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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.
Before we start drawing any artwork, there is one more concept that we need to know inside of Illustrator, and that deals with something called stacking order. Now, this is a concept that's actually unique to vector-based graphics. Stacking order refers to the order in which Illustrator actually builds or draws the artwork inside of each document. You know, you can think about creating a hamburger: First, you take one slice of the bun. Then you put down maybe some sauce. Then on top of that, you put the beef patty. Then you put some lettuce, some tomato, a couple of pickles, and then you put the other half of the bun on top.
Each of those elements sit either above or below one other ingredient inside of that sandwich. Well, in Illustrator when you're drawing artwork, even though artwork doesn't necessarily overlap each other, they do exist in some kind of an order, meaning artwork is always above or beneath some other piece of artwork inside of your document; in fact, it's impossible for two pieces of artwork to actually be at the same level in the stacking order. Well, we'll actually see later on in the training that we could somewhat modify that statement. But for now let's take a look at two objects. I am just going to draw two rectangles right here. Maybe I'll fill one of them with yellow.
I am actually going to duplicate this one right here. I am going to hold down the Option key--I am on a Mac. Or if you are on Windows, you can hold down the Alt key to actually drag or copy of another shape. And I now have two rectangles in my document. Now, right now the second rectangle that I have created appeared above the previous rectangle of the stacking order. If I wanted to send this rectangle beneath the other one, I can go to the Object menu, choose Arrange, and then choose Send to Back. Take a note here of the keyboard shortcut for that command, which is Command+Shift+Open Bracket. Or that would be Ctrl+Shift+Open Bracket on Windows.
Notice now when I choose that command this rectangle now appears beneath this rectangle in the object's stacking order. Now one thing that's important to realize about stacking order is that things get a little bit more complicated when we start dealing with groups and layers. Now on a regular, standard Illustrator document, we always have one layer. Each object that you create sits within the stacking order of that layer. However, if you have a document that has two layers inside of it, the layers themselves have a stacking order-- meaning layers that appear towards the bottom of your Layers panel get drawn first and then layers that appear at the top of your Layers panel get drawn afterwards. And within those layers, the objects maintain a stacking order as well.
So when I choose a command like Send to Back, I'm sending it to the back of the stacking order within that layer. Likewise, if I create a group, a group also has its own stacking order, so if I select a single object within a group and I say send it to the back, that means I am sending it to the back of just that group's stacking order. But it doesn't necessarily mean that that object will go to the back behind every other piece of art that exists inside of my document. Now, the key thing to know about stacking order is that artwork in a document is always processed from the bottom first. So, if you want to think about it in a different way, if you send an object to the back, you're telling Illustrator that you want that object to be drawn first before other objects.
If you bring an object to the top of the stacking order, that means you're instructing Illustrator to draw that piece of artwork last. So at this point let's take a quick review of some of the core vector concepts that we've learned. We know that paths define the structure of our artwork, and we know that attributes define the presentation of our artwork. Paths themselves are actually defined by anchor points to control handles, and attributes consist of fills and strokes, and we can further modified those attributes by applying something called effects. We know that we can apply a weight, or a thickness setting, to a stroke and that, by default, Illustrator always aligns that stroke to the center line of the path.
And finally, we know that we have something called stacking order where objects are drawn in a specific order. With these key concepts in our back pocket, we're now ready to explore an entirely new powerful way to think about drawing artwork inside of Illustrator.
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