How to Organize an Illustrator Workspace for Astropad

Oct 24th, 2016
Malyse McKinnon

Illustrator is the standard for vector work – it’s a great tool for illustration, typography, and many other uses. In this quick step-by-step guide, we’ll help you organize an efficient workspace for using Illustrator with Astropad.

Rearranging panels and tool bars

One of the nice things about Illustrator is that individual panels and tool bars are rearrangeable to either side of your canvas, or anywhere in the working space.  Place any panels that you use frequently in an easily accessible spot for your stylus.

For example, the Layers panel can be kept in any space outside the Artboard for conveniency. Or extra tools can be lined up right beside the main tool panel, as a single column or multiple.

Any type of rearranging works with Astropad, since the shortcuts sidebar can be placed to the right of the iPad screen –

Tool panels set to the left, and Astropad shortcut sidebar to right

Or to the left of the iPad screen –

Tool panels set to the right, Astropad shortcut sidebar to the left

The shortcuts sidebar can be hidden anytime by tapping the on screen white ring button.

Tool panels set right with some cascaded, Astropad shortcut sidebar hidden

Shortcuts in Illustrator

Astropad’s shortcuts are preset for Photoshop, so you will need to change them to accommodate Illustrator. On your Mac, go to Astropad’s “Preferences”, it will open a window with editable shortcuts for the sidebar. Click “Set” and type the command on your Mac, and it will register.

Recommended shortcuts for Astropad’s sidebar – 

  • P  :  Pen tool
  • –  :  Delete Anchor Pen tool
  • A  : Direct Selection  (white cursor)
  • V  : Selection (black cursor)
  • Command Z  : Undo
  • Shift Z : Redo
  • B  :  Brush
  • Shift E  :  Eraser

Anchor points and handles

It’s best to use a more accurate stylus, like the Apple Pencil, to control anchor points and handles more easily.

Using Illustrator CC 2018?

If using Illustrator CC 2018, there’s now more option to resize anchor points and handles. This feature is useful for working with Astropad; whether selecting points with your finger or a stylus.

To find this feature, in Illustrator’s “Preferences”, go to “Selection & Anchor Display…”

Example of default Anchor Point size

Towards the bottom of the menu, under “Anchor Points, Handle, and Bounding Box Display” is size adjustment options; starting from Default to Max. Select a size that’s comfortable for your setup.

When anchor points and handles are set to a larger size, it adds better control to creating and simplifying paths, working with the pen tool, and adjusting your objects.

Example of adjusted Anchor Point size

Touch panning and zooming

Astropad’s touch gestures, panning and zoom, are supported in Illustrator. Using two fingers, pinch to zoom, and place together to pan on your iPad. This way, you won’t need to keep the scrollbars in view when you set up your ideal workspace.

How to set pressure sensitivity for strokes

The iPad is unable to be recognized as a drawing tablet in Illustrator. Pen pressure in Illustrator does not enable pressure options unless a Wacom driver is present.

A Wacom tablet is not needed to install the driver. We’re currently looking into a workaround for this.

The latest Wacom driver will need to be installed, like an Intuos Pro driver; you can get from here:

After adding the driver; Brush Options settings will need to be manually adjusted in Illustrator


In the Brush Options menu, change “Fixed” to “Pressure”

Also in the same menu, adjust desired variations to the stroke.

If you are running Mac OS Mojave

Along with enabling Accessibility for Astropad to utilize your Mac’s input, there are Security & Privacy settings that need to be enable for Illustrator as well. During Illustrator’s startup, there should be an initial prompt after a Wacom driver is installed on your Mac.

Permissions only appears when Wacom Driver is installed

When this permissions are not allowed, pen input and pressure sensitivity will be disabled. If you never saw a prompt, or accidentally selected “Don’t Allow”, no worries! You can still access and enable this accessibility permissions with these steps:

  1. Go to your Mac’s System Preferences
  2. Select “Security & Privacy”
  3. Choose the “Privacy” tab and on the left, scroll down to “Automation”
  4. Under Adobe Illustrator, make sure to enable “WacomTabletDriver”

Drawing seems slow in Illustrator CC?

Try turning off GPU performance. In Illustrator’s “Preferences,”  go to  “GPU Performance”. Then uncheck “GPU Performance”.


For more information on working in Illustrator, check out our Community Forum.

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