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Adobe Illustrator Adobe InDesign Adobe Photoshop Digital Tips and Tutorials

Ultimate Guide: Align Objects With Keyboard Shortcuts in Adobe Apps

One of the most underrated features in Adobe creative apps are the various object alignment tools (left align, right align, align top edges, horizontal align middle, etc.) If you’re anything like me, you use these tools regularly. And while they are conveniently — and sometimes even dynamically — located in multiple locations, you may find yourself moving your cursor back-and-forth from your artwork to the alignment panel more often than you’d prefer. This can slow down — or even disrupt — your workflow. The solution? Keyboard shortcuts!

In this guide we setup keyboard shortcuts for the most common alignment actions. I also include notes about variations you can explore on your own.

Adobe apps come chalk full of keyboard shortcuts (see official keyboard shortcuts lists for InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and XD), so finding a combination of keystrokes that are not already designated to a shortcut can be tricky, and you’ll likely need to press several keys to employ any new shortcut. In this guide, most of our shortcut will involve only three keys, but, luckily, they don’t require years of finger yoga to be able to get your hands in the positions required to press them all at the same time. If you have ever reset the PRAM on a Mac, you know what I’m talking about.

We’re going to start with Adobe InDesign.

For our keyboard shortcuts we’ll consistently press Control+Command and then we’ll add a modifier key.

Note: for ease of research, writing and reading this tutorial, I’ll be using Mac keys only, so, if you’re using a Windows machine, you’ll need to adjust accordingly. I.e. Command on MacOS = Ctrl on Windows.

As much as I tried to get directly into the setup of these shortcuts, there is at least one more thing that needs clarification.

Adobe uses different names for the same action, in different locations in the same app. Here’s what I mean. When you position your cursor over the first button in the Alignment panel, the tooltip says “Align left edges,” but, when you setup your keyboard shortcuts, the name for this action is “Horizontal Align Left.” Why Adobe would use two names for the same action is beyond me, but this is what we have to work with. And, if that isn’t bad enough, these same alignment actions get different names in different Adobe apps. For example, the tool tip in InDesign and Photoshop is “Align left edges,” but in Illustrator it is “Horizontal Align Left” and simply “Align Left” in XD.

While writing this guide, I nearly created a keyboard shortcut for inserting the face palm emoji.

So, in this list of the shortcuts we’ll create, I list the action’s name (from the shortcut creator dialog box), then the tooltip, then the shortcut itself.

Action nameTooltipShortcut
Horizontal Align CenterAlign horizontal centersControl+Command+C
Horizontal Align LeftAlign left edgesControl+Command+Arrow-Left
Horizontal Align RightAlign right edgesControl+Command+Arrow-Right
Vertical Align BottomAlign bottom edgesControl+Command+Arrow-Down
Vertical Align CenterAlign vertical centersControl+Command+M *
Vertical Align TopAlign top edgesControl+Command+Arrow-Up
*I use the letter M for the Vertical Align Center shortcut to differentiate between C for Horizontal Align Center and M for Vertical Align Center Middle. I find it helpful to think that you can find the shape of the letter V in the shape of the letter M, which I can only assume is the reason Adobe folks used when setting these up as default shortcuts in Adobe XD.

Setup keyboard shortcuts in Adobe InDesign

  1. Select Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…
    1. Optional: You may want to create a new set, just in case something goes wrong you can revert to the default set.
  2. Set Product Area: to Object Editing
  3. Under Commands: Scroll to and click on Horizontal Align Center
    1. Note: this list is alphabetical, so this will be the first of our shortcuts to create).
  4. Click in the New Shortcut: text box and press down the following keys: Control + Option + Command + C
  5. Click Assign
    1. Repeat for all the other shortcuts in the list above.
  6. Click Save
  7. Click OK

Use your new shortcuts!

And, you’re done!

… Kind of.

To create shortcuts in other Adobe apps, keep reading.


Adobe Abnormalities

Understanding that Adobe apps are developed by app-specific teams helps us understand why each app handles very similar tasks so differently. Organizations the size of Adobe cannot have an entirely flat org. structure, so silos exist, and this affects how we interact with their apps. In this section, we’ll uncover some of these dissimilarities and how to overcome them.

Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign doesn’t list the object alignment actions anywhere in the app’s menus, which is why, when setting up the shortcut you must find it in Product Area: Object Editing. This isn’t bad, it’s just different than the rest of the apps we cover in this guide.

