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Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials is the first installment in a series of courses designed to show experienced Illustrator users to how master core features and build art more efficiently. Adobe Illustrator has evolved dramatically over the years, and many creative professionals may be missing out on features that have been added to the latest versions. This course takes a fresh approach to core concepts, such as paths, attributes, object hierarchy, groups, and layers. Advanced techniques such as combining multiple effects and customizing textures are also included. Exercise files and a free worksheet are included with the course.
As you can clearly see by looking at the Layers panel--in this file here called layers_2, I will just reveal the contents of these layers-- we can see that we actually have things that are inside of layers. In other words, the same way that we think about groups being some kind of a container inside of Illustrator and I have contents inside those containers, obviously layers are kind of these uber-containers. They contain groups and objects inside of them. Now we've already seen that we can apply attributes to groups themselves, to containers. We can add drop shadows.
We can add strokes to groups themselves. Can we also add those kinds of elements to layers? The answer is, absolutely. Now here is the thing about Illustrator. We already learned this concept about Smart Targeting. We know that when we click on something, Illustrator tries to figure out what it is that we want to target and targets that for us. So if I have a group selected, Illustrator automatically targets the group, figuring that if I want to add a Live Effect I want that Live Effect to be applied to the group container. However, it's very rare that I might want to automatically add some kind of an effect to my layer container--meaning that everything on that layer gets that same type of an effect.
So Illustrator doesn't assume that there is never a time where Illustrator would automatically use Smart Targeting to target an entire layer. However, we can use the target circles inside the Layers panel to manually target something if we want to apply something to a layer. For example, let's take a look at the Roads and Tracks layer inside of this document. I currently have two paths inside of this document that are inside of that layer: one is called Main Street and one is called Train Tracks. Now, let's say I decide that I want to add a drop shadow to everything on that layer.
I want all the roads and train tracks to get drop shadows. Well, I could add drop shadows individually to each of those objects, but a) that could take some time, b) it could be that I just want to experiment with my file and see what it looks like with the drop shadows, so I don't want to have to be adding a whole bunch of drop shadows, then removing a whole bunch of them. So I may find it a lot more efficient for me, if I am already using layers, to apply that type of effect at the layer level. So let's see how that works. I already know that if I select both of these objects-- I am going to hold down the Shift key now and select both of these paths-- I can see that Main Street and Train Tracks are both selected.
All the elements on that layer are selected, but you can see that both the Main Street object and the Train Tracks objects are both targeted. That's because Illustrator's Smart Targeting targeted the objects themselves. However, in this case, I want to apply a drop shadow effect, not to the objects, but to the layer that they are on. So I am going to deselect everything here. I just want to show you that you don't have to do this, but you can actually do this without having to worry about selecting anything. I am simply going to come over here to the Layers panel, go to the Roads and Tracks layer, and on the far right, notice that that layer also has a target circle, meaning I have the ability to manually target that entire layer.
So if I now click on that target circle, you see how now a double-line appears around that circle? This means that right now while Main Street and Train Tracks, these two objects, are selected, what's actually targeted is the layer itself, meaning if I make an appearance change now, that appearance change happens to the layer. In fact, let's take a look at the Appearance panel. The Appearance panel now tells me that what is my target? My layer is the target. So anything that I make now as a change to the presentation of my artwork is going to happen to the layer itself. And the same way that we saw groups that have contents inside of it, notice over here that I have contents inside of my layer.
So if I now apply an effect--let's say I will go to Stylize and I will choose to add a drop shadow, and I will just use this setting here: an Opacity of 75, X and Y offsets of 1 point and a Blur of 2 points, and I will click OK-- you can now see that both the Road and the Train Tracks have a drop shadow applied to it. And it's important to realize here that if I were to actually click now to target specifically the Main Street path, if I scroll down here to the bottom of the Appearance panel, I see no drop shadow here. That's because this object does not have a drop shadow, but remember the Appearance panel is this wonderful tool to help me figure out what's going on inside of my file.
So it sure looks like there is a drop shadow on that right now, but if I take a look at my Appearance panel, I currently see that my path is targeted. I have the Road graphic style applied to it. But, by the way, that path right now is living inside of a layer that has an effect applied to it. So you see how easy it is for me now to reverse-engineer that's going on inside of my document. If I were to try to do this by looking strictly on my artboard and if I wouldn't have my Appearance panel or my Layers panel open, all this information would be invisible to me. I'd have a hard time trying to figure out exactly what's going on in this document.
