Tutorial: Using the ~ key in Adobe Illustrator

The revitalisation of this blog continues! After spicing up ‘Mundane Mondays’ with some inspiring designs, every Tuesday I shall be publishing a tutorial, or tips to help you get the most out of either Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign.


Today’s focus is more of a tip than a tutorial, and it focuses on just one key, ~. This can usually be found next to the left shift key, but computers will vary. It has the amazing potential to allow for the creation of very complex geometric shapes very easily.

Step 1:

Go over to the Tools Panel, and select a shape tool. For this example I have chosen the Star Tool. Double-click on the canvas to bring up the options, and set the values to what you want. Click OK to make the shape.

Star Options panel in Adobe Illustrator A star drawn in Adobe Illustrator

Step 2:

As part of the preparation work, it makes sense to apply some colour before we start. The example design I created features a gradient added to the stroke (a feature only available from CS6 onwards). To achieve this select the Stroke at the base of the Tools Panel, and click the small gradient box beneath.

Selecting the Gradient Tool for the Stroke in Adobe Illustrator

From there, ensure the Gradient panel is open. (Window > Gradient) You can then select the settings you want. I set my two colours as CMYK 0,35,85,0 (orange) and CMYK 0,80,95,0 (red), with the Type set to Linear and the Angle to 0°. The earlier star shape can be deleted if you are happy with what you see. If not, keep adjusting.

The gradient settings I used in Adobe Illustrator for this tutorial.

Step 3:

It’s now definitely time to make something! With your chosen shape tool selected, move the cursor to the centre of the artboard, and while holding the ‘~‘ key, drag the cursor around to see the shapes form. I found it took a while to get things looking right, and everybody will probably want to achieve a different result, so experimentation is key. Here’s my first attempt using a star.

First attempt at making the star shape in Adobe Illustrator

To get a perfectly symmetrical design, press the Shift key while also holding the ‘~‘ key. Below is my second attempt, and the one I will use to make the final result of this tutorial with.

Second attempt at making the star shape in Adobe Illustrator

Step 4:

From here, it is possible to use that one group of shapes to make much more complex geometrical patterns. First, it is a good idea to group them all (Object > Group or Cmd/Ctrl + G) and then go to Object > Transform > Rotate. In the resulting dialog box, set the angle to 36° and click Copy to make a duplicate shape. You may find depending on the shapes, that the centre point is not the same, which will affect the pattern. In this case, just ensure the shape is selected, and move it to the centre point, something the smart guides will assist with.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 17.39.32

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 17.40.04

After that, the final step is to select both shape groups, and repeat the Rotate procedure, this time setting the Angle to 18° so the shapes fill the gap correctly. And there we go, the shape is complete!

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 17.43.36

If you found this tutorial interesting or useful, then perhaps you would leave a like to let me know! If you happen to give this tutorial a go, I would love to see any results so feel free to send me an image!

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