Adobe Illustrator

The Adobe Illustrator shortcut setup is a bit different than that of InDesign. One of the reasons for this is that the alignment actions can be found in the app’s menus, so that’s where you find the actions in the keyboard shortcut setup process.

Adobe Illustrator doesn’t let you use the Control key or the arrow keys in keyboard shortcuts, so I’ve substituted the Option key for the Control Key and letter keys for the arrow keys.

Setup keyboard shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator

  1. Select Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…
  2. Select Menu Commands
  3. Under Command: Twirl open the arrow next to Object, then Align
    1. Note: this list is kind of alphabetical, it appears in the same order as it does in the menu.
  4. Click twice in the Horizontal Align Left row and the Shortcut column
  5. Press down the following keys: Option+Command+L
    1. Repeat for all the other shortcuts using the list below as a guide.
  6. Click OK
    1. You will be prompted to save the Set of keyboard shortcuts. Name it, save it and you’re good to go.
Action nameShortcut
Horizontal Align LeftOption+Command+L
Horizontal Align CenterOption+Command+C
Horizontal Align RightOption+Command+R
Vertical Align TopOption+Command+T
Vertical Align CenterOption+Command+M *
Vertical Align BottomOption+Command+B
* Remember M is for Middle

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop does allow you to use the Command key, but doesn’t allow you to use Arrow keys in keyboard shortcuts. So, similar to Adobe Illustrator, my solution is to use the first letter from each action’s directional component. I.e. C for Center, L for Left, R for Right, etc. as the modifier key in the shortcut.

The shortcut setup is a bit different in Photoshop, too.

Setup keyboard shortcuts in Adobe Photoshop

  1. Select Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…
  2. Set Shortcuts For: to Application Menus
  3. Under Application Menu Command: Scroll to Align > Top Edges and click in the right half of the Top Edges row.
    • Note: this list is NOT alphabetical, it appears in the same order as it does in the menu
  4. Press down the following keys: Control+Option+Command+T
    • Repeat for all the other shortcuts using guide below.
  5. Click OK
Action nameShortcut
Top EdgesControl+Option+Command+T
Vertical CentersControl+Option+Command+M *
Bottom EdgesControl+Option+Command+B
Left EdgesControl+Option+Command+L
Horizontal CentersControl+Option+Command+C
Right EdgesControl+Option+Command+R
* Remember M is for Middle

Adobe XD

Adobe XD doesn’t allow you to create custom — or modify existing — keyboard shortcuts. (It has been a feature request since 2018.) This limitation is one of the reasons we used the specific shortcuts key combinations that we did — they are the defaults in XD, so no additional setup is necessary … in XD.

That’s not to say that XD is perfect. XD does its part in confusing all these alignment matters. KD is the only app that lists the vertical alignment options before the horizontal options.

XD also groups the horizontal distribution action with the vertical alignment actions and the vertical distribution action with the horizontal alignment actions. I really gotta think Adobe is just screwing with us in this case.  


Further customization

In InDesign, each of the alignment actions can be modified further by setting the Align to: option in the Align panel. We created our shortcuts based on the default option: Align to Selection, but you may find yourself aligning objects to Key Object, Margins, Page or Spread more often than Selection. In this case, you can change your designated actions and/or setup additional shortcuts for multiple Align to settings. I find I use Selection, Key Object and Page most often. Key Object alignment doesn’t require additional keyboard shortcuts, you just have to define the key object before you use the shortcuts we’ve already set up, and it will work as expected — the alignment action will determine its position based on the key object.

Align to Page

To setup additional keyboard shortcuts for Align to Page, I’vesimply added the Option key to the shortcut.

Action nameShortcut
Horizontal Page Align CenterControl+Option+Command+C
Horizontal Page Align LeftControl+Option+Command+Arrow Left
Horizontal Page Align RightControl+Option+Command+Arrow Right
Vertical Page Align BottomControl+Option+Command+Arrow Down
Vertical Page Align CenterControl+Option+Command+M
Vertical Page Align TopControl+Option+Command+Arrow Up

Align to Margin

To setup additional keyboard shortcuts for Align to Margin, I’vesimply added the Option and Shift key to the shortcut.

Action nameShortcut
Horizontal Margin Align CenterShift+Control+Option+Command+C
Horizontal Margin Align LeftShift+Control+Option+Command+Arrow-Left
Horizontal Margin Align RightShift+Control+Option+Command+Arrow-Right
Vertical Margin Align BottomShift+Control+Option+Command+Arrow-Down
Vertical Margin Align CenterShift+Control+Option+Command+M
Vertical Margin Align TopShift+Control+Option+Command+Arrow-Up

Distribute spacing

Let’s address the elephant in the room. All these Adobe apps’ alignment panel also include Distribute Spacing actions. Let’s set up some shortcuts for these actions as well.

