Graphic Design: Tricks of the Trade

Designers – yes, this includes me and my fellow artists at evok advertising – are always looking for new shortcuts in graphic programs. For those with this hunger to learn more, the following is a collection of shortcuts I use on a daily basis. It just may increase your workflow efficiency, as it certainly helps mine.


Tip 1 – Where is that Layer?
Have you ever worked with .psd file that has layer upon layer and not one is labeled? And even worse, they are not in folders? I have a solution for you. Click on the move tool (v), at the very top of the tool bar and to the right. Looking at the menu bar, you will notice a box stating “Auto-Select.” Click “Auto-Select” and then next to that option is a drop down menu where you may choose “Layer.” Then select the art in your document. For discussion purposes, let’s say it’s a shoe, the tool will automatically find it amongst the non-labeled layers.

Tip 2 – Tab Happy
Should you have four or five windows open in Photoshop, you can hold down “Control” then press the “Tab” button. This will give you the ability to select any open window without physically selecting the window.

Tip 3 – Operating in Full-screen Mode
Do you want to work in full-screen mode? Press the “F” key, and you have arrived. I am in this mode a lot, so I can move the canvas wherever I want.


Tip 1 – Pesky Header
Here’s the situation: There are two rows of copy and you want your header to span into the second column. At one time, InDesign CS4 made you create two different blocks of copy in order for the header to span the two columns, but not anymore. When starting, make sure the control panel is open. Simply select your copy with the text tool. Then, on the far right-hand corner of the control panel, you will see a menu button stating “None.” Select the “None” menu button and you will now see multiple options to span the header copy. Click on “Span 2” and now your header copy has crossed into the next column. If you do not like the results, go back to the drop down menu and select “None.”

Tip 2 – Power to the “W”
If you press the “W” key, it will hide all guides and show your art board without the white paste board on the bottom, top and sides.

Tip 3 – Custom Shapes
When creating custom shapes such as a square with one side having rounded corners and the other three sides at 90 degree angles, select the shape and you will notice a small yellow box. Select the yellow box. You are now able to customize the shape of the box by using any of the yellow diamonds appearing on your monitor. If you wish to alter one corner only, hold the shift key while selecting that specific corner. If you select one corner without holding any key commands, all four corners will adjust together.

Tip 4 – Background Tasks
If you are ripping multiple large PDFs and you want to know how much time remains before it’s completed, go to  “Window” and find “Utilities” (towards the bottom). Select “Background Tasks” and now you can see how far along your PDFs are.

Tip 5 – Multi-page PDF
If you ever get a multi-page PDF from someone and you need to put it into your layout, the PDF can be inserted in two ways:

  1. Import the PDF as you would with a picture. Then, when the dialog box pops up to insert the image, select “Show Import Options” (in the lower left-hand corner). Make sure you “Select All” when the next dialog box comes up.
  2. In this option, you can run a script. First, open the scripts palette. Go up to “Window” and find “Utilities.” Then, select “Scripts.” Once scripts is open, there will be two folders: “Application and “User.” Open “application>samples>applescript>placemultipagepdf.applescript.” Next, double-click on “placemultipagepdf.applescript,” find your PDF and the script will automatically create pages based on how many pages are within the PDF.



Tip 1 – The Appearance Palette
When operating in the Appearance Palette, designers can do gradients, effects, and strokes, and still have editable text. If you click the arrow on the upper left side of the palette, you will have the option to create as many strokes and fills as you wish. The same way Photoshop has layers, the Appearance Palette allows you to move any stroke, fill or effect above or below an effect.

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