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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
When you begin to understand exactly what a group is inside of Illustrator, you'll find that you'll be able to take advantage by creating some really cool effects inside of the program. Let's start by talking about exactly what a group is inside of Illustrator. You see when I take two objects, and I tell Illustrator to group them together, Illustrator creates a third invisible object, something which we call a container. Illustrator then takes those two objects and places them into that container.
Again, its invisible, meaning we don't see it, but there is that third object inside of Illustrator now, which contains those two pieces of art inside of it. The reason why understanding this is significant is because even though that container itself is invisible, we can still perform certain actions on that container. In fact, we could start to treat that container as if it were a whole object itself inside of Illustrator, meaning we can apply appearances to it, for example, fills, strokes or even effects.
Let me give you a clear example of what I mean by that. I am going to start by looking at this art right over here. Say I wanted to have some kind of a soft drop shadow that was applied to this artwork. Well right now, each of these elements are individual. They aren't grouped at all. I'm going to Marquee select all of this artwork, but I'm going to deselect the background by Shift+Clicking on it. So now, all these pieces of art are now selected. I am going to go to the Effect menu, and I am going to choose Stylize > Drop Shadow, and I'll take basically whatever settings are here by default and click OK.
You'll notice that every single piece of art in my selection now got its own drop shadow. So this circle has a drop shadow. This circle has a drop shadow. Both flowers have drop shadows and each of the leaves have drop shadows, which really isn't what I want. I would like that one drop shadow gets added to the overall piece of art that I'm looking at right now, because in my mind, I see all these individual vector elements as one piece. So how can I get all this art to act as if it were a one object so I can have a single drop shadow on it? Well, the answer is to basically turn it into a group.
So I am going to press Undo. My artwork now is still selected, and I am going to go to the Object menu, and I am going to choose Group. Now remember, Illustrator now just took all these elements. It created a new object called a Container, and it put all those objects now into the container. If I take a look at my Appearance panel, I am going to bring it up over here because we have got to focus on it in just a moment here. I see that the Appearance panel tells me that what's selected right now is a Group. This is different than working with separate objects or paths.
For example, I am going to deselect this. I am going to use my Direct Selection tool. I am going to Shift+Click on a few objects here, not all of them, but just a few of them so that I have multiple objects selected. Notice that right now, it tells me, in the Appearance panel, that I have Mixed Objects selected with Mixed Appearances. However, when I use my Direct Selection tool to click on the actual group itself, the entire group shows up listed here in the Appearance panel. This means that if I were to make some kind of changes to the appearance, that appearance change will happen to the group to that new container that I created, and not necessarily to the objects inside of that container.
In fact, if I look over here at the Appearance panel beneath Group, it has an item here that says Contents. This refers to all of the elements that are currently inside of the container. In fact, if I were to double-click on the word Contents right now, Illustrator would select all of these elements for me as if they were not inside of a group. Notice here, it says I have a whole bunch of Mixed Objects selected. In other words, if I make an appearance change right now, for example, I apply a drop shadow, the drop shadow is going to be applied to all the Mixed Objects.
The Appearance panel is nice, and it lets me know that oh, by the way, the Mixed Objects happen to be inside of a Group. And if I double-click on that group right now, I'm back to where I was before, where now the group is what I currently have selected, or better yet is what I currently have targeted. And any appearance change that I make goes onto the group onto that currently invisible object or container that contains all the contents inside of it. So watch what happens now if I go ahead and I apply a drop shadow.
I am going to go to the Effect menu here, in the Appearance panel, I'll choose Stylize and Drop Shadow. I'll take the regular basic settings. And now if you look at my appearance, it's as if all the elements have been fused into one object, and they all share one drop shadow. See there is no drop shadow on the circles around the flowers itself. I have one overall combined drop shadow for everything inside the group. And the reason why that happened is because the drop shadow was applied to the group and not to the individual paths inside of them.
In fact, if I click on this right now, you can see that I have a group targeted, and the Drop Shadow is applied to the Group. In fact, the drop shadow appears beneath all the contents, which gives me one unified drop shadow. Now, here's the thing about working with effects, and also groups, is that if I go to the Object menu now, and I decide well, I want to ungroup this object, by choosing Ungroup, the drop shadow instantly disappears. Why? Because I've taken the group, and the drop shadow was on that group, and I've thrown the group in the garbage by ungrouping this.
When you choose Ungroup inside of Illustrator, I'm taking that container and I am throwing it out, leaving me just with whatever contents were left. Since the drop shadow belongs to the container, by throwing out that container and ungrouping my objects, I've lost the drop shadow. In fact, I am going to press Undo for a moment. I want to bring that drop shadow back. I just want to show you that if I take my Direct Selection tool, and I click on this leaf, because I decide, you know what? I really like this leaf. I need to use this in another document. I am going to copy that leaf by pressing Command+C, Command+N to create a new document then I'll press Enter to click OK.