Action nameShortcut
Horizontal Distribute SpaceShift+Control+Option+Command+H
Vertical Distribute SpaceShift+Control+Option+Command+V

Notes:

  1. Each app handles the modifications of this action a bit differently, but this guide is far past TLDR-qualified, so I won’t cover that here. 
  2. InDesign had default keyboard shortcuts for both Control+Command+H and Control+Option+Command+H, which is why we used the more complicated Shift+ Control+Option+Command+H, but you’re welcome to override default keyboard shortcuts if you never (or rarely) use them and will use this one more. 
  3. XD, by default, uses the simpler Control+Command+H and Control+Command+V, respectively.

Okay, now you’re done.

I hope you learned a thing or two and that these shortcuts prove as useful to you as they have to me.

Remember, give yourself time and grace to learn these new skills. Soon enough you’ll get the hang of them and be glad you did.

Happy creating,
Nick

Nick Saemenes 🗣


P.S.

Some third party apps allow you to setup app-specific keyboard shortcuts, which allow you to create more consistent keyboard shortcuts for like actions across multiple Adobe apps. I have used BetterTouchTool for such. I have no affiliation with BetterTouchTool. I am a paying customer and find it useful for MacOS customizations.

Categories
Adobe InDesign Adobe Photoshop Tips and Tutorials

Cutting Out and Layering Subjects from Photos

Sometimes your design might call for the subject of your image to be cut out or layered: For example, Oregon State’s branding features contextual graphics, which can be integrated with your photos so they look like they’re behind the subject, or behind mountains, things like that.

I’ll show two methods today. One in photoshop that takes a lot more steps but is more precise, and another in Indesign that is quick but less precise.

The best and most precise way is to make a duplicate of your photo with a transparent background. I’ll start with opening photoshop.
-I’m using Photoshop 2021, and they’ve made it very easy to select your subject, as long as you don’t mind going in after to fix their mistakes.
-Go to Select>Subject and let it work its magic
-It did a pretty good job of guessing, so lets first refine the edge so it doesn’t have a harsh cut line
-Go to Select>modify>expand, and I like to use 2px
-Again, Select>modify>feather, and again 2 px. This gives it a softer outline so it’s not such a harsh cutout.
-At the bottom of the layers panel, select this black square with a circle to create a mask from our outline. This doesn’t delete anything, so if we make mistakes we don’t have to restart from scratch
-There’s some background that got included by accident, so let’s fix those
-Select the mask, make sure the color selected is white, and select the eraser tool
-Erase the bits of background that were included.
-Use the brush tool to bring back the bits of benny that were left out of the mask.
-Tip: Right click>disable layer mask to show the background again, and in Channels click the eye next to the mask to make it easier to see what needs fixed.
-When it’s where you like it, save as either a new Photoshop file or PNG, as those hold the transparency. A JPG will just fill in your transparent areas with white.
-Add both your original image and the one you just edited, add your contextual graphic and arrange accordingly.

Next we’ll use just InDesign with the pen tool.
-Insert your photo, decide where you want the contextual graphics to go
-select pen tool, begin going around the outline of your subject
-Close the shape
-With the selection tool, select the image and copy
-right click the new shape you just created, and paste into
-Add your contextual graphic and arrange accordingly.

And there you have it, hopefully one of these methods works well for you and gives you more freedom to make awesome designs. Thanks and good luck.

Categories
Brand Guidelines Icons Uncategorized

New Icons!

We have added to our library of icons! Over the past week, we have created and uploaded a number of new icons for you to use in your designs. Icons are created in eps, png and svg file formats. Icons are a great way to add some visual interest to your design. Guidelines of icon use can be found here in our brand site, as well as how to download them.

The icons are sorted into categories for ease of searching. The categories are:

  • Animals
  • Buildings and transportation
  • Food and drink, maps
  • Objects, misc
  • Outdoors
  • People and accessories
  • Research
  • Symbols
  • Tools, instruments
  • Web, electronics
Categories
Social Media Tips and Tutorials

Best practices: Graphics for promoting events on social

Let’s talk about the best ways to do event promotion on social media. Yes, this means how to create eye-catchy graphics. As we dive deeper into this topic, I’ll break down ideas by each platform.

