Learning on the Job

Mar 27, 2018  |  By Jessica Little  |  

I consider myself a proficient user of “the big three” graphic design specific Adobe programs: Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. I was never one of those people who spent my extra time mastering every function, but I can use them effectively. This understanding, which usually comes with time, practice, and design classes, is all you really need to tackle most design projects. But, professors can’t cover everything; and there are a bunch of helpful, time-saving tricks I didn’t discover until after I entered the workforce. So, in the interest of “sharing is caring” here are a few things I have picked up post-graduation:

  1. Option + left/right arrow keys for tracking and kerning. When the art director at my first internship showed me this shortcut, my mind was blown. The amount of time it saves really adds up. It is especially helpful when setting large display type. However, it works for both spacing between individual letters (using the cursor), and between chunks of text, (highlighting the section). Simply hold down the option key while using the arrows to increase or decrease the amount of space.
  2. Placing a multipage PDF in InDesign. This helpful trick that I picked up from our resident InDesign guru, uses a script. Here is how it works: under utilities, you will find scripts; once you open that window and click through the folders (Applications> Samples> AppleScript) you will find “PlaceMultipagePDF”. Just click that and follow the instructions, and voila: 30-page PDF placed perfectly into your document.
  3. Artboards in Photoshop. To be fair, artboards in Photoshop weren’t a thing when I was in school, so, it isn’t really a trick but more of a new-ish feature. Naturally, I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking it would disrupt my workflow. However, after a working interview where I was expected to use it–and a short adjustment period–it became second nature. I continue to use it daily, and have found it is especially helpful when building out digital banners.
  4. Perspective Warp. I saw a demonstration of this at the Y conference in 2014, and it was the number one thing that stuck with me. Basically, instead of struggling with the warp function in Photoshop to make an object look like it is in perspective (and ending up with a few unsightly bulges), you can use the much friendlier perspective warp function. Hidden away in the “edit” drop down menu, simply scroll down to “perspective warp” select it, and the tutorial will guide you from there.
  5. Key Commands. Finally, the importance of keyboard shortcuts cannot be stressed enough. Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of using them, you’ll have so much more time for activities.

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