As a designer it is always extremely important to not only be good at design, you also must know how to improve your workflow to work efficiently. If you work with Adobe Illustrator, the following tips can assist you in learning how to improve your workflow with Illustrator.

Set up your workspace

The first step towards improving your workflow with Illustrator is setting up your workspace that saves you time looking for the tools you need. In the top right section of Illustrator, there is a section for selecting, managing and resetting your workspace.

If you already know which tools you use the most simply adjust your windows and tool panels to reflect your needs. After doing this, you can save your workspace so that for future projects requiring the same setup you can easily select the workspace you previously created.

Using workspaces adjusted to the specific project I am designing saves me a huge amount of time and is very simple to prepare.

Save common artboard settings as template files

Another small tip that saves me time is to save artboards as Illustrator templates. For example, when creating a font I will always have my artboards set at 1000px high and 10000px wide. However, when creating a calendar I will generally have 13 individual a4 or US Letter size artboards.

Instead of having to type in these settings each time, I only type them in once. After the document is created, I then choose to save it as a template, close it out and then open the template file to begin work.

This small step may not seem like it will save you much time, but if you look at the time you have saved over a year or more it can make a huge difference in your workflow!

Name your layers with useful names

I must admit I am often guilty of not doing this myself, however, in a large or complicated document this can be a sanity saver! Especially so if other designers are expected to work with the file in the future.

Naming your Illustrator document layers is tedious, but it makes it so much easier to find the layer or object you are looking for later on in your design. It is important to also give your layers a useful simple name to help describe the layer, simply naming Illustrator layers as 1,2,3 will not help you to know which layer is which any more than each of them being called “unknown” will.

Learn the keyboard shortcuts

It can be very hard when you first start using Illustrator to try and remember the keyboard shortcuts, but it will pay off very quickly. Starting off learning the simple keyboard shortcuts for the tools you use the most is the easiest way, and as you start to remember them start learning more!

There are a huge amount of resources out there to help you learn the shortcuts, I recommend at least learning some of them. There are even printouts which you can place on your keyboard to assist you in learning the most common shortcuts.

Setup and use grids

Using grids makes it so much easier to design layouts! My main use of grids is to save me from having to use the rulers as often, you can adjust the grid spacing in your preferences so that they are adjusted correctly to your workflow.

Learn to use alignments

Alignments speed up my workflow immensely! I literally use them all the time. Instead of trying to find the top/middle/bottom of objects or artboards I simply use the align tools. In the alignment window settings, you can “view options”, which gives you more control over what you want your object to align to. The alignment window is seriously a timesaver!

Take breaks

I’m also guilty of not taking breaks as often as I should. Sometimes you are so caught up in finishing your design project that you forget to take a 5-minute break away from the screen.

Taking even a small 5-minute break can rejuvenate your mind to formulate fresh ideas and help to increase your efficiency. Simply the act of walking away from the screen and focusing on anything else for a short time can allow you to see your project with fresh eyes which will improve your workflow.

Track time

Tracking time may not seem very important if you’re working on a project that doesn’t have a deadline. It is always important, though! By tracking your time, you can determine which areas of your workflow could be improved upon.

Also, by tracking your time you can assist yourself in keeping track of the above-mentioned breaks you should be having. Tracking your time on a design project also helps you to determine your projects worth, whether the time you are putting into the project is worth the amount of time you are spending on it.

Minimise distractions

It can be extremely hard to minimise distractions when you are a designer. Especially if you are working for yourself.

Many designers need to self-promote on social media, which is a huge time suck! It is way too easy to get caught up browsing on social media or another website after you have only opened the website to promote some of your work or to look for some inspiration to get those creative juices flowing!

Always learn

As with most industries, it is important to continually learn new skills and improve your efficiency.

Even the most seasoned designers will always have new skills to learn or improve upon, and the best designers are the ones that realise their weaknesses and improve upon them. There is an abundance of tutorials and informational blogs out there to teach you almost anything you need to learn, it can be hard not to get distracted while searching, though!


By following these tips to improve your workflow with Illustrator you will be able to become more efficient, improve your design skills and encourage your creative ideas to flow. All with these simple tips!

Share your own tips to improve your workflow with Illustrator below, we can always use some tips from other designers!

how to improve your workflow with illustrator


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