Facebook

Here are image specs that you need to keep in mind when promoting your event on Facebook.

  • Facebook Event image specs: 1200 x 628
  • Native feed image specs: 1080 x 1080 (1:1 ratio)

Facebook Events:

Let’s start with creating a Facebook Event. When designing a graphic to be used in the event, you should keep in mind that you don’t have much space to cram every detail into the graphic. The event page itself can do that for you.

The best graphic you create is an eye-catchy image. Try a headshot of your speaker, a research photo, or a campus beauty picture. Add the title of the lecture or event to the graphic and that’s it. Images that are flooded with info and text will not help draw attention to the event.

Now when you go through the rest of the Facebook event setup, you can add more details including date, time, description of the event and how to register (if needed).

For example, this Facebook event cover isn’t too text-heavy but still has the title of the event.

Facebook timeline:

Just like Facebook Events, the best way to grab the attention of your audience is with a simple graphic. You can use the same image as you did in your event graphic. In this case, it is okay to add the date and time for your event. This graphic can also be used again if you wish to promote it on Twitter.

This example below is of how you can change up your Facebook event cover to be catered towards Facebook or Twitter.

Twitter

Twitter is just like Facebook. You shouldn’t overpower your image with text. You have 280 characters that can help.

Here are image specs that you need to keep in mind.

  • Native feed image specs: 16×9 or 1080 x 1080 (1:1 ratio)

Instagram

Event promotion on Instagram is good for engaging students. It’s better to use Instagram Stories rather than your native feed because Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform. People will not engage with text-heavy posts.

Here are image specs for Instagram:

  • Instagram Stories: 9×16
  • Native Feed: 4×5 (preferred since it takes up more of the screen) or 1080x 1080

Instagram Stories:

Using Instagram Stories to do event promotion is great. You are able to tweak your graphics to be the right specs and either use the “swipe up” feature if you have that or “Link in Bio” for any registration or more info you wish to provide.

Another way to use Instagram Stories is to have multiple cards/slides to deliver information about the event. Have a slide with the title and date and then another with time and location. This helps get all the info across without overcrowding one simple slide.

In the example below, the original image was tweaked to fit IG Stories and still has the most important info.

Instagram Feed:

The feed is not best for text graphics because Instagram is a photo and video sharing platform. People are less likely to engage with something too text-heavy. Try using Instagram Stories instead to help reach your audience. If you do want to post to your feed we suggest using a really high-quality photo– a headshot or campus beauty. In the copy, you can add all the details to the event and you can send people to “Link in Bio” if you need more space. If you have a link in your bio make sure it stays up for the duration of your event promotion.

Categories
Digital Tips and Tutorials

New WordPress Themes

There are now 2 new WordPress themes available for an updated look.

  1. Branch, which is ideal for a blog or small and simple website. This blog has the Branch theme applied.
    • 1 column full width theme with a footer available for widgets
preview of Branch theme
  1. Sapling, which is ideal for a portfolio site or picture-heavy blog
    • Left sidebar for widgets with a main content area for a feed
Sapling theme preview

Before you take the plunge, you can see a live preview of your site with the new theme applied.

How to change your theme

  1. Log into your WordPress site: https://blogs.oregonstate.edu/
  2. Navigate to the front page of your site, and then click Customize in the upper left.
  3. Click Change next to the name of your current theme.
  4. Hover over the theme that you’d like to apply and then click on Live Preview.
  5. This will show you what your site will look like with the new theme applied. No changes have been made to your live site yet. You can click on the links to see how each page would look.
    • Note: if your site has a lot of customization and overrides, then you’ll most likely need to make more adjustments when applying a new theme.
  6. Click on Publish to apply the changes to your live site.

A theme change can be a good time to evaluate your content and structure. For example, if you switch from one of the older themes that has a sidebar widget area to the Branch theme, which has 1 full width column, any widgets in the sidebar will automatically move to the footer. This might prompt you to re-evaluate what you include as a widget and its contents. You might move an important link to the menu and leave the rest at the footer. Or remove the widget altogether. Each site is unique with its needs.

If you need help with changing over your theme, come to Open Lab, which is held virtually every Friday on Microsoft Teams.

Categories
Social Media Tips and Tutorials

Social Media Video Specs

A helpful guide of video specs for each social media platform to help everyone create great content.

