Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
When working inside of Illustrator or for the most part any Adobe application, you'll be using a variety of tools, which appear in the Tools panel over here, menu commands or functions that are available through this menu across the top of the screen and panels over here that cover specific functionality. In truth, Illustrator has tons of panels. Some out of them you may find you need all the time, while others get used far less often. In fact, there are probably some panels that you will never ever use. To help you work more efficiently inside of Illustrator, Adobe designed a user interface that's customizable to each user's needs.
In this movie, we'll specifically talk about how to work with the panels inside of Illustrator. I'll just create a simple document in my file here, just to have something to work with on the screen. I'll use a Web profile here and you'll notice that flanking my document on either side are the tools panel right here and the default setting for some of the panels here inside of Illustrator. I'll move my cursor towards the top over here, which is a dark gray area with two little white arrows. When I click on this area right here, it expands these panels so that I can see them completely. Clicking on the white arrows once again will collapse and that's what we call an iconic state. All you see are just the icons themselves.
When you mouse over each of the icons, a little tool tip pops up to let you know which panel that is, but for the price of just a small amount of screen real estate, you can position your cursor just over the left edge of the panels until you see a double-headed arrow. Click and drag to the left and you'll see that you can actually pull out this area to reveal the names of each of those panels. Now when you're working, you can quickly see the icon and also the name of that panel. For now though, I'm going to move my cursor back towards the left-edge of this area here and click and drag to the right to reduce them back to the iconic state.
This darker gray area, which actually expands completely from the top to the bottom of my screen, is referred to as a panel dock. Within the panel dock, I have something called panel groups, and you can see that some of these panels are broken down into groups. Here I have the Artboards and the Layers panel and they have both been grouped together within this panel dock. Likewise, my Graphic Styles and my Appearance panel also appear in a separate group. You can rearrange these any way you like. Either grab an entire group from these little dotted lines over here and reposition them or you click on the icon for any panel and move that panel within the group, or completely outside the group, so that it creates a brand new group on its own.
When the dock is fully expanded, you can see the groups over here as tabs. In this example, Swatches, Brushes and Symbols are all appearing within a single panel group, but the Swatches panel is currently the active one. Clicking on any panel's tab will make that one active and you can also click and drag to rearrange the order of them inside of the group. In Illustrator you're not limited to a single panel dock. For example, if I have more panels that I want to use and that I'd liked to have easy access to it any time, I may create a second dock. Let's see how to do that.
I'm going to go to my Window menu and I'll choose to open up the Align panel. This panel which contains now a grouping of the Transform and the Pathfinder panel as well is something that I might use often, but maybe not as often as Swatches or my Color panel. In the current state right now, the Align panel and the group that it's in appears on its own. It's something that we call a floating panel. In other words, it's not tied to a specific dock. One of the attributes of that is that they'll always expand vertically to fill your entire screen. However, let's say if we wanted to turn this now into a dock. If I grab just the Align tab itself, that would mean I'm pulling that one panel out by itself.
Rather, I'm going to grab this by the actual dark gray bar on the top here and start to drag that towards the right. As I get close towards this dock right now, you'll see another line up here that animates out towards my cursor. I will do that once again so you can see it. As I move close, you'll see that little line slides out and you see this nice little thin blue line up here. That indicates if I now release my mouse, I will be creating a new panel dock. So I'll go ahead and I release the mouse and you can see now that I have a second dock. I can collapse this dock right here by clicking on the little white arrows and also as I did before, click and drag to reduce it to an iconic state.
In Illustrator, it's possible to have one dock expanded, but another one collapsed. In this way, you can really customize the user interface inside of Illustrator for your specific needs. In reality, the Tools panel acts just like any of the others. It's a dock that's simply on the left side of your screen, instead of the right side of the screen. If I pull this panel group out of the dock, you'll find that the panel dock automatically disappears. But if I wanted to attach it to the left side of the screen, I can do the exact same thing, bringing in it here and then create a dock on this side of the screen. Really it's whatever you prefer. But I'll go ahead here and pull this out over here, so that it's on its own.
It's back to a floating panel right now and if you like to save a little bit of real estate on your screen, you can convert the Tools panel to be displayed by clicking on this little white arrow as a single-row of icons instead of a double-row of icons. Finally, there may be times when you're working inside of Illustrator where you may not want to have any panels visible at all. You want to focus purely on your work. However, you need the panels sometimes to get your work done, so you are kind of in a Catch-22. Well, Illustrator has this specific mode where you can actually hide your panels and then bring them back temporarily when you need them.
To do that, simply hit the Tab key on your keyboard. When you hit Tab, all of your panels disappear. However as you move you move your cursor and you touch the edges of your screen, that panel will temporarily appear. As soon as you move your cursor away, the panel goes back to being hidden. Same thing over here on the right side of the screen. As I move my cursor and touch the edge of my screen on the right side, my panels will temporally appear, but as soon as I move my cursor away, those panels will go back to their hidden state. To return all your panels back to their shown state, again to the Tab key on your keyboard.
If you want to hide all of your panels but keep your tools panel visible, hold down Shift+Tab on your keyboard. In this case, your tools remain visible but all other panels become hidden in that state where once again if I move my cursor to the edge of the page, they'll temporarily appear. To bring everything back again, simply hit Shift+Tab once more and you're back to working with all of your panels visible. If you're ever looking for a panel and can't seem to find it, know that all the panels inside of Illustrator are listed alphabetically in the Window menu. A checkmark next to the name indicates that those panels are currently open.
Now that you're familiar with how panels work, maybe take a few moments to kind of practice, opening, closing and re- arranging some of the user interface. Don't worry about getting everything right the first time. We can always make adjustments to our interface as we work and as you become more familiar with Illustrator, you'll see which panels are most valuable to you.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
120 Video lessons · 58451 Viewers
119 Video lessons · 67671 Viewers
84 Video lessons · 16931 Viewers
125 Video lessons · 29830 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.