. 

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” – Leo Babauta.


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