Adobe Illustrator - The Interface

This document gives you a brief overview of the Illustrator interface.


A basic understanding of the interface is essential to understand the tools.

The Menu Bar

Along the top of the interface is the menu bar.

The Control Panel

At the top of the interface is the Control panel. The Control panel is the central hub for a lot inside of Illustrator. It displays options for the currently selected tool and the currently selected object.

The Tools Panel

On the left hand side, is the Tools panel. The Tools panel is broken down into several different groups. At the top are the Selection tools. Directly underneath that, are drawing and creation tools. Then there are the Transformation tools, information tools, and navigation tools.  

Accessing Tool Tips and Keyboard Shortcuts:

  1. Hover the mouse over a tool icon in the tools panel.
  2. A box will appear with the name of the tool followed by a letter in parenthesis, this letter is the keyboard shortcut corresponding to that tool.
  3. Press that letter to immediately select that tool.
    • Remembering some of these shortcuts that are used often is going to serve you well as you continue to learn illustrator. 

The Document Window

The Document window displays the file that is being worked on. Document windows can be tabbed, grouped and docked.

The Panels

Panels are located on the right hand side of the interface. They provide access to things like Color, Color Guide, the Cooler Panel, Swatches, Brushes and Symbols, Strokes, Gradients, and Transparency. Panels help monitor and modify work. Panels can also be grouped, stacked, or docked. By default the panels are in icon form.

To Expand Panels:

  1. Click any icon to expand that panel.
  2. Click the triangles at the top right of the panels bar to expand all panels.

To Enter Values in a Panel or Dialog Box:

Enter values using the same methods in all panels and dialog boxes. Perform simple math in any box that accepts numeric values. For example, to move a selected object 3 units to the right using the current measurement units, simply type +3 after the current value in the Transform panel.

To Hide or Show All Panels

Press Tab

  1. To hide or show all tabs except the tools panel
    • Press Shift+Tab

Screen Modes

Change visibility using the mode options at the bottom of the Tools panel.

Choose one of the following modes:

Full Screen Mode  displays artwork in a full-screen window, with no title bar or menu bar.

If you need further assistance please contact the Information Technology Help Desk at 920-424-3020 or