Creating vector shapes with Illustrator Live Shapes

The November 2015 update to Illustrator brought with it some useful but very subtle new features that are easily missed.

As you draw shapes you may notice some extra icons and smart guide activity. These are a new feature called Live Shapes. Live Shapes allows you to draw and manipulate shapes more quickly, easily and accurately without the need to constantly change tools to do so.

SCreenshot of Illustrator polygon
Illustrator polygon

In this example we drew a polygon with the standard polygon tool. On completing the shape (and without deselecting the polygon tool) the enclosing frame is now peppered with icons, each of which can adjust the shape in a specific way.

Screenshot of Live Shapes Widgets
Live Shapes Widgets

Scaling and rotation are self explanatory however it is not necessary to select the selection tool before using these widgets.

SCreenshot of Edit Corner Radius
Edit Corner Radius

To change the angle of any corner, use the drag the corner radius widgets. A blue highlight will appear to indicate the current corner, this turns red when the maximum radius is reached.

Shape centres are easily identified with the Centre point widget and this can also be used to move the shape around-again without using the selection tool. Polygon shapes also have a Side widget which allows the number of sides to be dynamically edited by dragging.

Screenshot of Edit Sides Widget
Edit Sides Widget

The shape properties can also be adjusted in more detail using the Transform panel which now features a variety of new controls.

Elliptical shapes can be further adjusted by using the new Pie Widget which divides the ellipse into sections via a simple drag motion. This can also be inverted to create individual slices.

Screenshot of Pie Widgets
Pie Widgets
Pie reverse
Pie Reverse

In addition to these features you will also notice new Smart Guide hints which appear as magenta lines as you draw and adjust shapes. New hints include trajectory indicators, diagonal hints and hint crosshairs. The Smart Guides can be controlled by using the Smart Guide Preferences pane.

Screenshot of Smart Guide Preferences
Smart Guide Preferences

The Live Shapes features are at least partly designed for use on tablet devices, specifically Microsoft’s Surface, but they add some really intuitve and useful functionality for desktop users too.

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Customise Photoshop CC’s Toolbar

If you’ve ever felt the Photoshop toolbar was a bit overpopulated, a feature newly arrived in CC2015 can help you out.


Screenshot of Photoshop CC Toolbar

Near the bottom of the toolbar, you’ll notice a new, 3 dot icon. Click and hold on the dots to see a pop out menu then select the only option.

Photoshop CC Edit Tollbar option

The Customise Toolbar panel will open.

Screenshot of Photoshop CC customise toolbar panel

To simplify your toolbar, just drag the tools you don’t want to use from the left column to the right. The toolbar will adjust in real time as you do. You can also turn of the Hidden Shortcut icons with a check box. All this can be saved as custom presets so you can have as many different toolbars as you need

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