Tools panel overview

The first time you start the application, the Tools panel appears at the left side of the screen. You can move the Tools panel by dragging its title bar. You can also show or hide the Tools panel by choosing Window > Tools.

You use tools in the Tools panel to create, select, and manipulate objects in Illustrator. Some tools have options that appear when you double-click a tool. These include tools that let you use type, and select, paint, draw, sample, edit, and move images.

You can expand some tools to show hidden tools beneath them. A small triangle at the lower-right corner of the tool icon signals the presence of hidden tools. To see the name of a tool, position the pointer over it.

You can also use the Tools panel to change the drawing mode from Draw Normal to Draw Behind or Draw Inside.

Tools panel overview
Tools panel overview

View hidden tools

  • Hold down the mouse button on the visible tool.

View tool options

  • Double-click a tool in the Tools panel.

Move the Tools panel

  • Drag its title bar.

View the Tools panel in double-stack or single-column

  • Click the double-arrow on the title bar to toggle between double-stack and single-column view of the Tools panel.

Hide the Tools panel

  1. Choose Window > Tools.

  2. Choose the default or custom Tools panel that you want to show or hide.

Tear off hidden tools into a separate panel

  • Drag the pointer over the arrow at the end of the hidden tools panel and release the mouse button.

Close a separate tool panel

  • Click the close button on the panel’s title bar. The tools return to the Tools panel.

Select a tool

  • Do one of the following:
    • Click a tool in the Tools panel. If there is a small triangle at a tool’s lower-right corner, hold down the mouse button to view the hidden tools, and then click the tool you want to select.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS), and then click a tool to cycle through and select hidden tools.

    • Press the tool’s keyboard shortcut. The keyboard shortcut is displayed in its tool tip. For example, you can select the Move tool by pressing the V key.

    Selecting a hidden tool
    Selecting a hidden tool

    A. Tools panel B. Active tool C. Tear off panel with hidden tools D. Hidden tool triangle E. Tool name and shortcut 

    Tip: To hide tool tips, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (macOS), and deselect Show Tool Tips.

Change tool pointers

The mouse pointer for most tools matches the tool’s icon. Each pointer has a different hotspot, where an effect or action begins. With most tools, you can switch to precise cursors, which appear as cross hairs centered around the hotspot, and provide for greater accuracy when working with detailed artwork.

  • Choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (macOS), and select Use Precise Cursors.

    Alternatively, press Caps Lock on the keyboard.

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