All about Adobe Illustrator’s Interface for beginners

The user interface of Adobe Illustrator can be overwhelming. But like most new things you will learn as you go. Don’t try to learn what every little thing is at one time. That’s what google is for. Let’s talk basics.

Basic Areas

The tools panel is located on the left side. It contains…wait for it…tools! These are the meat and potatoes of Adobe Illustrator. 

The Windows Panel is on the right side. It contains additional tools and options that are found in the menu under “Windows.” 

The Control Panel is at the top.

If you don’t see the control panel, your workspace is set to Essentials. I recommend using “Essentials Classic.”

Under the menu go to “Window” -> Workspace -> Essential Classics

Illustrator uses little arrows to extend panels. Click to open / close panels and windows.

Tools Panel

The tools panel is located on the left side. 

Left click to select a tool

If you are missing some tools, click the “…” go to the hamburger menu and select advanced

If you see a little triangle in the corner, it means there are more tools underneath that tool. Left click and hold to see all the tools.

Left click and hold on the lines to move the tools panel. Hold it to the side to redock it.

Advanced Tip – You can undock/create a duplicate of these tools. Left click and hold, select the far right arrow. Now you have a full view of the hidden tools.

Advanced tip – You can make your own toolbar if you like.

Windows Panel

The windows panel is highly customizable. It can contain any element found in “Window” in the menu. 

Windows are organized into columns and groups. 

A group is a collection of windows. When expanded the windows are organized into tabs. 

You can also double click to collapse groups.


Right click to close windows or click the “x”.

Open new UI elements by going to Window in the menu. You will notice that current open windows have a check mark beside them.

You can easily move windows around into new columns and groups. Left click and hold to move a tool. Left click and hold on the lines to move groups of tools. To put back tools into tabs hover over the column or group. You can put them into existing groups or start a new group. You can adjust the width of expanded columns by left clicking on the right edge of the columns.

You can move columns by left clicking and holding on the area above the . Drag columns to the side to dock them. There are 2 dockable areas for windows. Hover over until you see the animation. Let go and they will stick to the side.

There are Hamburger Menus under some windows. Make sure to check “Show Options” if you are missing settings.

Using workspaces

Workspaces are Adobe Illustrator’s way of saving your user interface. It has several defaults to select from as well as saved ones you create.

A common question is if you can lock tools and windows so you don’t accidently move them. Unfortunately, this has never been an option and maybe never will be. What you can do is save your workspace and reset it. If you mess something up don’t worry. Go to Window -> Workspaces -> Reset

As you customize your workspace you should save it. Go to Window -> Workspace -> New Workspace and give it a name.


You can have multiple projects open in Adobe Illustrator. Left click and drag to move projects. Left click and drag into a new window. Left click and hold to dock the project. Close projects by hitting the “x”.

Whew, that was a lot of information. Take some time to learn these fundamentals. It will pay off as you get into real projects.

Design on my friends,


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