Illustrator tutorial: The tilde trick

Posted: in Design, Tutorials

In the second of our series of Illustrator mini-tutorials we are going to show you a hidden pearl inside Illustrator: the tilde trick. Virtually unknown, this special effect can be triggered in different ways, but always produces spectacular results.

Remember, the first rule of the tilde trick is you don’t talk about the tilde trick. This is also the second rule. The third rule is you must have a keyboard:


Get your computer keyboard out of the cupboard (as per rule 3) and hold it close to your face. You’ll see that in the bottom left corner, near the shift key, there’s a mysterious ’tilde’ key. In our diagram it’s orange, but on your keyboard it will probably be the same colour as all the other keys. You’ve probably never noticed it before because, let’s face it, it’s a pretty useless key. But check out which sort of magic it can unleash:


Start by selecting a geometric shape from the tool bar, then click somewhere on the screen to start drawing but holding down the tilde button as you do so. Voilà. Illustrator is creating instances of your shapes as you move the mouse.


Now try doing the same whilst holding down the space bar as well: the shapes will not be anchored to the first click position anymore.


The last trick is by pressing “~” and ALT. The middle point of the instances of the shape will hold on to the same position.

Try to experiment by combining these shortcuts and different shapes, and unleash the magic.

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