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

TikTok

YouTube

  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 
  • File size: 128GB or 12 hours (whichever is less)
  • Length: 
    • Technical: 12 hours
    • Preferred: 1-10 min
  • Captions: CC on all videos unless they are integrated into the video already
  • Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iky7Rq8DJ0c
Categories
Social Media Tips and Tutorials

Holidays we cover

There are many opportunities to celebrate holidays. We have broken it down to the ones we will cover on the institutional Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Awareness and Appreciation Months

This list incorporates existing traditions and activities that are hosted by other units and programs.

  • Black History Month
  • Women’s History Month
  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
  • Mental Health Awareness Month
  • Pride Month
  • LatinX Heritage Month
  • Native American cultural event
  • ECC Festival

Non Denominational U.S. Holidays

There are a small number of national holidays that we participate in. Our activity will be driven by the quality of content that is developed. These are subject to change.

  • Veterans Day
  • Memorial Day
  • MLK Day
  • Halloween

Categories
AP Style Brand Guidelines Writing

Editorial style update: Capitalizing Indigenous

We have made the editorial style decision to capitalize the word Indigenous when referring to Indigenous people. This is consistent with other racial and ethnic identities, including African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latina/Latino/Latinx, Hispanic and Native American. We updated the editorial style section of the Oregon State Brand Guidelines accordingly.

Although this is a break with current AP style, the question of capitalizing Indigenous has been brought up in the Ask the Editor section of the Associated Press Stylebook online. The New York Times and international news organizations including the BBC and The Guardian are now capitalizing Indigenous, and the editors at AP may change their minds. As we all know, the AP updates the stylebook all the time. Some of us are still adjusting the using the % sign.

Our thanks to Luhui Whitebear, assistant director of the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws. In addition to bringing this to our attention, she provided an explanation for why Indigenous should be capitalized from the Diversity Style Guide, and we agree. A project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, the Diversity Style Guide also has support from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Categories
Brand Guidelines Writing

Brand Messaging and Design Checklist for Print Projects

Every time you begin a new project, review this checklist. It will keep you on track!

Pointed messaging and inspiring design are two essential elements of the Oregon State Brand. When used consistently and appropriately in tandem, they strengthen the materials we create – ensuring everything we produce for the university resonates and reflects who we are.

You can also find this checklist on our Tools and Resources page.

Categories
Social Media Tips and Tutorials

Diving into Instagram Stories and Going Live

Let’s talk Instagram Stories:

When Instagram rolled out this feature, no one really knew how to use it. But they are getting popular with lots of fun features. They’re a great way boost your Instagram game. We’ve been using it more frequently and have seen great progress.

Stories are a great way to grab followers’ attention for a short period of time. Want to get more likes on one of your posts? Want to share a post you like? Post quick updates? Share a cool video? This is where you can do that.

Highlights are a great opportunity to archive your stories. When we post to our Story, we think about which highlight bucket the content will ultimately be saved under. That way we aren’t just posting a story that doesn’t connect with our followers. At the institutional level, our goal is to showcase the Oregon State experience, and Stories do that.

We have found success in using Stories for event or gameday coverage. These truly capture what it’s like to be part of #BeaverNation. We have also seen people engage with our fall, winter and spring highlights. By simply grabbing boomerangs, photos and videos you can produce a great Story.

Additionally, the perfect length is about 4-8 slides because people will just skip past you if the story is too long. You want to make sure to have a good hook at the beginning and your followers will love it! Check out Sprout Social’s Instagram Best Practices if you still want to learn more.

Next up, going Live:

The key is to have a goal in mind. Are you going to answer follower questions? Or are you going to showcase an event or are you going to go live with someone? Once you have that figured out, you can execute a plan of how your live will go.

The feature is pretty easy to use and here are some tips we’ve learned:

  • Post an Instagram story a couple days and hours before you go live —this way your followers know it’s happening.
  • Save your live after it’s done. It will stay on your profile for 24 hours and people can revisit it.
  • Instagram live will cut you off after one hour. So make sure you keep track of the time.
  • Make sure you have a tripod or a secure place to put your phone when you go live. You don’t want to move your phone too much or it doesn’t make for a fun live.
  • Better lighting always helps.
  • Make sure the phone is charged.
  • If you want to do a Q&A, check out these helpful tips. This feature is engaging and allows you to connect with your audience. You’re able to pick questions you want to answer and won’t have to read the comments as they roll in.
  • Check out how to go live with another Instagram user here. If you have a student or researcher, this might be a fun way to interact.

Both these Instagram features are a great way to connect with your followers. These are becoming more popular among brands and helps up your Instagram game. Go have some fun!