Now, one of the benefits of applying effects to layers--and by the way, you can see now in the Layers panel that the Road and Tracks layer now has a filled target circle or a meatball in that target circle. And should I have open up this file now that somebody else had worked on, I would immediately know that there was some kind of an appearance they have applied to that layer. So this means one of several things. First of all, if I were to take now the Main Street object and drag that into a different layer--let's say for example somewhere down over here right above let's say the background-- I can see that right now that drop shadow is gone.
The drop shadow no longer applies to that road because the road is no longer in that layer that had the drop shadow applied to it. I will press Command+Z to kind of put that back where it belongs, and likewise, if I take some kind of other object inside of my document and I move that object into the Road and Tracks layer, then that object will automatically now take on the appearance of a drop shadow. So for example, if I take now let's say the Directions text and I simply drag that now into the Road and Tracks layer, right away I can see now that Directions takes on the appearance of a drop shadow.
No, the Directions text itself has no appearance on it. It has a basic appearance, yet it's living inside of a layer that has a complex appearance applied to it. Likewise, if I click on it to select it, once again I see that I have a type object that's currently targeted, but that type object is sitting inside of a layer that has an appearance on it. So now we come full circle, and we see how all these concepts are tied together inside of Illustrator. I have objects. Those objects can have appearances applied to them. I can put objects inside of groups. I can apply appearances to group. And I can put groups and objects inside of layers and apply appearances to layers.
And all that information is visible directly by using the Layers panel and also the Appearance panel. Now before we are done with this movie, I want to show you one thing that you really kind of have to be aware of, because of this power that you have inside of Illustrator. I am going to create a brand- new document here for a second. I am simply going to draw a regular shape. I am going to take a rectangle. I'm going to draw just a regular square right here. Let's fill this with 100% yellow, and let's get rid of the stroke of this object. Now remember that inside of Illustrator a group is a container. Now in the olden days, like during the Illustrator 8 or Illustrator 7, for example, there was no way to create a group of just one object because that concept made no sense at all.
However, it is entirely possible inside of Illustrator now to create a container that contains only one object inside of it. So even with one object selected, I could go now to the object menu, and I can choose group. So now I have a group. I have a container that has one object inside of it. Now here is what I am going to do. I am going to open up my Layers panel, and I am going to open up the group here, and I can see that I now have my path. I am going to target just my path itself. I am going to apply an opacity of 50%.
Now, I am also going to target the fill itself inside of my object, click on the little triangle here, and set my fill to have its own opacity of 50%. So now within a single object I have an Opacity setting set just for the fill itself and I have an Opacity setting for the object. Now I am going to target the entire group. I am going to set the group's Opacity because remember the group is the container. So I am changing the Opacity value for the container, so that will also have an Opacity of 50%. Now, I am actually going to target the layer, and I am going to set the opacity for the layer to 50% as well.
This is again one of the reasons of why it's so important to understand how the Layers and Appearance panels work hand in hand with each other. Let's say I get this file from somebody else. I take a look at this file, I use my regular selection tool, and I click on it. I look at my Color panel. My Color panel says that this object has a fill of 100% yellow. Really now, it certainly is not going to print at 100% yellow at all. Now I may look at the Transparency panel and I might see that there is an Opacity value of 50%, but again, that's a lie. It is not going to print at 50% yellow.
That's because this object right now has a layer opacity of 50%, it has a group opacity of 50%, it has a path opacity of 50%, and it has a fill opacity of 50%. The only way for me to figure that out is by looking at the Layers panel. Right away alarms should be going off of my head as soon as I see that there is a path, a group, and a layer 1 that all have meatballs on them. That's letting me know right now that there are some kind of effects, or some kind of appearance changes, that are happening at every possible layer of how that object was built.
Now again, Illustrator does a really good job in helping me understand that. If I simply click on this, I can see right here that I have contents. I have a group. I have a layer. If I double-click on the contents for example, I can easily see exactly what's going on here. My object as a whole has 50% opacity, my fill has its own 50% opacity, and remember that path now is living inside of a group that has opacity, and that group is living inside of a layer that has opacity. So right here I can kind of read up the ladder, figure out exactly what's going on inside of my document, and never again will I ever look at an Illustrator document in the same way again.
I will now know exactly what's going on, whether I created the file or whether anyone else has created the file as well.
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