And I'll paste that leaf. And you notice that in this document that exact same leaf has no drop shadow on. That's because in the other document that leaf was sitting inside of a container that had a drop shadow on it. But when I copied and pasted that leaf out of that container and put it now just into this document, there is no longer any container inside of this document. I am just working with the leaf itself, which never had a drop shadow inside of it. Now that we have a better understanding of exactly what a group is and that we might be able to actually apply appearances to the group, let's take a look at another example of how this might be useful.
I am going to close this file. I am not going to save it. Let's come back to this area right over here. Now, if I take my regular Selection tool and I click on this element, I see that I've already created a group. Many times, when you create an artwork, you need to create some kind of border around the artwork. For example, say we are designing some kind of a patch, and we want to embroider this onto some garment. Well, I might need to create some kind of an overall white background that's somewhat offset from the art. However, to manually go through and start drawing an outline around all this artwork can be somewhat tedious.
Instead, we can use a group and apply certain appearances to that group to get the effect that we are looking for. So the first thing I am going to do is after I've selected this, I can now see in the Appearance panel that the Group is my target. Remember, anything that appears bold at the top of the Appearance panel is what appearances are applied to. So what I can do now is come down to the bottom of the Appearance panel and apply a new stroke. What am I applying a stroke to? That container, which is the group.
When I click on this, I can deselect the art, and by the way, see that everything inside of that group now has a stroke applied to it. Now, I want to make some changes, because that's obviously not the effect that I'm looking for. So the first thing I am going to do is select the group, change the stroke weight to about 2 points. Next I need to somehow offset that stroke so it's sitting a little away from the art itself. In a previous chapter, we spoke about a function called Offset Path, which can be very helpful here.
However, I don't really have a path to work with, or in this case a stroke to work with, because it's simply an attribute that's been applied to this group container. The nice thing is that Adobe really put a lot of path editing functionality into the Effect menu. In fact, when we first look at the Effect menu, we see lots of things here like Path, for example, and Offset Path. You might think why would I want to ever apply an offset path as a live effect? Or take a look at these Pathfinders.
Pathfinder Add or Intersect or Minus Back, why would I ever want to use these as an effect? Hold on, because we are going to find out, right now, why these are so useful. So I have now, inside of my Appearance panel, because my group right now is selected and targeted, a two-point black stroke. I'm going to click on that stroke to select it. Next, I want to apply an effect just to the stroke. Remember, since I've now selected the stroke in the Appearance panel, any effect that I apply will only occur just to that one selected stroke.
So I am going to come down here to where it says FX. I'll choose Path, and then I'll choose Offset Path, because I want just that stroke alone to be offset somewhat. We have a nice Preview. So I am going to click on that button and I could see, with a setting of 10 points, that I'm starting to get the effect that I'm looking for. I have a border that's offset somewhat away from the artwork that I can use. I am going to click OK. This is the first step that I've done. However, you can see that all the artwork here got a stroke applied to it, and they all overlap each other.
So I somehow need to combine all these into one shape. Remember how a few chapters ago, we spoke about things like Pathfinder? Pathfinder had a function called Add or Unite that would let me multiple objects and fuse them all together as if they were one. Wouldn't it be great if we were able to apply that as an effect right here in the Appearance panel? Well there is. Again, with that same stroke highlighted right now, I can go back to the Effect menu. I can choose Pathfinder and then choose Add.
This is now going to take all of the elements that are applied strictly to the stroke and fuse them all together as if they were one. So I am going to choose Pathfinder > Add, and now take a look at the result that I have: a single path that encloses all of my artwork. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been had I wanted to draw all this art from scratch. The real beauty of this, by the way, is not just that I can apply it so easily. It's that right now that outline stroke is an attribute of the group, meaning if I change anything within the group my artwork updates automatically.
For example, I send this to my client. They really like it, but you know something, there are too many leaves. I know before they wanted extra leaves, but you how people can change their minds. So I want to get rid of this leaf right over here. Because I've created a group I can double-click on the group to isolate it. I'll double-click again and once more, I can see that I can now select just that leaf. I'm now going to delete that leaf just by hitting the Delete key on my keyboard. And now when I double-click to exit Isolation mode, I can see that the outline has now been adjusted, or modified, to reflect the new boundaries of the group.
So you can easily see that if you pay attention and you're careful about how you structure your groups, and if you understand the concept about the fact that a group is a container and that you can apply attributes through that container, you can build artwork quickly and efficiently and always make changes, even under deadline.
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