Essential Shortcuts for Designers #01

A few weeks ago, Amy Devereux showed me a shortcut in Adobe Illustrator called “Paste in Front” that I didn’t know existed. It was relatively well-known but somehow had slipped past me. My mind was blown and I couldn’t wait to use it to speed up my process.

If you’ve ever learned a shortcut for something you do 1,000 times a day, then you’ve experienced the same electric feeling of knowing you’re about to be exponentially more productive. The idea of this series is to highlight some of the most fundamental shortcuts for designers in the apps we use most often, while also throwing in a few more obscure, but still wildly useful, shortcuts.

Illustrator: Paste in Front

Command+C then Command+F

If you’re new to Illustrator, this is an essential pair of shortcuts that allows you to duplicate an object directly on top of itself. This is super helpful for things like clipping masks, overlapping fill effects, or separating a stroke from a fill with two shapes. One great thing about this technique is that it pastes the copied item directly above its parent, instead of on top of everything in the composition.

Illustrator: Setting an “Expand” Shortcut

Command+E, but you can choose your own

I find myself using the Expand feature (Object > Expand) quite often in Illustrator. I used Command+E because it is, by default, set to toggle between GPU and CPU previews. I don’t know many designers who switch between these views often enough to warrant a shortcut, so I remapped it to Expand. If you didn’t already know, you can map (or re-map) shortcuts by choosing Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.

Slack: Marking Messages as Read/Unread

Esc, Shift-Esc, Option-Click

Slack is what a lot of designers use to communicate with their teams. One super helpful shortcut that Wells Riley told me about is how to mark messages as read. If you’re like me, you like to keep your sidebar clean. The Escape key shortcut helps accomplish this in just one keystroke. Mark all messages within a channel as read using Esc. To mark all of your messages as read, use Shift+Esc. A fun bonus: if you want to mark messages in a channel as unread, you can Option-Click them!

Sketch / Photoshop: Change Opacity via Numbers

0–9 with a layer selected

I’ve used the numbers on my keyboard to change the opacity of Photoshop layers for years. But did you know that it works in Sketch, too? Well, it does!

Illustrator: Deselect All

Command+Shift+A

It’s always so much fun memorizing two different shortcuts for basically the same action, right? Command+D in Photoshop is something I swear by, it deselects everything, which is really helpful when you’re making a lot of selections rapidly. To perform this helpful action in Illustrator, though, you’ll need to press Command+Shift+A.

That’s it for now

We’ll continue surfacing both fundamental and obscure shortcuts that help designers and post them in this series. Send us some of your favorites!