In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to customize your workspace and toolbar so you can create your graphics and artwork with ease.
Organizing your workspace in Adobe Illustrator can feel like clearing off your desk when you’re ready to start a new project. It can save you time, but also allows you to create a streamlined workflow.
In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through exactly how to create a space that fits your exact needs, whether you’re working with print materials, vectors, or type.
Follow along with the video below or read through the summary for an in-depth tutorial. Before you begin, open up any kind of new document to get onto your workspace. Let’s get started!
Illustrator’s Preset Workspaces
To get started, let’s find our workspaces. The workspace panel is on the upper right-hand side of your Illustrator window. It’s the second icon from the left. Here you’ll find your custom workspaces along with Illustrator’s preset workspaces.
These presets are perfect to start with. You can find several that fit your unique needs, such as Layout, Painting, or Web. Start by selecting the one that most aligns with the work that you do. For this tutorial, I’m going to start with Essentials. This is the most basic and allows us to organize from almost a blank slate.
Customizing Your Workspace
Now, let’s begin building on top of the preset. Start thinking about the tools and windows that you use frequently. Customizing your workspace will be completely unique to you and what your workflow needs. It’s all about saving time and having your tools ready for you.
If there’s something in your workspace you’d like to take out, simply drag-and-drop it out of your side windows onto the screen. From here, you can click the small “x” on the upper left-hand corner and delete it from your workspace.
Next, you can add your windows by going to your top menu, Windows > and find any window you’d like to add into your workspace. Some windows come with several attached to them. You can always drag them out to the side and delete them like we did above.
If you’re new to Illustrator, I suggest adding the following windows as they are pretty general and useful for just about anything you’re creating. Again, you can find any of these by going to Window on your top menu.
ColorSwatchesCharacter (found in Type submenu)AlignPathfinderLayersArtboards
Now that you have a good understanding of adding windows, you can arrange them to fit your individual needs by dragging and dropping them into your preferred position.
If you’d like to add a new window into an already existing window, you can drag-and-drop until you see the window outlined in blue. If you’d like to add a window on top, below, or beside, you can drag-and-drop where you see a single blue line in the position you’d like.
For this tutorial, I added my most frequently used tools to the far right side, stacked on top of one another. I suggest not making this too crowded as you want to have a clean and accessible space.
To the right side of these tools, I added more tools I use less frequently. I collapsed them so I still have them available but not cluttering my workspace. Now you’ll see just the icon of the window. If you want to also view the name with the icon, you can expand this window by hovering over the edge until you get an arrow to pull it out. You can do this to any window in your workspace. It’s up to your preference and what works best for your workflow.
Saving Your Workspace
Once you have your workspace completed in the way you like, go back up to Workspaces > New Workspace. Name your workspace whatever you’d like and click OK. You can now flip through your various workspaces, depending on what you want to work with. Feel free to create as many as you’d like, especially if you need specific workspaces for various projects.
Resetting Your Workspace
If you’ve created a new workspace on top of a preset, you may want to reset the preset’s workspace. For this one, we worked on Essentials. Once I’m in Essentials, I can go to Workspace > Reset Essentials. If you ever click out of any windows, or move things around, you can always go back to Reset Workspace to set it back to the original.
Customizing Your Toolbar
Now that you have your workspace complete and saved, you can start customizing your toolbar. We have two preset options—basic and advanced. You can find these by going to Window > Toolbars.
If you’re new to Illustrator, I suggest starting out with the Advanced toolbar. The toolbar doesn’t take up much space and it’s better to have all the tools than to be limited.
If you know what tools you’re going to use, go ahead and start to build your own tool bar. To do this, go to Window > Toolbars > New Toolbar.
Now, name your toolbar whatever you’d like. You can have several toolbars if you find it helpful for the various projects you work with in Illustrator.
Then, you’ll have a new toolbar pop up, but with no tools. To start editing your toolbar, click the three dots below. Now that you have a list of all the tools, you can click and drag them into your new toolbar. If you’d like to add a tool behind another, click and drag the tool until you see the other tools highlighted in blue, drop this in there.
Once you’re done with your toolbar, go ahead and replace your old toolbar by pulling the toolbar out and clicking the small “x” on the left side of the toolbar window. You can drop your new toolbar to get it to stick to your workspace.
Now, you have your toolbar and workspace ready to go! I hope setting this up inspired you to create something new in Adobe Illustrator. Remember to make it easy for yourself by having your tools organized so you can let your creativity flow freely.
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Cover image via MaxVector.
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