I am trying to find some common place considering Illustrator Workspace arrangement. Frequently I have a mess on my working space, however I cannot find some useful solution apart of pressing F and Shift+Tab or Tab.

Could you please share some Workspace organization screenshots and recommend some useful tips about the subject.


4 Answers 4


Get a second monitor: tool palettes on one screen, your art on the other.

Size of screens isn't as important than just having 'more screen'. Having separate screens is also a nice way to 'sandbox' your apps as well.

  • I used to work this way, but I found it unnecessary when I moved to a widescreen monitor. I actually found it more annoying to have to go to that other monitor and I found I had plenty of room on my primary. I use a 27" Cinema Display with a great resolution, so maybe that's why too. I just use my second screen for movies and email now! To each there own I guess though. :) Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 17:38
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    @GoofyMonkey Interesting.. I use a 30" Cinema display and find working with panel on the same screen cumbersome. I can't work effectively without a second monitor minimum. (I actually run 2-30" and 1-27" - panels on the 27")
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 18:14
  • My favorite set up was a 27" imac with a second portrait monitor. The portrait layout was dedicated to tool pallets, email and web surfing (all of which benefited from a taller screen)
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 18:21
  • @Scott… I really think it comes down to personal preference. Try both, see what works. I love using multiple monitors, but I prefer to use them for having multiple things open at the same time, rather than having one app spread out. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 19:19
  • @GoofyMonkey that's why I run 3... 2 for Adobe apps and 1 for other apps when needed in conjunction. :)
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 19:58

I'd endorse both Vnovak's and DA01's answers, and I'd add this:

The best long-term answer to workspace mayhem is to set up custom workspaces for the kinds of projects you tackle. Switching from one to another as you work will help keep things clean, and if things start to get messy just reset the workspace.

A useful rule I follow in setting up my custom workspaces is to put the panels I most frequently need to access and/or refer to (Swatches, Layers, Appearance) in one column that is always open, and the next most commonly used in a second column, full closed but easily accessible on a one-panel-at-a-time basis. The less frequently used panels are the ones I memorize keyboard shortcuts for, so I can pop them on screen, use them, then close them again.

The overriding consideration in deciding what should be always open, what can be in the "normally closed" column and what's keyboard-only is speed. Anything that's repeatedly slowing me down gets into the "always open" category.


Good question. Please take a look to my screen:

enter image description here

  • First of all 16:9 display is a crucial, because 4:3 (even large) narrow down my artboard and makes it uncomfortable to work.. wider screen = easier to work.

  • Typography/Paragraph panel under my hands

  • Transform. Use it a lot.. Especially with simple math functions (e.g. +0.75in, /2, etc)

  • Layers. You know that AI files can have a lot of mess and without viewing to Layers pallete it is hard to understand structure and fix errors.

  • The far right side is for backburners: Color (use it in 99 cases from 100 vs Swatches). Stroke/Gradient/Transparency (mostly use Opacity masks then Clipping paths), Appearance (use really rare).

If I need more options (e.g. Attributes) I open it at free space and then close.

Hope these helps!


I use 4 different workspaces. Each one is specific to the different ways I use Illustrator. A general workspace, an Output workspace, and a couple for specific plugins I use with Illustrator. I like to keep my panels to only the ones I use all the time and for specific tasks. For example, I know I don't need the panels that I use for preflighting and getting a file ready to print until I'm ready to send that job to print. So I don't have those panels open tip I need them. I think workspaces are very valuable. But don't just make one and leave it, if you find something missing in a workspace, make sure you update it.

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