Monday, 30 March 2015

Illustrator: Quick Tip of the Week

Illustrator is a strange piece of software, full of not-very-obvious features and counter-intuitive processes. I've met people who've used the application for years and were unaware of tricks and techniques I thought everyone knew…! By the same token, I've talked to people who've only been using Illustrator for a relatively short time who knew things that had passed me by completely…

So… I'm going to post an Illustrator tip every few days until I run out of things to say! Feel free to ask questions or offer tips of your own in the comments. I'm running CS6, so also feel free to correct me in the comments if any tip I come up with works differently (or doesn't work at all) in different versions.


ALT (option) DRAG any object, or group of objects to create a duplicate. The layer(s) of the original item(s) will be preserved in the new versions.

Why not just copy and paste?
Because ALT-DRAG doesn't use the clipboard. If, for the sake of argument, you already have the text you want to use copied to the clipboard and you want to duplicate a balloon and text box so you can just paste the text in, this is the method for you.

Also, copy and paste just dumps a duplicate slightly offset from your original, which you then still have to drag to where you want it. ALT-DRAG eliminates the need for the copy/paste, incorporating the copying into the same action as positioning the new element.

I keep forgetting to hold down the ALT key before I drag…!
You can add ALT to the drag operation at any time right up until you release the mouse button to end the dragging. By the same token, if you change your mind and release ALT at any point up until you release the mouse button, the operation will revert to a normal 'move' instead of a copy.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Death and Taxes… but mostly taxes.

Folks, for some of you, this is important!

Non-US freelancers… do you work for any US publishers? If so, do they have an up-to-date W8-BEN form on file for you? This is the declaration that that you are not a US citizen/resident and are not liable for US income tax. If your client doesn't have one of these, the IRS can insist that US income tax is deducted from your payments at source.

You don't have to deal with the IRS in the United States, but you do need to ensure that each of your US-based clients holds a copy of this form for you, assuming you deal with them as an individual (sole trader) and not as a limited company or other trading entity.

You can download a W8-BEN here:

And there are instructions on completing the form here:

To be honest, the instructions are nearly as confusing as the form, but the form is actually pretty straightforward, as far as I can tell.

The only bit that looks a little tricky is Part I, Sections 5-7, which, after some fevered Googling, seems to go like this if you are a UK taxpayer.

  • 5: N/A
  • 6: The UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference) you use in all your dealings with HMRC
  • 7: Leave blank — this is for your client to add additional info when they submit the form.
Please note that I am not a financial adviser, and if you access to one, or if you use the services of an accountant, I would urge you to talk this through with them.