I recently shared with you how you can make perfect shapes by simply using the SHIFT key on your computer keyboard (find that here). Today, I’m giving you some more keyboard tricks using the ALT and CTRL keys to work with shapes, as well as a few more with the SHIFT key. As with any shortcut, these can save you a good deal of time.
I have a Windows computer, but if you’re a Mac user you have a CMD key instead of the CTRL one unless otherwise noted below. It’s also important to note that you will use lowercase letters on any keyboard shortcut.
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It’s pretty easy to click on an icon of a drawing tool at the left to begin to make a shape. But if you are frequently creating the same kind of shape, it’s worth your while to learn the keyboard shortcut as well. Some of these don’t even need a SHIFT or CTRL or ALT key.
- Line — \
- Rectangle — r
- Rounded Rectangle — SHIFT+r
- Ellipse — e
- Polygon with straight line segments — p
- Polygon with curved line segments — c
- Freehand shape — f
- Smooth Freehand shape — SHIFT+f
- Arc — SHIFT+a
- Regular Polygon (with a set number of equal sides) — SHIFT+p
- Text box — t
- Copy a shape — CTRL+c
- Paste a copied shape, either on the same page or a different file — CTRL+v
- Paste in front — (puts the copied shape in the same location on the page, in the current file or a different one) — CTRL+v
- Cut a shape — CTRL+x
There are usually quicker ways to alter the front to back order of shapes, such as using the tools in the Quick Access Toolbar. But, since I know some folks prefer keyboard shortcuts, here they are–
- Bring to Front — CTRL+SHIFT+]
- Send to Back — CTRL+SHIFT+[
- Bring Forward — CTRL+]
- Send Backward — CTRL+[
One of my favorite keyboard shortcuts (see my top ones here) is using the CTRL+arrow key on my computer keyboard to make exact copies of a shape to the top, bottom or side of it. The lovely thing is that they are completely the same size and are lined up perfectly. Just select the shape, hold down the CTRL key and click one of the arrow keys. This puts the copy right next to the original shape.
For example, if I use CTRL+→, I get this–
Another keyboard shortcut for duplicates is CTRL+d. This puts the copied shape over just slightly to the right of the location of the original. In other words, it’s overlapping the original shape. I’ve raised the transparency on these squares so you can see that more easily.
You can use that one if you know you’re going to move the shape anyway or if you perhaps want them to overlap slightly.
This shortcut is similar to the duplicate copies one, but it helps you make a mirrored copy instead. It’s ALT+SHIFT+arrow key.
You can create a row or column of duplicate shapes with just a single keyboard shortcut.
- To make a row of 3, use CTRL+SHIFT+right arrow.
- For a row of 4, it’s CTRL+ALT+right arrow.
- To make a column of 3, you’ll do CTRL+SHIFT+down arrow.
- A row of 4 is CTRL+ALT+right arrow.
To fill the page, use CTRL+SHIFT+f (for “fill”). That fits as many of the shapes as possible on the defined page area, evenly spaced apart. I will say that sometimes you can fit more on the page yourself. That’s because the software uses the edges of the bounding box, not the edges of the shape, to see how many it can fit. And it puts a buffer between the shapes, which you don’t always need.
With these keyboard shortcuts, you can make rotated copies. What this does is make a second copy, perfectly rotated, right on top of the selected shape. For example, if you rotate 1 copy, your second copy is rotated a perfect 90°.
If you rotated 2 copies instead, the copies each rotate 45°.
In Designer Edition and up, you can alter the point around which the shape rotates. This is called the movable center of rotation. Let’s take that flower petal shape from above. Notice the little circle with a plus sign in it at the middle of the shape?
That’s the center of rotation that I can move. I’ve done that here.
Now when I make my rotated copies, I get this.
Yep — SO many ways to use this! To learn more about that Center of Rotation, see this post.
Okay, so what are the keyboard shortcuts for rotated copies?
- 1 — CTRL+SHIFT+F1
- 2 — CTRL+SHIFT+F2
- 3 — CTRL+SHIFT+F3
- 5 —CTRL+SHIFT+F5
To enter into Point Editing Mode, you can double click quickly on an image, which is what I usually do. Or, you can click the Edit Points icon. There is a keyboard shortcut as well, which is simply to click a.
Here’s one I do accidentally ALL…THE…TIME. It’s a shortcut for transferring the properties of one shape to another. You select a shape, then hold down the CTRL key and click on a different shape.
For example, say you have 2 squares with different fill colors. You can use this shortcut to quickly make one have the same fill as the other. The flexibility you have with this depends on which level of the software you use.
- In Basic (Standard) Edition, it transfers the fill color only. In other words, it acts just like the eyedropper tool that’s in the Fill color panel.
- With Designer Edition and up, it transfers more of the properties, including–
- fill color
- line color
- line style
- line thickness
- pattern fill
- font size
- bold/underline/italic of font
- cut style (see next section)
My guess is there’s only a handful of folks who know this trick. It’s a way to set a shape to Cut or No Cut without having to enter the Send area. This is a big help when you’re designing if you want to set that ahead of time instead of having to remember once you’re ready to start the cut job.
- To set the shape on Cut — CTRL+t
- To set the shape on No Cut — CTRL+SHIFT+t
Just in case you’re wondering, there isn’t an option to set it on Cut Edge with a keyboard shortcut. And, just in case you didn’t know, text now defaults to Cut Edge so that overlapping letters of script fonts don’t cut into one another. If you use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+t on a text box, it changes it to Cut and so those letters WILL cut into one another. Just another reminder to ALWAYS understand and check your Cut Style.
Another cool tip here is that you can use the shortcut in conjunction with the one described above for transferring properties. For example, say you have 10 shapes on your design. You’ve got the same fill for 4 of them and a different fill for the other 6. The former are set to No Cut and the latter to Cut. Say you want to change them all to the same fill AND to No Cut with a single action. You’d select the latter 6, hold CTRL and then click on one from the former set. Not only does it transfer all the fill properties, it also changes the latter 6 to No Cut as the former 4 are.
Need another shortcut?
You can learn about ALL the keyboard shortcuts in this post. And you can always find them listed on the back page of the Silhouette User’s Manual.
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