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 like. 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 shortcuts 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.

We’re going to start with Adobe InDesign.

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

Note: for ease of research, writing and reading this tutorial, I’ll be using Mac keys only, Windows users willl 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 within 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.

Due to these inconsistencies, while writing this guide, I nearly created a keyboard shortcut for inserting the face palm emoji.

So, in the lists of the shortcuts we’ll create, I include 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 (for vertical) in the shape of the letter M.

Setup keyboard shortcuts in Adobe InDesign

  1. Select Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…
    1. Recommended but optional: Create a new set, just in case something goes wrong you can revert to the default set. Or, like in the case of the latest InDesign release, when settings don’t migrate, you can simply select your set to restore all of your keyboard shortcuts!
  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 shortcuts you must find them 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 does not 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 the below guide.
  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. XD 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.  But, it appears that XD is going by the wayside, so maybe I shouldn’t include this section at all.

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’ve simply 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’ve simply 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


  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 often. 
  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 Saemenes 🗣


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.

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.

Adobe Illustrator Adobe InDesign Tips and Tutorials

Creating OSU Branded Pie Graphs in Adobe Illustrator and InDesign

Graphs and charts have a specific look in the Oregon State Brand, and in this 10 minute video we discuss how to create those in Adobe Illustrator and Indesign:

From Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Select Pie Graph Tool (under the Column Graph Tool) and make it the size you want.
  2. A Data box will appear, allowing you to add your numbers.
  3. Close the data box, select the stroke and choose ‘None’ as the color.
  4. Select the Selection Tool (V), click on the pie chart and go to Object>Ungroup, say yes to the dialog box that appears (this warns you that you will no longer be able to edit the data, so make sure your numbers are final). Right click the pie chart and select ‘Ungroup’ again.
  5. Select the Ellipse Tool (under the Rectangle Tool) and from the center of the pie graph click and hold Shift+Alt and drag to make your circle from the center. Select the fill of this circle and change it to white.
  6. Edit>Copy the white circle and Shift+click one of the pie shapes. This should have the circle and one of the pies selected, with the white circle in front.
  7. Go to Window>Pathfinder and select ‘Minus Front’ from the Shape Mode.
  8. Go to Edit>Paste in Place (Shift+Ctrl+V). The white circle should have pasted in the exact same place as last time.
  9. Shift+click on one of the pie shapes and repeat steps 7 and 8 until all of the pies have been cut.
  10. To add gaps, select all of the shapes with the Selection Tool and go to Window>Stroke. Choose a weight that feels appropriate, and choose Rounded Corners.
  11. With the shape selected, go to Object>Path>Outline Stroke. Right Click and Ungroup.
  12. Select both the outlined stroke and the solid inside color and again select ‘Minus Front’ from the Shape Mode in the Pathfinder Window. Repeat for the remaining shapes.
  13. Change the fill of each of the shapes to be the stroke by clicking on the double arrow next to the Fill and Stroke in the toolbar.
  14. Select all and from the Stroke Window, choose Rounded Corners. Copy the entire shape.

From Adobe InDesign:

  1. Edit>Paste the shape that was made in Adobe Illustrator. Right Click>Ungroup.
  2. Select the Line Tool and draw a line down through the center of the circle. Make sure it’s the same weight as the outlines of the other shapes
  3. Edit>Copy the line and then Edit>Paste in Place (Shift+Ctrl+Alt+V).
  4. Hover over the end until the double arrows appear showing you can rotate it.
  5. Hold Shift, click and drag to rotate it 90 degrees. Copy both the lines and Edit>Paste in Place. Repeat until you’ve made a star with many points and small space between each line.
  6. Select the star only and Object>Group.
  7. Edit>Cut, select one of the shapes and Right Click>Paste Into.
  8. Select one of the shapes and go to Window>Swatches.
  9. With the Stroke selected, choose one of Oregon State’s brand colors.
  10. Hover over the shape until a circle appears. Your mouse will turn into a hand. Click to select the star shape within the container shape.
  11. From the Swatches Window, select the same color. Repeat for each of the shapes.
Adobe InDesign Fonts Microsoft Powerpoint Microsoft Word Tips and Tutorials

Full-Height Numerals for Rufina Stencil

Rufina Stencil is one of Oregon State University’s brand fonts, and defaults to using hanging numerals, as seen in the top example.

However, our brand calls for using full-height numerals, as seen in the lower example.
To change the figures in InDesign, there are a few different options. First is to select the number you want to change one-by-one, and select the full-height numeral that appears next to it.

This can also be done one-by-one by going to Window > “Type and Tables” > Glyphs, and double-clicking the correct version.

The easiest for us that takes care of all the numbers at once is to create a paragraph style. Go to Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles and create a new paragraph style. Double-click and in the ‘OpenType Features’ tab, next to Figure Style, change to Proportional Oldstyle. Now all numbers in that paragraph style for this document will stay full-height.

Microsoft Word also allows you to change numeral height. Select the text and on the advanced Font Options, open the Font dialog box. Go to the advanced tab and next to number forms, select Old-Style.

Unfortunately Microsoft Powerpoint doesn’t allow for changing numbers to full height, so we advise if numbers are being shown prominently to use either Stratum or Kievit Office instead.

Thank you and good luck.