Illustrator Tools Panel

 By: Tom Gillan
Illustrator's Tool panel or Toolbox is located on the left-hand side of the interface, and contains all the tools you'll need to create stunning artwork in Illustrator. Users familiar with other Adobe software will recognize this layout - indeed many of the tools are the same from program to program. Adobe has created slight overlaps between the programs, for instance the Pen tool makes an appearance in Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign and Flash, and behaves in much the same manner in all programs.

Many of the tools, however, are unique to each program, and this is certainly true of Illustrator. There are tools for making selections of shapes within the overall artwork. There are also specific tools for drawing, painting, adding effects, and navigating the artboard.

You will notice that some of the tools have a small arrow on the bottom right of the tool - by right-clicking on these tools we are presented with a drop-down list of related tools. If you are unsure of a tool's function simply hover your cursor over the tools and a small tool tip appears, with the name of the tool and a keyboard shortcut in brackets.

Notice that the tools panel has several internal divisions which serve to stack the tools into related groups. The top section is the selection tools - here we have the main Selection tool ("the black arrow") which is used to select and move whole shapes. We can also rescale a shape by clicking and dragging on a corner point. Beside this is the Direct Selection tool ("the white arrow") - this tool is not used quite so much. Its purpose is to select and move individual anchor points of a shape. We also have a Magic Wand tool and a Lasso tool, which both work in a similar fashion as their counterpart tools in Photoshop.

Below we have a section containing the various Type tools, the Pen tool and its related anchor point tools, as well as various basic shape tools (Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Star, etc). The Paintbrush and Pencil and Blob Brush tools are also located here. Below this section is one devoted to transforming objects - these are functions like rotating, scaling, shearing and reshaping. A couple of odd tools are stacked here, like the Perspective tool and the Shape Builder tool.

We also have sections for Distort tools like Warp, Twirl and Pucker, as well as for creating and editing graphs.

Near the bottom of the tools panel we have the navigation tools of Hand and Zoom - there are keyboard shortcuts for these functions, of course. And at the very bottom of the tools panel we have icons for changing the colours of Fill and Stroke. The fill is the main colour of a shape, whilst "Stroke" is the Adobe word for "outline". We also have the default black stroke and white fill colours icon, and some small shortcut icons for the last used colour, the default gradient blend, and the all-important "None" button which will remove a colour from the stroke or fill.

The Tools panel itself can be moved around to dock at any point on the workspace, but we generally keep it glued to the left-hand side. It is, of course, an indispensable element in all we do when creating artwork in Adobe Illustrator.
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