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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.
So we've seen the benefits of adding an effect, like, for example, a drop shadow, to an entire group. Even though there may be several different objects inside of the group, you get one unified drop shadow for all those elements. Now, I had also mentioned that not only can you apply Live Effects to groups inside of Illustrator, you can also apply other attributes, like, for example, fills and strokes. Let's actually explore why it might be useful to add a stroke to a group, and we'll see how that can make life really efficient inside of Illustrator. I have this piece of artwork here.
It's actually in a file called groups_3.ai, and it's three different flower shapes that have all been grouped together. If I use my Selection tool to select one of these shapes, I see they all become selected. A glance at my Appearance panel lets me know that right now Illustrator has targeted the group-- I see that there are contents here--and the overall group has Default Opacity. Now remember, I've selected the group, but Illustrator's Smart Targeting has also targeted the group itself, meaning if I change any of the presentation settings--meaning I add attributes--those attributes will happen at the group level.
Those attributes will actually be applied to the container, not to the artwork itself. So if I come down to my appearance panel and I come down to the bottom here and I choose to add a new stroke, What am I adding a new stroke to? Not to the objects, because those aren't targeted. I'm adding a new stroke to the container, to the group itself. So I'm going to add a stroke here. You can see that right now Illustrator has added a stroke to the group itself. And I'll increase the stroke weight to something a little bit more significant, so we can see it little bit more easily, like around 10 points.
What's interesting here is we're starting to see something which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, because I do have three separate paths, and those three separate paths do have a stacking order. However, the stroke itself is visible across the top of all these objects, meaning that the stroke of this yellow flower is visible on top of the purple flower, even though the yellow flower is behind the purple flower in the stacking order. That seems almost to be a paradox. Well, we can answer that question by looking at the Appearance panel.
Remember how important stacking order is. If we look at the Appearance panel from the bottom up, we see now that Illustrator has created that artwork by first applying default opacity, then by drawing the contents of the container. Those contents are the three separate flowers. And then on top of that, Illustrator applied a stroke. Now the group itself sees all the objects as if they're combined into one, so it just applies a stroke to all the paths. And because, again, that stroke is at the top of the stacking order, I am seeing that stroke anywhere there is a path.
Now, remember that we can also mess around with the stacking order. By default, Illustrator adds a stroke here to the top of the group. However, what would happen if I take that stroke now and I actually move that stroke beneath the contents of the group. I'm going to take the stroke here. I'm going to click on this little blank area in the right side of the stroke here and drag it so that it now appears beneath the Contents of the group. So now what I have done is I've told Illustrator, first apply default opacity, then apply a 10-point stroke, and then on top of that draw the contents, which are the three flowers.
So now if I look at this artwork, I actually see what I'm trying to get at. I have one, single outline that kind of traces around the perimeter of my artwork, but the objects themselves do not have any kind of stroke. If I use my Direct Selection tool to select, for example, this yellow flower right here, I can see the yellow flower doesn't have a stroke, and that's a setting of none. The stroke that I'm seeing here is actually a stroke that's being applied at the group level. In fact, one of the great things about the Appearance panel--and again, this is just another way to really ensure that what you're seeing inside of Illustrator is the correct thing-- when you look at the Appearance panel right now, the Appearance panel letting me that I have a path that's targeted, that path has a Yellow fill and does not have a stroke, but oh, by the way, that path lives inside of a group, and that group has some kind of a fill or stroke applied to it.
This is yet another way to reverse-engineer files that you may have received from other people. I'm sure that over the time that you've been using Illustrator you may have come across files that when you selected something on the screen, it just seemed not to make any sense at all. When you use the Appearance panel, 9 times out of 10--or I would say 99 times out of 100--all those questions get answered very easily. Now of course, the real benefit here is that--again, I'm still using my Direct Selection tool-- I can move these shapes around. And as I do so, that stroke is going to update automatically.
Likewise, if I switch to my regular Selection tool and I double-click to isolate this group, but I choose to maybe add let's say just a circle right about over here, as soon as I draw that circle and I give that circle let's say no stroke, but I give it maybe this bright yellow fill, you can see right away that the artwork itself was added to the group, because I did it inside of Isolation mode. And if I double-click now to exit isolation mode, the stroke now encompasses that new circle as well. So it's kind of like a living, or a live stroke you can say, that always applies to this artwork.
Now, you can imagine how useful that is. How many times you need to create artwork that needs to have some kind of border or outline around it? Now imagine how you may have done that until now. Maybe you took all your artwork and made a copy of it, did like a pathfinder, unite, and did like an offset path, and then any time you wanted to change your artwork, you'd have to repeat that process all over again. However, if you understand how groups work inside of Illustrator, if you apply attributes to that group and if you take advantage of how easy it is to modify groups at isolation mode, you said only have an incredibly efficient way to create artwork inside of Illustrator and continue to modify and make changes to that artwork without any issue.
So at this point, in your mind you should be thinking about groups as a great way not only to structure your documents that have might be easier to select artwork, or copy and paste artwork, you could also be creating groups inside of Illustrator specifically to achieve a certain kind of a graphical effect, which can also save you a tremendous amount of time.
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