Ten top tools in Adobe Illustrator

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Design


This isn’t a rating for my top ten, Illustrator is packed with so many different tools and methods to assist in the design process.

Each designer has their own tools they’ll use every time they open Ai.

These ten tools aren’t even the most used in my toolbox but they’re high up on my list of essentials.  

Split into a Grid

Want the perfect grid guides or creating a grid in your artwork?

The quickest way is to create your shape.. in my case a nice square then in Object > Path > Split into Grid…

Make sure you toggle Preview on so you can see how it’s going to look, add guidelines if you need the extra bleed, you can even include a gutter if you want a space between your rows/columns.

Split into a Grid
Split into Grid Window
Split into Grid Outcome

Curvature Tool

Use the curve tool to add curves to straight edges, to vector paths, or pen drawn shapes.

You can also directly draw vector paths with the curve tool as an alternative to the pen tool.

Curve Tool
Curve Tool 2


Combine objects into new shapes. I’ve included an example of how each of the tool’s work with overlapping shapes.

Pathfinder Tool in Illustrator
Pathfinder Tool Results Illustrator

Smooth Tool

Fix imperfections in your vector artwork. Smooth out sharp edges or wobbles.

It works by altering your anchor points and shifting them on your path until it’s “perfect”.  

Smooth Tool Illustrator
Smooth Tool Illustrator

Offset Path

Expand shapes using the offset path tool to create vector paths larger or smaller than your original shape. Toggle the options, experiment with the meter, round or bevel joins for different finishes. Change the Offset mm to create your desired size, and shape. The miter limit is how far the points can extend from the original path. If you have acute angles, you’ll want to increase the miter limit to keep points point.

Offset Path Illustrator
Offset Path Window
Offset Path Results

Recolour Artwork

There are a few ways to do this.

[Edit > Edit Colours > Choose your Method] or [Properties > Recolour Artwork]

In this window you have a few options, changing the colour wheel on specific selections. Or in Advanced options you can alter your full palette and watch in preview as the artwork changes.

You can also recolour your artwork using the magic wand tool, as shown below…

Recolour in Adobe Illustrator
Recolour Window Adobe Illustrator
Recoloured Artwork in Illustrator

Magic Wand Tool

To recolour using the magic wand tool, simply select the colour you’d like to change on the artwork.

In this case I chose the red, then when you select, it auto selects everything else in the artwork that it’s the same shade. Then go ahead and play with the colour change.

Recolour with Magic Wand in Illustrator
Recolour Magic Wand in Adobe Illustrator
Recolour with Magic Wand in Adobe Illustrator

Width Tool 

Whether you’re drawing a path, or adding some flourish to your typography, make sure you have “basic” brush definition selected.

Select the width tool or [Shift + W] and alter the width of your vector path. Keep experimenting till you have the desired look.

Below you can see the original “l” and the bespoke type after using the paintbrush tool and the width tool to add flourish.

Width Tool in Illustrator
Width Tool in Adobe Illustrator
Width Tool Results with Typography in Adobe Illustrator

Drawing Modes

When you’re developing your artwork, you can toggle three options just beneath the toolbar, colour fill and stroke.

Three options:

“Draw Normal” draw above your artwork

“Draw Behind” draw behind the artwork

“Draw Inside” draw inside objects, this option is only available to use when you have shapes on your artboard.

Draw Modes in Adobe Illustrator
Draw Modes in Adobe Illustrator
Draw Modes in Adobe Illustrator


Keep your properties to the right of your illustrator window, edit your artboards, add rulers, add grid, change your snap to options, to point, pixel or grid.

Have you learnt any new tips? Are you going to use any of them in your next project? 

Follow me on Instagram to see them in action over the next few weeks. 

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In a nutshell, I’m Laura… a 20-odd year old designer, based in the North East of England. Read more…